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The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #2: Collective Punishment is Kosher (II)

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Please make sure to read my disclaimer: Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem.

Read the Introduction: Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Previous: #2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

In The Treatment of Hostile Civilian Populations: The Contemporary Halakhic Discussion in Israel, Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein cites Rabbi Yoezer Ariel’s opinion that the Israeli government–but not the Israeli citizen–is permitted to target and kill civilians in order to incur a collective punishment on the enemy population.  Blidstein notes that this is accepted as the “moderate” opinion–and the mainstream one–in Religious Zionism.  It is moderate in relation to the more extreme view taken by the Jewish Underground, which permits individual Israeli citizens to take the law into their own hands.

Blidstein writes that Rabbi Yoezer Ariel’s view allowed

for the deliberate killing of citizens in times of war.  However, the term “at times of war” is itself critical.  According to Rabbi Ariel, war may only be conducted by “a king or by the public, whose authority is like that of a king,” a condition already hinted at in the words of Rabbi H. D. Halevi.  There is no state of war without such an authorized decision [from the king or its equivalent]; hence, “an individual may not declare war [on his own].”  Rabbi Ariel interprets Maimonides’s references to the event [of Dina] in a similar way.

Blidstein concludes:

On the whole, then, the thrust of [Rabbi Yoezer] Ariel’s article is pragmatic, not principled.  The killing of civilians is acceptable, provided it is initiated by sovereign authority, not by individuals taking the law (quite literally) in their own hands.

What is more disturbing is that the great Maimonides does not restrict this permission to the government; writes Blidstein:

Rabbi [Yoezer] Ariel admits that this approach is not shared by all the medieval authorities.  It does not reflect, for example, the Maimonidean attitude toward the subject; Maimonides allows–and even encourages–the individual to act. However, Ariel argues, the vast majority of the rishonim did not concur with this view, recognizing as legitimate such action only on the part of the state, and not the individual.  This is true even if study of the sources which he cites indicates a more complex study.

So, we have an accepted, minority view–held by Maimonides no less–that individuals (such as Israeli settlers) are permitted to kill civilians as a form of collective punishment.  Meanwhile, the so-called “moderate,” mainstream opinion is that this right rests with the Israeli state alone.  (Note, however, that Blidstein is hesitant to agree with Ariel’s claim that “the vast majority of the rishonim [the “classical” halakhic authorities] did not concur with this view,” arguing that the reality is much more “complex.”  What one can glean from this is that there were other rabbinical authorities of the past who permitted individual Jews to kill non-Jews, who can be quoted by the Jewish Underground types.)

It should also be pointed out in The Orthodox Forum’s annual book War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Rabbi Michael J. Broyde rejects Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s view that collective punishment (even against babies) is prohibited.  Indeed, Prof. Ya’akov Blidstein notes that Goren’s view was not taken seriously by other Religious Zionist rabbis because it “is not based upon Talmudic sources,” which “naturally weakens its halakhic impact and authority.”

Rabbi Shlomo Goren was the first Chief Rabbi of the IDF.  Although he had some very extreme views (such as calling it a “tragedy” that Jews did not “blow up” the Dome of the Rock Mosque and Al-Aqsa Mosque–a view held by the Jewish Underground), with regard to “collective punishment” he held the non-Talmudic view.

Yet, by Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza War) in 2009, the IDF rabbinate had shifted to the right.  The new Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Avichai Rontzki, issued statements in line with the majority view among Religious Zionists, commanding soldiers that “no mercy should be shown” to the enemy (the Gazan population).  An “IDF rabbinate publication” quoted the works of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner saying “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers.”  To make it very clear that “the enemy” referred to here was the civilian population, the IDF publication likened the Palestinians to the Bible’s Philistines, who were exterminated to clear the land for the Jews.

When an Israeli human rights group cried foul at this IDF publication, the Israeli government scrambled to do damage control.  Naturally, their “investigation” claimed that the publication was distributed only in a few isolates places and had not been properly vetted.  Western news outlets reassured us that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner was just an “ultra-nationalist,” a fringe, radical element in Israel.

Yet, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is not some fringe, radical element in Israel.  Instead, he is a well-respected rabbi of Modern Orthodox Judaism in Israel.  As the Jerusalem Post notes, R. Aviner “is considered one of the spiritual leaders of the Religious Zionist movement.”  The Jewish Daily Forward calls him “one of the leading Religious Zionist rabbis.”  Ynetnews, the English website of Israel’s most-read newspaper, calls him ”one of Religious Zionism’s leading rabbis.”  Haaretz calls him “a leading Yesha rabbi” and “one of religious Zionism’s most influential rabbis.”  Israel National News, part of Arutz Sheva (an Israeli media network aligned with Religious Zionism), calls Aviner “a well-respected rabbinical authority within much of the religious-Zionist sector.”

TorahMusings.com, an extremely popular blog supervised by Orthodox rabbis, says:

To place R. [Shlomo] Aviner into contemporary society, he is on the left wing of right wing Religious Zionists.

Left wing?  One can only imagine what the right wing is.  In other words, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is perfectly in the mainstream of Religious Zionism–nay, he is one of its “spiritual leaders.”

R. Aviner is well-respected in Orthodox circles.  He has written articles that appear on many mainstream Jewish and mainstream Orthodox Jewish websites, including The Jerusalem PostOrthodox Union website (ou.com), Israel Nation News, and TorahMusings.

Aside from this, of course, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is the rosh yeshiva (dean) of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, a Religious Zionist Talmudic academy in Jerusalem that fundraisers in the United States.  It is the same institution where Rabbi Abraham Kook, the “main ideologue of modern religious Zionism,” sent his son to study.  Shlomo Aviner is also the Chief Rabbi of Beit El.  He can hardly be considered a fringe character.

Indeed, R. Shlomo Aviner moves in the same circles as the Modern Orthodox rabbis of The Orthodox Forum and the authors of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition.  On TorahMusing’s website, we find that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner shared the same podium in New York state with none other than Rabbi Michael J. Broyde and Rabbi Norman Lamm.

Yet, when this controversy broke about the IDF’s chief rabbi using a publication with quotes from Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Israel’s defenders in the West tried to portray R. Aviner as some “ultra-nationalist” fringe lunatic.  Yet, this is clearly misleading.  One should hardly be surprised, considering that I have found virtually the exact same views in the book written by The Orthodox Forum, which is the combined work of Orthodox Jewish experts from around the world.  The only difference, of course, is that (1) R. Aviner’s wording is more direct and frank, whereas The Orthodox Forum says the same thing but in a more “sophisticated,” intellectual way; (2) Aviner was unfortunate enough to catch the media’s attention during the Gaza controversy.  It is the latter reason that forced Israeli apologists to throw him under the bus and take one for the team.

*  *  *  *  *

What then does Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the “left-wing” of the Religious Zionist right, argue?  He argues that “Purity of Arms” applies only to Jewish civilians.  He says on his very own website (emphasis added):

We are all for “Purity of Arms” and for saving citizen lives. But which civilians? Our civilians

Aviner concludes by saying: “They are guilty, we are not.”  He also extends “purity of arms” to Jewish soldiers (but not to Palestinian civilians).  In a question and answer section, Rabbi Aviner argues that “purity of arms” refers to protecting the lives of Jewish soldiers, not to Palestinians.  He warns: “Don’t tarnish the purity of arms with the blood of our own soldiers.”

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner writes:

 The Mechilta (halachic midrash) says “The best of the non-Jews should be killed.”

He clarifies that “this statement refers to a time of war,” at which time “even a ‘pleasant’-seeming non-Jew is killed.”  He justifies carpet bombing civilian populations, saying “it is permissible according to the Halachah based on the law of ‘rodef.’”  The entire civilian population, including children and babies, acquires the title of “rodefim” and is thus licit to kill.

Where have we heard all this before?  In fact, it is the exact same argument heard in “the contemporary halakhic discussion in Israel.”  Is it not misleading then to categorize Rabbi Shlomo Aviner’s views on this subject to be the rantings of some fringe “ultra-nationalist” extremist?  R. Aviner did not make this view out of thin air; rather, he points out that ”this is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Shaul Yisraeli in the book ‘Amud Ha-Yemini’ at the end of chap. 16.”  He is here citing the tract written by Rabbi Shaul Israeli, who justified the Qibya Massacre in 1953, in which two-thirds of the victims were women and children.   R. Israeli’s influential tract has been used to justify killing civilians from the early years following Israel’s birth all the way to the Gaza Massacre in 2008-2009.

Next: #2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (III)

The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #2: Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Please make sure to read my disclaimer: Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem.

Read the Introduction: Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Previous: #1 Civilians Are Really Combatants

As I documented in the previous article, the first way in which Jewish law justifies the targeting and killing of civilians is by classifying civilians as combatants if they indirectly take part in the war effort–even if by “mere words.”

But what about civilians who neither directly or indirectly participate in the war effort?  Surely they will be protected, right?

Not so.

Jewish law permits targeting civilians who “passively” support the war effort.  A “hostile civilian population” is guilty of “passive” support if they fail to root out the combatants/terrorists living in their midst.  If the city’s population does not do this, then they are all liable to be killed–including women, children, and babies.

In War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, the highly esteemed rabbi and professor Michael J. Broyde finds support for collective punishment in the Bible: on page 6, he cites the story of the Rape of Dina.  Dina is raped by a man named Shekhem, and the entire city of Shekhem is put to the sword for this crime.  (The rapist, Shekhem, has the same name as the city he lives in.)  Broyde quotes Maimonides as saying that “the inhabitants of Shekhem [the city] were liable to be killed since Shekhem [the person] stole [Dina], and the inhabitants saw and knew this and did nothing.”

Rabbi Broyde reflects on this story by saying:

Consequently, if one is in a situation where innocent people are being killed by terrorist acts that cannot be stopped by catching the perpetators themselves, and those terrorists are supported by a civilian population that passively protects them and does not condemn them, collective punishment might well be permitted by Jewish law.

