Sheila MusajiPosted Apr 13, 2013 •Permalink • Printer-Friendly Version
Pamela Geller, hate speech, and synagogues
by Sheila Musaji
Pamela Geller is very angry about statements by Rabbi Michael White and Rabbi Jerome Davidson in this article. (God bless them for standing for justice!) She is angry that, once again, not all Jews are not backing her wholeheartedly just because she is Jewish. There has been a great deal written about the back and forth between those who have objected to Geller’s invitation to speak at a Great Neck synagogue on the topic of Sharia law and “Imposition of Sharia in America”, and those who think that she should speak. Most of the issues raised have been free speech issues.
As a Muslim, I find other aspects of this controversy more important. Before the Geller talk at the Great Neck Synagogue was cancelled, the synagogue issued a statement: “We believe that it is important to hear what she has to say and we are confident that intelligent and fair minded individuals will consider her views in reaching their own conclusions…. We reject the categorizing of any religious majority based on the actions of a minority. …. We do, though, believe that it is appropriate to speak about the actions of that minority.”
So, according to the synagogue where Geller was invited to speak on Sharia - this is an issue of freedom of speech, and people can make up their own minds about the validity of the views of the speaker. It is “appropriate” to discuss the actions of extremist Muslims in a synagogue. And, the fact that the speaker has absolutely no qualifications or expertise on the subject doesn’t matter.
Following exactly the same logic. There are some extremist and even terrorist Jews who justify their actions by their interpretations of halakha, Torah, Talmud, etc. So, it should not be a problem for any mosque, or Muslim organization to have a program inviting an individual with no expertise at all in the subject matter (even one known for anti-Semitic views) to come and speak on the subject of Halakha or Talmud or any topic about Judaism. Perhaps a mosque could invite a known anti-Semite from the Muslim lunatic fringe to speak on the dangers of Halakha to the American legal system, or perhaps the viciousness of kosher slaughter. This should not be considered confrontational or hostile to Muslims as long as the group arranging the program publishes a statement saying: “We reject the categorizing of any religious majority based on the actions of a minority. …. We do, though, believe that it is appropriate to speak about the actions of that minority.” Geller pretends not to realize the similarities between Kosher and Halal: Halakha and Sharia Requirements or between Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha Arbitration Courts. However, continuing to stir up a hornet’s nest of bigotry will sooner or later make this similarity noticed by the bigots she appeals to, and this will not be good for the Muslim or Jewish communities.
Following exactly the same logic, there should not be a problem with Muslim groups running an ad series countering each ad in the ad series being run by Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer of the hate groups AFDI/SIOA. And, as long as the group running these ads says, we are not anti-Jewish, only anti-Judaism, or anti-Halakha, or anti-Talmud - or, we are not anti-Christian, only anti-Christianity, then any objection from the Jewish community or the Christian community would just be an attempt to shut down freedom of speech. In EVERY case, counter ads could be run, for example:
— The use of a violent verse from the Qur’an against the backdrop of the World Trade Center collapsing. There could be a counter ad with the verse “Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.” (1 Samuel 15:3) and pictures of an atrocity committed by Christians or Jews. In fact, there could be a whole series of ads quoting violent verses from the Torah and New Testament.
— The use of a bigoted, hateful homophobic quote by a Muslim cleric to “prove” that Islam and Muslims are somehow exceptional. There could be a counter ad with Rabbi Nachum Shifren’s quote when asked “What do you say about the very law that says kill the homosexuals?… Do you think God was right in giving this command?” “Whatever it says in the Torah is straight from God’s will.” “So, God was right to command to kill the homosexuals?” “That’s right.”
— The use of a quote by President Erdogan of Turkey praising the idea of a theocratic state to “prove” that Muslims want the return of the Caliphate. There could be a counter ad with The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion. from the proposed NC law that would have allowed the establishment of a state religion.
— The use of a quote by a Muslim cleric insulting Jews. There could be a counter ad with “One can’t mix impure and pure. Of course we must stay apart from all the nations. You must stand in the breach and prevent this. It is forbidden to mix darkness with light. The nation of Israel is pure. The Arabs are a nation of donkeys. They are an affliction, a demon, a pestilence. “Why, one may ask, did God not create them to walk on all fours, since they are donkeys? The reason is that they must build and clean, but must always understand that they are donkeys. There is no room for them in our schools.” Rabbi David Batzri, or
— The use of a quote by a Muslim cleric justifying terrorism or violence towards others based on their interpretation of the law. There could be a counter ad with “It is permissable to kill the Righteous among Nations even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation,” he wrote, adding: “If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandments - because we care about the commandments - there is nothing wrong with the murder.” Rabbi Itzhak Shapira
— The use of a quote by a Muslim cleric claiming that Muslims/Islam are superior to others. There could be a counter ad with “Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us.” Explaining why God allowed non-Jews long lives, he added: “Imagine that your donkey would die, you’d lose your income. [The donkey] is your servant. ... That’s why he [the gentile] gets a long life, to work well for the Jew.” Rabbi Yovadia Yosef (former Israeli Chief Rabbi)
I don’t believe that this would be an ethical course of action. I don’t believe that the statements or actions of individuals should be presented as if they are representative of an entire religion. I don’t believe that unleashing the forces of bigotry does any community any good. It would be wrong for Muslims to run such ads, and it is wrong for Jews to run such ads.
