A central theme of President Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday is that Muslims have a special responsibility to fight radical Islam and redeem their religion from a scourge. Here is some of that message:
It is time for the world — especially Muslim communities — to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL….
It is one of the tasks of all great religions to accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world. No children are born hating, and no children — anywhere — should be educated to hate other people…
All religions have been attacked by extremists from within at some point, and all people of faith have a responsibility to lift up the value at the heart of all great religions: Do unto thy neighbor as you would do — you would have done unto yourself…
Here he put special responsibility on Muslims:
The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed and confronted and refuted in the light of day. Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies — Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: “We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.” Look at the young British Muslims who responded to terrorist propaganda by starting the “NotInMyName” campaign, declaring, “ISIS is hiding behind a false Islam.” …
The countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people — especially the youth.
And here I’d like to speak directly to young people across the Muslim world. You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation, not destruction; the dignity of life, not murder. Those who call you away from this path are betraying this tradition, not defending it.
The message is fascinating because it mirrors the view that Jews have a special responsibility to redeem Judaism from militant Zionism. Bruce Shipman lost his job at Yale in part for saying that (or hinting it):
As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.
People were angered at Shipman’s suggestion that Israel’s actions foster anti-Semitism. Israel might be the Jewish state, but even if you hate Israel you can’t carry that hatred over to Jews, these concerned people said. Obama is saying that there is a special responsibility inside religious communities to deal with violent ideologies that seem to spring from that religious community. Many Jews would seem to agree with him: we hold up signs saying Not In Our Name at demonstrations against Zionist atrocities.
It’s common sense that Israel is fostering rage against Jews. Raphael Magarik at the Forward, asks “Do Jewish Actions ever Cause Anti-Semitism?”He writes:
First off, denying that Israel’s behavior has any causal role in anti-Semitism is deeply counter-intuitive. This summer, Israel fought a war and anti-Semitism surged in Europe — are those two facts supposed to be a coincidence?
He gets support from an unlikely place:
Anti-Semitism is disgusting, low-down & dirty. But we who refuse to see how 47-year occupation of Palestine is exacerbating it are in denial
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) September 24, 2014
This issue is in the news. Yesterday’s Times had a big piece about anti-Semitism in Europe that I am told downplayed the role that Israel’s human rights abuses have in some of the angry expressions that the Times highlighted. Haven’t read it yet….