Broyde permits the “collective punishment of vast segments of society for the active misconduct of the few.”  In other words, civilian populations are “liable to be killed” if terrorists commit “active misconduct” and they [“the inhabitants”] “saw and knew this but did nothing.”  If the civilian population does “not condemn them [the terrorists],” then they [the civilians] can be killed.

Rabbi Broyde invokes the views of two of the most authoritative rabbinical authorities in Jewish history, Maimonides and Nahmanides.  Broyde notes: “Both share the basic approach of permitting collective punishment.”  He writes on p.6: “Maimonides rules that…all members of society may be punished,” and on p.7 that Nahmanides would “permit regulations that include collective punishment.”

This view, justifying collective punishment, is promoted within the first few pages of the book War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition.  Prof. David Shatz writes on p.xiv of the Introduction that “Jewish sources present a view of jus in bello [conduct of war] that is more permissive than many secular accounts,” and that Jewish law permits

imposing collective punishment on vast segments of an enemy society in response to the misconduct of a few, as could happen when terrorist perpetrators escape capture.

He goes on to say that “the Jewish polity may licitly embark on hostilities in a way that might involve causing civilian deaths.”  This allowance is beyond just collateral damage–which, under Jewish law, is a given–and encompasses civilian populations that are targeted as punishment for “passively” supporting terrorism.  This “passive” support is also to be understood differently than “indirectly” supporting terrorism (“material support”).  Passive support refers to mere inaction: if the PLO and the rest of the Palestinians cannot stop terrorists from firing rockets, then they are all guilty and can be killed via collective punishment–including women, children, and babies.

*  *  *  *  *

This view is supported by Torah MiTzion, the national and international Religious Zionist movement that promotes Torah study with service in the Israel Defense Forces, providing a “generation of Religious Zionism, balancing between safra v’sayfa (book and sword).”  In an article entitled Jewish Law in Our Times, the legal adviser of the group asks rhetorically “Can Collective Punishment Against Fighters and Citizens Be Justified?”, a question which he answers in the affirmative, saying:

Whenever a battle is waged by one nation against another, there is no need to differentiate between one person and another, even if many members of that nation do not actually take part in the actual fighting.

The author goes on to say that “if we are faced with a situation defined as war, there is no obligation to differentiate between fighter and citizen.”  The principle of discrimination simply does not apply in times of war.  This is especially true “because the State of Israel has been in a perpetual state of (halachically defined) war ever since its inception.”  He then quotes the esteemed Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin) who said that a person is only punished for spilling blood

at a time when it is otherwise appropriate to act with brotherhood [peacetime]. But this is not the case during war, when it is a time to hate. Then it is a time to kill and there is no punishment whatsoever for so doing, because this is the way of the world.

*  *  *  *  *

As I discussed earlier, Rabbi Shaul Israeli’s “thoughtful article” is hearkened as “the starting point” for discussion of “war-related topics” in the Jewish religion; in it, R. Israeli uses a complex religio-legal argument to justify collective punishment.  He invokes the Jewish law of din rodef–the law of the pursuer–which basically says that if a person is chasing you trying to kill you, you can kill him first.  It stands to reason, therefore, that a bystander could also kill the rodef (pursuer) as well, in order to save your life.  In fact, it may even be considered obligatory to do so.  This religious law is used to justify killing civilians by transforming entire civilian populations into rodefim [pursuers].

In The Treatment of Hostile Civilian Populations: The Contemporary Halakhic Discussion in Israel, Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein notes the trend in halakhic circles to use “the definition of a hostile population as a rodef [pursuer], direct or indirect.”  Blidstein notes:

There is also a tendency in contemporary halakhah to categorize as rodef a population that is “supportive and encouraging” of hostile, murderous actions.

Once dutifully transformed into rodef, the entire civilian population becomes licit, or even mandatory, to kill.  This justification was given for the Qibya Massacre, in which 69 Palestinians were slaughtered (of which two-thirds were women and children).  Writes Blidstein:

In his essay, Rabbi [Shaul] Yisraeli argues that a group of civilians, such as the residents of Qibia, who were notorious for their support and encouragement of terrorist acts, are likewise to be treated as rodefim [pursuers].

He goes on to say:

Rabbi Yisraeli concludes from this that even those citizens who support and encourage acts of terror, for example, are considered rodefim, and one may deal with them in kind.  In so ruling, however, he has offered many people a very far-reaching justification for aggressive treatment of civilian populations…[He] is speaking of people who provide the murderer with support and encouragement, but do not take an active, directly conspiratorial part in the act itself.

He is also speaking of those who give “passive support” to terrorism, i.e. doing nothing other than happening to live in the same city as the terrorists.  Unless you actively hand over the terrorists or their names to the Israeli authorities, it is assumed that you are guilty–you are a rodef–as well.

*  *  *  *  *

Instead of protecting civilians from the killers, Jewish law seeks to protect the killers of civilians (by shielding them from prosecution). Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein entitles one sub-section of his article as “Protection of the Aggressor,” in which he discusses this disturbing issue.  Once the civilian population has been deemed rodefem, Jewish soldiers may kill them and are to be protected from all prosecution for doing so.  This is because the rodef–in this case the civilian population–is legally considered a “dead man” and their “blood is like water.”  Therefore, lethal force may be used, even when less than that may have sufficed. Writes Blidstein:

One who deliberately kills the rodef is in any event exempt from punishment by the court because the “pursuer” is defined as gavra katila–an individual who is already considered as if dead in a legal sense…

Rabbi [Shaul] Yisraeli follows a similar line in his article on the Qibia incident, but arrives at a more far-reaching conclusion, equating the license granted the bystander with that of the person threatened.  Not only is the bystander who kills the pursuer (when he could have used less lethal means) exempt from punishment; he is allowed to behave in such a manner ab initio [from the beginning]. “…When he [the rodef] has been warned and continues to pursue…there is no rule at all requiring one to take care to use non-lethal means, for then [spilling] his blood is permitted, and one may kill him by virtue of the rule, that his blood is like water.”

In times of war, Halakha accepts collective punishment as acceptable, even when applied to the “innocent child.”  Writes Prof. Blidstein:

Behavior in war, according to Rabbi [Ya’akov] Ariel, is based upon the collective identity of the members of the participating nations.  In this organic view, even the innocent child is an organ of the greater body of the nation.  Thus, one waging war against this body is allowed to harm the child as well, just as the fighting body may itself demand of all its organs that they devote themselves to the war effort.  This argument dismisses the question of the personal innocence of the one injured–on one side or the other–as irrelevant.

Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel reasoned:

Just as in a personal struggle…it is your right to protect yourself by striking the soft belly [of the aggressor]…so in war against the collective, you may strike those organs of the [enemy] nation that seem [appropriate] to you, in order to prevent a strike on the part of other organs.

The civilians of the enemy nation (including children and babies) become licit to kill, just as “the Biblical Simeon and Levi killed all of the inhabitants of Shechem (Gen. 34), including those who had nothing to do with the rape of Dinah.”

On p.24 of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Rabbi Broyde writes of Rabbi Ariel:

War is the collective battle of societies, R. Ariel posits, and thus there are no innocent civilians, even babes in their mothers’ arms are to be killed, as harsh as that sounds. [96]

In footnote 96, Broyde gives his view, agreeing with the statement but limiting the right of killing “innocent civilians, even babes in their mothers’ arms” to the [Israeli] government.  Here is footnote 96, found on page 40:

96.  R. Yaakov Ariel, “Haganah Atzmit (ha-intifida ba-halakhah),” Tehumin 10:62-75 (1991).  He basis his view on the famous comments of the Maharal on the biblical incident of Shekhem, which defend the killing of the innocent civilians in that conflict along such a rationale.  R. Shlomo Goren, “Combat Morality and the Halakhah,” Crossroads 1:211-231 (1987) comes to the opposite conclusion.  See also the article of R. Yoezer Ariel (brother of Yaakov Ariel), who also reaches a different conclusion; R. Yoezer Ariel, “Ha’onashat Nokhrim,” Tehumin 5:350-363 (1979).  In this writer’s view, R. Yoezer Ariel’s paper correctly distinguishes between individual and national goals in this matter.

As can be garnered from Broyde’s own words, R. Yoezer Ariel agrees with his brother R. Ya’akov Ariel in principle, permitting targeting and killing innocent civilians (including children and even babies).  He does, however, limit this right to the government (the Israeli state), not to individuals (such as Israeli settlers).  This is the most popular view among Religious Zionists: the Israeli state is allowed to impose collective punishment, targeting and killing “hostile civilian populations.”

Should we call these views representative of The Halakha (Jewish law), just as Zionist Islamophobes insist on categorizing one particular interpretation of Islamic law as The Sharia?  Should we smear all of Judaism because of such views, just as Zionist Islamophobes would smear all of Islam for the views of Radical and Ultra-Conservative Muslims?

Note: Page II of “Collective Punishment is Kosher” will be published within 24-72 hours…

Rabbi Steve Gross: Jews and Muslims Have a Tremendous Amount in Common

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Here’s a nice video from Rabbi Steve Gross, which he provided for the My Fellow American project:

Jews and Muslims often talk about the “good things” they have in common (which is easy to speak about), but rarely is it discussed that the Jewish and Islamic traditions also share many of the same challenges (which may be a bit uncomfortable to admit).  This is probably more important to remember.  Sometimes it is easy to think that it is only The Other that needs to work on this or that, whereas one’s own religion is not immune from such problems.  My article series, Does Judaism Justify Killing Civilians?, will hopefully serve as a reminder of this very important fact.

The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #1: Civilians Are Really Combatants

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Please make sure to read my disclaimer: Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem.

Read the Introduction: Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

The first way in which Jewish law justifies targeting and killing civilians lies at the very heart of the issue.  The starting point of the just war theory (and international law) in regards to jus in bello (just conduct during war) revolves around the definition of combatant and civilian.  Jewish law (Halakha), as understood by mainstream Modern Orthodox Judaism in Israel, utilizes very different definitions for these two words.

