As you surely know, anti-Semitism is in the news. The New York Times did a big piece on anti-Semitism in Europe, saying that even if you don’t like Israel you can’t blame Jews and Judaism for Israel’s actions. You have to separate the two: “as European criticism of Israel… [has] hardened, many Jews describe a blurring of distinctions between being anti-Israel and being anti-Jew.”
OK, point taken. There’s no excuse for hating Jews, even if Israel just massacred 500 Palestinian children.
But then where’s the big piece on the scourge of Islamophobia? Yesterday I heard Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s excellent speech from Sept. 25 to the UN General Assembly on CSPAN. Rouhani said that when the western media blame Al Qaeda’s terrorism or ISIS’s beheadings on “radical Islam,” it’s smearing Islam. Islam has nothing to do with this violence. It’s anti-western violence, reflecting a history of colonialism and continued western meddling and slaughter in the region.
If you’re going to say that Judaism has nothing to do with Israel’s massacres, then for God’s sake, our press should be covering Rouhani’s argument against Islamophobia!
Thanks to the Times of Israel, here’s Rouhani’s text. Bear in mind he is a Muslim cleric and a constitutional lawyer. The relevant portions:
[The extremists] have a single goal: the destruction of civilization, giving rise to Islamophobia and creating a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in our region….
Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westernism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism…
To fight the underlying causes of terrorism, one must know its roots and dry its source fountains. Terrorism germinates in poverty, unemployment, discrimination, humiliation and injustice. And it grows with the culture of violence. To uproot extremism, we must spread justice and development and disallow the distortion of divine teachings to justify brutality and cruelty. The pain is made greater when these terrorists spill blood in the name of religion and behead in the name of Islam. They seek to keep hidden this incontrovertible truth of history that on the basis of the teachings of all divine prophets, from Abraham and Moses and Jesus to Mohammed, taking the life of a single innocent life is akin to killing the whole humanity. I am astonished that these murderous groups call themselves an Islamic group. What is more astonishing is that the Western media, in line with them, repeats this false claim, which provokes the hatred of all Muslims. Muslim people who everyday recall their God as merciful and compassionate and have learned lessons of kindness and empathy from their Prophet, see this defamation as part of an Islamophobic project.
Of course if you follow Rouhani’s logic out, you’d see that the mirror of the extremists who speak in Islam’s name are the extremists who speak in Judaism’s name. It’s not likely we’ll see meditations on Israel’s racism and extremist violence in the western press. But at the very least we ought to read stories about the rise of anti-Palestinian racism and violence in Israel.
(Rouhani is as high-minded as Chomsky: they do not see this as a religious conflict but a clash between imperialists and subject nations. Myself I regard this as a conflict that has a religious component on both sides: violent extremists use religion to justify their actions. And just as ISIS is fostering Islamophobia in Rouhani’s view (and Obama’s too), Israel and its lobby help to foster anti-Semitism because they call themselves Jewish and insist on blurring the line between Israel and Jewry. Item: Benjamin Netanyahu says that the Jewish people had a rough summer because of the attacks on “our country.” Item: Jeffrey Goldberg refers to the Israel lobby group AIPAC as a “Jewish organization.” It’s actually a Zionist organization, but the confusion is intentional.)