March 20, 2019

Converging on Humanity

Peace

On Sunday, March 17, when I didn’t think the news could get any worse, I heard from my Egyptian friend Marwa Maziad, a scholar of international relations at the University of Washington. She messaged me a link to a Haaretz op-ed titled, “After Christchurch and Pittsburgh, U.S. Jews and Muslims Need Each Other More Than Ever.” It featured a photo from an interfaith vigil in Manhattan. A woman is holding a sign that reads: “Your Jewish cousins have your back.”

“We talked about cousins way before everybody else,” Maziad wrote. “I think it will happen this time.”

That morning, a Palestinian had killed two Israelis near Ariel, authorities said. Some Palestinians handed out sweets to celebrate. Also that day in Amsterdam, protesters with Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch rabbi’s remarks at a vigil for the victims of the Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre. Two days before, Chelsea Clinton was verbally attacked by a group of psychotic New York University students, who accused her of causing the New Zealand terrorist attack because she dared to criticize Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism.

I wasn’t feeling very optimistic.

But Maziad persisted: “I’m optimistic because I believe things happen for a reason — and they eventually stabilize.” Tragedies like New Zealand “help to bring people together,” she said.

She sent me a passage from the Quran: “O mankind, indeed, We have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” 

“People need to see themselves in the other,” Maziad wrote. “That level of familiarity will heal people — and help them converge on humanity. … Literally at the level of, ‘Oh, they have eyes and ears and hair and necks in the same places!’ Like babies, when they start examining the adults who are holding them,” Maziad explained. “That takes away from the demonization of all by all. Knowing one another becomes a life purpose.”

I told her that she was beginning to lift my pessimism.

“Optimism is a political act,” she responded. “We need to look for similarities even before we respect our differences. Also, just know that at the root of all things bad is fear. When that fear is addressed, peace will follow. We have one family legacy. One region. One God. If we go back to that as often as we should, there would be more peace.” 

I realized that what Maziad was saying converged with the philosophy of my Lebanese friend Imad. In line with positive psychology, Imad argues that there will always be toxic people and situations in our lives. The key is not to react to them — let toxicity happen without responding to it with anger or fear. If we don’t react, it will by definition become less significant. 

“We have one family legacy. One region. One God. If we go back to that as often as we should, there would be more peace.” — Marwa Maziad

It’s not a coincidence that I’ve gone through the hardest year of my life surrounded by serene Muslims. That closeness allowed me to grieve with them over New Zealand and inspired me to write about the current political situation with honesty and tough love. 

We can let negativity define our lives — and social media make that very easy — or we can choose optimism. Optimism does not mean ignoring reality. It means seeing it, understanding it, but then hoping and believing that the bad happens for a reason.

The Shabbat after the Christchurch tragedy, I invited my Muslim neighbors over to say a prayer after we lit the candles. Before we began, I told the kids — two Jews and two Muslims — that the man who is suspected of killing 50 worshippers in two mosques hated both of our religions.

No one spoke for a minute as that sank in.

My neighbor Saya and her son, Reese, recited “Al Fatihah” after we sang the blessing. Al Fatihah is the first chapter of the Quran, I learned. Its seven verses form a prayer, and many interpret its meaning — “the opener” — to refer to its ability to open a person to faith in God.

At the end, they said, “Amin.” 

“Did you just say Amen?” I asked. 

“Yes, we said Amin,” they replied.

Cousins, converging on humanity.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

L.A. Faith and Civic Leaders Denounce Attacks at Two New Zealand Mosques

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at the Islamic Center of Southern California. Photo by Ryan Torok

Showing solidarity with the New Zealand Muslim community reeling from deadly attacks on two of its mosques, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous and other civic and interfaith leaders denounced the acts of violence.

Appearing at a press conference at the Koreatown-based Islamic Center of Southern California, Garcetti said his role as a civic leader and his Jewish faith compelled him to show up to support the Muslim community.

“I come as a mayor and as a Jew to be here at the Islamic Center because every single time we see these moments, we know who we are and we are tested about what we are and what we believe in,” he said.

Around 100 people turned out to the press conference, where Brous called the shootings in New Zealand “pure hatred.

“I want to be very clear that this attack was perpetuated in the name of an ideology, the ideology of white supremacy, which is the cancer that threatens to destroy not only this country but our world,” she said. “This cancer that has wrapped itself around the spine of our nation, which we now export willingly to anyone who will receive it.”

Rabbi Sharon Brous and Edina Lekovic hug in a show of love and support between a rabbi and Muslim-American leader. Photo by Ryan Torok

At least 49 people were killed and 20 injured during the carefully planned March 15 attacks at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch and another place of worship in the suburb of Linwood.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Friday “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

A Muslim weekly prayer service – called Jummah – followed, with an imam delivering a sermon focused on the tragedy.

Los Angeles Jewish Community Invited to Muslim Solidarity Event at Noon Today

MARCH 15: People attend a funeral ceremony in absentia for the victims of twin terror attacks on New Zealand mosques in Christchurch, on March 15, 2019 in Duzce, Turkey. (Photo by Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In the wake of last night’s terror attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Los Angeles Jewish community is invited to a community-wide press conference and prayer service at the International Islamic Center of Southern California at noon. IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous will be among the speakers. The press conference will take place at noon, followed by a prayer service at 1 p.m.
The Muslim community rallied around the Jewish community following the Tree of Life shooting last October.  The Jewish community is now rallying around our Muslim friends.
The event will take place at the Islamic Center of Southern California – 434 Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, 90020

Religion and The Poetry of Order

The evening before I watched the new film “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” — a dialogue between religion critics Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz — our Yemenite neighbor, Saya, came to our apartment to light our seventh-night Hanukkah candles. I told her how the menorah had been in our family for more than 100 years and that the Hebraic script on it spelled out “Israel.” My 9-year-old son, Alexander, taught her how to use the shamash. “Everything has an order,” he told her rabbinically.

Having lived through a strict Muslim upbringing that included two arranged marriages, Saya now calls herself an atheist — as does Harris, who was born to a Jewish mother. In many ways I feel closer to Nawaz, who calls himself a liberal Muslim and sees no contradiction between maintaining a tough, rational mind and having a love for the poetry of religion.

At its core, that’s what the film, based on Harris and Nawaz’s 2015 book of the same name, is about: How to move forward so that both Muslims and non-Muslims can see that there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between the two. Saya rejected much of what she was taught as a child, including a fierce hatred of Jews, and therefore can come to our home to light our candles with an open mind and heart. Nawaz got to his place of understanding via a stint as an Islamist and his near-execution in an Egyptian jail. 

But instead of rejecting Islam flat-out, he seeks to reform it. How? First, by distinguishing between Muslims and Islam (conflation leads to bigotry); second, by distinguishing between the four types of Muslims: jihadis, who seek to create an Islamic caliphate through violence; Islamists, who seek to impose a caliphate through nonviolence; strict religious Muslims, who believe in following the Quran but don’t want to impose Sharia law on others; and secular Muslims. Most of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, Nawaz says, fall into the third group.

It is when the conversation turns to scripture that things get dicey. “Words are not infinitely elastic,” Harris says. You cannot simply ignore or reinterpret the more barbaric parts of the texts. “There will always be a temptation toward literalism, as well as a link between belief and behavior.”

“Dialogue is the only remedy. Without conversation we become more and more entrenched in our views.”

— Maajid Nawaz

Nawaz, who started the group Quilliam in 2008 to help make Islam compatible with liberal democracy, counters that Islamic texts should not be read literally: “I don’t accept that there’s a ‘correct’ reading of scripture; it’s open to myriad interpretations.” In some ways, Nawaz is trying to do for the Quran what the Talmud did for the Torah: show, for example, that some passages are metaphorical, not to be followed literally. 

“Nawaz is borrowing the very ancient (and very Jewish) tradition of interpretation,” said Rabbi Eli Fink, adding that Talmudic interpretation did not begin in earnest until 200 BCE and continues today. Still, though I am rooting for Nawaz wholeheartedly, he clearly faces an uphill battle.

Sadly, the battle is not just from Islamists and jihadis. “I was expecting pushback from Islamists,” Nawaz says. “But most disappointing is the opposition from those who call themselves liberal.” Nawaz coined the term “regressive leftist” to describe liberals who are so mired in identity politics that they end up losing all sense of morality, let alone rationality. 

Nawaz talks about how Islamists, when he was among them, would purposefully exploit the multiculturalism of the left. They once put up a poster on a campus in the UK that read: “Women of the West: Cover Up or Shut Up.” They snuffed out all opposition to the poster by calling university administrators “racist.” The poster stayed up — and spurred a murder. 

That tale alone makes this documentary worthwhile, although neither Nawaz nor Harris is under any illusion that it will solve every problem. But it provides a much-needed beginning. Their hope is to inspire nuanced dialogue.

“Dialogue is the only remedy,” Nawaz says. “Without conversation we become more and more entrenched in our views. And we need to give people permission to talk across ‘identity’ lines — you don’t need to be Muslim to challenge Islamist theocracy. That alone will lead to a less identity-driven — a more rational — conversation.”


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

Pittsburgh Tragedy: Azerbaijan Extends Solidarity and Hope

Signs of support are being shown throughout Pittsburgh following last week’s deadly synagogue shooting. Photo by Alan Freed/Reuters

When I learned about the tragedy in Pittsburgh, I felt profoundly sad. Eleven Jews had just been murdered by a depraved anti-Semite; their lives ripped away in a sacred space, a synagogue, on the Jewish day of rest and prayer. For those lives taken, and for the mourners reeling from this tragedy, that Shabbat is truly eternal, and one man’s act of hateful violence is unconscionable and unforgivable. 

In my homeland of Azerbaijan, messages and sentiments of solidarity and prayers for the victims and their loved ones have been pouring out from every corner. In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev wrote: “I was deeply saddened by the news of casualties as a result of an armed attack at a synagogue in the city of Pittsburgh. On the occasion of this tragic event, on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan, I extend my deepest condolences to you, the families and loved ones of those who died, and all the people of the United States.”

As consul general of Azerbaijan to the Western United States, I join my nation — a majority-Muslim country with thriving Jewish and Christian communities — in an outcry of support, solidarity and the most heartfelt condolences. As someone who has made Los Angeles a new home and has been privileged to become close friends with many Jewish leaders and organizations across California and throughout the United States, I reach out in total devastation as a friend and as a neighbor. To all of my Jewish brothers and sisters, my heart breaks for your loss and pain. I think of the many synagogues across Los Angeles where I have enjoyed celebrating Shabbat, and I think of the pain everyone is in, of how this tragedy is far too close to home.

“What happened in Pittsburgh is truly an assault on all people who believe in peace, because our values and our hopes are undeniably intertwined. “

Over the past six years, I have spoken to many shuls and organizations about the concept of multifaith harmony and respect, how it works in Azerbaijan, and how critical it is for communities across the United States and beyond; and how so many of us have shared this vision of peace that we know is possible. Clearly, our work is far from complete. We have so much yet to achieve together. 

My thoughts go out to my Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbors in Azerbaijan. I think of the synagogues and the hundreds of children of the Orthodox Jewish day school in our capital city of Baku, and I am thankful knowing that they are safe, that our national values and policies guarantee that safety every day. I am grateful that educating every child about the evil of anti-Semitism is part of the mandatory curriculum in Azerbaijan’s public schools, and that our society shuns it in its many forms. I think of the all-Jewish Red Town of Quba, where Jewish children walk proudly wearing kippahs, attending daily minyan and studying at one of the several shuls. 

I think of Jews across the world, and really all people of every religion, ethnicity or creed, and the blessing of each day that we walk safely through this tumultuous world. What happened in Pittsburgh is truly an assault on all people who believe in peace, because our values and our hopes are undeniably intertwined. 

The hatred of Jews hurts everyone, just as the hatred of any group of people is a sickness that affects our entire world; a revolving phenomenon of bigotry, racism and xenophobia that comes in many forms and leaves the same lasting mark wherever it exists. My condolences also extend to every victim of terror, to the many Muslims and Christians who were murdered by terrorists because of their faith. I think of the hundreds of lives lost in Khojaly in Azerbaijan, and how Jews and Muslims were killed side by side by invading forces in Karabakh, simply for being Azerbaijani. 

The loss of 11 precious lives on Oct. 27 signifies the same prejudice that has plagued our world for millennia. Whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or a member of any other group found under the sun, we all deserve a world that is free from such destructive and inhumane tendencies. We all deserve a world that is free from anti-Semitism or any other version of hatred.