International law, as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, narrowly defines combatants as those who take direct part in hostilities of an armed conflict.  The T.M.C. Asser instituut in The Hague notes:

Article 3 [of the Fourth Geneva Convention] indicates that during non-international armed conflicts the persons who enjoy protection against the various forms of violence and infringement mentioned are ‘[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause…’

Similarly, the following groups are protected under international law:

…medical officers, corpsmen, chaplains, contractors, civilian war correspondents and armed forces personnel who are unable to engage in combat because of wounds, sickness, shipwreck or capture (ie. POWs)…

In essence, “direct participation in hostilities” refers to using a weapon.  This is the fundamental underpinning of international law with regard to distinction and protection of civilians.

Jewish law, on the other hand, deems anyone who indirectly ”participates” in the hostilities to be a combatant and therefore fair game.  Those who ”materially contribute to the war effort” can be licitly targeted and killed.  On p.xvii of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Prof. David Shatz writes:

[Rabbi Michael] Broyde also raises the issue of who is a combatant.  In his view, Halakha maintains that anyone who materially contributes to the war effort is a combatant and thus a fair target.

Based on this “definition,” the modern-day state of Israel takes a very expansive view of “combatant,” legitimizing the targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians.  We clearly see an example of the great latitude taken in this regard by modern-day Jewish religious authorities in the case of the Qibya Massacre.  Rabbi Shaul Israeli, considered  “one of the most important rabbis of the Religious Zionist school of thought,” penned one of the most influential monographs on this subject, entitled “The Qibia Incident in Light of Halakhah.”  In it, he legitimized indiscriminate violence against civilians.  This tract, as we shall see, has defined the Religious Zionist view towards the issue of distinction.

The esteemed rabbi and professor Michael J. Broyde writes on p.22 [note: all citations are from War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, unless otherwise indicated]:

Indeed, the earliest modern discussion of this topic was presented by R. Shaul Israeli in 1954 in response to the killing of civilians by Israel Defense Forces Unit 101 at Kibia (Qibya) in 1953.  R. Israeli argues that civilians who conspire to assist in the undertaking of military operations can be killed through the pursuer rationale, as they are materially aiding the murderers.

He continues:

Indeed, R. Israeli goes even further, and seems to adopt the view that those who simply extend support to terror–by encouraging acts of violence with mere words–can be labeled combatants as well.  This is not, R. Israeli posits, any form of collective punishment, as only people who are guilty (whether of murder or conspiracy to commit murder) are actually being punished.

The reference to “the killing of civilians by Israel Defense Forces Unit 101 at Kibia (Qibya) in 1953″ refers to the Qibya Massacre, in which sixty-nine Arabs were slaughtered–of which two-thirds were women and children.  Prof. Avi Shlaim, a prominent Israeli historian at Oxford University, writes on p.91 of The Iron Wall:

[Acting defence minister Pinhas] Lavon’s order was executed by Unit 101, a small commando unit created in August to carry out special tasks. Unit 101 was commanded by an aggressive and ambitious young major named Ariel (“Arik”) Sharon.  Sharon’s order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses, and inflict heavy casualties on its inhabitants.  The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after the attack.  The village had been reduced to a pile of rubble: forty-five houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed.  Sharon and his men claimed that they believed that all the inhabitants had run away and that they had no idea that anyone was hiding inside the houses.  The UN observer who inspected the scene reached a different conclusion: ”One story was repeated time after time: the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold, indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them.”

There are too many issues to comment on here.  There is the obvious inhumanity and depravity of the IDF–the Most Moral Army in the World™–firing upon civilians to keep them in their houses and then blowing up those houses on top of them.  Prof. Martin E. Marty writes on p.286 of Fundamentalisms Observed that, in the context of war, Halakha would indeed permit tactics “such as blowing up homes of parents of Arabs who harm Jews.”

What is truly amazing, however, is that this scenario–the Israelis blowing up and bulldozing Palestinian homes–is a pattern repeated throughout Israel’s short history.  All this was done to terrorize the Palestinian population, in order to get more Palestinians to flee their homes to make way for Israeli settlers.  This perfectly fits the quintessential definition of terrorism, yet all we ever hear about is Hamas this or Hamas that.

Then, there is the fact that the war criminal responsible for carrying out this massacre, Ariel Sharon, would later be elected Israel’s prime minister.  Such is the moral state of the modern day state of Israel–war criminals and terrorists are voted into power.  One continually hears about how evil the Palestinians are for voting in Hamas to power, while hearing almost nothing about how Israelis have routinely voted terrorists and war criminals into office.

Another interesting thing to comment on is that discussions of Ariel Sharon and Israel’s war crimes focus on events such as the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, in which Israel only played a support role.  It is my opinion that the focus on the Sabra and Shatila Massacre is a mechanism that deflects attention away from those massacres that were directly carried out by Israeli soldiers.  There are countless such instances, so why the emphasis on Sabra and Shatila?

In any case, it was following the Qibya Massacre that Rabbi Shaul Israeli published a monograph entitled “The Qibia Incident in Light of Halakhah,” which articulated the halakhist view towards the targeting and killing of “hostile civilian populations.”  It was reprinted with some expansions under the title “Military Actions for the Protection of the State” in chapter 16 of Amud ha’Yamini.  This work has had lasting influence in modern halakhic discussions in Israel, and came to form the majority view of the Religious Zionist movement, which is the dominant form of Orthodox Judaism in Israel.  On p.32 of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Rabbi Michael Broyde refers to Rabbi Shaul Israeli’s article as a “thoughtful article” that is “the starting point” for such discussions. Commenting on a vast collection of Jewish articles on “war-related issues,” Broyde notes that “the overwhelming number of [them] agree with the starting point of R. Israeli.”

But perhaps we ought to look at a dissenting opinion to see what is contained in Rabbi Shaul’s tract.  Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein published an article entitled The Treatment of Hostile Civilian Populations: The Contemporary Halakhic Discussion in Israel in which he criticizes R. Israeli’s view, saying:

[Rabbi Shaul] Yisraeli develops a systematic and extensive discussion concerning the issue of the attitude to be taken toward a hostile civilian population that supports and encourages violent, murderous acts.

He notes that Rabbi Israeli legalized the killing of entire civilian populations “for their support and encouragement of terrorist acts,” instead of just those actually involved in terrorist acts. ”People who provide the murderer with support and encouragement, but do not take an active, directly conspiratorial part in the act itself” are licit to kill.  Therefore, “‘supportive and encouraging’ civilian population[s]” become “combatants” and can be killed en masse.

Prof. Blidstein notes that “the exact meaning of the terms ‘encourage’ and/or ‘support’” are left wide open.  That the state of Israel takes the widest possible meaning is apparent by the incident in which the view itself was first articulated by R. Israeli: in the Qibya Massacre, “two-thirds of them [were] women and children.”  How children and babies can be guilty of “encouragement and support” of terrorism and be licitly killed by the Israeli military is as much a mystery to me as the Canaanite or Amalekite children and babies being killed in the Bible for the “crime of idolatry.”

Blidstein concludes:

It seems to me that the general direction revealed here is quite clear.  Most of the authors surveyed read the halakhic sources in a manner that allows for extremely forceful action toward various Arab populations, whether these populations encourage and support hostile activity, or only have Arab ethnic identity.

He notes ruefully:

We have also encountered authors who attempted to limit this tendency, but these seem to be less than fully effective in their treatment, and are, within the school surveyed, in a minority.

Prof. Blidstein says his “general thesis” is

that there is a tendency in this school [Religious Zionism] to legitimate more aggressive activity against the civilian population, and to read rather narrowly those restrictions intended to limit and circumscribe such activity.

The fast and loose way in which Israel strips non-combatants of their protected civilian status is very disturbing.  Here, we have the justification of a brutal massacre of 69 civilians of which two-thirds were women and children–an act of state terrorism in its purest form–based on the claim that these were “civilians who conspire[d] to assist the undertaking of military operations”–those who supposedly “simply extend[ed] support to terror–by encourag[ing] acts of violence with mere words.”  In reality, however, there is no way to reasonably determine even this much, and it is simply assumed that the civilians “encouraged and supported” terrorism.

The truth is that the state of Israel routinely strips civilians of their protected status by claiming that they “materially contribute[d] to the war effort.”  This is a very easy charge to levy, requiring very little proof and certainly the issue of proof becomes moot when the civilians have already been killed.  It is especially convenient considering that most indigenous populations indirectly support resistance movements against the occupiers, and the Palestinians can hardly be expected to be different in this regard.

By this all-encompassing definition of combatant, the American women factory workers during World War II who produced parts for planes and tanks would be classified as “combatants” and become licit to kill.  By this definition, American journalists who wrote in support of the war against Nazi Germany would become “combatants” and become fair game.  The millions of American citizens who bought war bonds would similarly become “combatants.”  When we apply this standard to ourselves, it seems truly unthinkable, immoral, and evil.  But when we apply it to Palestinians, it becomes something acceptable.

*  *  *  *  *

To be fair, Israeli apologists from “liberal, secular” Judaism voice similar ideas.  Case in point: Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is one of Israel’s greatest defenders from the “liberal, secular” spectrum of the Jewish faith.  Dershowitz is credited as being “Israel’s single most visible defender” and “the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”

One would hope that as a law professor and self-professed liberal Alan Dershowitz would adhere to international law by respecting the idea of distinction and protection of civilians.  Unfortunately, one would be quickly disabused of such a notion by reading Dershowitz’s writings.  He argues that the word civilian is “increasingly meaningless.”  Dr. Norman Finkelstein documents Dershowitz’s morally repugnant ideas on p.xvi of Beyond Chutzpah:

The main target of Dershowitz’s “reassessment of the laws of war” has been the fundamental distinction in the laws of armed conflict between civilians and combatants.  “The preservation of this sharp dichotomy,” Yoram Dinstein has written [a world-renowned expert on international law and the laws of war], “is the main bulwark against methods of barbarism in modern warfare.”  However, ridiculing what he deems the “increasingly meaningless word ‘civilian’” and asserting that, in the case of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, “‘civilianality’ is often a matter of degree, rather than a bright line,” Dershowitz proposes to replace the civilian-combatant dichotomy with a “continuum of civilianality”:

Near the most civilian end of this continuum are the pure innocents–babies, hostages and others completely uninvolved; at the more combatant end are civilians who willingly harbor terrorists, provide material resources and serve as human shields; in the middle are those who support the terrorists politically, or spiritually.  [189]

[189] He goes so far as to suggest that combatants might deserve more solicitude than civilians in time of war, depending on “the precise nature of the civilian’s ‘civilianality.’” (Preemption, p.247)

Prof. Alan Dershowitz is but one voice in a pro-Israeli movement trying to “revise” international law in order to strip civilians of their protected status (more on this later).  By “revising” the definition of “civilian” to include those who provide “indirect” assistance to the war effort–or who “materially support” the war (even if by “mere words”)–these pro-Israeli defenders are taking a sledgehammer to international law.

