Haven’t we seen this movie before? Yes, in Boston, and with nearly the same cast of characters. The fight against the Roxbury Mosque and Cultural Center planned by the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) was framed as a battle against “Muslim extremists” and “terror supporters.” In reality (as court documents showed) the campaign was organized by activists with the far-right pro-Israel David Project and CAMERA, spearheaded by founder Charles Jacobs, who now heads a front group with the Orwellian name “Americans for Peace and Tolerance.” Later, the story was picked up and promoted by the Murdoch-owned Boston Herald and the local Fox TV affiliate. When the ISB eventually sued its attackers for defamation, the defendants were represented by an attorney who was also a leader of New England AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee).
Likewise, the New York Islamic Community Center project in lower Manhattan was uncontroversial until it began to be labeled falsely as “the Ground Zero Mosque” and was vilified by right-wing bloggers with a pro-Israel agenda. Although the media has reported on the way the Right has used anti-Muslim bigotry to stir up racist outrage against the Islamic Center, there has been little notice of the Israel connection. Jihad Watch founder Robert Spencer and Atlas Shrugged blogger Pamela Geller, who led the charge, are active in the same circles as the pro-Israel extremists in Boston. Geller is a regular commentator on the far-right Israeli radio network Arutz Sheva. Together they created a front-group to promote the anti-Muslim crusade called Stop Islamization of America. The campaign of slander against the “Ground Zero Mosque” was first mainstreamed in the Murdoch-owned New York Post and has been trumpeted relentlessly by Fox News, as well as by Neocon operatives like Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney.
Why? Because promoting a “culture-clash” between the “West” and Islam is seen as a way to bolster support for Israel and to sustain a permanent US “War on Terror.”
As early as September 12, 2001 the New York Times reported:
Israeli leaders, who have chafed at occasional American criticism of their measures against Palestinians, said the day's attacks would awaken the United States to the threat of global terrorism.
Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, ''It's very good.'' Then he edited himself: ''Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.'' He predicted that the attack would ''strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we've experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.''
In an appearance late tonight, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeatedly placed Israel on the same ground as the United States, calling the assault an attack on ''our common values'' and declaring, ''I believe together we can defeat these forces of evil.''
When the Roxbury Mosque was under attack in Boston my organization, Dorchester People for Peace, and other progressives took a stand in its defense. DPP sponsored a well-attended public forum on the topic in 2006. Since then, we have worked closely with our local Muslim friends – many of whom are US-born African-Americans with deep ties to our community. Although the current furor is over a proposed Mosque in New York, the issues are much the same. Islamophobia continues to be a racist tool of the war-promoting Right and the most extremist sectors of the Israel Lobby. Anti-war and anti-racist organizations cannot remain indifferent.
Jeff Klein is retired president of a local union at the Mass Water Resources Authority, where he worked for many years as a machinist in the Deer Island facility. He is active these days with Dorchester People for Peace, a local anti-war organization.