Based on the logic of the synagogue, the background of the speaker should not be an issue. However, I believe that it is an issue. A Canadian mosque once published an article by David Duke, and it was absolutely appropriate for the local Jewish community to object. The mosque ultimately pulled the article and apologized, saying they were unaware of who the author was until it was brought to their attention.
Here are some statements made by Pamela Geller and her associates in the hate groups AFDI/SIOA. These are individuals Geller works with, praises, has chosen to be on boards of these organizations. These statements clearly show their attitude towards Islam and Muslims - not some Muslims or some interpretations of Islam - but ISLAM and MUSLIMS generally. I believe that they are clearly hate speech, and that individuals holding such views are not “appropriate” individuals to speak in any house of worship:
Babu Suseelan of AFDI/SION: “If we do not kill the bacteria,the bacteria will kill us. Otherwise, he warned, “Muslims will breed like rats and they will be a majority. “Islam can be stopped! And it can be wiped out.” **
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) of EDL/SIOE/SION/AFDI “It has been left to us to educate the uneducated of this country to the difference between Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam. Islam is a disease….it is a disease. Winston Churchill once said, ‘Islam in a man is the same as rabies in a dog’.” **
Ali Sina of AFDI/SION ”We strive for the unity of Mankind through the elimination of Islam, the most insidious doctrine of hate. Islam can’t be reformed, but it can be eradicated. It can’t be molded, but it can be smashed.” — “If any city in the West is nuked I am 100% for nuking tens of cities in Islamic countries. I don’t see Muslims as innocent people. They are all guilty as sin. It is not necessary to be part of al Qaida to be guilty. If you are a Muslim you agree with Muhammad and that is enough evidence against you.” — “At FFI, we do not want to reform Islam. We want to eradicate it. Just as cancer cannot be reformed and the only way to cure the patient is to eradicate it, Islam cant be reformed either and it must be eradicated for the world to be saved.” “I believe that “Islam, like fascism, appeals to people with low self esteem and low intelligence.” **
Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller’s partner in AFDI/SIOA (also a Deacon in the Catholic Church, therefore he is “clergy”)” “Islam itself is an incomplete, misleading, and often downright false revelation which, in many ways, directly contradicts what God has revealed through the prophets of the Old Testament and through his Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh… For several reasons… Islam constitutes a threat to the world at large.”—“The misbegotten term “Islamo-fascism” is wholly redundant: Islam itself is a kind of fascism that achieves its full and proper form only when it assumes the powers of the state.”—“I have written on numerous occasions that there is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists. ” - “There is no reliable way for American authorities to distinguish jihadists and potential jihadists from peaceful Muslims.” There are “many elements of traditional and mainstream Islam that are at variance with our system of government, our Constitution, and our entire way of life.” Robert Spencer. **
Pamela Geller of AFDI/SIOA/SION “I believe that “Al-Qaeda is a manifestation of devout Islam ... It is Islam.” I believe that “Hitler WAS inspired by Islam” - “It’s the Muslims who are dragging the rest of the world with them, in their genocidal dreams of annihilating goodness, creativity, production, inventiveness, benevolence, charity, medicine, technology, and all of the gifts of the Jews. Our goodness makes them ill.” - “I believe that “Islam is a mental illness”. - ”Muslims have no right to invoke Moses and Abraham. This is a delegitimization of Judaism. It is offensive and vile. And while Jesus is not my guy, the same thing goes for him. It is a delegitimization of Christianity. These are not Muslim prophets.”—“How dare they use the word “extremists”? That is islamophobic! These are devout Muslims. There are no moderates. There are no extremists. Only Muslims.” — “Islam is the most brutal and oppressive ideology on the face of the earth”. “Islam is not a race. This is an ideology. This is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth.” - ”Devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service. Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?” “Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.” The only voices of reason in the Muslim world are lapsed Muslims or apostates. “It’s the Muslims who are dragging the rest of the world with them, in their genocidal dreams of annihilating goodness, creativity, production, inventiveness, benevolence, charity, medicine, technology, and all of the gifts of the Jews. Our goodness makes them ill.” ** and ** and ** and **
David Yerushalmi AFDI/SIOA’s attorney: “On the so-called Global War on Terrorism, GWOT, we have been quite clear along with a few other resolute souls. This should be a WAR AGAINST ISLAM and all Muslim faithful…At a practical level, this means that Shari’a and Islamic law are immediately outlawed. Any Moslem in America who adopts historical and traditional Shari’a will be subject to deportation. Mosques which adhere to Islamic law will be shut down permanently. No self-described or practicing Muslim, irrespective of his or her declarations to the contrary, will be allowed to immigrate to this country…” “I believe that “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization…The Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.” **
John Jay of AFDI: “There is a need for an “old fashioned war with wholesale slaughter including indiscriminate death of innocents and babes. down to the last muslim, if necessary.” **
That any synagogue believes that it is appropriate for the views of such an individual to be represented in the synagogue is very alarming. For Jews not to see the similarities between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is surprising.