One can imagine the absolute outrage if the shoe was on the other foot–if pro-Palestinian groups were justifying the targeting of Israeli civilians for their “material support” of the war effort and military occupation.  If, in the words of these Orthodox Jewish authors, “mere words” in support of the combatants stripped civilians of their protected status–or if, in the words of the “liberal, secular” Jewish law professor Alan Dershowitz, “politically[] or spiritually” supporting the war effort reduced one’s “civilianality”–then the majority of the Israeli population would no longer be considered purely civilian; in that case, wouldn’t Hamas or Hezbollah be legitimated in targeting and killing them?

But as Dr. Finkelstein notes on p.xvii, Dershowitz “imagines that this revision won’t apply to Israel because ‘the line between Israeli soldiers and civilians is relatively clear.’”  Finkelstein asks:

But is this true?  Israel has a civilian army, which means a mere call-up slip or phone call separates each adult Israeli male from a combatant.

As Finkelstein quips presciently on p.xviii, “it remains to consider Dershowitz’s own location on the continuum of civilianality.”  Wouldn’t being “Israel’s single most visible defender” constitute providing “material support” to Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinians?  Using the elusive and expansive word “material support” one is able to strip most civilians of their protected status.

During the Gaza War, in which Israel massacred scores of civilians, the Israelis used this “extended definition” of “combatant.”  Amos Guiora, who served as a military lawyer in Israel for 19 years, wrote:

Israel declared war on an organisation [Hamas], and by extension on all those involved in that organization – active and passive alike.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz is certainly correct about one thing: Israel’s apologists, from the Orthodox Jewish to secular sectors, have successfully rendered the word civilian “increasingly meaningless.”  By extending combatant status to civilians who “indirectly” contribute to the war effort, the Israeli state is able to justify killing civilians whenever it wants: wherever Israeli rockets land, there is a Palestinian terrorist.  Ergo, Israel never targets anyone but terrorists.

The principle of distinction and protection of civilians is the basis for war ethics under international law: could it be said then that Jewish law is fundamentally at odds with the just war theory?  Wouldn’t this be the conclusion our anti-Muslim Zionist opponents would arrive at if this were about Islam?

Next: The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by loonwatch

This is my disclaimer to the series entitled Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Pro-Israeli pundits often argue that they have a problem with “Islamism,” which they define as the politicization of the religion of Islam.  Prof. Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland clarifies, for example, that he doesn’t have a problem with Islam but with “Islamism,” a religio-political ideology enjoining Muslims to reestablish the pan-Islamic Caliphate.

If pro-Israeli propagandists insist that “political Islam”–which they call Islamism–is the problem, then in a similar vein am I arguing that Religious Zionismnot Judaism, is the problem.  It is the mixing of the political ideology Zionism with Judaism that I criticize.  I believe criticizing Judaism en toto would be Anti-Semitic.  Judaism, without the infusion of Zionism into it, is–in my opinion–a wonderful religion.  I believe it would be absolutely detestable to take my criticisms of Religious Zionism and use them to justify vilifying Judaism as a whole.

*  *  *  *  *

The dangers of falling into Anti-Semitism are very real.  Historically, Anti-Semitism has been a major problem, and it continues to be in some parts of the world today.  One of the primary ways in which Anti-Semites unfairly targeted Jews was to vilify Halakha, digging up intolerant views in the rabbinical tradition to smear Judaism with.

But herein lies an irony: many Zionist Jews are now joining Anti-Muslim Christians in vilifying the Islamic tradition in a very similar way.  Once Halakha was the target of bigots; today, it is Sharia.  Rabbi Eliyahu Stern has written an excellent article about this topic, entitled Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America.

I will be applying the same standards our opponents apply to the Islamic tradition to the Jewish one, to show that Judaism is equally vulnerable to such criticisms.  It is hoped that this exercise will encourage people of Judeo-Christian background to be more hesitant in vilifying and targeting Islam.  This is purely an exercise in thought, a what if scenario (what if we applied the same standards to your religion as you do onto others?) designed to be the antidote to religious and cultural arrogance.

By clarifying that this constitutes an “exercise in thought” one should know that I am not saying Judaism is XYZ because of ABC, but rather simply that if you insist on arguing that Islam is XYZ due to ABC then–based on your own logic–Judaism and Christianity are also XYZ because they too have ABC.  This is a what if? and an if-then argument.

*  *  *  *  *

This is not to say, however, that religion has nothing to do with the matter.  I am extremely critical of Religious Zionism, which has a very real and deleterious impact in world affairs.  Religious Zionists are now among the most influential voices in Israel’s hawkish right-wing, using religion to justify even more regressive policies towards the Palestinians.  Dr. Claudia Baumgart notes in Democracy, Diversity, and Conflict: Religious Zionism and Israeli Foreign Policy that Religious Zionism “started to play a major role” in Israeli foreign policy by the late 1960′s.  Today, its impact is absolutely pernicious.

Religious Zionism went even further than secular Zionism, declaring the settlement of Palestinian land–all of Palestine–a mitzvah, a religious obligation under Jewish law.  While it may be possible to convince secular Zionists of the need for a two-state solution, this is not possible with Religious Zionists who believe it is forbidden in their religion–nay, it is a blasphemy of the highest order and greatest magnitude–to cede even one inch of Eretz Israel to the Palestinians.  This is why Religious Zionism is a major impediment to peace in the region.

Much like how Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam is a problem (“Islamists” as some incorrectly say), so too is Religious Zionism a major problem.  I agree with Dr. Baumgart’s assessment that “religion is not an independent cause of conflict in and between states.  But it can be an important intervening variable…”  In other words, Religious Zionism did not independently and all by itself create the problem of Israeli oppression of Palestinians, but it certainly is one important causative factor among a myriad of others.

This is of course not much different than my view of Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam.  Some critics may assume that I do not think Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam are part of the problem–that only American and Israeli foreign policy are to blame.  This is incorrect: I believe that terrorism is the result of a myriad of factors, and although American and Israeli neo-colonialism certainly tops the list, Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam plays an important role as well.

Criticism of Religious Zionism should not tarnish Judaism as a whole no more than criticism of Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam should tarnish Islam as a whole.  One should stay clear of the bigotry that would compel oneself to smear an entire faith for the actions of a particular strand of a religion.

*  *  *  *  *

My need to criticize Religious Zionism is also founded on the link between Zionism and Islamophobia. Pro-Israeli apologists are often anti-Muslim; conversely, anti-Muslim bigots are almost invariably pro-Israeli. In fact, Islamophobes fanatically support the state of Israel, which they see as the embodiment of the Crusader state in the heartland of the infidel Muslim world.  Meanwhile, Israelis see the Islamophobes as useful to their cause against their Muslim foes.  Often, however, there is no distinction between the two: Zionist Islamophobes form a large chunk of the anti-Muslim camp.  Pamela Geller, an extremist Zionist Islamophobe, is a case in point.  In light of this, it is important to hold Religious Zionism to the same standard that these Zionists/Islamophobes so mirthfully apply to Islam.

*  *  *  *  *

One may quite reasonably criticize my choice of title, “The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians:” after all, it does not make it clear that I am herein criticizing the Halakha of Religious Zionists, not of all Jews.  This is acceptable criticism, which I agree with in principle.

However, remember that this article series is a “thought exercise:” the entire purpose is to show how Judaism and Christianity could not possibly live up to the high standards anti-Muslim Jews and Christians insist on applying to Islam.  Our Islamophobic opponents certainly do not differentiate between different interpretations of Sharia.  They take Radical and/or Ultra-Conservative interpretations of Islamic law as The Sharia.  Likewise, I will take the Orthodox Jewish interpretation of Halakha–as understood by “mainstream” Modern Orthodoxy–to be The Halakha.  Then, we will see how much anti-Muslim Jews and Christians like it.  How will Pamela Geller respond to holding her religious faith up to the same standards she insists upon for Islam?

*  *  *  *  *

Having said all of this, the primary reason I chose to speak about Halakha is that it is our opponents themselves who invoked the comparison between the supposedly peaceful Judeo-Christian tradition on the one hand and the supposedly warlike Islamic tradition on the other.  This argument–that the modern-day Judeo-Christian interpretations are overwhelmingly peaceful, whereas those of Islam are warlike–is raised by both the King and Queen of Islamophobia, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.

Robert Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) invokes this comparison multiple times.  For example, he says on p.31:

When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent action against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretive traditions that have moved away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretive tradition. The jihad passages in the Qur’an are anything but a dead letter.

Meanwhile, the Queen of Islamophobia published a letter by David Yerushalmi which said:

[T]he historical comparison between the response to sharia in this country and Europe’s objection to Jewish law centuries earlier is a result of poor scholarship and faulty logic.  Jewish law, certainly since the destruction of the Jewish Commonwealth almost two thousand years ago, has had nothing to do with political power or the desire to effect dominion over another people. 

To the contrary, the opposition to sharia is the fact that throughout the Muslim world, sharia is the call to an exclusive Islamic political power with hegemonic designs (see the two most prominent surveys cited here: http://mappingsharia.com/?page_id=425).  The war doctrine of jihad is part and parcel of sharia.  It is alive and well as such throughout the Muslim world.

Therefore, I am left no choice but to compare Islamic understandings of religious law to their Jewish counterparts.  This comparison was foisted upon me by my opponents.  There is no way to disabuse the King and Queen of Islamophobia (and their loyal subjects) of their claims except to respond in the way I am.

