Pamela Geller Event at Jewish Federation Cancelled
by Sheila Musaji
On Saturday, I posted an article Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism: Everything Old Is New Again in which I discussed what I consider to be striking similarities between these two forms of bigotry. The article gives specific examples and references. Here are a few points from that article directly relating to an event featuring Pamela Geller speaking on “Islamic Jew Hatred” which was sponsored by the ZOA, and held yesterday at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles:
A Southern California interfaith coalition released a statement expressing “deep shock and alarm” over this Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ decision to offer a platform to the leader of an anti-Muslim hate group. Their statement said:
... Is there a similarity between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism? I would hope that the answer is obvious after reading just the few examples listed above. Perhaps, reading an article by Colm O’Broin listing 10 statements by Julius Streicher and 10 statements by Robert Spencer and their remarkable similarities would make this even more crystal clear. Of course, the Islamophobes will either claim that Islamophobia doesn’t exist or that fear of Muslims is “reasonable”. In fact, SIOE, the parent group of SIOA has as its motto “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.”
... How is it possible that some in the Jewish community don’t see the parallels? It is particularly shocking that there are members of the Jewish community among those engaged in demonization of the entire religion of Islam and of Muslims. How is it possible that there is anyone in the Jewish community who is not more sensitive to this issue. It would seem that they have seen where such demonization of a minority community can lead, especially when that is a religious minority, and that should make them more likely than anyone else to say loudly “never again” for anyone.
There would appear to be a Jewish component of the Islamophobia industry engaged in what Max Blumenthal calls a Great Islamophobic Crusade. In regard to the production of “Relentless”, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War on the West” and “The Third Jihad” TAM published this article. Richard Silverstein has written about who benefits, and has discussed the anti-Muslim propaganda during the last election cycle here, and the money trail between these groups here. Pamela Geller a co-founder of the hate group Stop the Islamization of America (with Robert Spencer) is one of the most strident of this group. Our TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry includes a surprising number of individuals from the Jewish community. This is not only surprising, but heartbreaking.
Just as Muslims have given lengthy explanations of why particular verses of the Qur’an have been taken out of context to “prove” false points - Jewish scholars have had the need to explain particular aspects of their religion that have been misunderstood - for example what the Talmud says about the permissibility of killing non-Jews. Rabbi David Eidensohn has a site devoted to defending the Talmud against various accusations. The fact that there are verses in the Qur’an that can be interpreted variously is also not unique - that there are verses that be seen as cruel and violent in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) cannot really be disputed. What can be done is to attempt to marginalize those who continue to promote extremist interpretations of religious texts, and to promote false worldviews like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the Protocols of the Elders of Islam.
When Jewish groups are actively involved in the production and distribution of hateful propoganda materials like Obsession: Radical Islam’s War With the West, or The Third Jihad which mirror Nazi propaganda in films like The Eternal Jew it is difficult to understand how they cannot see that this sort of demonization will ultimately hurt all minorities. And when mainstream Jewish organizations like the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles invite individuals like Pamela Geller to speak on “Islamic Jew Hatred” as happened in June of 2012, even after so many organizations including the ADL have described her and her organization as hate mongers, then that is simply tragic. They are providing a veneer of respectability to this sort of bigotry.As I said in one of my many articles responding to Pamela Geller’s numerous anti-Muslim tirades:
There is a reason that many, even outside of the Muslim community see such demonization of Muslims as Islamophobic. There is a reason that the ADL (A Jewish anti-defamation group) has said that Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) is a “group that promotes an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”. There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that they are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle. There is a reason that Geller and Spencer are featured prominently in the Center for American Progress “Fear Inc.” report on the Islamophobia network in America. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack: The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security. There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature. There is a reason that they are featured in our TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry. There is a reason that Geller is featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
These people consistently promote the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims. They generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam. When they are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence.
The claim that “truth tellers” are being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia is nonsense. The further claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews also proves that Islamophobia doesn’t exist is more nonsense.