Geller’s speech has now been cancelled by the synagogue, and the synagogue issued this statement announcing that cancellation: “As the notoriety and media exposure of the planned program this Sunday have increased, so has the legal liability and potential security exposure of our institution and it’s [sic] member families. In an era of heightened security concerns it is irresponsible to jeopardize the safety of those who call Great Neck Synagogue home, especially our children, even at the risk of diverting attention from a potentially important voice in the ongoing debate. Accordingly, the Great Neck Synagogue Men’s Club will no longer be sponsoring the appearance of Pamela Geller this coming Sunday, and no event will be taking place in our facility.”
The Greatneck Patch reported that: “Geller said while she understands the synagogue’s action, she deplores the cancellation of her “message of freedom.” “This incident shows how urgently this topic needs to be discussed. Leftist thugs, pushed and prodded by Islamic supremacist Habeeb Ahmed and his co-conspirators, threatened a march on the shul (among other things),” said Geller to Patch.
This statement by the synagogue simply further insults the Muslim community. They are not cancelling the talk because they have looked into the background of the speaker and found her to be a bigot in fact, the statement calls her “a potentially important voice in the ongoing debate”.
What “debate” might that be? Will they debate - whether or not Islam is a “mental illness” - or perhaps whether or not Muslims should be arrested or deported if they insist on practicing Islam - whether or not Islam is the most brutal and oppressive ideology on the face of the earth - whether or not Islam constitutes a threat to the world at large - whether or not since Islam can’t be reformed it must be eradicated for the world to be saved - whether or not Islam is a disease - whether or not Muslims breed like rats - Whether or not Muslims are a bacteria, and if we do not kill the bacteria,the bacteria will kill us? Is this a debate that belongs in a synagogue?
They are not cancelling the talk because they are concerned about damaging relationships between American faith communities. Why are they cancelling the talk? Because of “notoriety and media exposure”, “legal liability”, and “security concerns”. And using this vague term “security concerns” gave an opening to anti-Muslim bigots like Geller to claim that Muslims have threatened some sort of violence.
In fact, this additional anti-Muslim slant is popping up in many places.
The Jewish Press said “The Great Neck Synagogue pulled out at the last minute due to what has been described as the intimidating and relentless tactics engaged in by certain leftist Jews, notably Rabbi Jerome Davidson and Rabbi Michael White, the vice president of a local mosque, Habeeb Ahmed, and a Long Island Interfaith group.”
Island Now quotes Geller as saying: “Due to relentless intimidation, bullying and threats, the Great Neck Synagogue is cancelling my talk at the Great Neck Synagogue on Sunday. Ironically, the subject of my talk was the war on free speech, and this incident shows how urgently this topic needs to be discussed. Leftist thugs, pushed and prodded by Islamic supremacist Habeeb Ahmed and his co-conspirators, threatened a march on the shul (among other things),” wrote Geller in a statement on her blog. “It is a very sad day for freedom-loving peoples when fascist tactics trump free speech. This reinforces a terrible precedent: that Islamic supremacists and leftists can get whatever they want, and silence their opponents, by keeping up pressure on decent people until they cave in. In America, they don’t assassinate their foes, but they assassinate their character.”
Helen Freedman, Executive Director, Americans for a Safe Israel wrote: ” ... Geller was scheduled to be the guest speaker at a Men’s Club breakfast at a Great Neck Synagogue this Sunday, May 14. A vigorous anti-Geller campaign was initiated by the Muslims, and the Synagogue caved in today, crying that it could not bear the pressure. This is a warning to all Americans. Appeasement and fear in the face of terror will only breed more terror. Those of us who understand the dangers inherent in this cowardice will work even harder with Pamela Geller and the others sounding the alarm, in order to get their voices heard over the threats and shouts of our enemies. ... ”
Lori Lowenthal Marcus in the Jewish Press laments Geller’s cancellation, and quotes Geller as saying ”...The synagogue didn’t turn on me, it did what it felt it needed to do to protect the Sunday School children. Once the thugs announced they were going to organize a mob march of leftist Jews and Muslims on the shul on Sunday morning, when all the children are there to attend Sunday School – the parents were terrified and the shul had to respond,” Geller told The Jewish Press, just hours after she learned of the cancellation. “Still, it’s a sad day. The synagogue should not have had to make a choice between protecting Sunday School children and allowing me to speak about the dangers of Sharia.”
This is unconscionable. If someone made threats, please report them to law enforcement. If not, simply questioning whether or not hate speech belongs in a house of worship, and asking the synagogue to reconsider their invitation based on Geller’s past statements and actions, or planning a peaceful protest outside the venue where she is speaking IS NOT intimidation, Islamic supremacism, thugishness, fascist tactics, or terrorism, etc. A group of people standing peacefully with signs expressing their disappointment in a speaker is not “terrifying intimidation” and did not force the synagogue to make a choice between “protecting children and allowing Geller to speak”. To make such a suggestion is truly evil. It was not only Muslims who expressed their disappointment in the synagogue hosting this speaker on this topic.
Nechama Liss-Levinson who was one of the people planning a peaceful protest wrote in The Jewish Daily Forward:
... I wish my synagogue had spoken of the moral question. I wish the leaders had stood up and said, “We didn’t initially realize what Geller represents. Now that we do know, we will stand proudly against hate speech.” I wish that they had noticed that Geller’s concerns about radical Islam often morph into a vilification of all Muslims and the Islamic faith. Her language encourages denigration and dehumanization, rather than constructive discussion and cooperation.
