Group responsible for Muslim grave desecration gives advice on bigotry to the White House

143 Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (Photo: Simon Wiesenthal Center)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) consults with the Obama administration on issues of anti-Semitism and has prompted a White House official to say that comments criticizing Israel from staffers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) were “troubling.” The trouble with that, though, is that the center has no business policing discourse on bigotry when SWC’s actions and discourse are anti-Muslim.

The Washington Post story on the controversy over Israel at CAP reported:

Some major Jewish groups have demanded corrective action by the think tank and asked for answers from friends in the White House.

“The language is corrosive and unacceptable,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He added that the blog posts and tweets from CAP staffers “are the responsibility of the adults who run the place, not only the kids who play.”

Cooper conveyed his concerns about CAP during a White House meeting last week with Obama’s newly appointed Jewish community liaison, Jarrod Bernstein, who told Cooper that the situation at CAP was “troubling” and not reflective of “this administration.”

The SWC has some audacity to be the ones telling the Obama administration what is “corrosive and unacceptable.”

The center, which promotes itself as a “Jewish human rights organization,” is building a Jerusalem branch of its Museum of Tolerance on top of a historic Muslim cemetery. As I reported last year:

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has filed a petition with several international bodies to halt construction of the museum, says the project has resulted in the “disinterment of hundreds of graves.”

A three-part investigation by the Israeli daily Haaretz documented the building of the museum, reporting that “hundreds of skeletons that were buried in Jerusalem’s central Muslim cemetery over a period of some 1,000 years” were “cleared away from the site swiftly and clandestinely during five grueling months of nonstop work.”

Additionally, the SWC prominently came out against the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan, and has screened a film at its California branch that the Council on American Islamic Relations said “portrays Muslims as a ‘fifth column within the United States.’”

The hypocrisy of the self-anointed bigotry police is by no means limited to SWC. Throughout the Jewish establishment there exists those who speak up for Israel and against anti-Semitism while at the same time encouraging or staying silent on bigotry against Muslims.

Glenn Greenwald’s excellent post yesterday on the CAP controversy made a similar point about the neoconservative writer Jamie Kirchick:

The standard army of low-level smear merchants has continued attacking these CAP and M[edia] M[atters] writers as anti-Semites. Last week in Haaretz, Marty Peretz’ long-time assistant, Jamie Kirchick, ironically claimed that it was Block and other neocons who are the victims of “McCarthyism” even as Kirchick, in the same column, advanced the witch hunt to expose hidden anti-Semites in America’s think tanks and media outlets (an even greater irony is found in Kirchick’s self-anointed status as anti-bigotry crusader despite his long-term work for Peretz, probably the single most flagrant bigot and unapologetic spewer of hate speech in mainstream American discourse: but since it’s aimed at Arabs and Muslims, it’s all permissible).

The Obama administration thinks that the situation at CAP is “troubling.” More troubling, though, is their consultations and agreement with a group known to be anti-Muslim.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel Lobby, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , ,

{ 13 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Charon says:

    Rahm Emanuel parents were terrorists and he was Obama’s WH Chief of Staff for a little while. Sure a person shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of their parents, but you would never see a Bin Laden in the same position just because. Bibi got Congress to applaud his anti-Muslim statements.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      More than a little while, actually. And now he’s mayor of Chicago, which is somewhat disappointing. But then, as Joe Lieberman proved, your race and your creed matters far, far more in American politics than does anything you actually do or say.

  2. patm says:

    Throughout the Jewish establishment there exists those who speak up for Israel and against anti-Semitism while at the same time encouraging or staying silent on bigotry against Muslims.

    The double standard is appalling, Alex. Even more so when you realize it starts at the top in the White House:

    The Obama administration thinks that the situation at CAP is “troubling.” More troubling, though, is their consultations and agreement with a group known to be anti-Muslim.