I hope that with our collective perseverance and an ever-increasing measure of time, the movements of hope, peace, respect and love for each and every fellow human being will outshine and overwhelm the forces of hatred and evil. And I believe we must do more than hope. We must act boldly and exhaustively in our policy, our schools, our daily practice and in how we treat one another. We must unambiguously stand against all forces of prejudice in the world, so that we can one day know a world without hate. A world that truly embodies “never again.”


Nasimi Aghayev, based in Los Angeles, is consul general of Azerbaijan to the Western United States and dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.

Israel’s Intermarriage Paradox

Lucy Aharish and Tzachi Halevi pose for a photo at their wedding party in Hadera, Israel, on Oct. 11. Photo by Meggie Vilensky/Reuters

Two Israelis get married. An everyday occurrence but in this case, both Israelis are celebrities; one a TV journalist and personality, the other, an actor. So the wedding is national news. Also, one, Lucy Aharish, is a Muslim — the other, Tzachi Halevi of TV’s “Fauda” fame, is Jewish. 

Intermarriage in Israel: The fewer you have them, the more noise you have. A Jew and a Muslim cannot legally marry each other in Israel. But Israelis long ago found ways to circumvent laws they dislike, especially laws that attempt to impose rabbinic dictates on them. A Jew and a Muslim rarely marry each other in Israel. 

After the celebrated wedding, a Member of Knesset from the Likud Party released an ugly comment, denigrating the couple. A pushback was quick and harsh. Aharish is a charming and beloved public figure. She is sharp-tongued, patriotic, pretty and honest. It is easy to understand how an Israeli-Jewish actor fell in love with her. Still, a debate ensued about the issue of intermarriage, revealing a wide array of views. And at the heart of this issue, a paradox.

Here is it: 

The sector that most opposes intermarriage — the religious right — is also the sector that most opposes separation from the Palestinians in the West Bank. In fact, the sector opposes intermarriage but also opposes creating the conditions that reduce the incidence of intermarriage. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, the people least concerned about intermarriage are those most inclined to separate from the Palestinians, hence reducing the interaction of Jews and non-Jews between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean.

Interesting, isn’t it? If you are concerned about intermarriage — or better understand that although marriage is a complicated, personal decision, but that for Jews, a high number of intermarriages is a problem — wouldn’t you strive to have a clear Jewish majority in a well-defined territory? The inconsistency of the religious-right position is noteworthy. And even more noteworthy is the reason for it.

In fact, there are two reasons. The first is that the religious right doesn’t understand the society in which they live. The second is that objection to “intermarriage” in Israel is more about nationality than it is about religion. 

“Objection to ‘intermarriage’ in Israel is more about nationality than it is about religion.

Beginning with the first undercurrent that creates the paradox, members of the religious right do not understand that for many centrist, leftist and mostly secular Israelis, intermarriage is hardly a demon. Consider this: Self-defined “totally secular” Jewish Israelis prefer that their relative will marry a non-Jew over him or her marrying a Charedi Jew. 

Consider this: A clear majority of Israelis support the idea of establishing civil marriage in Israel knowing full well (at least, most know) that this creates a legal path to intermarriage. In other words, one of the reasons why the religious right doesn’t see the contradiction between greater Israel and objection to intermarriage is its assumption that most Israelis will behave like a member of the religious right, that is, refrain from intermarriage even in a highly diverse society. This is a false assumption. Jewish Israelis, given the opportunity, will intermarry in high numbers.    

The second undercurrent makes the religious right’s assumption seem somewhat more rational. Consider this: According to a recent survey by Jewish People Policy Institute, Jews in Israel have a much higher objection to a “close relative” marrying an Arab than to a “close relative” marrying a non-Jew that is not Arab. The difference is stark — not merely a few percentage points. The percentage of Jewish Israelis who would be “shocked” if a relative married an Arab is double the percentage of Israeli Jews who would be “shocked” if their relative marries a non-Arab gentile. In other words, objection to intermarriage — common among most sectors of Jewish Israelis — is much more about national identity that it is about religious norms. 

With these numbers in mind, the religious right’s position seems less contradictory. It is not worried about intermarriage in a greater Israel — in which many Muslim Palestinians reside — because it knows that Jewish Israelis object to marriage with Arabs, not for religious reasons, but for national reasons. Alas, such objection depends on specific circumstances. It depends on circumstances of ongoing national conflict. In other words: for the religious-right position to have merit, the conflict with the Palestinians must never be resolved. 

Or else. 

Intermarriage in inevitable. Some leftist-secular Israelis might not care to have such an outcome, but religious-right Israelis do care. Hence, an unresolved paradox. 

Religion in an Uber

I love a cocktail, and because I am a complete lightweight, I use Uber. It is easy and inexpensive, as long as they don’t nail you with their bogus surge pricing. Important to note that if you book an Uber and it cancels on you, then you rebook it 30 seconds later and there is surge pricing, complain to them because that is both lame and unethical. This however is not a blog about Uber pricing, but rather about my recent Uber driver.

If you are interested in people’s stories, talk to your Uber driver. I have met some wonderful people while riding in their cars. I’ve been driven by a Drake lookalike who was so handsome I stuttered when we spoke. There was a grandmother making extra money to help her single mom daughter, who was so great I moved to the front seat. There was a woman who is raising 9 children and drives to get a break from her kids. Uber is great.

Saturday night I went out for dinner with a friend. He drove to my place and we took an Uber to sushi. When we got in the car there was something in Arabic playing and didn’t sound like music, as much as chanting, so I asked if he was listening to prayers, because that is what it sounded like. He told me it actually was prayers, I told him they were beautiful, and somehow we went from prayers to not all Muslim’s being extremists.

I’m not sure if my positive reaction to the prayers made him open up, but he felt compelled to say not all Muslim’s were bad, and many speak out against extremists who are bringing harm to their faith. He wanted me to explain to him why the media never talks about the brave few who are willing to speak out. I didn’t have an answer, which I think made him sad. I appreciated that he wanted to be heard, and felt bad the ride was so short.

We live in a time when it is difficult to be a lot of things. Life has levels of complication when you are gay, black, Jewish, or transgender, to name just a few. It makes me happy when people are proud of who and what they are, so it was great that this man was comfortable enough to play prayers for strangers. He asked me at one point if I was Muslim, and I said no. I didn’t tell him I was Jewish, which I am ashamed of.

I’m not sure why I didn’t say I was a Jew when he asked me if I was Muslim. I’m not sure why I would even have said I was Jewish in that moment. I am proudly and openly Jewish. I say openly because I have many Jewish friends who are quiet about their faith.  It struck me as odd that I would choose this moment to be quiet and not share. I respect his bravery, but am sad for thinking it requires bravery to speak of religion.

Religion has always been something we need to be careful with I suppose. It brings people together, and tears them apart. If fuels love and hate on both small and epic levels. At the end of the day I’ll continue talking to Uber drivers, because connecting to a fellow human being matters, and exchanges about religion can be enlightening if we allow them to be. Sometimes talking to a stranger inspires you to keep the faith.

 

Israeli, Muslim Women Team to Fight for Equality in Hollywood

From left: Lee Broda, Shani Atias, Noa Tishby, Azita Ghanizada. Photo by Gerri Miller

Stories of sexual misconduct and abuse, workplace discrimination and pay inequality have dominated the headlines recently, drawing attention to issues women face every day in Hollywood. But for women of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian heritage, there are additional issues of stereotyping and racism that make getting ahead that much harder.

Women Creating Change hopes to counter that through networking, creative collaboration and bridging the long-standing divide between Jews and Israelis on one side and other Middle Easterners on the other.

The new organization, founded in June by Israeli actress-producer Lee Broda, held its inaugural event on Nov. 18 at Los Angeles Community College, featuring a panel discussion, workshops on writing and branding, as well as one-on-one mentoring sessions.

“It’s one thing to talk about empowering women and another to actually make it happen,” Broda told the Journal. “We’re bringing the Arab-Muslim and Israeli-Jewish worlds together to create opportunities, refer each other, hire each other. We’ve connected writers with producers. There already are results.”

Broda acknowledged that “there are issues on both sides” that may make it uncomfortable for some Israelis and non-Israelis to work together at first. “But just by understanding and talking about it, we can be a voice and show our communities that it is possible to find common ground. It’s a small shift that we’re making, but we’re hoping it will trickle down,” she said.

Israeli actress, singer and activist Noa Tishby (“The Affair,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”), the daughter of a feminist mother whose father was Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, never faced discrimination as a young actress in Israel. “It never occurred to me that women can’t do the same things men can,” she said on the panel. “Then I moved to the States, and people wouldn’t even take meetings with me because I’m Israeli and a woman. It was shocking to me.”

Tishby talked about being bumped from a project she created and said she’s been “humiliated and propositioned” in the past. Nevertheless, she said, “It’s important that we acknowledge the difficulties. We will not win all the time. It’s going to continue to be hard. But we should not shy away from trying.”

“We will not win all the time. But we should not shy away from trying.” — Noa Tishby

Actress Azita Ghanizada (“Alphas,” “Complete Unknown”), who was born in Afghanistan, has often faced negative ethnic stereotyping in her acting career. But the Jewish creators of “Alphas” changed her character from Chasidic to Muslim when they cast her. And the character she plays in the forthcoming “Kilroy Was Here” originally was written as Latina but is now a Muslim. She sees both “small steps” as a victory for diversity and inclusiveness.

Ghanizada is encouraged that filmmakers like Ava DuVernay “see things through a differently colored lens” and believes Women Creating Change “is a step in the right direction. It creates an open dialogue between women from different regions of the world,” she said. “We have similar stories based on common threads of how we grew up and what we struggle against. There are way more similarities than differences created by politics and religion.”

Moroccan-Israeli actress Shani Atias, who has a recurring role on “Ten Days in the Valley” (returning to ABC on Dec. 23) will appear in the Starz series “Counterpart” in January. The younger sister of Moran Atias (“Tyrant”) will play the title role in the biblical movie “Jezebel” and star in “The Color Red,” a short film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She’s a founding member of Women Creating Change.

“With SAG-AFTRA, Women in Film, and other great organizations backing us up, we’re already one step ahead of the game,” she said. “The next step would be passing laws and regulations that [state] you have to hire a certain amount of women, and that women have to get paid equally. It has to start with us.”

How My Muslim Journey Led Me to Study Jews

I never envisaged that my life journey would take me to study the Jews of my southern Moroccan oases and North Africa. Growing up as a practicing Muslim in a Moroccan village, I never could have imagined that I would, one day, do research with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Vichy and Nazi policies in North Africa, or that I would become affiliated with the UCLA Center of Jewish Studies, one of the oldest centers in the United States, and become a member of the Association for Jewish Studies.

How did this happen to a Muslim Moroccan boy?

One starting point is that I experienced discrimination in my youth. In southern Morocco, where I grew up, race is a factor in determining social and economic status. The Haratine, who have a darker skin color and are seen as socially inferior, farmed lands owned by the local Maraboutic families known as Shurfa (historically light-skinned). For decades, my father served these families as a day laborer. I grew up affected by this.

When I began my research on Jews, on a few occasions I was called a Falashi (Black Jew from Ethiopia), signaling that I was not only breaking rules by studying Jews but also highlighting my lower social status as a dark-skinned Muslim.

But the more I learned about Jews and the more opposition I received, the more I wanted to continue. Maybe subconsciously, I identified with the foibles of a minority. But there was something else: I also was moved by the deep attachment that Moroccan Jews have for their Moroccan heritage and the positive feelings toward Mohammed V as a righteous king for protecting Jews during World War II. This helped me persevere and overcome personal and professional obstacles.

Still, I have to say I got lucky. My parents, illiterate and with no comfortable income, raised a family of four sons and four daughters on subsistence farming and herding. Having a child who would end up earning a doctorate in socio-cultural anthropology in the United States was never part of their agenda. But I was always thirsty for knowledge, and my educational ambition got the attention of some prominent people in Morocco. Their support gave me my first break and my perseverance did the rest.

In my first year in graduate school at the University of Arizona, I struggled to come to terms with the option of specializing on the Jews of Morocco. I knew that going back home with a degree with a limited audience would be a big risk, especially in the context of a negative political environment over the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

What kept me going was becoming immersed in the amazing story of the Jews of Morocco. Moroccan Jews worldwide represent one of the largest Jewish communities of the Arab world. Despite the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, most of them remain deeply connected to their Moroccan homeland. While fewer than 4,000 Jews currently live in Morocco, Jewish shrines and cemeteries are protected and maintained by the local Arab population and the government.