What is even more distressing to me is the reaction that the cancellation has engendered. The commentary on the blogosphere, including a statement posted on Geller’s website, now denigrates the synagogue and its leaders. The vitriol and hatred in these postings are frightening. Both sides in this conflict feel that they are right, that they own the moral high ground, and that an evil is being perpetrated. But a quick survey of these postings will find that the supporters of Geller have totally lost the capacity for civil discourse.
... When I got into my car this morning at 8:00 a.m., a radio newscast informed me that Geller had declared that her talk was cancelled due to “relentless intimidation, bullying and threats.” In fact, she said, “leftist thugs, pushed and prodded by Islamist supremacist…… threatened a march on the shul.”
I sat in the car stunned. What was true was that my husband and I had petitioned the Village of Great Neck for permission for a peaceful demonstration, which would have taken place across the street from the synagogue on the Sunday morning of Geller’s talk. It was clearly written in the petition that the demonstrators would be “polite and law abiding.” There were no microphones or speeches planned for our event, just placards with messages like “Say NO to Religious Bigotry” or “Great Neck Synagogue Members Support Religious Tolerance.”
The organizers were all members of Great Neck Synagogue, parents and grandparents, community leaders and community activists. We wanted to show that not all members of the synagogue agreed with the decision to invite Geller. We wanted to be able to stand proudly. We wanted, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, wrote, “to pray with our feet.” As of yesterday, we were the only group to file a petition to assemble on the day of Geller’s speech. I have been called many things, but this was the first time I have been branded a “leftist thug.”
Why did we plan to protest? We want our synagogue to be known for the many extraordinary programs in which we’ve participated: sending busloads of demonstrators to Washington D.C. to protest the genocide in Darfur; organizing a 25-person relief mission to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; sending food for the holidays to impoverished Jewish families as well as to the food pantry sponsored by a local church; and being home base for a Women’s Tefila group, which offers meaningful rituals for many of the developmental milestones that Jewish girls and women face. And so it seemed untenable that this synagogue would be stuck in such a terrible morass, getting attention for offering a platform to hatred and bigotry.
I am thrilled that the Great Neck Synagogue has cancelled the event for Geller. I remain brokenhearted for the underlying anxieties, fears and hatreds that it exposed.
May God bless such voices of reason and human decency!
After this particular talk was cancelled, two other synagogues stepped forward, and Geller will now be speaking at both of those synagogues this Sunday. She will also be leading her own protest at Habeeb Ahmed’s office at the Nassau County Commission on Human Rights. Ahmed was one of those who objected to her speaking at the Great Neck Synagogue. Geller says: We wil [sic] we be reading Quranic texts and teachings that command Jew-hatred, demanding that Habeeb Ahmed and all Islamic clerics condemn the religious texts that fuel the hatred of Israel and Jewish people across the world. Let us truly further interfaith dialogue. This nonsense about Islam commanding “Jew hatred” has been thoroughly debunked. See Pamela Geller Is Wrong About “Islamic Jew Hatred Commanded by the Qur’an”— Unholy Prayer: “Jews” Are Not Our Enemy.
I don’t know what branch of Judaism these synagogues represent, but can make an educated guess that it is not Reform Judaism, as Pamela Geller has stated in an article attacking Rabbi Jill Jacobs that (emphasis mine): Remember, every AFDI/SIOA ad we ran was a response to vicious attack ads on Jews, on freedom, ... The quisling “rabbi” Jill Jacobs, the executive director of T’ruah, which spent $10,000 on ads last fall to oppose my pro-Israel ads, said “I wish that none of this had ever started.” Really, “Rabbi”? Jacobs will answer to higher authority. Jacobs was silent when vicious anti-Israel ads ran in cities across the country. Jacobs only got involved to condemn me for standing up against the vicious anti-semitic ad campaigns running on transit platforms from NY to California. Jacobs is not a rabbi—Jacobs is a quisling, an enemy with a Mona Lisa smile. She should be stripped of any rabbinical status (I am sure she’s of the ridiculous “reformed” movement—which no practicing Jew takes seriously).
Last year there was a similar incident when a Pamela Geller speech on “Islamic Jew Hatred” at the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles was canceled after a great deal of controversy. That event was sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and was to be held at the Jewish Federation. And, when that event was canceled, Muslims were also accused of “threats” with no evidence at all.
The ZOA appears to be one of the organizations that supports Pamela Geller and her “work”. Not only has the ZOA supported Geller, but another Jewish organization called the Creative Zionist Coalition. led by Jessica Felber and Orit Arfa, recently gave Pamela Geller the “Queen Esther Award for Jewish Heroism” and Robert Spencer the “Shushan Award for Righteous Gentile.” It seems safe to assume that Pamela Geller’s views accurately reflect the views of ZOA and of the Creative Zionist Coalition.
Garibaldi of Loonwatch reported that:
“Jessica Felber works as the West Coast Director of JerusalemOnlineU.com and holds the volunteer position of YP Chair with the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). She was involved in a lawsuit in which she claimed that she was assaulted by Pro-Palestine protesters at Berkeley, her lawsuit was thrown out.
Orit Arfa lived in Israel from 1999-2008, where she worked in both non-profit PR and journalism. Orit returned to Los Angeles in 2008 and served as[b ] Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America, Western Region. Her main tasks were to whitewash Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, policies of Occupation and apartheid. She describes herself as an “advocate on behalf of victims of Arab terror.” She is also the author of a novel that romanticizes land theft titled “The Settler,” which bemoans Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. It seems as though the Creative Zionist Coalition is related to the Zionist Organization of America.