Naturally, “bystanders” will be caught in the crossfire.  Good-hearted, fellow Jews may be offended by such an article series that takes such a critical look at Jewish law.  This is why I explained my absolute reluctance to go down this path in my opening disclaimer.  But, the constant barrage of Islamophobic polemics, encouraged by Israeli activists, convinces me that this is something unavoidable.  Thus it is so, that with a grudging heart, I proceed forth.

*  *  *  *  *

Update I:

It is true that Ultra-Orthodox Judaism within Israel is just as disquieting as Modern Orthodox Judaism (as I will show in a follow-up article). This is due to their unthinking acceptance of Zionist ideology.  On the other hand, those Ultra-Orthodox Jews who forcefully reject Zionism, such as the Neturei Karta, do not justify Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians.  Perhaps then it would be more appropriate to say that Zionism, not just Religious Zionism, is the problem.  Once again, however, it should be stressed that it is the mixing of a racist political ideology with religion that is to be condemned, not the religion itself.

Update II:

A reader who posts under the user name “Just Stopping By” gave some valid criticism in the comments section, arguing that it would be too broad a generalization to categorize all Religious Zionism as one way–that dissenting opinions do exist.  Admittedly, this article series does deal in some generalizations, but these are acceptable, I think, in the context of this being a “thought exercise.”  One could, for example, hardly expect Islamophobes to recognize that even in Ultra-Conservative Islam there exists nuance.

Having said that, it is fair criticism–especially in an article intended to be a disclaimer and explanation of my viewpoints–that I should recognize the existence of a spectrum of views in Religious Zionism, instead of viewing it as one rigid monolith.  This I readily admit, even though I of course disagree with Religious Zionism as a whole, just as I do Ultra-Conservative Islam.

Update III:

Two additional points need to be addressed here: the first is my choice to use Carlos Latuff’s artwork.  I was unfamiliar with him until I started searching for images to use in my article series, and realized that I’ve used one of his images in the past (without properly accrediting him).  My use of some of his cartoons should not be seen as an endorsement of his political views, which are not very clear to me.  One can only speculate what a cartoonist’s political views are based on his comics.  The images I chose are very applicable to the article series, and that is why I used them.  Nothing more, nothing less.  To give credit where credit is due, I do think Carlos Latuff is a very gifted artist and political cartoonist.

I have seen accusations against him by pro-Israeli apologists that he is an Anti-Semite.  These do not seem to be anything other than the typical Israeli tactic of accusing Israel’s critics of Anti-Semitism in order to vilify and silence them.  One critic claimed that Latuff uses images of “hook-nosed Jews.”  However, this seems baseless to me: notice the perfectly normal nose of the Israeli soldier below.  One could hardly expect a critic of Israel’s war crimes to portray IDF soldiers as anything but evil.  This hardly amounts to Anti-Semitism.  Would these pro-Israeli apologists desire political cartoonists to draw Israeli soldiers with roses coming out of their butts?

The second accusation I have seen against him is that his cartoons use the Star of David.  However, he explained to the Guardian:

Part of the supposed ‘evidence’ for my antisemitism is the fact that I’ve used the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism . . . But check all my artworks – you’ll find that the Star of David is never drawn alone. It’s always part of the Israeli flag. Yes, it’s a religious motif, but in Israel it has been applied to a state symbol; and it’s the institutions of the state – the politicians and the army – that I’m targeting. Including the flag of Israel in a cartoon is no more an attack on Judaism than including the flag of Turkey would be an attack on Islam.

The tactic of smearing critics of Israel with the “Anti-Semitic” slur is perfectly pictured by Latuff himself:

I do think some of Latuff’s comics may be over the top and are beyond my comfort level, such as this depiction of an Israeli soldier, which is not Anti-Semitic but just too hyperbolic for me.  One can understand that an artist might want to push the boundaries and invoke strong reactions from his work.  In any case, do I have to agree with every single one of a political cartoonist’s comics before I can reproduce any of them?

The other issue is my reliance on Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s work.  He is one of the world’s leading experts of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and it thus seems obvious why I would draw on his writings.  Despite my deep respect for his scholarship and his person, I must however issue a clear disclaimer distancing myself from his equivocation in response to a question about Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians.  I categorically reject all attacks targeting civilians, no matter who does them.  After all, my entire article series is designed to point out the hypocrisy of anti-Muslim Jews and Christians who condemn Muslims for what they themselves endorse (i.e. the targeting and killing of civilians).  If I would condone such terror attacks, this would be another layer of hypocrisy.

Along these lines, I might as well also state my views on Hamas and Hezbollah, since pro-Israeli apologists and Islamophobes use this as a sort of litmus test to silence opposition (DO YOU CONDEMN HAMAS?  DO YOU?).  Let it be known then that I condemn and reject Hamas and Hezbollah.  Although I recognize the right of the Palestinian people to defend their land and resist occupation (to deny them this right while accepting the right of the occupying power to “defend itself” is the height of colonialist mentality), under no circumstances–none whatsoever–is one allowed to target and kill civilians.  Even if Hamas and Hezbollah were to categorically renounce such tactics (and back up their words with actions), I would still not support these groups, which–like the Israeli and Jewish groups I will discuss–hold extremist religious views.

This does not mean that I do not “understand” why some occupied Palestinians would resort to such tactics.  (One cannot say the same for Israelis, who are the occupiers.)  “Understand” here is to be understood in the sense that one “understands” why a criminal was led to a life of crime due to an abused childhood.  This “understanding” does not equate to condoning, accepting, or justifying.

The desire to support Hamas and Hezbollah is born out of emotionalism, not principled ethics.  Many Muslims feel the need to side with “the Muslim side,” just as many Jews feel compelled to support “the Jewish state.”  I do not support groups or states, but rather ethics and principles.  Groups and states will always let you down; ethics and principles won’t.

Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2011 by loonwatch

Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller claim that Islam is more violent than other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity.  To prove this, they argue that the Islamic holy book, the Islamic prophet, and the Islamic God are all uniquely violent–certainly more so than their Judeo-Christian counterparts.

We proved these claims completely bunk by showing the Bible to be far more violent than the Quran, the Biblical prophets to be far more violent than the Prophet Muhammad, and Yahweh of the Bible to be far more violent than Allah of the Quran.  (See parts 123456-i, 6-ii, 6-iii, 6-iv78, 9-i, and 9-ii of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.)

Instead of defending their initial claim (which they simply cannot), the Islamophobes quickly shift gears and rely on a fallback argument: they argue that “the Bible doesn’t actively exhort its believers to commit acts of violence, unlike the Quran.”  I refuted this argument in part 6 (see 6-i6-ii6-iii6-iv) in an article entitled The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels.

Once that argument goes to the wayside the Islamophobes then jump to their next fall back argument: “most Jews and Christians don’t take the Bible literally like Muslims do the Quran!”  I refuted this argument in part 7, showing that they do in fact understand the Bible very, very literally.

In a very predictable pattern, once this argument fails, the Islamophobes rely on yet another fall back argument, the famous cop-out “But That’s Just the Old Testament!”.  I’ve refuted this argument in part 8.

Once this fall back argument is refuted, Islamophobes once again do not defend it.  Instead, they move on to the next fall back argument:  they argue that “Jews and Christians simply don’t interpret their holy book in a violent manner, unlike Muslims.”  Writes Robert Spencer on p.31 of his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):

When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent action against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretive traditions that have moved away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretive tradition. The jihad passages in the Qur’an are anything but a dead letter.

This is Spencer’s preemptive parry to any counterattack whenever anyone (like myself) responds to his cherry-picking of Quranic verses by reciprocating and finding similar (and even worse) passages in the Bible. We are told that modern-day Jews and Christians simply don’t take those passages seriously any more, that they are merely symbolic or that they are dead letters.

Spencer et al. will then take a break from copying-and-pasting Quranic passages, and instead focus on “classical opinions” in the Islamic tradition, which they claim continue to be to this day the “orthodox, mainstream opinions according to the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence [madhaib].” By contrast, argues Spencer, classical and modern-day orthodox, mainstream interpretations of Judaism and Christianity have moved away from literal understandings of the Bible and opted for non-violent, peaceful understandings.

However, I will prove that this is not the case at all. The violent verses in the Bible helped formulate the “classical opinions” of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and continue to be held by “mainstream, orthodox” groups today.  In this article, we will examine the Jewish rabbinical tradition (both the “classical” and modern day situation); in a later article, we will grapple with the Christian side of things.

Rabbi Eliyahu Stern published an article in the New York Times entitled “Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America.”  Stern’s balanced article noted that the anti-Muslim demonization of Islam (and Islamic law) “is disturbingly reminiscent” of “19th-century Europe” Anti-Semitism.  Pamela Geller, an extremist Zionist Islamophobe, published an irate letter from David Yerushalmi (who she describes as the “leading legal mind on sharia in America and my lawfare attorney”), who huffed (emphasis added):

[T]he historical comparison between the response to sharia in this country and Europe’s objection to Jewish law centuries earlier is a result of poor scholarship and faulty logic.  Jewish law, certainly since the destruction of the Jewish Commonwealth almost two thousand years ago, has had nothing to do with political power or the desire to effect dominion over another people. 

To the contrary, the opposition to sharia is the fact that throughout the Muslim world, sharia is the call to an exclusive Islamic political power with hegemonic designs (see the two most prominent surveys cited here: http://mappingsharia.com/?page_id=425).  The war doctrine of jihad is part and parcel of sharia.  It is alive and well as such throughout the Muslim world.

This is the same argument raised by Robert Spencer: Jewish law is peaceful and certainly does not call to violence or war like Islamic law does.

I will absolutely nuke this argument into oblivion.  (In the words of one of our readers: “Danios doesn’t make the mistake of bringing a knife to a gun fight–he brings a nuclear bomb.”)