In my studies, I wanted to tell a Muslim story about living with Jews as neighbors. My book, “Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco,” was an attempt to describe Jewish life in the southeastern Moroccan region based on Muslim generational memories. I tried to make the point that, in Morocco at least, you cannot study Jews without factoring in Muslim participation in Jewish life and Jewish-Muslim relations. 

The Moroccan Jewish tradition of Mimouna — in which Jews create a magical neighborhood feast on the last night of Passover — is a good example of the relationship of mutual respect and co-existence that existed, and continues to exist, between Muslims and Jews.

As a historical anthropologist, I was exposed over the years to strong cultural connections between Moroccan Jews and Muslims. Attending Shabbat dinners, I recognized Moroccan cuisine that I enjoyed at home. Visiting synagogues in Marrakech, France or Los Angeles, I heard sounds that reminded me of recitation of the Quran in the mosque. Researching a shrine such as Baba Sale in Netivot, Israel, I remembered the days when my village would travel to Muslim shrines.

I have come to recognize that in their language, food, music and rituals, many Moroccan Jews have preserved their Moroccan identity, no matter where they live. As I continue my research, it is this deep cultural connection, above all, that will nourish my journey. 


AOMAR BOUM is associate professor and vice chair of undergraduate studies in the anthropology department at UCLA.

Burma’s response and the world’s obligation

Rohingya refugee children gather on a truck in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sept. 28. Photo by Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

More than 400,000 out of 1 million Rohingya Muslim minorities in western Burma had fled to Bangladesh within three weeks in late August and early September after the Burmese government army launched what is called “clearance operations” against Muslim militants.

On Aug. 25, the Muslim militants known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) — led by Attaullah Abu Ammar Jununi, who was born in Pakistan and grew up in Saudi Arabia — launched a series of attacks against 30 police outposts in the Maungdaw region in Burma’s Rakhine state. In response, the Burmese army launched an operation that became an international issue that was discussed at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Rakhine, one of Burma’s poorest and most isolated states, now is known by the world. Bangladesh has to host 420,000 refugees from Rakhine while the U.N. provides aid to them. The United States announced it would provide $32 million for humanitarian aid for the refugees in Bangladesh and displaced people in Rakhine.

More than 70 years after the Holocaust, the United Nations and world leaders have accused Burma of ethnic cleansing and called on the government to stop the army from continuing its so-called clearance operations. The British government halted training with a group of Burmese military officials in England and sent them back to their country, and French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Burma and said the attacks on the Rohingya people amounted to “genocide.”

Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh said the Burmese army and local Rakhine nationalists burned down their homes and killed the Muslims they found. They said members of the army raped Muslim women.

Despite criticism from world leaders and the international media, the Burmese government has a different perspective about the Rohingya and defends itself. On Sept. 19, Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, addressed diplomats, representatives of international nongovernmental organizations, and foreign and domestic journalists in the capital city of Naypyidaw. She said she wants to find out why many Muslims have fled to Bangladesh even though there were no clashes or military operations since Sept. 5. 

However, journalists who visited the  conflict-torn Maungdaw region on Sept. 7 said they heard gunfire and witnessed arson being committed in the region.

Suu Kyi recognized that there has been much concern around the world with regard to the situation in Rakhine.

“It is not the intention of the Burmese government to apportion blame or to abdicate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence,” Suu Kyi said, without mentioning the Burmese army operation that killed about 400 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims.

Burmese government officials deny allegations made by world leaders, saying there has been no ethnic cleansing. They also blame the international media of taking the side of the Rohingya Muslims.

More than 70 years after the Holocaust, the United Nations and world leaders have accused Burma of ethnic cleansing and called on the government to stop the army from continuing its so-called clearance operations.

The government’s information committee even released a statement warning some media organizations that don’t use the term “terrorists” as it has instructed. Media that use “Rohingya,” the unwanted terminology among government and nationalists, were verbally attacked. The committee even has warned that legal action will be taken against media outlets that don’t follow the instruction. 

Talking with a wide range of Burmese people, from ordinary citizens to government officials and generals, it is apparent that anti-Muslim sentiment is an open secret in Burma. And the Rohingya people, who are seen by a majority of Burmese as immigrants from Bangladesh, are unwanted. They have been denied citizenship and basic rights — such as freedom of movement, education and health care — for decades. 

The ARSA attacks succeeded in getting the Rohingya issue on the agenda at the U.N. General Assembly. But the image of Burma has been damaged as its government, army and Rakhine nationalists responded emotionally and unwisely, targeting not only ARSA militants but also driving out 420,000 unarmed Muslim civilians, 40 percent of the entire Rohingya population in the state. The persecution of Rohingya Muslims is alarming, and Burma’s issue has become one to which the world has an obligation to respond.

The world should act urgently to stop the Burmese from driving the Rohingya Muslims from their country. The U.N. also should take punitive actions, such as its Responsibility to Protect provision, and influential nations around the world should consider imposing sanctions against Burma.

Nations that sell weapons to Burma should suspend further arms deals. International human rights bodies also should investigate allegations of mass killings and gang rape allegedly committed by Burmese security forces during military operations.


ROGERS PEN is a pseudonym of an experienced Burmese journalist based in Yangon who fears retribution for expressing these views. 

Why some Jews still support Trump

Illustration by Steve Greenberg

Watching President Donald Trump equivocate during his criticism of the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., many liberal Jews saw a new low for an administration they felt never occupied high moral ground in the first place.

But many of Trump’s most ardent Jewish supporters had an entirely different reaction, responding to his freewheeling commentary with little more than a shrug, as if to say, “What’s the big deal?” To them, criticizing Trump for a lack of moral clarity because he failed to single out neo-Nazis for condemnation was just another example of the liberal media and the Democratic establishment blowing his comments out of proportion.

“People were getting upset with him because he didn’t specifically say he hated Nazis,” said Warren Scheinin, a retired engineer in Redondo Beach. “He also didn’t mention that the sun rises in the east.”

For right-leaning Jews in the Southland like Scheinin, who have stood by the president so far, the media rather than Trump or even neo-Nazis pose the greatest threat to American democracy. To many Trump supporters, if Charlottesville mattered at all, it mattered far less than his promises to reverse the course of the previous administration at home and abroad, especially on difficult issues involving Israel, North Korea and immigration.

While it’s difficult to estimate the percentage of Jews who still support the president, it’s likely small. More than two-thirds didn’t vote for him in the 2016 election.

Among all Americans who cast ballots for Trump, however, many apparently continue to stand by him. A CBS News poll found that 67 percent of Republicans approved of his response to the violence in Charlottesville.

In a separate poll this month by Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., 41 percent of those surveyed expressed approval for the president. Of those, 61 percent said nothing he could do or fail to do would cause them to change their minds about him.

Steven Windmueller, a professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles who researches Jewish political sentiment, said it is difficult to measure how many Jews continue to enthusiastically support Trump rather than merely accept his leadership.

“For those who are in bed and comfortable with him, and even with his quirks and his inconsistencies, there’s little that will push them away from him,” Windmueller said. “But for those who are troubled by at least some of his statements and actions, I think they’re simply hoping for some way out of this nightmare.”

Windmueller pointed to a “credibility gap” between those who put their faith in Trump and those who trust mainstream media outlets.

“Whatever he said, the media would twist it,” said Alexandra Joans, 66, a property manager in Tarzana who supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican primaries but shifted her support to Trump once he became the nominee. “If he said today was Friday, they would say, ‘You’re a damned liar, you should be impeached.’ ”

President Donald Trump answers questions about his response to the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

Benjamin Nissanoff, 45, the founder of a line of body-care products who lives in West Los Angeles, said the media are quick to label Trump a Jew hater, but they didn’t criticize President Barack Obama when, in an interview with Vox, he did not denounce a 2015 attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris as anti-Semitic. (In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Obama said: “Anti-Semitic attacks like the recent terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris pose a threat that extends beyond the Jewish community.” However, he did not refer to anti-Semitism in the Vox interview.) 

“The media not only didn’t challenge [Obama] on it, they defended him against it,” Nisanoff said. “To me, that is almost an equivalent, analogous situation. Where this president, in my opinion, made a gaffe and — instead of defending him like they did for Obama — they went on offense and they attacked him for a poorly worded and phrased condemnation.”

For some Jewish voices that have defended Trump in the past or stayed silent while others attacked, the president’s comments on Charlottesville seemed to cross a line. But that put them out of lockstep with his base among conservative Jews.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who delivered the invocation at Trump’s inauguration ceremony in January, said he wished that Trump had been a more effective communicator at a time of crisis.

“If he was concerned there not be any violence at the demonstrations, he could have said, ‘I appeal to all Americans to obey the police and not violate any of the rules,’ ” Hier said. “But instead, he seemed to draw a moral equivalency between perpetrators and victims.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which praised the president when he appointed a diplomatic amateur, David Friedman, as ambassador to Israel, and withheld criticism when he failed to mention Jews in an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, spoke out against his Charlottesville comments.

“People were getting upset with him because he didn’t specifically say he hated Nazis. He also didn’t mention that the sun rises in the east.”

Responding to Trump’s assertion that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville protests, the group’s national chairman, Norm Coleman, a former U.S. senator from Minnesota, and Matt Brooks, its executive director, contradicted him in an Aug. 16 statement, saying, “There are no good Nazis and no good members of the [Ku Klux] Klan.

“We join with our political and religious brethren in calling upon President Trump to provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism,” they wrote.

But other Jewish Republicans saw nothing objectionable in the president’s comments, only the backlash that ensued. After the California Jewish Legislative Caucus, a group of 16 lawmakers in Sacramento, rebuked Trump for his comments, the only Republican member, State Sen. Jeff Stone of Riverside County, resigned from the caucus.

In an Aug. 17 statement, the caucus said Trump “gives voice to organizations steeped in an ideology of bigotry, hate and violence.” Stone fired back hours later with a statement of his own, saying the caucus “receives state resources to merely criticize our duly elected President.”

Carol Greenwald of Maryland, co-founder of the grassroots group Jews Choose Trump, who supported him throughout the 2016 campaign, dismissed the criticism from organizations like the RJC.

“They’re a bunch of hypocrites,” she said. “They didn’t support Trump for a minute during the campaign.”

She sees the fallout from Trump’s Charlottesville remarks as part of a crusade by the media aimed at damaging the president.

“They ran out of the Russian collusion [story], that Trump is a traitor, because there’s obviously no evidence for it, and so they’re now trying to destroy his presidency by saying Trump’s a racist,” she said.

Scheinin also believes Democrats are running with the Charlottesville story to damage Trump.

“The only reason he’s being harassed about it is because the left loves to harass the president,” he said.

Counterdemonstrators attack a white supremacist during a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

 

The former Northrop Grumman engineer agreed with the president that both sides in Charlottesville were to blame for the violence.

“I don’t know why people are making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said of the media coverage. “If the counterprotesters hadn’t showed up, nobody would have been killed. It would have blown over.”

Like Joans, Greenwald and others interviewed for this story, Scheinin said he sees far-left groups such as antifa, known for its use of violence to intimidate conservative speakers and protesters, and Black Lives Matter, which has equated Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with genocide, as more of a threat to democracy and Jewish life in America than the far right.

“The skinheads don’t really bother me,” Joans said. “They’re useless to me. I worry about the left more because they’re the true fascists.”

For Trump stalwarts, the perception that violence and hatred are rampant on the left makes it easier to sympathize with the president’s suggestion that both sides of the Charlottesville rallies should be targeted for condemnation.

Estella Sneider

Estella Sneider, a celebrity psychologist who campaigned for Trump and appeared frequently on television to support him, disputed allegations that Trump is a racist or a xenophobe, pointing to his Orthodox Jewish daughter and son-in-law, foreign-born wife and Blacks he appointed to positions in his administration, such as White House communications aide Omarosa Manigault. “Why are people not seeing this?” Sneider said.

Sneider’s family on her father’s side was almost entirely annihilated by the Holocaust. She said she was nauseated by the Nazi symbols and chants at the torchlight march in Charlottesville. After watching Trump’s remarks, however, she was satisfied that he had unequivocally condemned the white supremacists.