In a previous article on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, I closed with this
I believe that any human being whose heart and mind are not closed by hate, must see the parallels.
For Jewish and Christian members of the Islamophobia industry, I would appeal to you to consider that there is no claim about some particular Imam somewhere saying something extreme or just plain stupid that can’t be matched by a Rabbi or a Reverend doing the same. There is no act of violence carried out by Muslims that can’t be matched by those carried out by Christians and Jews. There is no community that is free of criminals and hateful people. There is no more violence in the Qur’an than in the Torah or the New Testament. There is no religious community that doesn’t have individuals (even individuals who should know better) who attempt to use religion to justify their wrong actions, or who make distorted interpretations of their religion to justify themselves.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims need to step up and be counted, do what they can to marginalize their own extremists, and stop demonizing each other. American Muslim Imams And Community Leaders issued a strong statement against Holocaust Denial & anti-Semitism. In 2009 when a speaker at the ISNA conference made an anti-Semitic statement, ISNA apologized to the Jewish community. The ADL has issued statements against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. There are many interfaith efforts to build bridges and work cooperatively on the many issues of mutual concern.
However, it seems that much too often, it is the voices of hate and division that get the most media attention and therefore have an opportunity to spread their poison more widely.
All of us as members of whatever faith group need to counter hateful speech with thoughtful speech, and to be aware that such tendencies exist among all groups. As Hans Kung has pointed out so beautifully, “There can be no peace among nations until there is peace among the religions. There can be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions”. Somehow we must find a way to change the diatribe into dialogue (as Muslim scholars have requested in the Common Word document) in the interest of working together towards peace.
Anti-Semitism is wrong, racism is wrong, homophobia is wrong, and Islamophobia is wrong. Decent people need to make it clear that expressions of hatred towards anyone are simply not socially acceptable.
A few years ago when a bigoted speaker, Amir Abdel Malik Ali, was invited to speak by a Muslim student group, Hussein Ibish wrote an article protesting this in which he said
It is immoral and counterproductive to promote extreme and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Moreover, it is impossible to take a serious and effective stance against “Islamophobia” while promoting or condoning anti-Semitism. These two forms of bigotry are intimately connected, both thematically and historically. Neither the Jewish community nor the Islamic community can advance its legitimate interests or perspectives by promoting fear and hatred of one another.
I would ask these synagogues to seriously consider what purpose they believe is served by magnifying and endorsing the voices of hatred and division over the voices of mutual respect and dialogue.
Since I put this article online this morning there have been new developments. Pamela Geller has just posted this announcement about the Jewish Federation cancelling this event:
If you’re in LA, come to the Jewish Federation at 6505 Wilshire Boulevard at 11AM. We will be protesting this craven capitulation of the Jewish Federation to Islamic supremacist Jew-haters.
In a jaw-dropping act of cowardice and submission, LA Federation is not allowing ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) to hold the event where I was scheduled to speak this morning.
Jewish leadership is on the trains and thinks we will go quietly. This is tragic. Imagine, without so much as firing a shot, they’re caving in to a Hamas front group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Hamas’s fundamental goal is the annihilation of Israel.
This mirrors Nazi Party Representatives attending a 1933 Berlin Jewish Community charity drive gathering—back on December 20, 1933, three thousand Jews attended the first official Jewish gathering in which uniformed Nazis participated. The mass meeting was arranged by the Berlin Jewish community to open the special campaign for winter relief. And we know how that worked out.
Is it any wonder that the American Jewish left has become a problem for Israel? Who are these people? What is their role? What is their mission? What’s the point of Jewish lay leadership if they submit before their executioners? Shame on our cowardly leadership for throwing one of our own under the bus. We expect that from kapos, not from proud Jews who should hold the freedom of speech as a fundamental Jewish value.
Proud Jews and lovers and free speech will be protesting outside the LA Jewish Federation building at 11 am, and another venue will be announced shortly.
Geller also urges her supporters to contact the Jewish Federation to complain about this cancellation. Here is the link for the contact page of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles http://www.jewishla.org/page/s/contactus/ Please contact them and let them know that their cancellation of this event is appreciated.
Interesting that Geller says she believes that “proud Jews should hold the freedom of speech as a fundamental Jewish value.” Since she is a proud Jew, why is it that she doesn’t support that value when it comes to Muslims or Arabs? Just last month she led a campaign to have Alameda County in California drop a Palestinian Cultural Day.
The Jewish Federation has done the right thing. Just as back in 2009 when a speaker at the ISNA conference made an anti-Semitic statement, ISNA apologized to the Jewish community.
No community can control or be responsible for individual voices of bigotry. However, organizations that represent communities do have a greater responsibility to do everything that they can not to provide a platform for such bigotry.
