The other day, in a piece entitled, “For Some Jewish Leaders, Partnership With Muslims Is A Casualty of Sept. 11 Attacks,” the New York Times reported on a rude awakening in the “interfaith dialogue” crowd in the aftermath of September 11:
In the weeks since the Sept. 11 attacks, a wide and increasingly bitter gulf has opened between many Jewish and Muslim leaders in this country over the nature of terrorism and the role played by Israeli policies in fomenting Muslim anger against the United States.
In several cities, rabbis and Jewish lay leaders have walked out of longstanding interfaith dialogues with Muslim leaders, complaining that the Muslims are condoning suicide bombing attacks against Israelis while condemning the attacks against the United States. Statements by some Muslim leaders that Israel may have been behind the World Trade Center attacks have led to angry denunciations by Jewish officials, endangering relationships that took years to construct….
Even some liberal Jewish leaders say Muslim-Jewish relations have deteriorated over the belief by many prominent Muslims that suicide bombings against Israeli citizens are justified by Israeli policy, and therefore in a different category than last month's attacks. Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of New York, executive director of Arza, the Zionist organization of Reform Judaism, said there was no point in having a dialogue if the two sides could not agree on basic moral principles.
“I'm very concerned that many Muslims are attempting to draw moral distinctions between terrorism against Israelis and terrorism against Americans,” said Rabbi Hirsch. “I haven't heard nearly enough clear moral guidance from moderate Muslim leaders.”
… A few hours after the attacks on Sept.11, Saalam Al-Maryati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, was asked on a local radio talk show about suspects. His response, according to a transcript provided by several Jewish organizations:
“If we're going to look at suspects, we should look to groups that benefit most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.”
… Several Jewish leaders in Los Angeles said they could no longer work with him and walked out of a two-year-old interfaith dialogue.
“That was the last straw,” said John Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, a Reform congregation. “I can't sit with a man like this. I'm a moderate liberal, and I assumed they were too. But now I'm convinced that the Muslims in our dialogue are very much anti-Israel, and were just using our dialogue to make themselves appear more moderate.”
It is probably too much to expect that the widespread dismay will be long-lasting with these folks. More than likely, their elitist need to contemptuously step forward with cockeyed pseudo-intellectualism and challenge the shibboleths of the great uninformed, will soon reassert itself. Nor is it reassuring that something that anyone with half a brain should have realized a long time ago ? that there are a lot of people out there who just don't like Jews, period ? could have for so long eluded those who so many regarded as leaders.
Also disturbing is the way the Times has packaged the issue of systemic Muslim antagonism towards Israel and Jews. We rather think that the significance of the outrageous things Muslims are saying about September 11 goes well beyond the impact it is having on “some Jewish leaders.” They reflect a shocking insensitivity to what our country and city went through on that fateful day. It is time for the pages of The New York Times to confront the existence of evil head-on, in all of its ingloriousness.