The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes. The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, and it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism.Pamela Geller’s Islamophobia is clouding her judgement about how closely anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and all other forms of bigotry are linked. Encouraging and condoning bigotry towards any minority ultimately can come to hurt all minorities. Her ravings against Islam and Muslims are appealing to a certain segment of the population who need to have someone to blame and to look down on. It is if she is taking a stick and sticking it into a hive of hornets and shaking it around and hoping she can control who those hornets sting. When she opposes halal slaughter of animals and calls it “cruel”, it isn’t going to be long before her audience notices kosher slaughter. When she opposes not only particular interpretations of some specific aspects of Sharia, but all of Sharia, it isn’t going to be long before her audience sees the similarities between Halakha and Sharia. If it’s alright to take away Constitutional protections from Muslims, or any other particular minority, then it isn’t going to be long before her audience realizes they can take them away from others who they were never that fond of in the first place. There are unintended consequences that come with demonization of a minority.Rachel Tabachnick wrote in the Jewish Forward“In this single-minded zealotry, the struggle against Islam appears to be seen as a zero sum game - whatever is bad for Muslims, must be good for Jews. But what is the cost of this attack on multiculturalism? Is it possible that some Jewish leaders are hacking away at the very same foundations which have provided a peaceful existence for Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere over the last several decades? Is attacking multiculturalism really beneficial to Jews? “It is also worthwhile to remember that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism often go hand-in-hand. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll showed that bias against Jews and Muslims is linked, and concludes that the strongest predictor of prejudice against Muslims is whether a person holds similar feelings about Jews
“We are extremely shocked and alarmed to see a mainstream Jewish organization associating itself with one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes who doesn’t hesitate to share the podium with European racists and whose admirers apparently include Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik. Religious leaders and institutions have an increased and urgent responsibility to promote tolerance and mutual understanding among all Americans, instead of giving aid and comfort to fear-mongers like Geller. Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an anti-Semitic speaker.”Pamela Geller’s invitation to deliver a lecture on “Islamic Jew-Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace” in an event sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and hosted by the Jewish Federation is shocking.
In a notice about the event posted on Geller’s site there is a screen grab of the ZOA flier advertising the event. It says they “proudly” present Pamela Geller, and praise her glowingly. This means that there is no possibility that they presented this speech as simply an opportunity for various voices to be heard. They presented this as something they agree with and believe to be a valid and respectable position.
The Jewish Federation cannot say that they weren’t aware of the controversial nature of inviting this speaker to speak on this topic. This is not the first time that Geller has spoken at a Jewish Federation. In March, Geller spoke at the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia at an event also hosted by the ZOA. And, Geller’s appearance at that event was controversial.
Richard Silverstein notes on Tikun Olam that the
... The official sponsor of the event is the Zionist Organization of America, but she will speak tomorrow on their behalf in the Sanders Board Room, the Federation’s main meeting space. There are several serious ironies here. First, this board room is named after Ed Sanders, a State Department official in the Carter administration who was an illustrious member of the local Jewish community known for his dovish political views on Israel. Second, I know Jonathan Jacoby, a senior vice president of the Jewish federation. Jonnie was the founding director of the New Israel Fund. Though his views were always liberal rather than left-wing (obviously, how could he get a job working for a federation if they weren’t?), but he must be squirming or worse at this development.
... Lest the federation not know this, the Southern Poverty Law Center features her in it’s racist Hall of Shame. The hate blogger was lauded by serial killer Anders Breivik and defended him as Think Progress noted. Do these people know with whom they’ve gotten into bed? To have her officially endorsed by a Jewish communal organization representing all the Jews of one of the largest communities in America is beyond a shandeh. In Hebrew, it’s a bushah v’cherpah.
Based on the stated principles and goals of the Jewish Federation, as Ali Abunimah says “It is difficult to see how promoting hatred of Muslims protects and enhances the well-being of Jews, or reflects the values of charity and social justice.”