“It would be unfair to lump every single Trump supporter into being white supremacists and white nationalists and neo-Nazis, in the same way it would be unfair to lump all liberal Democrats into being antifa,” she said. “Trump was right in saying that not everybody there was a neo-Nazi.”

Nissanoff, the son of a Holocaust survivor, said he was offended by comparisons between Charlottesville protestors who chanted “Jews will not replace us” and Nazis.

“The word ‘Nazi’ is such a powerful idea that to dilute it and start to equivocate with a bunch of losers who run around with tiki torches I think diminishes what a Nazi and Nazism really was,” he said.

In Los Angeles, members of the Israeli community continue to provide a source of Jewish support for Trump.

Ari Bussel, 51, who runs a liquor distributorship in Beverly Hills, was born in the United States but spent his childhood in Israel. He described himself as a proud Republican and said he felt Trump has not been given a chance to lead the country. He said Trump has been “vilified as the greatest Satan, the actual fulfillment of imaginary fears and baseless accusations.”

“As for the latest accusations,” Bussel added, “whatever the president would have said would not have satisfied some people and the American-Jewish leadership — exactly those who vocally and fiercely fought against his being elected.”

For Adi Levin, 47, a homemaker in Woodland Hills who emigrated from Israel in 2000, Trump’s support for Israel is more important than his record on race relations. She said the coverage of Charlottesville has been biased against the president.

“They like to criticize Trump and will continue doing so no matter what he’ll say or do,” she said. “I never heard them criticize Obama the same way, even though he never criticized or said anything about Muslim extremists.”

However, Levin said she wishes Trump would pick his words more carefully.

Cheston Mizel

“It’s obvious that the media doesn’t like him,” she said, “but I don’t think it will hurt to try and be more politically correct.”

The Orthodox community has been another source of pro-Trump sentiment in Los Angeles and beyond. For some of his observant supporters, Trump’s record on religious liberties and Israel far outweigh his handling of race relations.

Cheston Mizel, president of Mizel Financial Holdings and a congregant of Pico Shul, an Orthodox synagogue in Pico-Robertson, said the attention to Charlottesville and to other presidential controversies has distracted from Trump’s successes, including appointing the pro-Israel Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and nominating Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“While there are obviously things that are problematic about this presidency, Nikki Haley and Neil Gorsuch are two clear bright spots,” he said.

Rabbi Shimon Kraft, 58, owns the Mitzvah Store on Beverly Boulevard and goes to synagogue nearby at Congregation Kehilas Yaakov. He grew up in a liberal Democratic family in Kansas City, Mo., but in the 1980s, after meeting Ronald Reagan at a Kansas City Jewish country club where he was a lifeguard, he changed his party affiliation to Republican.

Rabbi Shimon Kraft

Although he originally supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries, once Trump made it to the general election, Kraft’s choice was clear, he said: He voted to make America great again.

Asked whether he feels Trump has adequately denounced white supremacists, Kraft pulled out his iPhone and played a YouTube video of clips edited together to show Trump repeatedly denouncing white supremacist David Duke in various interviews with reporters.

“It was sufficient,” Kraft said of Trump’s response to Charlottesville. “Those who hate Trump could not accept his condemnation of the violent left.”

Ayala Or-El contributed to this article.

Vandalized St. Louis Jewish cemetery rededicated with help from Muslim donors

Workers placing headstones back on their bases at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in the St. Louis area. Photo by James Griesedieck.

A St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery was rededicated nearly six months after more than 150 headstones were toppled and damaged by vandals.

Dozens of members of the St. Louis Jewish community and its supporters gathered Sunday at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri, to acknowledge the community support while honoring those who are buried there, the local media reported.

“While God could not guard this sacred place from harm, God did send so many to repair, reclaim and rededicate,” Rabbi Roxane Shapiro of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association said at the ceremony. “Our help had no barriers and no hate, simply care, compassion and hope.”

Among those in attendance at the rededication was Tarek El-Messidi, founder of the Muslim organization Celebrate Mercy. The group, with the support of other Muslim leaders, including pro-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour, set up a crowdfunding campaign that raised $162,000 from nearly 5,000 donors, exceeding its $20,000 goal in the first few hours.

In the wake of the attack, hundreds of community volunteers came to the cemetery to help with the cleanup and repairs, including Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish and had invited Pence.

No suspects have been identified in the vandalism. The Anti-Defamation has offered a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

In first, Senegal and Guinea send ambassadors to Israel

President Macky Sall of Senegal meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Monrovia, Liberia, on June 4. Photo by Kobi Gideon/Israeli Government Press Office

Senegal and Guinea are sending ambassadors to Israel for the first time.

The two predominantly Muslim countries in West Africa are to present their credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday, The Times of Israel reported.

The two will serve as non-resident ambassadors. Senegal’s Talla Fall, who also represents the country in Egypt, will work from Cairo, while Guinea’s Amara Camara will be based in Paris, according to The Times of Israel.

Amid increasing criticism of Israel’s right-wing government from Europe, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made improving ties with African countries a priority, visiting the continent twice in the past 14 months.

Israel’s diplomatic ties with Senegal and Guinea have not been without bumps in the road.

In June, Israel and Senegal announced “an end to the crisis between their two countries.” Three months earlier, the Jewish state permanently downgraded ties with Senegal when it co-sponsored an anti-settlement resolution in the United Nations that passed.

Last year, Israel and Guinea re-established diplomatic ties after 49 years. Guinea had broken off relations following the Six-Day War in 1967.

Faux apologies don’t make amends for big lies from the Davis Imam and Islamic Center

Imam Ammar Shahin

Readers of Jewish newspapers and also conservative media outlets—though not the mainstream national press with the belated exception of the Washington Post— have learned something about deplorable story of anti-Semitism by Muslim preachers in the university towns of UC Davis and UC Riverside.

In the pages of the Jewish Journal, Wiesenthal Center Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein have urged the Department of Homeland Security to act against the perpetrators of genocidal libels. At Islamic Center in Davis this July, Imam Ammar Shahin delivered two sermons, one of which (translated into English by the Middle East Research Institute MEMRI) reads: “Oh, Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews. . . . Oh, Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one. . . . Oh Allah, make this happen by our hands. Let us play a part in this. Oh Allah, let us support them in words and in deeds.”

For a week, we witnessed stonewalling, doubling down, slander of MEMRI as “an extremist driven organization,” hemming and hawing, apologetics, and obfuscation from Imam Shahin and the Davis Islamic Center about whether one Arabic word should be translated as “destroy” rather than “annihilate,” and another Arabic phrase as “defilement of the Jews” rather than “filth of the Jews.”

Syrian-born Sheikh Mahmoud Harmoush of the Riverside Islamic Center remains defiant and unrepentant for propagating the libels that world Jewry is plotting to take over Mecca and Medina and that “a naked woman walking into the holy mosque under the occupation forces, just to insult more and more the psyche, honor, and dignity of the Muslims.” But after a week came an apology of sorts from Imam Shahin (who still hasn’t been fired) and the Davis’ Islamic Center.” It’s very sad to hear that people are taking your words and they are twisting it around, but I know there are people who are out there just waiting for that to make the news. . . . I do understand how my words were hurtful, and I am sorry. . . . I understand that speech like this can encourage others to do hateful and violent acts, for this, I truly apologize,” stated the 31 year-old Egyptian-born, partly American-educated Ammar Shahin who added that “as a young religious leader, this has humbled me.”

Ammar Shahin was born in Cairo, and educated at theAl-Forqan Institute. He came to the U.S.  where he received a B.S. in Computer Engineering before returning to Egypt for advanced study at  Al-Azhar University. Then he began his permanent career at mosques near American college campuses.

Should we take Imam Shahin’s apology and that from the Davis Islamic Center as “case closed” and politely move on? Credulous souls among pro-BDS Jewish activists at UC Davis may accept at face value Imam Shahin apology and decry that “the edited publication of Imam Shahin’s sermon was done with islamophobic intent.” I disagree.

From The Sayings of the Fathers as well as the sayings of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we are told that “justice delayed is justice denied.” I would say the same of apologies, reluctantly and ungraciously given. We can learn a lot more by unpacking this faux apology emanating from Davis’ influential Muslim voices.

Another venerable Jewish parable—about how hard it is retract malicious gossip—relates how a rabbi tells the repentant gossiper to take a pillow, cut it open, disperse the feathers from a rooftop into the wind, and then try to collect every feather in order to repair the damage. This parable (popularized in a Hollywood film) may have originated as a cautionary tale about neighborhood gossip, but lying—especially theologically-freighted, politically-fraught publically-disseminated lying—is much more pernicious and prolific than feathers of malice spread from a rooftop.

Here is what Imam Shahin claimed, and the Davis’ Islamic Center embraced before disavowing, in polar opposition to tolerance and truth:

  • Imam Shahin and the Davis Center ignored the murder of two Jewish policemen on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount that ignited the current crisis.
  • Imam Shahin not only called for the annihilation or destruction of Israelis allegedly responsible the Temple Mount crisis, but invoked a genocidal hadith or “Saying of the Prophet” which reads in part: “The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and the trees say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah’ . . . The Prophet Muhammad says that their time will come, the Last Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews.” This same hadith was quoted as gospel in Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda distributed throughout the Muslim world during World War II by Hitler ally, Jerusalem Grand Mufti (and Yasser Arafat cousin) Mohammed Amin al-Husseini. It also forms a central plank of Hamas’ Founding 1988 Charter.
  • The Davis’ Islamic Center initially issued a highly tendentious statement offering a bowdlerized translation of Imam Shahin’s inflammatory statements. It also misleadingly explaining away Muhammed’s hadith as if it related, not to Jews, but to the final apocalyptic battle of Jesus (Isa in Arabic) against the forces of the Antichrist (Dajjal in Arabic). Conveniently elided over in this apologetic version is the truth that, in anti-Semitic Muslim apocalyptic theology (both Sunni and Shia) the Antichrist-Dajjal leads an army of 70,000 Jews!

In addition to falsely accusing MEMRI of mistranslating Imam Shahin’s sermons, the Davis’ Islamic Center faulted MEMRI for failing to “contextualize” them. Context does indeed matter, but it is precisely the alarming context that the Islamic Center left out. Imam Shahin’s genocidal sermons—far from being isolated aberrations or impromptu emotional outbursts—are entirely consistent with incendiary incitement by Muslim preachers across North America:

  • With a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Cairo’s Al-Azhar University and the head of the Fatwa (Islamic opinion) Unit of IslamOnline.net (English website) and the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) consultant of the Shari’ah department of Onislam.net., Dr. Wael Shihab, of the mosque Masjid Toronto declared on YouTube in June, 2016: “O Allah! Count their number; slay them one by one and spare not one of them.”
  • In Montreal in 2016, Jordanian Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al-Nasr was served with an arrest warrant for willfully promoting the murder of Jews. The Canadian authorities deemed Al-Nasr’s threats “imminent” enough to warrant immediate action.
  • As far back as the 1990s, Fawaz Damra, former Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland (in 2007 he was deported to the West Bank) posed as a promoter of interfaith dialogue even after evidence that he participated in fundraising events for the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a videotape surfacing of the Imam telling Muslims that they should aim “a rifle at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews.”

These North American rhetorical hate bombs parallel the murderous prayer delivered in 2007 by Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Authority’s Legislative Council Ahmed Bahr, in a packed Palestinian Authority mosque and broadcast on an official PA-controlled television station. Bahr called Jews “the cancerous lump . . .in the heart of the Arab nation,” and predicted that “America is on its way to disappear. America is wallowing [in blood] today in Iraq and Afghanistan. America is defeated and Israel is defeated, and was defeated, in Lebanon and Palestine.” Adopting the open-palmed gesture of Islamic prayer, as did his audience, the PA official intoned: “Allah, take hold of the Jews and their allies, Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies…. Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.” The popular prayer, from Riverside and Davis to Montreal and Toronto to Palestine, that Allah “count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one” derives from a popular du’a or supplementary Muslim prayer of supplication.

At American university campuses like UC Riverside and UC Davis, there is a troubling nexus between what adjacent though unaffiliated Islamic Centers preach and teach and the often intimidating anti-Israel activism of Muslim students.

This past March, the UC Davis Middle East/South Asian Studies and Jewish Studies programs co-hosted a student panel titled “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The Anatomy of Twin Hatreds” in the Student Community Center Multi-Purpose Room. What an admirable event. Unfortunately, just a few months later Imam Shahin delivered his anti-Semitic diatribes next door to the University campus.