ZOA (Zionists of America) leader Steve Goldberg and Orit Arfa spoke this morning outside the Federation building on Wilshire. They posted a series of videos in which they are announcing to people that the event is cancelled and claiming that it was because the Jewish Federation was afraid of Muslims. One of the printed comments accompanying the videos, says “While the Jewish Federation has expressed security concerns (which in and of itself bespeaks of the intimidation tactics of Muslim groups), we believe that the Jewish Federation has succumbed to political pressure by Muslim groups and extremist Jewish groups not to let a rational voice criticizing Islam and its war against Israel be heard on its premises. These Muslim and Jewish groups have blown up the blogosphere with lies about Ms. Geller and harsh criticism of the ZOA for hosting her at the Jewish Federation.” The ZOA press release also expressed concerns about “shutting down free speech.”
Like Geller, the ZOA is only concerned about their free speech. As an article in the St. Louis Jewish Light notes “Supporters of ZOA have faced similar criticism for their efforts to block communal organizations from providing space to the liberal group J Street and speakers critical of Israeli policy.”
Read the interfaith statement that was released, and see where there is anything that could be construed in any way as an attempt at intimidation. As to “blowing up the blogsphere” with lies about the event. There were not more than 8 or 9 articles/press releases about the event as of this morning. These articles did express criticism of Geller and of the event, and that criticism should be praised by Geller as part of the “freedom of speech” she holds “as a fundamental Jewish value”.
Geller has posted an update on her site in which she says “I am extremely happy to report, however, that the proud Jews of the ZOA Western Region, led by the indefatigable Orit Arfa, were not willing to go quietly into the night. Within half an hour of when the event was supposed to take place, they swiftly organized a protest outside the Jewish Federation building, and called out the Federation leaders for capitulating to the Islamic supremacist Jew-haters of Hamas-CAIR. Scores protested in defense of free speech. They also quickly found an alternative venue, The Mark, where an enthusiastic crowd gathered to hear the address that the Jewish Federation was too frightened to allow to be heard. Mention must be made of Steve Goldberg, who went toe-to-toe with the craven Jay Sanderson of the Federation, who actually claimed that he was afraid that Muslim protestors would storm the building—when we all know it wasn’t that at all.”
Not only was no one intimidated or threatened, but there wasn’t even any protest against Geller’s event called outside of the Jewish Federation. One “new"s source Algemeiner actually printed an article with the headline LA Jewish Federation Cancels Event Citing Muslim Threats. I seriously doubt that anyone was “afraid that Muslim protestors would storm the building”. Geller is not the best source of information, and neither is the ZOA, and I very much hope that the Jewish Federation will release a statement as to why they cancelled the event. I sincerely hope that they don’t use the excuse that they were afraid that Muslims would “storm the building” as in that case they would not have made a decision based on doing the right thing at all.
The coalition released a statement thanking the Jewish Federation which said
“The event was cancelled following a statement of concern by the coalition, which includes: Council on American-Islamic Relations - Greater Los Angeles (CAIR-LA), Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), Islamic Circle of North America - Southern California (ICNA), Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Jewish Voice for Peace - Los Angeles (JVP-LA), LA Jews for Peace, Muslim American Society - Greater Los Angeles (MAS-LA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Muslim Ummah of North America, Southern California (MUNA), and Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU).
We commend the Jewish Federation for taking action to dissociate from Pamela Geller’s bigoted views. It is also encouraging to see that when interfaith communities work together, we can help promote tolerance and reject misinformation that only serves to confuse and promote hate. Americans must continue to stand up and ensure that voices of hate and bigotry stay on the margins of our society, where they belong. We further ask people to take a moment to send a note of thanks to the Federation’s leadership.”
Richard Silverstein on Tikun Olam has posted an update which also expresses concern about what was the actual motivation of the Jewish Federation:
Wonder of wonders, the Los Angeles Jewish Federation either understood the lunacy of hosting a lecture by Pam Geller, or they were embarrassed beyond belief by the Council for Islamic-American Relations press release that announced Geller’s public event, that was to be hosted by the far-right Zionist Organization of America in the Federation board room.
Geller and ZOA are howling with rage. She’s even charging that the Federation capitulated to CAIR, likening the latter to the Nazi Gauleiters. This woman is beyond twisted. She’s beyond pathological and sociopathic. She’s truly off her gourd.
... According to ZOA, the Federation expressed concerns about the safety of the building if it hosted Geller. If this is true, I agree with Geller and the group this it is a shandeh. But not for the reasons they argue. It is a shandeh because it is a cop-out. Instead of standing against Jewish racism and hate and saying it has no part in the Jewish federation building, they are using the excuse that Pam Geller will arouse the ire of local Muslims, who will take a pot-shot at the building or its occupants because of her presence. This is an insult to local Muslims and their leaders, who do not espouse the sort of hatred of Jews that Geller does of Muslims. The federation hasn’t even said it refused to hold the event because of the friction it would cause with the local Muslim community. Indeed, it probably doesn’t even care about that.
An interesting article in the Jewish Forward adds to our understanding of Geller’s concern for free speech. That article notes
One counter protester, Linda Milazzo, held up a sign that said, “Thank you Federation for standing up to Pamela Geller’s paranoid hate,” until a ZOA protester took the sign from her, saying, “This is our protest, not yours.”
Geller said the federation should know better than to try to muzzle alternate viewpoints. “Free speech is a basic Jewish value,” said Geller, calling the Federation “cowardly clowns.”
Irony is not a strong enough term to use to describe this incident of taking a sign away from a Jewish woman who disagreed with Geller.