*  *  *  *  *

One of the fundamental differences between the Islamic canon (Quran and hadiths) and the Bible is with regard to discrimination: the Islamic texts explicitly, categorically, and emphatically command soldiers to fight combatants on the battlefield only, and totally forbid targeting and killing innocent civilians (women, children, the elderly, the decrepit, etc.). On the other hand, the Bible is replete with verses in which God Himself commands the believers to target and kill innocent civilians. In fact, the God of the Bible becomes very upset with those of his followers who fail to complete acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

It is perhaps no big surprise then that one of the main ways in which the “classical” and so-called “orthodox, mainstream views” of the Islamic tradition differ from those in the Jewish tradition is with regard to discrimination: the Islamic tradition forbids its followers from targeting and killing civilians, whereas the Jewish counterpart permits it.

Rabbi Norman Lamm, convenor of the Orthodox Forum

Every year leading Orthodox Jewish luminaries from around the world–including “rashei yeshivah [deans of Talmudical academies], rabbis, educators and academicians from America and Israel”–flock to The Orthodox Forum to discuss “a single topic affecting the Jewish world.”  In 2004, the topic of choice was “War and Peace,” which was chosen due to “the United States’ involvement in Iraq” and “Israel’s ongoing war with terrorism” (quotes from p.xiii of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition).

After these influential experts discussed the issues surrounding “war and peace,” they published their discussion in the fourteenth volume of “the Orthodox Forum Series” in a book entitled War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition.  As such, this book does not merely reflect the views of one or two Jewish authors.  Instead, it “brings together the thinking of a wide range of distinguished American and Israeli academicians and religious leaders from various disciplines, to shed light on the historical, philosophical, theological, legal and moral issues raised by military conflict and the search for peaceful resolution” (p.xi) with the goal of appreciating “the relevance of Jewish sources in approaching contemporary challenges” (p.xii).

[Note: Throughout this article series, readers should assume all emphasis is mine, unless otherwise indicated.  Also note that Rabbi is abbreviated to R., as is the accepted convention.]

Reading this very authoritative book, written by the brightest minds of Orthodox Judaism, I came to appreciate at least five major ways in which Halakha (Jewish law) permits shedding the blood of innocents–at least five major exceptions to the law of discrimination.

The reader should keep in mind that these five different exceptions have nothing to do with “collateral damage,” the incidental or unintended killing of civilians, which is generally accepted by international law (with some important caveats).  Instead, these five exceptions have to do with targeting and killing civilians.

I purposefully say “at least five different exceptions,” since there are most certainly more, which I shall discuss in future articles.  However, those other exceptions are debatable or held as minority opinions, such as the concept of targeted assassinations (debatable, I guess) and the idea that Palestinians should be exterminated because they are the modern-day Amalekites (a valid but minority “halakhic opinion”).  Instead, I will focus on views held by the majority of mainstream Orthodox Jewish rabbinical leadership.

*  *  *  *  *

In the United States, Judaism is split into three main sects: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.  In Israel, however, Reform and Conservative Judaism do not exist in large numbers.  Instead, the battle lines are drawn between secular and Orthodox Jews.  According to The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 20% of Israeli Jews are secular, 25% are Orthodox (17% are Religious Zionists [Modern Orthodox Judaism] and 8% are Ultra-Orthodox [Haredi]), with the largest group of Israeli Jews (55%) falling under the rubric of “traditional.”

The views of “traditional Jews” towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem to fall in between the two major ideological groups: secular and Orthodox Jews.  For example, whereas “only” 36% of secular Israelis support “price tag” terrorism against Palestinians and a whopping majority of Orthodox Jews support such tactics (70% of Religious Zionists and 71% of Ultra-Orthodox Jews), just over half of traditional Jews (55%) condone terrorism against the Palestinians.

Orthodox Judaism is split between Modern Orthodox Judaism and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism).  In Israel, Modern Orthodox Judaism is dominated by Religious Zionism (alternatively called “national-religious”).  This sect is widely considered to be the “mainstream” of Orthodox Judaism in Israel.  It is this sect, therefore, that I will focus on in my article series.

One should not, however, be led to believe that Ultra-Orthodox Judaism is much better in this regard.  Although Agudat Yisrael (the original major political party that represented Ultra-Orthodox Jews) initially opposed the Zionist enterprise, this changed after the creation of the state of Israel.  These Ultra-Orthodox Jews saw the Israeli state as a means for “state enforcement of religious laws” and wanted “increased state financial support for their schools and for religious institutions” (quotes taken from the Zionism & Israel Center‘s official website).

Today, “though still non-Zionist, [these Ultra-Orthodox Jews] tend to favor perpetuation of the occupation and vote with the right against peace moves or negotiations.”  Their right-wing attitudes towards Palestinians are reflected in the earlier statistic I cited, which showed that an overwhelming majority (71%) of Ultra-Orthodox Jews support price tag terrorism against Palestinians, which is almost exactly the same percentage of Religious Zionists (70%) who do.  Ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israel has been heavily influenced by Zionism and Religious Zionism, especially in their hostile views towards the indigenous Palestinians.

However, because many Israelis feel that Ultra-Orthodox Jews are “extreme,” I will focus my discussion here on the more “mainstream” sect, Modern Orthodox Judaism.  (In a follow-up article, I will outline the Ultra-Orthodox view on such subjects in order to prove that there is an emerging “bipartisan” consensus on these issues within Orthodox Judaism in Israel.) For now, however, I will largely stick to the generally accepted views within Religious Zionism.

Therefore, in my article The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians–the title that will be used for the remaining article series–I will not focus on Yizhak Shapira’s book the King’s Torah.  Despite the fact that Modern Orthodox Judaism’s rabbis seemed to accept Shapira’s views “governing the killing of a non-Jew’ outlined in the book [as] a legitimate stance” and a valid “halachic opinion,” I will bypass all such discussion by focusing on majority views held by Religious Zionism and Modern Orthodox Judaism, not the more extreme Kahanist sect of Religious Zionism.

In so doing, I will show that these majority views are hardly less worrisome than Rabbi Shapira’s opinions expressed in the King’s Torah.  I will show that one need not look to settler rabbis, Kahanists, or Ultra-Orthodox Jews to find extremely warlike views.  The mainstream Modern Orthodox rabbinical leadership will suffice.  Worse yet, Israeli Jews–deeply religious Jews–are leading the fight against the concept of distinction, the fundamental aspect of the just war theory.  They are applying pressure to change international law and to abrogate the regulations of the Geneva Conventions, which they believe are “archaic” and inapplicable today.  Could it be said, using the emotive language of our opponents, that Judaism is waging war against the principle of distinction?

The purpose of this is to prove that if there are problems within the house of Islam (which there certainly are), let it be known that the house of Judaism is no different in this regard.  It would behoove us to remind ourselves of this before we point the accusatory finger at The Other.  Extremist Zionist Islamophobes like Pamela Geller–and their Christian comrades-in-arms like Robert Spencer–should take note.

Disclaimer:  Before we get into it, please read my disclaimer, Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, is the Problem. (This is in addition to my earlier disclaimer, which you should also read):

Update:  

The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians;#1 Civilians Are Really Combatants

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (II)

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (III)

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (IV)

‘Sharia Law’ Laws

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch

By: Steve Lehto

A legislator in Michigan has decided to jump on the anti-Sharia bandwagon and has proposed legislation to protect us from Sharia law. Tennessee has proposed such a law, and Oklahoma has passed one (although it was later struck down by a court and presumably will be tied up in the courts for a while). While this appears to be a trend, it is confounding.

First, here is Rep. Dave Agema, quoted in the Detroit News: “Our law is our law. I don’t like foreign entities telling us what to do.” His bill, he says, will prevent anyone “who tries to shove any foreign law down our throats.”

So, Agema is proposing a state law to keep “foreign entities” from “telling us what to do.” I presume he is being colloquial; who cares if they try and “tell us” what to do? We don’t have to listen, do we? Presumably, he is suggesting that there is some way that they can force us into doing something we don’t want to, unless there is a law preventing it. So he has proposed his bill, which will presumably protect us from this ominous threat.

Too bad he hasn’t read our Constitution. I’m not talking about the Constitution of the State of Michigan; I’m talking about the big kahuna: The Constitution of the United States. Article VI reads in part:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. [Emphasis added.]

Forgive my italicizing; the drafters of the Constitution didn’t feel the need to italicize the important parts of the document because they thought later generations would read it carefully for themselves.

So, what Dave Agema has missed — and the others who are trying to pass these stupid laws — is that when it comes to the law, the Constitution already trumps whatever a “foreign entity tell[s] us” to do. (See italicized portions above.)

Don’t get me wrong; I know that some people have heard of Sharia law being applied by parties willingly to their own disputes. That is, both sides to a dispute have decided to use Sharia law as a guide for settling their dispute. While you might not want it applied to your dispute, who cares how other people settle their disputes?

You may not know this, but across America everyday litigants choose to step outside the court system and let arbitrators decide their disputes for them. In these arbitrations, different rules are often applied. Rules of evidence are modified, juries are not used and appeals are barred. To a lawyer, those three things alone are enough to cause nightmares. Yet it is perfectly legal because the parties have agreed to resolve their dispute in that manner.

There have also been the oddball resolutions where parties have agreed to settle their disputes with a coin toss. Frankly, if I had to choose between Sharia law and a coin toss, I’d go with Sharia law. Does that mean we should outlaw the coin toss? Quick! Mr. Agema — I have another law I need you to work on!

The strange thing is that the law would be legally meaningless if passed. The Constitution is already the supreme law of the land; another legislative statement affirming the Constitution’s supremacy would not change or add anything. What is upsetting is that everyone knows these laws are simply being passed as anti-Muslim statements. After all, they serve no legitimate purpose.

Frank Gaffney’s Latest Conspiracy: Herman Cain Met with the Muslim Brotherhood

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by loonwatch

Frank GaffneyFrank Gaffney

By Scott Keyes on Aug 2, 2011 at 11:31 am

ThinkProgress filed this report from the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, CO.

Last week, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain met with Muslim leaders outside Washington, DC in a laudable attempt to make amends for the Islamophobic positions that had come to characterize his candidacy. Cain had previously declared he will not appoint Muslims in his administration — he later backtracked and said he would only require a special loyalty oath from Muslim appointees — and argued that Americans have the right to ban mosques.