We should all join the Los Angeles Times in condemning the woman, caught on CCTV, draping strips of bacon were draped over the Davis’ mosque’s door handles and smashing six windows. But much less attention has been paid to the recent experience of Rabbi Shmary Cohen and his wife, Mendy Cohen, of Chabad in Sacramento who have been subjected to “cars driving by screaming ‘eff you!’.” Rabbi Cohen laments: “This is what we suffered throughout the years. We’re not going to let Davis become like the neighborhoods in Paris where police can’t go.”

In 2014 at UC Davis, a student who expressed concern about the anti-Semitic banners displayed at a pro-BDS rally was assaulted by a protestor who screamed in his face, “You are racist and you should die in hell.” In 2015, a resolution was sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which seeks to blackball Jewish students who visit Israel from participating in campus politics, called for the University of California at Davis to divest from “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories, violating both international humanitarian law and international human rights.” The resolution was passed by the Student Senate by a vote of 8-2-2. Protesting that the divestment resolution and how it was ramrodded through was “toxic” and “damaged lives,” Jewish students and their allies staged a walkout. Muslim students shouted “Allahu Akbar” at Jewish students holding Israeli flags and leaving the meeting. The walkout received less attention than UC Davis student senate, Azka Fayyaz, exulting with a Facebook that “Hamas & Sharia law have taken over UC Davis.” At UC Davis, swastikas were found painted on the walls of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house.

In 2016, The University of California Board of Regents unanimously approved a report condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism, making UC the first public university system to condemn anti-Semitism since the emergence of the boycott, divest and sanction movement on college campuses. UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and other administrators have condemned BDS resolutions as well as denounced Imam Shahin’s hate-filled sermons. Yet not enough progress has been made on UC campuses and elsewhere curbing what was becoming a tsunami of campus anti-Semitism.

Genocidal incitement by Muslim preachers at Islamic Centers adjoining UC Riverside and UC Davis are not only dangerous in themselves, but feed a toxic campus nexus promoting anti-Semitism usually in the guise of “anti-Zionism.”

Pro forma apologies are not enough. Responsible Muslim leaders, on and off campus, must do more to repudiate those who seek to incite religious war between two of the world’s great faiths. I vote with Congressman Brad Sherman who is demanding that Imam Shahin’s employment be terminated, and that UC Davis bar him and any representative of the Islamic Center of Davis from its campus.


Historian Harold Brackman is a Consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.

This Israeli lawmaker almost had a fistfight with a Jordanian Parliament member

Israeli lawmaker Oren Hazan laughing at a Knesset committee meeting in Jerusalem on Oct. 26, 2015. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

Badboy Israeli lawmaker Oren Hazan was ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office to call off a fistfight with a Jordanian lawmaker.

Hazan had agreed to the fight with Yehiya al-Saud, also known for his temper, at the border between the two countries on Wednesday morning.

“The shoe of any Palestinian child is more honorable than this villain and his entity (meaning country) and the shoe of any Arab and Muslim is better than him and his rogue entity, which has no origin and religion,” al-Saud said, according to Jordanian reports.

In a tweet Tuesday evening, Hazan said he accepted the call by al-Saud to meet on the Allenby Bridge at 10 a.m. the following day.

“I’ve got an offer he can’t refuse,” he also tweeted.

Subsequent tweets showed photos of Hazan having his hair trimmed at the barber in preparation for the fight, and in his car on the way to the Allenby Bridge. He said in a tweet he was coming “in peace.”

Less than an hour before the scheduled fight, however, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that chief of staff Yoav Horovitz had ordered Hazan to stay away from the Allenby Bridge. Hazan later said he canceled the face-to-face meeting, or brawl, with Saud at the prime minister’s request.

Hazan said he would ask the Foreign Ministry to organize a formal meeting with Saud.

The challenge comes on the heels of tensions between Jordan and Israel, including both the Temple Mount crisis and the shooting of two Jordanian civilians by an Israeli Embassy security guard after he was stabbed. Jordan objected to the hero’s welcome for the guard, Ziv Moyal, after arriving back in Israel along with the rest of the embassy staff, and has said it will not allow the diplomats to return to Jordan until there is an investigation of the guard and he is put on trial.

Saud reportedly has pulled a knife on a fellow lawmaker and cursed female lawmakers.

Hazan has been accused of sexually assaulting female employees at a bar he owned in Tel Aviv, doing drugs with and procuring prostitutes for guests at a casino he managed in Bulgaria, physically assaulting an official in his West Bank hometown, and making fun of a fellow Knesset member for being disabled — twice. He was admonished last week by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee for insults against female lawmakers.

During President Donald Trump’s May visit to Israel, Hazan was reprimanded for taking a selfie with Trump in the receiving line during the welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport for the president and first lady.

Mind Blowing Sex – Muslim Style?

Sex is wonderful, and when you’re old enough to not only know what you like but empower yourself to be bold, it can be a great thing. When we are inexperienced we don’t know what good sex is. Considering how long I have been single, I have not had a large number partners. I got a relatively late start as I was 20 when I lost my virginity, but at 51 I now know what is good, what I like, and what I do well. Jewish men are my preference. They are known for girth, amen, but also known for their inability to tell the difference between 5 inches and 8 inches. Bless them.

I never had a heart to heart talk with my mother about sex. I watch porn and don’t read books on how to have good sex. I have spoken with my girlfriends about sex, but it more about how our partners are at it, then how we are. In our 50’s, my group of friends understand the importance of sex, the power it wields, and that most anything can be made better with a blow job. It’s not scientific, it is just one of those things we all know. Men like to receive oral pleasure, probably more than women, but only because women are better at it than men. Know it gentlemen.

I’m not writing about my own sex life right now, although I think you would find it both inspiring and depressing. Instead I am writing about a book that was sent my way called The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex. It struck me as interesting for a couple of reasons. 1) I was curious as I never really thought of Muslims as being particularly sexual, which I suppose is a stereotype, but still my truth. 2) What was most interesting about the book was not that it can guide me to mind blowing sex, but that it can do it in just 65 pages. Mazel Tov!

This book was written for Muslim women who are looking to have good sex lives with their husbands. It speaks of foreplay, which is a lost art to be sure. It covers kissing, which can immediately tell you whether you want to have sex with someone. It even discusses sexy texting, which is a sign of the times. There are chapters about positions and doing it in the shower. Bravo to author Umm Muladhat for putting it out there. Not only for Muslim women, but for all women. Umm is an American born Muslim woman who wants Muslim women be sexually satisfied.

Amen sister. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of. It should be enjoyed by all women and I applaud Umm for sharing the message that it does not have to be looked down upon. Muslim or not, sex can and should be enjoyed without fear or shame. I’m guessing many Muslin women are rocking it between the sheets. I think Jewish chicks are known to like sex. By like of course I mean as long as it doesn’t ruin our hair and there’s nothing good on TV. Again, stereotypes. Sorry. Not sorry. If you have great sex, and can help other women have the same, then you should.

I think there are a lot of women in the world who believe they are having great sex, but aren’t. Women who want to expand their horizons and get a little wild, but are too afraid of what their partners will think. That is not a Muslim thing, that is a chick thing. Umm is brave and I love her. From describing positions from Cowgirl to Amazon, she goes there. She also doesn’t shame anyone for sticking to the missionary position. There is nothing held back. She simply has a real desire to help the women of her culture with sex, but all women should be reading this book.

She does draw a line of course, because it is based on her faith. No anal, no porn, no period sex, and no sex outside of a marriage. Since writing and self-publishing her book, she has had a little push back from within her faith, which she knew was coming, and therefore why she made up a name to publish under. Her husband knows about the book of course, and even helped her with it, but nobody knows who the real writer is. To this woman, I say you did a lot of good for a lot of people. Her next book will be geared towards men, but I’ll be reading that one too.

I actually have a sex list. Things I’ve done, want to do, hope to do, and will never do. It was fun to make the list and I have been checking things off and adding new things for years. I recently took something off the list because having it there implied it could happen, and it is never happening, ever, so it’s gone. I might add couple new Muslim items to my list now. Inshallah they happen. Women must think outside the box we build for ourselves to make our sex lives better. We are glorious and sexual creatures, no matter how we are keeping the faith.

 

Muslim rioters, Israeli police clash after government lifts security measures

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside Jerusalem's old City on July 28. Photo by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Muslim rioters threw rocks at police officers near Jerusalem’s Lions’ Gate, breaking the relative calm of a day that followed 10 days of unrest over security at the Temple Mount.

Police fired stun grenades into the hostile crowds, Ynet reported Friday, as Israel deployed a huge security force to keep the peace and thousands of Muslim worshippers gathered for Friday prayers.

Israeli authorities restricted entrance to the Old City and Temple Mount to men over 50 years old and women only.

Israel this week removed various security measures — including metal detectors and surveillance cameras — that had been installed following the July 14 slaying of two police officers by three Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Palestinian Authority encouraged followers to protest the security measures.

On Thursday, a Trump administration official praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for removing the security devices, saying he “acted with a clear sense of responsibility not just for Israel’s security, but also for regional stability,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, a Cabinet minister and member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, described the decision as a “surrender” by Israel to Palestinian rioters.

American Muslims intermarry way less and are far more religious than American Jews

Muslims at a prayer service celebrating Eid-al-Fitr in Stamford, Conn., on June 25. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Since it came out in 2013, the “Pew study” — a landmark survey of American Jewish demographics, beliefs and practices — has been at the center of American Jewish scrutiny and handwringing.

Now it’s American Muslims’ turn.

On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a survey of American Muslims focusing not only on numbers and their way of life, but also on how the community has responded to the election of President Donald Trump.

Comparing the two studies shows a Muslim sector in America that is more religious, growing faster and feels more embattled than American Jews. But both groups voted for Hillary Clinton.

Here’s how the Jews and Muslims of the United States stack up.

There are more Jews than Muslims in America, but the Muslim population is growing faster.

Pew found that there are about 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, a little more than 1 percent of the population. U.S. Jews, by contrast, stand at 6.3 million — around 2 percent of all Americans.

But Muslims, Pew found, skew younger and have higher birth rates. More than a third of U.S. Muslims are under 30, only 14 percent are over 55 and their birth rate is 2.4, slightly higher than the national average. Most American Jews are over 50 and their birth rate is 1.9. While the median age of U.S. Muslims is 35, the median age of U.S. Jews is 50. Americans in general have a median age of 47.

These numbers explain why a 2015 Pew study found that by 2050, American Muslims will outnumber American Jews. While the Jewish population is expected to stagnate at about 5.4 million, Pew predicts that in a little more than three decades, there will be 8 million Muslims in America.

The respective studies also included some data unique to each religion. While there are sharp internal divides between Shia and Sunni Muslims, Pew did not address the question of “who is a Muslim” as it did with Jewish Americans.

The study reported demographic data that may contradict popular American stereotypes of Muslims. Only 14 percent of Muslim immigrants are from the Middle East, while one-fifth are from South Asia. And the plurality of American Muslims — four in 10 — are white.

Only 13 percent of American Muslims are intermarried.

When Pew released its study of the Jews in 2013, American Jewish leaders began fretting about an intermarriage rate of 58 percent since 2000 — and they haven’t stopped. By that measure, American Muslim leaders can rest easy.

Unlike the majority of American Jews, only 13 percent of American Muslims are intermarried. And the number has declined in recent years: In 2011, the number was 16 percent. The numbers are so low that the word “intermarriage” doesn’t even appear in the survey.

But another statistic shows that American Muslims may be following their Jewish neighbors. Among Muslims born in the U.S., the intermarriage rate is nearly 20 percent.

Most Jews say they don’t face discrimination. Most Muslims say they do.

Another reason for the difference in intermarriage rates could be the discrimination that Jews and Muslims each face in America. Jews, who are more likely to marry outside their group, are also more accepted in America than Muslims.

In an age when Trump the candidate called for a ban on Muslim immigration, the Muslim study focused heavily on Muslim feelings of discrimination and belonging in America. Questions were asked about Islamophobia, anti-Muslim violence, the president, terrorism, extremism and how Muslims feel about being Muslim and American.

In brief, the study found that nearly half of Muslims have faced discrimination in the past year, and 75 percent feel Muslims face a great deal discrimination in America. But nine in 10 feel proud to be American. Three-quarters of American Muslims say violence against civilians can never be justified, as opposed to 59 percent of Americans in general.