Linda Milazzo, the woman whose sign was taken has just posted an article Jewish Federation Puts Kibosh On Extreme Islamophobe Pamela Geller about the event and her experience. In that article she says
The Interfaith Coalition’s statement provides an accurate portrait of Geller as a woman intent on destroying Islam. It also provides a marked contrast between the Coalition’s mature civility and Geller’s juvenile irrationality. Ultimately, it wasn’t Muslims who planned to protest Pamela Geller at the Jewish Federation on Sunday. It was her fellow Jews – one of whom was me.
I went to the Jewish Federation building Sunday morning. Other Jews went as well. Lauren Steiner, an activist with Occupy LA, whose family has long-time ties with The Jewish Federation, was there. Former Congressional candidate Marcy Winograd was there. Dorothy Reik, President of Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica Mountains, was there. Indeed, had there been more advance notice than just a few hours, many more local Jews would have gone. Geller’s just as toxic to Jews as she is to Muslims.
True, Geller was instrumental in inflaming New York City over plans to build the Park51 Islamic Community Center (often referred to as a Mosque). But thinking people see through Geller and her SIOA partner Robert Spencer’s vitriol and hyperbole. Few are moved to join her. Lauren Steiner informs me that Orit Arfa, organizer of Sunday’s event, set up a Facebook page for Geller’s appearance. Arfa invited 36 people but no one signed up to go. Judging from the small number of people present Sunday morning, Geller isn’t much of a draw. Her rage is discomforting and she offers nothing in positive values.
... While there is a small, non-majority percent of American Jews who may agree with Geller on certain issues, her presentation is so hate-filled and vulgar, she diminishes her opportunity for coalition and allegiance. Who knows. Perhaps it was The Federation’s Jewish values mission that caused Sanderson to send Geller away.
Of course, now Geller and her cohorts want retribution against Sanderson and The Jewish Fed for booting her. They set up a protest outside the Federation building. They bought poster board and Sharpies to make signs. They placed the materials in the public area and asked those who were there to create their own messages. Here are photos of the protest signs posted on Geller’s website. Notice how many speak of free speech.
... I joined in on the protest. I used their materials to create my own two-sided sign. The Geller folks were unhappy with my messages and confiscated my sign. Quite contradictory behavior considering their own signs were touting “free speech.” I offered to pay for the materials I I used, but they angrily dismissed me. Oh well…
Geller also told the Forward “Zionists are obviously not welcome at the Jewish federation.” I am shocked that she has the nerve to claim that her hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric is the epitome of what it means to be a zionist. Zionists should be the first to demand that Geller stop insulting them by making this spurious comparison.
Geller is claiming that the Jewish Federation has apologized for cancelling her event. She says “According to my sources at ZOA, the LA Jewish Federation has been apologizing profusely and repeatedly for cancelling my talk at JFed LA headquarters, and pleading for a hudna. Apparently the whining Jewicidal left-wing donor kapos were the real threat. But this is gorgeous, and these cowards will long remember their stunning betrayal and fall from grace. The blowback was overwhelming, and proved too much for these craven quislings. So when are you rescheduling, fellas?”
The Algemeiner article mentioned above with the alarmist headline LA Jewish Federation Cancels Event Citing Muslim Threats has now added an update to their article.
UPDATE: Following clarification from the Zionist Organization of America of comments made by Mr. Klein, the following amendments have been added to this article.
1. The event featuring Ms. Geller was posted on the Federation website for three weeks preceding the event as opposed to “months” as reported originally.
2. Mr. Klein’s reference to threats and condemnations from “the Muslim world” was clarified as threats and condemnations from “radical Muslim groups or other anti-Semites.”
3. Mr. Klein’s mention of an apology from the Federation as previously reported was clarified to be in actuality only an acknowledgment of their mistake in waiting to discuss and cancel the event at the last minute.
This update makes it clear that Geller and the ZOA are slanting the story to suit their own agenda.
Brian Levin, J.D., Director, Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University has written an article Jews Must Repudiate All Hatred, Especially From One of Their Own saying that this was an invitation rightfully revoked.
UPDATE 5 (6/26)
Jonah Lowenfeld published an article in the Jewish Journal which has a little more clarifying information. The first interesting item is
ZOA has been a tenant at Federation headquarters for less than a year, and ZOA’s local executive director Orit Arfa said she had filed an official request to use a board room in the building about a month in advance of the Geller event. ZOA also requested the event be listed on the Jewish Federation’s own website. Both requests, Arfa said, were approved.
This is proof that the event could not have been posted on the Jewish Federation site any earlier than three weeks ahead of the event because the use of the space was only requested a month in advance.
Another interesting item in this article is this quote:
... Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center on Extremism, said in an interview on Friday that while his group and others have concerns about radical Muslim individuals and groups, Geller goes further, to the point of xenophobia. “The difference between [Geller and] legitimate criticism about the very serious threat of radical Islam,” Segal said, “is that she vilifies the entire Islamic faith by making assertions that there are conspiracies against American values inherent in Islam.”
Geller noticed this article and posted her response in which she says “Anti-Muslim” activist, he calls me: I’m not anti-Muslim. I love Muslims. I help Muslims.” See my article Pamela Geller: Love or pathological hatred towards Muslims? which goes into detail about Geller’s supposed “love” for Muslims.