  3. “The center, which promotes itself as a “Jewish human rights organization,””

    Judging from its leadership, when it comes to the SW Center or the ADL, the words “Jewish human rights organization” are an oxymoron. Wake me up when Jesse Lieberfeld is head of this organisation, maybe then it will be truly about human rights and not about Jewish superiority and double standards.

  4. PilgrimSoul says:

    Good catch, Alex. Here’s some info about the SWC:

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an extreme rightwing Jewish organization, tinged by neo-fascism and with many of the characteristics of a hate organization. It is based almost completely on a vulgarized, pervasive form of religious nationalism. Its vision for Israel is consistent with the neo-fascist Jabotinsky tendency within Zionism that was modeled on Italian fascism, and it also promotes the Likudnik doctrine that Judaism itself has no practical or demographic existence separate from Israel. The SWC supports the neo-con belief in permanent war in the Middle East, and it engages in the vigorous dissemination of religious bigotry against Muslims in the US.

    It portrays anti-Semitism as worse than it is, partly for fund-raising purposes and partly to establish an imagined victim status. It similarly uses the Holocaust both to discourage criticism of Israel and to justify Israel’s own violence, aggressively insisting that every criticism of Israel is really aimed at destroying the Jewish people. Above all, the SWC is a dangerous cultural force that seeks religious war as the standard for religious authenticity.

    The Wiesenthal Center’s exaggerations and fabrications regarding anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli attitudes are well-known. The SWC claimed that the 2002 World Social Forum in Mumbai was ‘hi-jacked by anti-Israel and anti-American forces.’ This was completely untrue, as Jewish peace activist Cecilie Surasky, who was in attendance, later testified. (The SWC also claimed in the Jerusalem Post to be ‘the only Jewish NGO’ at Mumbai, whereas in reality there were several, including Jewish Voice for Peace, with which Surasky is affiliated.)

    The Wiesenthal Center also engaged off a strenuous campaign to portray Hugo Chavez as an anti-Semite, which they attempted to do by strategically doctoring a quote by Chavez. This interventionist gambit shouldn’t surprise us—the Wiesenthal Center once presented Jeanne Kilpatrick, a US diplomatic defender of the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile, with its Humanitarian of the Year Award. (The SWC also honored such noted humanitarians as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Robert Murdoch.)

    The Wiesenthal Center also has the unenviable distinction of involvement in one of the worst journalistic blunders of modern times. In the late spring of 2006, Douglas Kelly, editor of the National Post, a Canadian newspaper, became aware of an item in a column by Iranian exile Amir Taheri, indicating that the Iranian Parliament might require Jews to wear yellow stars. A Post editor contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center, thinking it was a legitimate human rights agency. Both Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the SWC excitedly insisted to anybody that would listen, both verbally and in an email to the Post, that the tale was “absolutely true.” The Post went ahead with the story on Page One, but Taheri was a neo-con plant, and the story was a fabrication.

    Within days, Post editor Kelly was obliged to make a long and detailed apology to his readers. He referred directly to the Post’s contact with both Cooper and Hier at the Wiesenthal Center, mentioning pointedly that they had both, on separate occasions, confirmed the story. The implication of having been consciously betrayed by the Wiesenthal Center was quite clear. For Hier and Cooper, however, it was a big victory—they’d been able to place a great piece of propaganda on Page One of a large daily newspaper, while managing to make the connection between Nazis and Iranians, a staple theme of the SWC.

    The Wiesenthal Center is silent on the rise of fascism in Israel in 2010-2011, probably because the Center’s own tactics are borrowed from classical fascism, such as their tireless dissemination of religious bigotry. Their more overt activity in this area involves their promotion and showing of the violently anti-Muslim film “The Third Jihad,” which was a project of the Clarion Fund, a shadowy rightwing Zionist operation that produced the Islamophobic film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War with the West.” According to investigative reporting by Pam Martens appearing in Counterpunch, the Clarion Fund’s main financial supporters—Donor Capital Fund and Donors Trust—are managed by people who have a long association with Charles G. Koch, billionaire patron of the Tea Party.