Here is a letter that Robert Sugarman, National Chair of the ADL published in the New York Jewish Week:
Pamela Geller attempts to change the subject when it comes to her own vitriolic rhetoric against Muslims (Letters, March 23). But let’s be clear: Geller should not be allowed to get away with playing the victim and hiding behind the mask of a “patriot and proud Zionist.”
Geller’s self-righteous campaign to show the world the “true face” of Islam is abhorrent and morally repugnant. Geller, in views she outlines in her blog, has linked Islam to bestiality and rape of minors, compared Muslims to Nazis and asserted that Islam inspired Hitler. The Anti-Defamation League has closely followed her anti-Muslim scapegoating and that of Stop Islamization of America, the organization she leads, and has posted additional examples of her comments on its website.
Terrorism inspired by fundamentalist Islam is indeed a true threat to America, Israel and democracies around the world. But in directing her rhetoric at the entire Islamic faith — indeed, in supporting campaigns to suggest that Muslims should abandon their faith entirely — Geller fuels and fosters anti-Muslim bigotry in society.
Here is the opening of an ADL backgrounder on Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA)
Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), created in 2009, promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy “American” values. The organization warns of the encroachment of shari’a, or Islamic law, and encourages Muslims to leave what it describes as the “falsity of Islam.”
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who took over the group’s leadership in April 2010, view SIOA as protecting against a powerful and dangerous “Islamic machine” that stands to threaten the security and cultural fabric of the U.S. Geller, in views she outlines in her blog, has linked Islam to bestiality and rape of minors and described the Qur’an as “inspiring” violence. Geller has also charged that Muslim immigration has caused “rampant” honor killings in North America and Europe, compared Muslims to Nazis and asserted that Hitler was inspired by Islam.
Geller and Spencer work closely with David Yerushalmi, an Arizona attorney with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry. Yerushalmi is one of the driving forces behind Shari’a-related conspiracy theories and growing efforts to ban or restrict the use of Shari’a law in American courts. Geller and Spencer head the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a non-profit organization that was incorporated by Yerushalmi. AFDI and SIOA organize most of their activities and initiatives together, and AFDI serves as host through which Geller and Robert Spencer publish their blogs.
Here is a little information on the SIOA from a previous TAM article Pamela Geller Attempts to Make a Point, Muslims Shrug (SIOA/AFDI/Atlas Shrugs)
Geller’s blog is called “Atlas Shrugs” referring to the title of Ayn Rand’s book. Geller says that Rand’s philosophy guides her work. The site has been online since at least 2003.
An announcement was made early in 2010 by Anders Gravers of SIOE that We have now formed a new board for SIOA. The new board of SIOA: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Stephen Gash and Anders Gravers. The leaders of SIOA are Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
Geller and Robert Spencer also co-founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative in 2010.
The organization Spencer and Geller now lead and for which the NYC mosque protest was one of the first activities is called Stop the Islamization of America SIOA which many consider an anti-Muslim hate group. SIOA grew out of SIOE Stop the Islamization of Europe whose motto is, “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” SIOE has called for the total boycott of Muslim countries, and boycotts of any businesses who sell products to Muslim countries.
SIOA’s declared mission is to “educate Americans about the threat that Islamic doctrine and those who support it present to our freedoms, and the future of our democracy and country.” As Loonwatch points out “The declared mission gives us a scent of the absurdity that is SIOA, what else can “the threat of Islamic doctrine and those who support it” mean except “Muslims.” In other words the groups mission is to educate Americans about the “threat that Muslims present to freedom.”
Eli Clifton points out that The group, Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), stands out for its extensive ties to far-right bloggers in the US and Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. It also has links to the European Far Right and Nazi apologists. The choice of September 25 as the launch date is designed to coincide with “Jumah Prayer on Capitol Hill: A Day of Islamic Unity,” a gathering of Muslims on the National Mall.”