Haaretz also published an article No hatred is pro-Jewish. No bigotry is pro-Israel. Case in point: Pamela Geller by Bradley Burston in which he said “ZOA should never have extended an invitation to one of America’s most extraordinarily successful purveyors of unvarnished prejudice and unapologetic hatred.” Here are a few passages from his article
What good did the Zionist Organization of America think is served by handing a microphone to a person whose organization, the Anti-Defamation League has
concluded, “seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith,” “encourages Muslims to leave what it describes as the ‘falsity of Islam,’” and which has warned of “a powerful and dangerous ‘Islamic machine’ that stands to threaten the security and cultural fabric of the U.S.” Geller has also linked Islam to bestiality and rape of minors, the ADL said, and has asserted that Hitler was inspired by Islam.
Does the ZOA really believe that the cause of supporting Israel is served by rank bigotry and a maniacal, ever-escalating flow of poison directed against all members of a certain faith? Does the ZOA really believe that the future of Israel is at all fostered by a person urging the removal of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock shrine, one of the holiest sites in Islam? “The Dome has got to go, ” Geller has written, and repeated for emphasis.
What business does the ZOA have in offering the public the P.T. Barnum of American hate-mongering? What could the ZOA, a group which authentically despises anti-Semitism, be thinking in hosting a woman who not only makes a living from religious bigotry against Muslims, but also from attacking Jews (“our very own self-hating Jewicidal tools”). “It galls me that the Jews I fight for are self-destructive, suicidal even,” she writes on the Israeli settler movement’s Arutz Sheva website. “Here in America (and the world over), Israel’s real friends are in the Republican party, and yet over 80% of American Jews are Democrats. I don’t get it.”
Nor does she get Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg - often criticized by leftists for defending Israel – whom Geller brands a self-loathing “Jewicidal Jihadi.”
The Federation’s decision to quash the talk was not an easy call. One of the principal tasks of the Federation’s is to foster interfaith understanding and cooperation. From this standpoint, Geller’s message is the Federation’s nightmare.
At the same time, it may be argued that Pamela Geller’s scheduled talk did not meet the threshold tests of “clear and present danger” or incitement to imminent, likely lawbreaking, which the U.S. Supreme Court requires for suspension of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech – even for a message no one ever need hear.
But it should never have come to this. The Zionist Organization of America knows better. It should never have extended the invitation in the first place.
No hatred serves the interests of Jews. No bigotry serves the welfare of Israel. Pamela Geller can spout off all she wants. But no Jewish organization that calls itself responsible should ever invite her to speak.
Geller, also noticed this and published a response accusing Haaretz of “schilling for Islamic supremacists” and “smearing” her.
I believe that as more and more people actually look at the rhetoric of Geller and her companions in the Islamophobia industry and realize just how hate filled and destructive this rhetoric is, they will cease looking to them as credible sources of information about anything at all.
UPDATE 6 (5/30/2013)
Rabbi Eric Yoffie has weighed in on the issue of Pamela Geller being invited to speak at synagogues.in the article Synagogues, red lines, and free speech:
The recent decisions by a synagogue in Great Neck and another outside of Toronto to cancel appearances by anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller—both were rescheduled at other venues—have made headlines in the Jewish press and raised interesting questions for the Jewish community.
There are important issues at stake here. They are not new, but they are not going away. So let’s think through, yet again, who it is that we want speaking at our synagogues—and Federations and JCCs.
My first observation: Diversity of views should be welcome. Debate should be promoted and controversy encouraged. A synagogue that shuts down discussion whenever a wealthy donor is offended may appease the donor but will ultimately drive away its own members and lose its standing in the community. Synagogues are expected to challenge accepted thinking and to shake things up, at least a bit.
My second observation: Synagogues must have red lines. A synagogue bima is not an open forum; it is a platform used by a Jewish religious institution to promote Jewish values and strengthen the Jewish people and the Jewish state. There are people who should never be invited to speak there and things that should not be said there.
With that in mind, it is important to note that refusing to host a speaker at a synagogue does not raise freedom of speech issues of any kind. Americans have an absolute right, guaranteed by the constitution, to express themselves openly and freely, from any street corner or soapbox. But they are not entitled to demand that a voluntary religious organization provide them with an audience; synagogues—and churches and mosques—have no obligation to host a speaker who expresses ideas that they find abhorrent and that contradict their most fundamental religious principles.
(A synagogue, in this respect, is very different from a university. Universities have red lines too, but they are far more expansive. Americans expect universities to be a place where the broadest possible spectrum of views is expressed, and—as we saw recently at Brooklyn College—it is almost always counterproductive for Jewish communal groups to oppose university speakers or one-time programs, no matter how offensive.)
Each synagogue, of course, must define its own red lines and decide how they will apply in any given case. This is never easy, and different synagogues will come to different conclusions.
When asked for my counsel, I suggest the following broad guidelines:
Remember that the task of the synagogue is to promote Jewish religious tradition and Jewish well-being. At the same time, as noted above, don’t be afraid of strong views and of those who dissent from what may appear to be the communal consensus.
Never invite those who promote hatred of other religious and ethnic groups in the guise of advancing Jewish interests and values. Don’t be afraid of a diversity of views on Israel, but make your expectations clear: Invite those with a firm commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; who, when criticisms are offered, will offer them with love and respect; and who are sensitive to Israel’s security needs and oppose terrorism against Israelis and Jews—indeed, who opp• Permalink