In 2013, most Jews said that Jews do not face a lot of discrimination in America, and only 15 percent personally faced discrimination in the year before the survey.

But Pew’s Jewish study was published three years before the spike in anti-Semitism that accompanied the 2016 election. A poll by the Anti-Defamation League published in April revealed starkly different numbers, showing that most Americans were concerned about violence against Jews.

Jews graduate college at higher rates than Muslims and earn more.

The graduation rates and household incomes of American Muslims track with the rest of the country. Like Americans in general, 31 percent of Muslim Americans have graduated college. And a quarter of Muslim Americans earn more than $100,000, similar to the national average. But 40 percent of Muslim households earn less than $30,000 — eight points higher than Americans in general.

Nearly six in 10 American Jews, meanwhile, have graduated college. And 42 percent have household incomes higher than $100,000, while only 20 percent earn less than $30,000.

Muslims are far more religious than Jews, but both say social justice is central.

American Jews and Muslims are particularly different when it comes to religion. While nearly two-thirds of American Muslims say religion is very important to them, only a quarter of Jews do. A third of Jews believe in God, compared to 85 percent of Muslims who said belief in God is essential to being a Muslim. Nearly six in 10 American Muslims say following the Quran is essential to being a Muslim, compared to less than a quarter of American Jews who say the same about Jewish law.

Four in 10 American Muslims attend mosque at least once a week and eight in 10 observe the monthlong fast of Ramadan. By contrast, two-thirds of American Jews attend synagogue less than once a month and only about half fasted on Yom Kippur.

But there are some commonalities, too. Nearly all American Jews and Muslims say they are proud to be Jewish and Muslim, respectively. And both groups prioritize social justice. Solid majorities of Jews (60 percent) and Muslims (69 percent) see “working for justice and equality” as an essential part of their religious identity.

Jews are more liberal than Muslims, but a higher percentage voted for Trump.

American Muslims responded to Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric on the campaign trail by voting for Clinton. Nearly 80 percent of American Muslims voted for the Democrat, while only 8 percent backed Trump. By contrast, Clinton earned 70 percent of the Jewish vote, with Trump garnering 25 percent.

But proportionally more American Jews identify as liberal than do American Muslims. While nearly half of American Jews call themselves liberal, only 30 percent of American Muslims do — close to the national average.

But Muslims are trending liberal on at least one issue: A majority believe homosexuality should be accepted in society, compared to just 27 percent who felt that way a decade ago. Four-fifths of American Jews agree.

Jewish groups criticize Supreme Court decision to allow parts of Trump’s travel ban

Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images

The Jewish resettlement agency HIAS and the Anti-Defamation League decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to be enforced.

On Monday, the court said it would hear the appeals of two cases that had resulted from the travel ban, which aimed to keep  the citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.

The high court agreed to stay parts of rulings that had blocked the ban from being enforced. The partial stay means that foreigners with no U.S. ties could be prohibited from entering the country, but those with ties such as through business or personal relationship would remain unaffected, The New York Times reported. Those who had been to the country previously also could enter.

HIAS — formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — is among the plaintiffs suing Trump in one of the cases the Supreme Court agreed to take on. It called the announcement “mixed news” in a statement, praising it for limiting some of the executive order’s reach but criticizing the court for partially allowing the executive order to be enforced.

“HIAS welcomes the ruling as an affirmation that the president does not have unfettered unchecked authority to bar refugees from the United States without evidence to justify such action,” said the group’s CEO and president, Mark Hetfield. “We also welcome the ruling as confirmation that there are limits to the president’s ability to bar non-citizens from the United States based on unsubstantiated presumptions relating only to their nation of birth.”

Hetfield criticized the fact that those without such ties could now be barred from entering the United States.

“We are very disappointed, however, that others will be arbitrarily excluded,” Hetfield said. “Certainly in the case of refugees, this order will have a tragic toll on those who have fled for their lives and played by our rules to find refuge in the United States.”

HIAS was founded in the 1880s as a resource for newly arrived Jewish immigrants.

The Anti-Defamation League, along with its criticism, also praised the court for limiting the scope of the order.

“We were pleased that the court appropriately recognized that there are limitations on the president’s authority when it comes to immigration generally,” its national director and CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement. “But the court’s failure to recognize the plight of the world’s most endangered refugees – those fleeing countries where their lives are in imminent danger – is profoundly disappointing,”

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action sharply criticized the stay that would allow parts of the ban to be enforced, calling it “a deeply harmful decision.”

“At a minimum, because of the court’s decision today, we will be betraying a fundamental American and Jewish value by turning away countless individuals who are seeking a better life in our nation, some of them fleeing life-threatening violence,” the group’s CEO, Stosh Cotler, said in a statement.

DC Jewish community to hold vigil for Muslim teen killed in attack

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington will hold a vigil in memory of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl killed after leaving her mosque with friends in northern Virginia.

“Now it is time for us to express our deepest sympathy and stand with our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community as we all come to terms with this tragic event,” the JCRC said in a statement Monday.

The vigil will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston, Virginia.

The JCRC “has enjoyed a decades-long relationship with the ADAMS Center, working hand-in-hand to promote interfaith understanding and combat bigotry against any faith or ethnicity,” the release said.

ADAMS is the acronym for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, the mosque that Hassanen had worshipped at in suburban Washington, D.C., in the pre-dawn hours Sunday before heading to a restaurant with friends for breakfast. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan.

Police in Fairfax County do not believe bias was involved in the killing, describing it instead as a road rage incident. Police allege that Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, got into an argument with a teen in the group as the friends returned to the mosque, drove his car over a curb, chased the group and used a baseball bat to hit Hassanen in a parking lot nearby. Torres has been charged with one count of second-degree murder.

The Washington Post quoted family members as saying they remain convinced it was a hate crime against Muslims.

The attack has garnered international attention because of a proliferation in recent weeks of reports of attacks targeting Muslims. The Anti-Defamation League called on police to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

The stakes in the UK for Democracy and decency

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, leaves his home on the morning after Britain's election in London, Britain, on June 9. Photo by Neil Hall/Reuters

As British voters went to the polls in a fateful Thursday election, the results were a nail biter that left Tory Prime Minister’s House of Commons majority and prime ministership hanging in the balance.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen a few days earlier came out in an opinion piece (“A Case for Jeremy Corbyn, June 5) outright endorsing not only the Labour Party but radical Labour Party leader PM Jeremy Corbyn.

He’s against incumbent May not only for trying to preserve the U.K.-U.S. “special relationship” during the turbulent times of the Trump Administration, but for doing so in a way that Cohen deems, let’s be frank, unseemly sucking up to President Donald Trump.

Cohen, an important columnist, has a right to his opinion. But he was sucking up to Jeremy Corbyn and this is deplorable and, indeed, despicable and a threat to democracy in troubled times.

The UK election campaign occurred in an election atmosphere not only permeated by anxieties over renewed terrorism but in a miasma of anti-Semitism.

At the Bear Pit, an outdoor popular venue in Bristol, a giant campaign banner showed Prime Minister May in Star of David-shaped earrings, which some Jewish observers called “anti-Semitic.” The banner listed positive statements about Labour Party leader Corbyn and negative ones about May. One Jewish Bristol citizen asked, “I can’t believe stuff I haven’t heard of, or seen since I was a child is now happening again. It makes me sick.”

In Surrey, Alex Goldberg, the Jewish Chaplain at the University of Surrey and Chaplain to Surrey Police, said in a post on Facebook Sunday that he is proud of his daughter, Hannah, “for standing up to sexism, racism and religious abuse,” but was “Less proud of the police service that I have worked with for over two decades in failing to respond to three girls being attacked and racially abused.” Hannah Goldberg and her two friends, who her father said were identifiable as religious Jews due to their long skirts, were in a London-area park on May 27 when they were attacked by teens playing basketball. A bystander call the police, which did not show up for two hours, pleading a communications mix up.

According to London’s Jewish Chronicle, in Manchester, where the terrible terror attack of a few weeks ago claimed 22 lives, police reported that arson attacks on two kosher restaurants that are “anti-Semitic hate crimes” occurred within five days of each other.

The Labour campaign was also embarrassed by revelations that in 2002 Corbyn addressed a rally attended by 300 members of extremist group Al Muhajiroun where audience members shouted slogans calling for Israelis to be gassed. Khuram Butt, one of the three London Bridge/Borough Market murderers, was a supporter of and an associate Al Muhajiroun leader and jailed hate preacher Anjem Choudary.

Corbyn’s left-wing views are not the problem. It is his beyond-the-bounds apologetics for Mideast terrorism in many forms both during and after his campaign. It is fine that he is sympathetic to the Palestinians, but not that he embraces Hamas as well as Fatah, and celebrates Palestinian terrorists as martyrs. Ditto his admiration for the Tehran Mullahs. And his coddling up with U.K. Muslim incendiary preachers like those who helped inspire the recent London Bridge attack. He vilely has attacked Israel. He has impugned reporters who ask him tough questions as Jewish and suggests somehow having relatives who died in the Holocaust disqualifies them from doing so. He has equated Zionism with the Nazis and Hitler.

That such a man should become U.K. PM is unthinkable. The only historical analogy to Cohen’s endorsement we can think of comes from the 1930s when French rightists rejected Socialist Leon Blum under the slogan “Better Hitler than Blum.” Corbyn is not Hitler, but he is bad enough. Cohen’s endorsement of him is pure political nihilism.

Even those of us who usually do not take partisan positions in elections, here and abroad, sometimes do have to take a moral position.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat, also in the New York Times (“A Very British Radical, June 7), pointed out that the mainstream international press was understandably outraged by France’s right-wing presidential candidate Marine Le Pen insufficient attempts to distance herself from the anti-Semitic history of her party, France’s National Front, and her father Jean Marie Le Pen. But at the same time they treated Corbyn’s refusal to even attempt to distance himself from his anti-Semitic past I an entirely different manner: “Le Pen was cast as the madwoman in the attic, poised to set fire to the mansion. But outside Britain’s right-wing newspapers, Corbyn is portrayed more as the balmy uncle in the conservatory, puttering around with tulips and murmuring about the class struggle. Nobody exactly thinks he would be a good prime minister, but there isn’t a palpable fear that his election would be an emergency for liberal democracy.”

Roger Cohen is wrong. For the sake of democracy and decency, let us hope that Jeremy Corbyn does not squeak out an upset victory become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


Historian Harold Brackman is a long-time consultant  for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The views expressed here are not the official position of either the Center or the Museum.

Miriam Waghalter: A hope for peace in the Middle East

Photo by Paul Takizawa

AGE: 17
HIGH SCHOOL: YULA Girls High School
GOING TO: Rutgers University

In the summer of 2015, Miriam Waghalter and three girls from her Arabic language class at YULA Girls High School went to Israel to meet and travel with four Muslim girls.

“It was very eye-opening in terms of coexistence between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs,” Waghalter said. Before the trip, she was apprehensive about going to Arab villages, “but I realized the Muslim girls were just as scared as we were because of all the stereotypes they have about Jews. We overcame those together and we became really good friends.”

That experience gave her hope for the future and solidified her determination to work toward mitigating conflicts in the Middle East.

“When I was there, I saw we could push past our barriers. Talking to adults who say there’s no chance, the high from the trip faded,” she admitted.

“But I always try to remember how I felt when I was there, and I don’t want to lose that hope for peace. I think a big part of what has to change is education in schools and communities; there’s a lot of false perceptions. There needs to be more participation in coexistence programs, like Arabs and Israelis playing on the same baseball team. When you’re friends with somebody, you’re much less likely to want to fight with them.”

Waghalter first became interested in international affairs as a Hillel Hebrew Academy student, when she participated in a Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer global studies program. But she never thought of it as a career until YULA began offering an Arabic course, which she’s taken for three years. Knowing Hebrew helped, she said. “A lot of the letters and words are similar.”

This year, Waghalter began participating in the high school leadership program MAJIC — Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change. “We’re in the second semester now and we already have relationships, so it’s much easier to talk about conflict and be honest with each other,” she said.

A straight-A student and YULA Girls’ valedictorian, Waghalter received a double college scholarship at Rutgers University in New Jersey. As of now, she plans to major in political science and get a master’s degree in international studies.

“I want to do some sort of advocacy, specifically for issues in the Middle East,” she said. “It could entail working for an NGO (nongovernmental organization) or a lobbyist or government at some level, probably at first in America but eventually, Israel.”