D.L. Adams, President of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) said “Neither our Founding Fathers, nor Lao Tse, Confucius, Gautama Siddartha, Saint Paul, Jesus, Isaiah, Moses, nor Abraham would recognize Islam as a bona fide religion, but would instantly understand it as the massive intellectual fraud that it is. Our cowardly leaders, in both Church and State, who claim it doesn’t matter what people believe, are fools. It matters that Muslims believe non-Muslims are inferior human beings. It matters that Muslims believe women are inferior to men. It matters that Muslims believe obedience and worship are the same thing and that conformity is the same as morality. It matters that Islam requires territorial sovereignty. It matters that Muslims believe that leaving Islam is equivalent to high treason. It matters what Muslims believe just as it matters what communists believe and what neo-Nazis believe.’’
The SIOA and its’ European equivalent the SIOE planned a big rally in July, 2011 but the French and European authorities denied them a permit to hold the rally. Geller claimed that this was a sign of the “collapse of democracy in Europe” and wrote a vicious article attacking the government for “capitulation to Islamic supremacists and violent radical Leftists” for cancelling a rally planned by their “human rights organizations”. Loonwatch discusses this at length and provides actual facts.
In an article I recently wrote about the many incidents of scrubbing, cleaning up, or simply disappearing articles from Spencer and Geller’s sites, I noted on 8/6/2011 that Geller and Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) website at http://sioaonline.com/ has now been completely scrubbed. If you go to the link, all the articles and everything is gone. There is nothing there except a main page with the name of the organization. According to Richard Bartholomew, access to cached versions has been blocked. This comes at the same time as the release of Geller’s new book of the same name as the organization (named a hate group by the SPLC). No longer just one article, or one paragraph from an article, but an entire website “disappeared”.
James Zogby of the AAI wrote an article Double standard on anti-Arab bigotry repeats old errors in which he said:
... historically the animus that has inspired bigotry directed against Arabs and Muslims, on the one side, and Jews on the other has been cut out of the same cloth.
It was a largely western phenomenon that emerged in full force with the modern state system in Europe and was directed against two Semitic peoples - one that the West found living within its midst and which it identified as an internal threat; and the other which the West confronted as an external challenge, but which it similarly defined as a threat.
As a result, both groups suffered a history of vilification and dehumanisation, enduring persistent and systematic campaigns of intense violence. Jews were segregated, tormented, targeted and forced to endure repeated pogroms, leading to the horrors of the Holocaust.
The dehumanisation campaigns against Arabs, on the other hand, were used to justify imperial conquest, the colonisation of Arab lands, and efforts to eradicate their identity in the Maghreb and force their dispersal in the Levant.
Three decades ago, I collaborated in a study of political cartoons and other forms of popular culture that compared the depiction of Jews in Tsarist Russia and pre-Nazi Germany with those of Arabs in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. In both content and form, the treatments given to each of the two groups was similar.
The two most prevalent German and Russian depictions of Jews paralleled the two most common images of Arabs projected in US cartoons. The fat grotesque Jewish banker or merchant found its counterpart in the obese oil sheikh, while the image of the Jewish anarchist, communist, subversive terrorist morphed into the Arab and now Muslim terrorist. They differed only in attire.
Both were seen as alien and hostile. They were accused of not sharing western values, of being prone to violent conspiracies, of being lecherous usurpers of western wealth - and therefore threats to western civilisation.
As Mr Nader points out, while it has become unacceptable in the US to express bigotry against Jews, anti-Semitism against Arabs - and increasingly, by extension, against Muslims - remains a part of the West’s popular culture and its political discourse. Hollywood, in particular, has an Arab and Muslim problem with negative stereotypes abounding.
But the West’s political culture is no better. For more than a decade now, some political leaders in the US have been engaged in poisonous discourse targeting Arabs and Muslims - culminating in recent years in the mass movement to block the building of an Islamic community centre in lower Manhattan, a rash of legislation to block the imposition of Sharia law in over two dozen states, and declarations by presidential candidates insisting that Muslims would have to take special loyalty oaths before allowing them into public service.
While this hate has had devastating consequences for Arabs and Muslims, the purveyors of the hate have received nary a slap on the wrist.
Racist books like Raphael Patai’s The Arab Mind continued to be used to train the US military through the end of the Iraq war. Hate-mongers remain on the air and retain cult-like followings. Obsessed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim writers and bloggers are quoted by presidential candidates, law enforcement agencies and hate criminals alike.