  5. hophmi says:

    You mean to tell me that Waqf and the Supreme Muslims Council are giving advice to the White House?

    “Throughout the Jewish establishment there exists those who speak up for Israel and against anti-Semitism while at the same time encouraging or staying silent on bigotry against Muslims.”

    Who, exactly? Not at the AJC or the ADL, the two biggest and most important Jewish defense organizations who have constantly spoken out about anti-Muslim bigotry. And who in the Muslim establishment who speaks up for the Palestinians and against Islamophobia speaks about antisemitism and bigotry toward Jews?

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “the ADL, the two biggest and most important Jewish defense organizations who have constantly spoken out about anti-Muslim bigotry”

      False. The ADL had the opportunity to speak out against the Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry on the Park 51 issue and chose to side with the trash like Geller and the other bigots.

      • hophmi says:

        “False. The ADL had the opportunity to speak out against the Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry on the Park 51 issue and chose to side with the trash like Geller and the other bigots.”

        Utter bullshit from someone who is incapable of seeing shades of gray. The ADL condemned the anti-Muslim bigotry surrounding the Park 51 project clearly and explicitly. It did not side with Pamela Geller. You may not agree with the ADL’s position on the project, but to claim that they sided with bigots is a despicable lie.

        The ADL’s record of coming out against anti-Muslim bigotry (the latest example is the Lowe’s case) is quite clear. Feel free to point me in the direction of equivalent Muslim organizations that have spoken out against antisemitism.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “The ADL condemned the anti-Muslim bigotry surrounding the Park 51 project clearly and explicitly. It did not side with Pamela Geller.”

          False. Geller called for Park 51 to not be there and the ADL agreed: “Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.” Sure, they mouthed some platitudes about opposing bigotry, but talk is cheap.

          When the rubber hit the road, did Foxman say that the only way we can combat the obvious bigotry in the calls to move Park 51 is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Park 51 — as a testiment to the proposition that bigoted calls will not be tolerated — to make sure the building is built???

          Not quite. “It’s the wrong place,” Foxman said. “Find another place.”

          Shades of gray, indeed.

  6. hophmi says:

    “Shades of gray, indeed.”

    Shades of gray you can’t understand because you hold Jewish organizations to a higher standard than Muslim organizations. That’s real Islamophobia.

    • Cliff says:

      Muslim organizations?

      Are you now going to recommend we read, ‘Muslim Mafia’? Or regale us of tales of the caliphate re-emerging?

      There is no parallel you nut. It’s identity politics. Jews have more political capital. Muslims are enemy number 1.

      A Muslim reality TV show about an AVERAGE, BORING, MUSLIM FAMILY was boycotted by Lowes (you paid some lip service condemnation but we all know you were supportive of the psychos who compelled the boycott).

      When a reality TV show about an average Jewish family, meant solely to normalize Jewish identity within American mainstream society, is BOYCOTTED then you can whine you spoiled child.

      That was the entire point too. That reality show was just trying to show that Muslims are Americans and more importantly, boring people like the rest of us.

      Jewish identity is normalized. In fact, we are a PHILO-semitic culture. So don’t feed us the eternal victim GARBAGE.

      • hophmi says:

        “you paid some lip service condemnation but we all know you were supportive of the psychos who compelled the boycott”

        Get off your sanctimonious self-righteous high horse. I paid more than lip service condemnation.

  7. Woody Tanaka says:

    “Shades of gray you can’t understand because you hold Jewish organizations to a higher standard than Muslim organizations.”

    Oh, I understand. I hold the organizations to the same standard. If someone were opposing the building of a synagogue or a church or any house of worship for bigoted reasons, then I would expect any organization that claims to oppose bigotry to, you know, oppose the bigotry.

    I wonder, how many examples of bigotry against Jews or blacks or Asians have you excused by claiming it is merely a “shade of gray”???