She has visited Israel four times, including twice on family trips and once last summer with Helen Diller Teen Fellows, a leadership development program for Jewish teens. She also enjoys participating in Model U.N. and attending lectures on Israel.

But she has many interests outside of her primary focus and course of study.

Waghalter is a section editor of The Panther, YULA Girls’ newspaper. She takes part in Moot Beit Din, Jewish mock trials that decide modern cases — who is at fault in a driverless car accident, for example — based on halachic sources.

From eighth to 11th grade, she competed in the national Bible contest Chidon Hatanach, and she volunteers with Chai Lifeline’s Big Siblings program, which assists families dealing with illnesses. (She cares for the children of an Israeli family new to the U.S.) Interested in fashion design, she’s president of the YULA Fashion Club and served as a Nordstrom Fashion Ambassador.

After graduation, she’ll be just as busy, though her summer plans are still solidifying. She has a part-time job at Karen Michelle Boutique and she applied for a fellowship with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

“I really like to push myself to my limits,” Waghalter said. “I have more stress when I’m not working as hard as I could be. I don’t want to settle for less.”

— Gerri Miller, Contributing Writer

Can you change the mind of a jihadist?

Of all the things I’ve read about the latest jihadist terror attack from London, one line in particular from Prime Minister Theresa May stood out.

Terrorism will only be defeated, she said, when we make young people “understand that our values, pluralistic British values, are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

But at the same time, May spoke about the need to crack down harder on those “young people” and the extremism that feeds them.

So, on the one hand, May wants to get tougher with the killers, while, on the other, convince them that British values are superior.

Maybe that represents, in a nutshell, the dilemma of fighting jihadist terrorism. To really win the war, you have to fight them physically and psychologically, but when you’re so busy with the physical, who’s got time for the psychological?

The focus in England right now clearly is on security, on preventing the next attack. Is there anyone on May’s team working on her goal of influencing values? I doubt it. The mood in the country is to stop the bad guys from killing — not to change their values.

But let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that, simultaneous to the crackdown, May would hire a marketing agency to create a campaign that might positively influence the bad guys. What would that look like?

One of the first things you learn in the advertising business is never to use the word “impossible.” There’s always the “best possible” answer to a problem, however unlikely it is that you can solve it. It’s about moving things forward — will the campaign make things a little better? Will it improve the odds of success?

Something else advertising teaches is to boil everything down to its essence — a few words, an image, a single thought. The goal is to light sparks, plant seeds, break the ice.

In our case, a key question is: How would you plant seeds of doubt in the mind of a jihadist who believes he’s doing God’s work when he slices the neck of a woman enjoying a beer in a British bar, or runs over pedestrians strolling happily on a Saturday night?

The easy thing to do would be to throw our hands up and give up. If someone thinks killing is holy, how do you counter that? But, like I said, this is a thought experiment. If the prime minister of England wants an ad campaign to influence the minds of religious extremists, what do you recommend?

In my mind, I see only one thing: We must fight holy with holy. They say killing is holy? We say life is holy.

The idea would be to rally leaders across all cultures and religions — especially Muslim leaders and preachers — to launch a “Life is Holy” campaign. The advertising would provide the sparks, but community leaders would preach the message on the ground.

A pervasive “Life is Holy” movement will, at the very least, put killers on notice that they no longer own holiness.

The campaign would reclaim holiness on behalf of life. We would promote the holiness of life with the same passion religious killers promote the holiness of killing. Instead of playing defense, life would play offense.

A “Life is Holy” message has some clear benefits: It’s true, believable, simple and passionate.

Of course, no marketing campaign can solve the problem of jihadist terrorism. There are too many jihadists who are moved by verses in the Quran that speak of killing the infidels, and too many preachers who feed this violence.

What marketing can do, however, is provide an aspirational vision. It can tell future generations of potential jihadists that real holiness lies in life, not killing. If enough Muslim preachers throughout the world reinforce this message in their sermons, we might begin to make a dent.

In her remarks, Prime Minister May spoke of cracking down on “safe spaces” online and in self-segregated Muslim communities that can harbor extremism.

If she is serious about doing this, she must infiltrate these extremist “safe spaces” with messages that promote the holiness of life — with billboards and memes, for example, that show the faces of people of all colors and religions as being worthy of holiness. Most critically, she must enlist local Muslim preachers to lead the way.

In sum, a “Life is Holy” campaign, if done right, can ignite an in-your-face pushback to the culture of death that infects the minds of jihadist killers. The “Life is Holy” message must be ubiquitous — it must be on T-shirts, street corners and social media. It must be loud enough to marginalize anyone who doesn’t support it.

In combination with a serious security crackdown, a pervasive “Life is Holy” movement will, at the very least, put killers on notice that they no longer own holiness.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

The problem with Jerusalem

The Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in the old city of Jerusalem. Photo via WikiCommons

In 1967, when Israeli paratroopers stormed the Old City of Jerusalem and commander Mordechai “Motta” Gur proclaimed, “Har HaBayit BeYadeinu (the Temple Mount is in our hands!)” — the Six-Day War had reached its historic and emotional climax.

“The events of 1967 did for Judaism what 1948 did for Jewish nationalism,” B’nai David-Judea Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky said during the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Six-Day War conference.

The reunification of Jerusalem and the assertion of Jewish religious primacy there “returned Judaism to the stage of world history,” he said.

For the first time in two decades, the Jews had regained access to their holiest sites — including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall — and brought a “reunified” Jerusalem under their control for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

But a Jewish-controlled Jerusalem came with a price: East Jerusalem, the location of the holy sites, was an Arab-majority neighborhood. And the Temple Mount — where Jews believe the world began, where the first human was created, and where Abraham bound his son Isaac — also happens to be one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Known in Arabic as Haram esh-Sharif, the Temple Mount is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and is the place Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven on the Night Journey. It is considered the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

While Jews have made the Western Wall the focus of their prayer life, the Temple Mount remains the most contested holy site in the world. And yet, it is only one aspect of a larger quarrel over Jerusalem, in which Christians also have a stake: Jesus Christ arrived in Jerusalem to preach his message to the masses, and, according to Christianity, was crucified, resurrected and ascended to heaven from there.

Throughout history, the “City of Peace” also has seen violent discord. Even as Jerusalem remains under Israeli control, efforts to discount one another’s claims to the city persist.

Before the anniversary of reunification, I asked Israeli tour guide Michael Bauer why Jerusalem remains a quandary. He identified several areas that explain, at least in part, the gaps separating the aspirations of each faith tradition and the reality of political Jerusalem.

Knowledge: Both within Israel and the Palestinian territories, there is a concerted effort to teach identity-building, nationalistic versions of history that do not leave room for learning about other faiths or alternative perspectives.

“I’m shocked when I see kids finishing high school and they literally don’t know anything about Christianity, which is, in a way, part of our history and part of our surroundings,” Bauer said. “I also teach the Palestinian narrative in a pre-army program, and if I don’t do that, no one does it. I’m always shocked at the lack of knowledge.”

The same is true of Palestinians: Most are not taught about Jewish religious and historical claims to the land, leaving both sides mostly ignorant of the other’s place there.

Emotion: “Jerusalem is where all the emotions are,” Bauer said. “For things to get better in Jerusalem, things need to be solved around Jerusalem.”

After 1967, Bauer pointed out, Arab Muslims were humiliated at losing control of Jerusalem, a defeat made worse by the fact that they had to pass through Israeli security checkpoints to visit their holy sites. Until their dignity is restored through political compromise, Jerusalem remains a proxy for conflict.

History versus faith: “When you walk in Jerusalem, you’re looking at stories which for one person is history and for another is faith,” Bauer said. “If I say the words ‘Jesus,’ and ‘resurrected,’ one person in front of me has heard not only a fact but maybe one of the most important facts of his life, because to believe in resurrection is a fact that defines his Christianity. But for a Jew or Muslim, they’ve heard something that they think is just not true.”

Historical and spiritual claims are equally fraught in a place that encompasses both.

Human frailty: “Religion is not the problem in Jerusalem. The problem is people,” Bauer said. “They don’t know how to get along with ‘the other’ too well. And in Jerusalem, there are a lot of ‘others’ in one small place. As long as people do not know how to live with someone different, Jerusalem will be challenged.”

This pretty much explains why we need religion in the first place.

But let’s face it: Except for periodic skirmishes and flare-ups, and the intrareligious conflicts that plague all three faiths’ holy sites, Jerusalem has been in pretty good hands since ’67.

“Most days, it works,” Bauer said. “It depends what you want to focus on. You can choose to see a reality that is very conflicted. Or you can take another look, walk the same route in a different mood, and you will see coexistence.”

A historian, Bauer prefers to look at the precedents of the past rather than predict the future.

“Through everything that has happened over 3,000 years, there were eras of stability,” he said. “Last year was terrible in Jerusalem; there were stabbings all the time and al-Aqsa was a horrible place to visit. There were kids and women yelling at every Jew that went up there, singing songs, ‘With blood we will redeem Palestine.’ But it’s not happening there now. It’s a different Jerusalem from last year. It’s like a roller coaster. Things get better and then they get worse again.”


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

In Israel, Trump reinforces the Wall

President Donald Trump leaves a note at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on May 22. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Let the record show: On May 23, 2017, the president of the United States updated his Twitter header to display a photograph of himself standing at the Western Wall. Not saluting an American flag, not kissing a Latino baby or speaking at a Midwest rally or shaking a veteran’s hand, but communing with Judaism’s holiest site.

I have nothing cynical to say about it. For a man whose self-worth is in direct proportion to the size of his Twitter following (30.2 million), and who likely checks his feed more often than his briefing papers (OK, that was a little cynical), this means something.

The most powerful person in the world is demonstrating the power of that place. President Donald Trump is linking the sovereignty of the Western Wall to the State of Israel, despite the demurrals and hedging of his advisers and representatives. Tel Aviv may be one of the most dynamic, creative and delicious cities on earth, but only a fool, or the former head of a large oil company, would say, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did, that it is the “home of Judaism.”

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which must be solved sooner rather than later in a just way for both sides, is not going to be solved by ignoring or minimizing the narratives each side claims as its own.

In their justified desire for a homeland, Palestinians have sought to deny the primacy of Jerusalem in the Jewish narrative. This week, one prominent Palestinian activist wrote that the holiness of the Western Wall is a post-1967 development, not an age-old tradition. When I read that I laughed and looked up at my study wall, at a photo taken in the late 1800s of Jewish men and women packed up against the ancient stones, in prayer.

In defense of their rights to Jerusalem, many Jews have negated the Muslim claim on the city. There seems to be an online cottage industry in this, in fact. Don’t fall for it. Do your own research. Jerusalem is a holy place in Islam — that big gold-domed atop the Temple Mount might be your first clue.

Jerusalem has been wracked by a long history of dumping on other people’s history. And I mean this literally. To assert their own primacy over the holy city, the Byzantine rulers turned the Jew’s Temple Mount into the city dump. In the “Encyclopedia of Religion,” professor Reuven Firestone relates the legend that it was the Muslim caliph Umar who, after vanquishing the Christians, ascended to the desecrated area, rolled up the sleeves of his robe and began cleaning up the soiled Muslim and Jewish holy place himself.

The caliph then built the Dome of the Rock, not as a mosque, Firestone writes, “but rather as a monument celebrating the presence and success of a new faith.”

We are just about a week away from the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, when the Israelis ascended to the Dome, captured East Jerusalem and united the city.

That moment when Israeli soldiers gathered where Trump stood this week, and wept and prayed that the Wall was back in Jewish hands, remains the iconic image of the war, the Jewish Iwo Jima. The emotion, the sacrifice, the sense of historical and religious destiny has affixed in Jewish minds the idea that from that moment on, all of Jerusalem belongs to Israel.

Har HaBayit b’yadenu,” Lt. Gen. Motta Gur proclaimed as his troops captured the Old City, the most famous single sentence of that war. “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”

But the irony of Trump’s visit is that if the president gets his way, the grip will have to be loosened. For years, Jews and the groups that pander to them have proclaimed intractable sovereignty over every square inch of the city. “Jerusalem will never be divided,” has been the go-to applause line for every Jewish or Israeli speaker — despite the reality that the city even now is pretty much divided.

The truth is every serious final status solution ever put forth by an Israeli prime minister, and any agreement that would ever be agreed to by the Palestinians, would include some shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. What’s the alternative — constant fighting? You can’t pray for the peace of Jerusalem and want to see it, like Aleppo or Damascus, reduced to pieces.

