Jewish Daily Forward September 22, 2010, issue of October 01, 2010.After the last several months, it should be clear that the controversy over the Park 51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero is about more than sensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims and the sacredness of the site where their loved ones were murdered. In places as far from Lower Manhattan as Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Temecula, Calif., Muslim houses of worship, and the people who pray in them, have come under attack by conservative activists as representing an American beachhead for Muslim extremism.
Whether it’s Newt Gingrich peddling false stories of “creeping sharia” (strict Islamic law) to an audience of very serious people at the American Enterprise Institute, or the Washington Times running endless editorials and op-eds from conspiracy theorists like Frank Gaffney warning that President Obama “may actually still be a Muslim,” or Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney shamelessly and falsely asserting that Park 51 leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has “terror-related connections,” it’s clear that quite a few conservative elites see political profit in stoking Americans’ fear of Islam.
Such hostility toward Muslims is unfortunately not marginal in the pro-Israel community — unless one is prepared to define the huge annual policy conference of one of Washington’s foremost lobbies as “marginal.” At an AIPAC conference in March 2009, to take just one example, terrorism expert Steve Emerson spent 40 minutes stoking the worst fears of the mostly elderly attendees with a talk called “Tentacles of Terror: The Global Reach of Islamic Radicalism.” It could just as easily have been called “Scaring the Living Crap Out of Bubbe and Zayde.” As long as Jews are encouraged to believe that scary Muslims are hiding under every American bed, the idea is perpetuated that support for the Jewish state is a zero-sum contest between favoring Israel and favoring Arabs and Muslims. For too many American Jews, smearing Islam is seen as a legitimate expression of Zionism.
Groups like The Israel Project, the Middle East Media Research Institute and Middle East Forum seem to exist for no other reason than to spotlight the very worst aspects of Muslim societies. Magazines like Commentary and the Weekly Standard regularly traffic in the crudest stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims, and promote the harshest measures for dealing with them. Musing over the appropriateness of targeting Palestinian civilians during the Gaza conflict, Standard contributing editor Michael Goldfarb wrote approvingly, “To wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause.”
Martin Kramer, a fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and frequent AIPAC panelist, took things even further, suggesting that Israel’s siege on Gaza, could, by depressing population growth, “crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.”
More at http://www.forward.com/articles/131502/