However, not everyone was pleased with the former pizza executive’s recent move.

Last weekend, ThinkProgress spoke with Frank Gaffney, a conservative conspiracy theorist who nevertheless enjoys outsized influence on the right. The Center for Security Policy president had a unique take on the matter: Herman Cain had actually been meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Gaffney, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, where Cain met with Muslim leaders last Wednesday, is “a prominent Muslim Brotherhood apparatus in Washington DC.” The Center’s Imam, Mohamed Magid, is actually, says Gaffney, “the president of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front in the United States”:

KEYES: Where would you say Herman Cain’s at now?

GAFFNEY: I only saw one press report of it, and it sounded as if some of what you just described was said by people, Muslim Brotherhood people frankly, with whom he was meeting rather than the candidate himself. […]

KEYES: Those were Muslim Brotherhood people that he was meeting with?

GAFFNEY: Oh yeah. The ADAMS Center is a prominent Muslim Brotherhood apparatus in Washington DC. It’s one of the most aggressive proponents of its agenda in the city. […] Specifically, meeting with Mohamed Magid who is the president of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front in the United States, who happens also to be the Imam at the ADAMS Center. It’s one of those things, it’s a very problematic departure from what I think had been a generally sensible… I don’t agree everything he has said and some of the positions he has taken, but I think generally speaking he’s been forthright in raising a concern that I think is warranted. And if in fact he’s now changed his position in ways that are being reported, that’s even more troubling than if he was spending time with Muslim Brothers.

Watch it:

Such a charge would be shocking, were it not made by a man who says the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the federal government and CIA chief David Petraeus is submissive to Sharia law.

Cain joins a long list of prominent figures that Gaffney accuses of working with the Muslim Brotherhood, including CPACGrover NorquistDavid Petraeus, the federal government, and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Despite Gaffney’s outlandish beliefs, he remains an extraordinarily influential figure on the right. Members of Congress regularly appear on his radio show, Secure Freedom Radio. He is anadvisor and close friend to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And along with a small group of like-minded conservatives, Gaffney has turned Islamophobia into an industry.

With his latest accusation against Herman Cain, Gaffney is well on his way to becoming the 2011 version of Rudy Giuliani. Gaffney’s every utterance now boils down to “a noun, a verb, and ‘Muslim Brotherhood.’”

The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle

Posted in Loon People, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by loonwatch

The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle

By Robert Steinback
Illustration by Bri Hermanson

The apparent recent surge in popular anti-Muslim sentimentin the United States has been driven by a surprisingly small and, for the most part, closely knit cadre of activists. Their influence extends far beyond their limited numbers, in part because of an amenable legion of right-wing media personalities — and lately, politicians like U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who held controversial hearings into the radicalization of American Muslims this March —who are eager to promote them as impartial experts or grassroots leaders. Yet a close look at their rhetoric reveals how doggedly this group works to provoke and guide populist anger over what is seen as the threat posed by the 0.6% of Americans who are Muslim — an agenda that goes beyond reasonable concern about terrorism into the realm of demonization.

Of the 10 people profiled below, all but Bill French, Terry Jones and Debbie Schlussel regularly interact with others on the list. Most were selected for profiling primarily because of their association with activist organizations. People who only run websites or do commentary were omitted, with two exceptions: Schlussel, because she has influence as a frequent television talk-show guest, and John Joseph Jay, because he is on the board of Pamela Geller’s Stop Islamization of America group. Three other activists, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Frank Gaffney, have interacted with many of the core group as well and also have offended many Muslims, but they are somewhat more moderate in their views of Muslims than those who are profiled below.

Bill FrenchBILL FRENCH
ORGANIZATION
 Heads the for-profit Center for the Study of Political Islam in Nashville. 

CREDENTIALS Former Tennessee State University physics professor; author of Sharia Law for Non-Muslims (2010; under the pen name Bill Warner).

SUMMARY French has no formal training or background in law, Islam or Shariah law — which in any case is not an established legal code, as the book title implies, but a fluid concept subject to a wide range of interpretations and applications. He garnered attention recently by leading the opposition to a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “The two driving forces of our civilization are the Golden Rule and critical thought. … There is no Golden Rule in Islam. … There is not really even a Ten Commandments.”
—Quoted in The [Blount County, Tenn.] Daily Times, March 4, 2011

“This offends Allah. You offend Allah.”
— Quoted in The Tennesseean, Oct. 24, 2010, speaking to opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque while pointing to an American flag

Brigitte GabrielBRIGITTE GABRIEL 
ORGANIZATIONS Founder and head of ACT! for America and American Council for Truth.

CREDENTIALS Author of Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America (2006) and They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It (2008). Co-producer and co-host of weekly ACT! for America television show.

SUMMARY Gabriel views Islam in absolute terms as a monolithic threat to the United States, Israel and the West. She is prone to sweeping generalizations and exaggerations as she describes a grand, sophisticated Muslim conspiracy bent on world domination. Of the people profiled here, she alone has focused on building a grassroots organization, claiming 155,000 members and 500 chapters around the country. Questions persist about the accuracy of her autobiographical account of being a victim of Muslim militancy in Lebanon.

IN HER OWN WORDS “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department.”
— Quoted in The New York Times, March 7, 2011

“The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arabic world is quite simply the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil and this is what we’re witnessing in the Arab and Islamic world. I am angry. They have no soul! They are dead set on killing and destruction.”
— From a speech delivered to the Rev. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel Convention, July 2007

“Tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America, operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government. They are here — today. Many have been here for years. Waiting. Preparing.”
— ACT! for America website, undated

P. David Gaubatz

P. DAVID GAUBATZ
ORGANIZATION Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE).

CREDENTIALS Co-author of Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America (2009). As director of operations for SANE’s Mapping Shariah project (see David Yerushalmi, below), a privately operated effort to infiltrate American mosques in an attempt to expose radical elements, Gaubatz was paid $148,898, according to Sheila Musaji of The American Muslim website.

SUMMARY A civilian agent who worked in the Middle East for the U.S. Air Forces Office of Special Investigations, Gaubatz made it a personal project — and the theme of his book — to prove the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is linked to international terrorism. In October 2009, four members of Congress led by Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) held an embarrassing press conference claiming the book revealed a Muslim plot to infiltrate government. Their hardest “evidence” was a document showing that CAIR had encouraged young Muslims to become Capitol interns — much like many other Washington, D.C., interest groups.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “As an ideology [Islam] is a terminal disease that once spread is hard to destroy. Once the ideology (cancer) takes hold it is like trying to remove millions of cancerous cells in one’s body. Not impossible to remove, but very, very unlikely.”
— Essay on the Northeast Intelligence Network website, June 10, 2008

“[T]he political ideology of winning over the West and the world for an Islamic Caliphate is NOT specific to some extremist group of Muslims. This is mainstream Islam and Shari’a. … The goal remains the same: all of the non-Islamic world, and indeed all of the Islamic world, must submit to Shari’a. A Muslim who refuses to do so will be killed. … A non-Muslim, assuming he is not a pagan (typically a Christian or Jew) might be given the opportunity to live in a subservient status in an Islamic society and pay a special head tax to prove his submission. But this option is left to the Caliph or ruler at the time.”
— Essay carried by the Assyrian International News Agency, Feb. 13, 2008

PAMELA GELLER Pamela GellerORGANIZATIONS Executive director and co-founder (with Robert Spencer; see below) of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA)

and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an umbrella group encompassing SIOA. Both are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Runs the Atlas Shrugs blog.

CREDENTIALS Self-styled expert on Islam with no formal training in the field. Co-produced with Spencer the film “The Ground Zero Mosque: Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks,” which was first screened at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. Co-author with Spencer of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (2010).

SUMMARY Geller has seized the role of the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and influential figurehead. Her strengths are panache and vivid rhetorical flourishes — not to mention stunts like posing for an anti-Muslim video in a bikini — but she also can be coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam. Geller does not pretend to be learned in Islamic studies, leaving the argumentative heavy lifting to SIOA partner Spencer. She is prone to publicizing preposterous claims, such as President Obama being the “love child” of Malcolm X, and once suggested that recent U.S. Supreme Court appointee Elena Kagen, who is Jewish, supports Nazi ideology. Geller has mingled with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists and defended Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. She is a self-avowed Zionist who is sharply critical of Jewish liberals.

IN HER OWN WORDS “Islam is not a race. This is an ideology. This is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth.”
— On Fox Business’ “Follow the Money,” March 10, 2011

“No, no, they can’t. … I don’t think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. … I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam. I think a moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim.”
— Quoted in The New York Times, responding to a question as to whether devout practicing Muslims can be political moderates, Oct. 8, 2010

“In the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man. … If you don’t lay down and die for Islamic supremacism, then you’re a racist anti-Muslim Islamophobic bigot. That’s what we’re really talking about.”
— Quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2010

DAVID HOROWITZ

ORGANIZATION Front Page Magazine (online), published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.David Horowitz

CREDENTIALS Organized “Islamofascism Awareness Week” which brought prominent anti-Muslim activists to college campuses in 2007. Author of several books including Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (2004), which claims that American leftists support Islamic terrorists.

SUMMARY Horowitz, who spent his young years as a Marxist, has in recent years become a furious far-right antagonist of liberals and leftists. He also provides some funding support for other anti-Muslim ventures, including, according to the blog SpencerWatch.com, paying Spencer $132,537 to run the JihadWatch website. Horowitz sees no philosophical gradations; if you’re not in total agreement with his view of Islam, you’re in favor of Muslim hegemony. He believes the Muslim Brotherhood and “Islamofascists” control most American Muslim organizations, especially Muslim student groups on college campuses.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “I spent 25 years in the American Left, whose agendas are definitely to destroy this country. The American left wanted us to lose the Cold War with the Soviets and it wants us to lose the war on terror. So I don’t make any apologies for that.”
— On the “Riz Khan” Show, Al Jazeera, Aug. 21, 2008

“Some polls estimate that 10 percent of Muslims support Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. An al-Jazeera poll put the number at 50 percent. In other words, somewhere between 150 million and 750 million Muslims support a holy war against Christians, Jews, and other Muslims who don’t happen to be true believers in the Quran according to
bin Laden.”
— In the Columbia Spectator, Oct. 15, 2007

“There are 150 Muslim Student Associations on American campuses. The Muslim Student Associations were created by Hamas and funded by Saudi Arabia. … [The associations] are Wahhabi Islamicists, and they basically support our enemies.”
— On Fox News’ “Neil Cavuto Show,” Aug. 15, 2006

JOHN JOSEPH JAYJohn Joseph Jay
ORGANIZATION summer patriot, winter soldier (a website; Jay doesn’t use capital letters in his website’s name or in his writings). Board member, SIOA. Listed as one of the founders of American Freedom Defense Initiative, SIOA’s umbrella group (see also Pam Geller, above).