And it is clear that there is a double standard at work in all of this. Ask yourself what the reaction would be if Arab Americans wrote books about Jews like those written by David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer [or Pamela Geller] - what would we call them? And what if an Arab billionaire made and distributed millions of copies of movies charging that there was a massive and violent Jewish conspiracy to take over the West - would presidential candidates be lining their campaign coffers with his millions as they are with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson
Here is a passage from Where the Anti-Muslim Path Leads by Anya Cordell that is worth reflecting on:
... All Muslims?…All Jews? When I hear the presumptions about all Muslims these days, I, a Jewish woman, silently substitute “all Jews” and then I know how terrifying and incendiary this language is, because we’ve already seen how these scenes play out, in all too horrific reality.
I have wondered whether those screaming the stereotypes the loudest would take any responsibility when people accept their cues and assume they have license to target innocent Muslims, presumed ‘multi-culturalists’, and others in hate-crimes, or worse. The horrific attack inNorway, in which the perpetrator credited those who inspired him, has answered this question. No, they won’t take responsibility. So why are they screaming; what are their goals? To simply get elected or make fortunes selling books and speaking engagements? Surely they want to affect policies, and influence thought, and become richer and more influential. But, apparently, without worries of consequences.
I’d like to ask the Muslim-bashers, “Then what?” after every pronouncement, and push them to follow their vision further down the path. After our culture makes it clear that we abhor all Muslims, and we abhor everything we believe that they believe, then what? After we’ve pronounced that all who are born Muslim, that all who call themselves Muslim, (we don’t bother to ask them what this means to them), are unwelcome in our midst, then what? After we’ve made it clear that unless they cease to be themselves, we’re not sure they deserve to be, at all, then what? ... After Muslims worldwide have absorbed progressive shock waves of hatred and condemnation, and after some of them internalize the trauma and respond, then what? What do we imagine happens next when people are treated as Muslims are, currently?
We are on a precipice, looking over the edge. Humans have stood on this precipice before. We know about the times when people were willing to—or were manipulated to—push others, many others, over the edge.
In my 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 the ZOA and the Jewish Federation 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 oppose terrorism in all forms and at all times.
And how do I apply these standards to current realities? To offer a few prominent examples:
Pamela Geller has no place in an American synagogue. She is a bigot and purveyor of hate. ...
Additionally, when a Toronto synagogue considered having Pamela Geller speak, the Toronto Board of Rabbis condemned that decision:
... The 50-member rabbis’ board said Geller, a blogger and vocal critic of radical Islam, “is known for her extreme criticism of Muslims in language that is intended to shock and ridicule.” The group said that it’s “a strong supporter of freedom of speech for all, including Ms. Geller,” but added “there was no sense in inviting her here to Toronto to speak before a Jewish audience.” The board, which represents multidenominational rabbis, said it found Geller’s views “distasteful.” “We dissociate ourselves from the actions of the radical fringe Jewish group that extended the invitation,” the board said. “We call for more events here in Toronto that will build up friendship and understanding between local Jews and Muslims.” ...
The Toronto event was arranged by the Jewish Defense League (JDL). The JDL and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) appear to be organizations that support the views of Pamela Geller. Last year, the ZOA invited Geller to speak at the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles on the topic “Islamic Jew-Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace”, leading to a great deal of controversy, and ultimately to the Jewish Federation cancelling the event.
Editors note: The original title of this article was ZOA and Jewish Federation Proudly Present “Jewish Muslim Hatred” and that article is still posted online. I posted the article early yesterday morning (6/24) and it was not picked up by google. When I posted the first update in the afternoon, I refreshed the time, and the article was still not picked up. In fact, it hasn’t been picked up as of this morning. As I noted in the editors note on the original article - Perhaps the title seemed offensive? Or, perhaps, it was a simple computer glitch. I am now reposting this article with a different title, and it will be interesting to see whether or not it is picked up. UPDATE: It took 14 minutes to be picked up by google with the new title?