I don’t know how serious Trump is about making what he calls “the ultimate deal.” He has a short attention span, a disdain for details and a lot of ’splaining to do back in Washington. But this week, he leveraged Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to crack open negotiations, demonstrated the kind of support for the Israelis they need to feel secure, and showed the proper respect to the Palestinians.

A dear friend and die hard Israeli leftist  I know e-mailed me as Trump departed for the Vatican.

“The bastard gave a fantastic speech that was even given compliments by Barak Ravid from Ha’aretz,” he wrote, citing the left-leaning columnist. “He’s going about this whole Middle East thing in a completely opposite manner than Obama, and it may be that he is hitting the spot. Oy vey….”

If Trump continues on this path, and doesn’t shy away from confronting each side with the truths the other holds dear, the president might just have a prayer.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Guess what? The world needs Israel

Since its inception, Israel has been a country under siege. When it’s not attacked by terrorist forces, it’s attacked by diplomatic ones. Over the past few decades, it has been condemned mainly for its failure to make peace with the Palestinians. This conflict has dominated global consciousness like no other. Throughout the Middle East, it has been used by dictators to divert attention away from the oppression of their people.

President Donald Trump’s eagerness to make the “ultimate deal,” which he reiterated during his visit to Israel, only continues the obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether we like it or not, it is the conflict, as much as anything, that has shaped Israel’s narrative throughout much of the world.

And yet, despite all that, something is changing. New winds are blowing. Slowly, quietly, a parallel narrative about Israel is beginning to emerge. And since the conflict with the Palestinians is so intractable, my sense is that this new narrative will play an increasingly greater role in shaping Israel’s future.

In essence, more and more countries are looking at Israel and saying: “Politics or no politics, these guys can help us. They’re doing things no one else is doing. They seem to have a pulse on this crazy and fast-changing new world we’re in.”

If your country, for example, has a problem with cybersecurity that can endanger your infrastructure, and you hear that Israel has unique technology that can fix the problem, are you going to pass on that solution because the Palestinian conflict is unresolved?

Similarly, if your people are running out of drinking water and you need Israel’s cutting-edge desalination technology, or if your country is under threat from Islamic terrorists and you know that Israelis have the most expertise in that area, will you let the Palestinian conflict get in the way of your core interests?

Giant nations like India and China, as well as emerging nations on the African continent, are not waiting for a peace breakthrough before engaging with Israel. Why should they? Doing business with Israel is in their interest. It boosts their economies. It strengthens their countries.

The same thing has been happening in Israel’s own backyard. In a 2012 report titled, “The Badly Kept Secret of Israel’s Trade Throughout the Muslim World,” Haaretz detailed Israel’s low-key but growing engagement with its Arab and Muslim neighbors, including the export of medical, agricultural and water technologies to the Gulf states.

In terms of security, Sunni-dominated countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states need Israel’s military might to fend off their sworn enemy, the predatory Iranian Shia regime. There’s a reason the Gulf states compiled a proposal to take “unprecedented steps toward normalization with Israel,” as reported last week in the Wall Street Journal.

They need Israel.

Sure, they had to throw in the obligatory statements about Israel making gestures to the Palestinians. But don’t kid yourself– these requests have softened with the years. They’re a sign of the shifting tides. These Arab countries are feeling vulnerable and they need help, even from Israel. Drumming up hatred for the Jewish state because of the Palestinian problem is not as good for business as it used to be.

None of this means that Israel shouldn’t make every effort to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians, regardless of the odds. A solution is strongly in Israel’s interest. And in global diplomacy, optics matter and effort counts, even if it ends in failure.

Drumming up hatred for the Jewish state because of the Palestinian problem is not as good for business as it used to be.

To its credit, though, Israel has never let the failure of peace and the presence of war demoralize the nation. While much of the world condemned the country, and hostile neighbors launched attacks, Israel kept right on innovating to meet the challenges of the modern world. Instead of being paralyzed by a siege mentality, the little Jewish state pushed relentlessly to build a thriving nation, with all of its flaws and imperfections.

And now, suddenly it seems, this tiny nation is in big demand. From medical breakthroughs to green technology to cybersecurity to digital innovation to water conservation to food security, Israel is at the forefront of creating solutions for the new century.

This is not Start-Up Nation as a tool for better hasbara, or positive propaganda. This is Start-Up Nation as a tool to better the world.

It must make Palestinian leaders sick to see the hated Zionist state start to thrive on a global scale. Maybe they were hoping that by refusing all peace offers, glorifying terror and attacking Israel’s legitimacy, they would make Israel implode. The opposite happened.

We can only hope that, one day, they too will realize that building hatred for the Jewish state is bad for peace and bad for business.

 

In address to Muslim, Arab leaders Trump calls to drive out terrorists and extremists

U.S. President Donald Trump joining Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and other Arab leaders at a summit meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21. Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images

President Donald Trump called on Arab and Muslim leaders gathered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to drive out terrorists and extremists.

“Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your communities, drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth,” he said Sunday afternoon during a major speech to the Arabic Islamic American Summit.

“America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts,” Trump said.

“Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.”

Trump barely referenced Jews or Israel in his speech directed to the Arab world, but he called for tolerance and respect for all peoples.

“For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope,” he said.

Trump mentioned that he would be continuing on to “Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican.”

“If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible – including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” he said.

Trump also took Iran to task for destabilizing the region and called on the international community to isolate the Islamic Republic.

“Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region. The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror,” he said.

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

Trump and his entourage, including daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday. On Monday he will leave Saudi Arabia and head for Israel, part of his first international trip as president.

Trump, landing in Israel, heralds ‘rare opportunity’ to bring peace and stability

President Donald Trump, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on May 22. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

President Donald Trump arrived in Israel for a whirlwind 28-hour visit, saying his trip to the region has given him “new reasons for hope.”

Air Force One touched down on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport shortly after 12:30 p.m. Monday. The landing represented the first direct flight ever between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the first stop of Trump’s first international trip as president.

“I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the State of Israel,” Trump said in remarks at the welcome ceremony after he reviewed the honor guard and was welcomed by Israel’s leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

Trump called Israel a “strong, resilient, determined and prosperous nation” and alluded to the Holocaust, saying the United States “will not allow the horror and atrocities of the last century to be repeated.”

He called his visit to the region a “rare opportunity” to bring peace and stability. “But we can only get there working together. There is no other way,” he said.

Netanyahu called the visit historic in that it is the first time that a U.S. president’s first trip abroad includes Israel.

“Thank you for this powerful expression of your friendship to Israel,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu alluded to Trump’s speech to Muslim and Arab leaders in Riyadh the previous day.

“Mr. President, yesterday in Saudi Arabia you delivered a forceful speech on terrorism and extremism, called on forces of civilization to confront the forces of barbarism,” he said. “For 69 years, Israel has been doing just that. We’ve manned the front lines of civilization.”

Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to peace, pointing out that Israel has already made peace with Egypt and Jordan, adding that “Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. The peace we seek is a genuine one in which the Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands and the conflict ends once and for all.”

Speaking before Netanyahu, Rivlin said the Middle East and Israel need a strong United States, and the United States “needs a strong Israel.” He reminded Trump that Israel this week marks the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

“It makes us very happy to know that Israel’s most important ally recognizes the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people all around the world,” Rivlin said. “Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish people, as it has been for 3,000 years.”

Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner landed in a second plane and sat with the American diplomatic delegation during the welcome ceremony.

Imam: Peace in the Middle East must begin in the United States

 

Imam Abdullah Antepli is the Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs, Duke University/Adjunct Faculty of Islamic Studies. In that capacity, his life’s work is bridging gaps between Muslims and other religious communities, including Jews. It’s no small accomplishment that he has become an eminent voice and authority, given that he calls himself, “a recovering anti-Semite.” 

He was a recent guest of the Jewish Journal staff, and shared his views of the current state of affairs between Muslims and Jews, what it was, what it is and what he and millions of Muslims and Jews around the world hope it can become.

For more information on Shalom Hartman’s Muslim Leadership Initiative, click here.

Who killed the Armenians?

Armenian civilians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Ottoman soldiers. Kharpert, Ottoman Empire, April 1915. Photo from Wikipedia

The Journal’s editor-in-chief, Rob Eshman, recently wrote a column under the headline “Morgenthau’s Children,” about the film “The Promise,” whose subject is the Armenian genocide, and he addressed the subject of genocide in general. It was important to remind — or inform — people about the lesser-known genocides of the 20th century and the present century.

He noted the following genocides:

  • The Armenian genocide
  • “Those in Syria in Iraq”
  • The ISIS extermination of the Yazidis
  • “The failed state of Somalia”
  • The Myanmar government’s “persecution, deportation and starvation” of the Rohingya

But there is a word missing from all the genocides mentioned in Rob’s column.

That word is “Muslim.”

Every one of the genocides listed — with the exception of Myanmar (formerly Burma), where the victims are Muslims — was, or is being, committed by Muslims.

I don’t believe Rob intentionally omitted the fact that the perpetrators of all but one of the annihilations was/is Muslim. The fact is that with all the attention paid to the Armenian genocide, one always hears that the Armenians were mass murdered by the “Ottoman Empire” or the “Ottoman Turks” or the “Turkish regime” — but they are never identified as Muslims.

Rob rightly suggested that readers go to GenocideWatch.com for more information.

I took his advice, and here are headlines I saw on the site’s front page:

“Holocaust museum condemns ‘torture and killing of gay men’ in Chechnya”

“Violent Mortality in the Darfur Genocide”

“Syria: ‘Glimmers of humanity’ overshadowed by brutality of attacks on civilians”

“How Germany used Islam during World War I”

(Other headlines included news about Brazil, Auschwitz, Rwanda and Cambodia.)

Again, almost all genocide discussion was about Islam.

One of the least truthful major statements in the history of the modern American presidency was that of President George W. Bush, when he famously declared after 9/11 that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

I understand why Bush felt he had to say and keep repeating that line. But there is no excuse for all the academics and journalists who say it. Islam was a religion of war and violence from its inception, when Muslims forcibly converted surrounding tribes and then all of North Africa to Islam.

Muslims perpetrated the greatest slaughter of one group in history — the slaughter of about 80 million Hindus during the thousand-year history of Muslim rule in India. They even boasted about this slaughter by naming a large area of present-day of Afghanistan “Hindu Kush,” which means “Hindu-Slaughter.”

If Islam is to be reformed, as it needs to be, that reformation most likely will originate with Muslim Americans.

Jihad, or “holy war” — meaning the forcible conversion of non-Muslims to Islam — is part of the very fabric of Islam. The greatest Arab writer, and one of the world’s greatest writers, Ibn Khaldun, wrote in his seminal work, the “Muqaddima” (“Introduction to History”), that what distinguishes Islam from all other religions is its doctrine of jihad.

“In the Muslim community,” he writes, “the holy war is religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.”

Nor was there a “Golden Age” of Muslim tolerance in Andalusia (Muslim Spain). Jews and Christians often were persecuted terribly there. They just weren’t killed in large numbers. Read the recently published “The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise” by Dario Fernandez-Morera, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University.

I note this not to incite resentment against fellow Americans of the Muslim faith. I regard them as precisely that: fellow Americans of the Muslim faith, deserving of the same respectful behavior that any other American deserves. More than that: If Islam is to be reformed, as it needs to be, that reformation most likely will originate with Muslim Americans.

The reasons it is vital to note that Islam is not simply “a religion of peace” are:

• To understand what the West is dealing with when it takes in additional millions of Muslims, especially from the Middle East, where Islam is most violent.

• To understand how much the left — most perniciously in Western universities — lies about Islam, or refuses to confront its negative aspects (while dwelling inordinately on the faults of Christianity).

• To understand why peace with Palestinians is unlikely. Palestinian society is first and foremost a Muslim society. That is why it honors suicide terrorists as the finest examples of the Palestinian people. The Arab and Palestinian conflict with Israel has always been caused by Islamic beliefs, not by a dispute over land.

• To understand why people whose hearts break for Syrian children nevertheless oppose bringing hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into America and Europe. One is importing a vast number of people, many of whom share few values with Western civilization, and who are the products of contemporary Arab culture, the most Jew-hating culture outside of Iran.

• And because truth matters.

So, to return to the beginning, Rob Eshman is right to remind us to remember the Armenian genocide. We also need to remember who perpetrated it.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).