CREDENTIALS Jay worked for 25 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. Geller’s Atlas Shrugs blog describes him as a constitutional scholar. In addition to his anti-Muslim commentary, Jay blogs prolifically on the right to bear arms.

SUMMARY Jay is remarkable for his unreconstructed hatred of all Muslims. He believes attacks by Muslim terrorists justify any violence directed at any Muslim, adding that, as he sees it, the Koran itself justifies such blind retaliation.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “every person in islam, from man to woman to child may be our executioner. … there are no innocents in islam. … there is no innocence in islam. all of islam is at war with us, and … all of islam is/are combatant[s.] … islam has established without intellectual doubt that there are no innocent muslims, that the myth of the ‘moderate muslim’ is precisely that, and that muslims are no more entitled to exemption or protection from retaliation that [sic] any of the other ‘non-innocent’ combatants in the world. … there are no innocent muslims.  islam is subject to killing on grounds of political expediency on the same basis as islam kills its victims, and islam cannot ethically and morally claim otherwise.”
— From his website, July 14, 2010

“in short, dear muslims, g_d in his infinite wisdom saw in advance this struggle between men and religions to win his favor, and the only thing that is foreordained, is that the strong and the resolute shall win his favor, and so far, it has been amply demonstrated that he has chosen the jews as his people, and favored christianity with science, technology, culture and military power. to islam, he has given the hind and dry tit, and the sewers and the deserts of the world in which to inhabit, and in which to fester.”
— From his website, June 27, 2010

TERRY JONESTerry Jones
ORGANIZATION Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Fla. Listed by the SPLC as a hate group.

CREDENTIALS Pastor of Dove World; instigator of “International Burn a Koran Day,” which was slated for Sept. 11, 2010, but canceled after worldwide protests and calls from senior officials of the Obama Administration. On March 20, however, Jones did burn a Koran, leading to several days of rampages in early April by religious rioters in Afghanistan, including the storming of a United Nations compound, that resulted in the deaths of at least 20 people. Jones showed no remorse over the deaths, which included at least seven foreigners. Author ofIslam is of the Devil (2010). Jones has admitted never having read the Koran. He has no academic or theological degree; his “doctorate” is honorary.

SUMMARY A true fanatical extremist who seems to be driven mostly by the need for self-promotion and publicity. Operates entirely outside of the core circle of anti-Muslim activists. Jones is also virulently anti-gay.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “Here’s your opportunity, all you so-called peaceful Moslems [Jones’ pronunciation]. … We are accusing the Koran of murder, rape, deception, being responsible for terrorist activities all around the world. … Present to us your defense attorney who is going to defend the Koran. Let us really see. We challenge you: do it. Let us not talk. Let us have some action and proof. … The Koran, if found guilty, can be burned … Or the Koran will be drowned. Or the Koran will be shredded into little bitty pieces … or the Koran will face a firing squad.”
— From an undated video on the Dove World Outreach website announcing “International Judge the Koran Day”

“The world is facing a great danger, which, if it is not stopped, will sooner or later be a threat to freedom in all nations and specifically to the United States. This danger is the growing religion of Islam.”
— From the introduction to Islam is of the Devil, 2010

DEBBIE SCHLUSSELDebbie Schlussel
ORGANIZATION Columnist; eponymous website.

CREDENTIALS The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Schlussel is a Detroit-based attorney and MBA. Frequent guest on conservative talk shows.

SUMMARY Uncompromising, viciously anti-Muslim commentator who dismisses ostensible allies if they are willing to believe in the concept of moderate Islam. She has even berated Hollywood for its failure to depict Muslims as sufficiently villainous. She has referred to Muslims as “animals.” Her intense animosity toward Muslims appears rooted in strong pro-Israel sentiments.

IN HER OWN WORDS “So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. … How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.’ Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdillullah (praise allah) [sic].”
— From her website, following the gang sexual assault on CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo, Feb. 15, 2011

“[T]he fact is that the majority of Muslims support terrorism. The vast majority. Not just a few hijackers and a few suicide bombers. But the MAJORITY. This isn’t me saying it. It’s Muslims saying it. And not just in poll after poll of Muslims around the world including in America. Go to the streets of ‘moderate Muslim’ Dearbornistan [Dearborn, Mich.] and see how many Muslims dare condemn Hezbollah and HAMAS. It’s like playing “Where’s Waldo?”
— From her website, Oct. 8, 2008

ROBERT SPENCERRobert Spencer
ORGANIZATION Runs the Jihad Watch website, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Co-founder with Pamela Geller (see above) of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

CREDENTIALS Spencer has a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Co-produced with Geller the film “The Ground Zero Mosque: Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks” (2011). Author of numerous books including The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (2007) andThe Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (2005).

SUMMARY Spencer is entirely self-taught in the study of modern Islam and the Koran. Critics have accused him of doggedly taking the Koran literally — Spencer considers it innately extremist and violent — while ignoring its nonviolent passages and the vast interpretive tradition that has modified Koranic teachings over the centuries. Spencer believes that moderate Muslims exist, but to prove it, they’d have to fully denounce the portions of the Koran he finds objectionable. Spencer has been known to fraternize with European racists and neo-fascists, though he says such contacts were merely incidental. Benazir Bhutto, the late prime minister of Pakistan, accused Spencer of “falsely constructing a divide between Islam and West” in her 2008 book,Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West. Spencer, she wrote, presented a “skewed, one-sided, and inflammatory story that only helps to sow the seed of civilizational conflict.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS “Osama [bin Laden]‘s use of these and other [Koranic] passages in his messages is consistent … with traditional understanding of the Quran. When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent actions against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretative traditions that have moved them away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretative tradition.”
— From The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 2005

“Where is moderate Islam? How can moderate Muslims refute the radical exegesis of the Qur’an and Sunnah? If an exposition of moderate Islam does not address or answer radical exegeses, is it really of any value to quash Islamic extremism? If the answer lies in a simple rejection of Qur’anic literalism, how can non-literalists make that rejection stick, and keep their children from being recruited by jihadists by means of literalism? Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”
— Jihad Watch, Jan. 14, 2006

DAVID YERUSHALMIDavid Yerushalmi
ORGANIZATION President of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE); principal of Stop the Madrassa.

CREDENTIALS General counsel for the Center for Security Policy (see Frank J. Gaffney Jr., above); also, an attorney representing SIOA. Yerushalmi drafted a proposed law filed this year in the Tennessee legislature that would subject anyone who advocates or adheres to Shariah customs to up to 15 years in prison; he drafted a similar bill in Georgia in 2008.

SUMMARY Yerushalmi equates Shariah with Islamic radicalism so totally that he advocates criminalizing virtually any personal practice compliant with Shariah. In his view, only a Muslim who fully breaks with the customs of Shariah can be considered socially tolerable. He waxes bloodthirsty when describing his preferred response to the supposed global threat of Shariah law, speaking casually of killing and destroying. Ideally, he would outlaw Islam and deport Muslims and other “non-Western, non-Christian” people to protect the United States’ “national character.” An ultra-orthodox Jew, he is deeply hostile toward liberal Jews. He derides U.S.-style democracy because it allows more than just an elite, privileged few to vote.

IN HIS OWN WORDS “On the so-called Global War on Terrorism, GWOT, we have been quite clear along with a few other resolute souls. This should be a WAR AGAINST ISLAM and all Muslim faithful. … At a practical level, this means that Shari’a and Islamic law are immediately outlawed. Any Muslim in America who adopts historical and traditional Shari’a will be subject to deportation. Mosques which adhere to Islamic law will be shut down permanently. No self-described or practicing Muslim, irrespective of his or her declarations to the contrary, will be allowed to immigrate to this country.”
— A 2007 commentary entitled “War Manifesto — The War Against Islam,” as reported by The American Muslim

“The more carefully reviewed evidence, however, suggests that because jihadism is in fact traditional Islam modernized to war against the ideological threat posed by the West against Islam proper,there is no way to keep faithful Muslims out of the war. If this is true, any Muslim who sticks his neck out of the mosque to yell some obscenity at the West should be considered an enemy combatant and killed or captured and held for the duration of the war. If you kill enough of them consistently enough, those disinclined to fight in the first place will find a way to reform their religion.”
— Review of Mary Habeck’s book Knowing the Enemy on the American Thinker website, Sept. 9. 2006

Florida pastor Terry Jones returning to Michigan to protest Islam

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Someone should tell pastor Terry Jones that all Arabs are not Muslims and all Muslims are not Arabs.

Florida pastor Terry Jones returning to Michigan to protest Islam

Terry Jones, the Quran-burning pastor from Florida, is to lead a three-hour rally against Islam today at Dearborn City Hall followed by a 2-mile walk to the Arab International Festival, where he will further speak out. The three-day festival is the largest outdoor gathering of Arab Americans in the U.S. and is held in Dearborn, known for its sizable Muslim population.

Jones, who led a rally at City Hall in April, gained worldwide attention for his threats to burn the Quran last year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He didn’t go through with it, but he led a Quran-burning in Florida in March. He tried to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn in April, but a jury ruled he would likely breach the peace, thwarting his plans. Jones has appealed that decision, which was criticized by the ACLU and some constitutional law experts as an infringement of his free-speech rights.

Jones said the decision was an example of sharia, or Islamic law, coming to America, which he said is a growing threat. Today, Jones plans to speak out against sharia again as part of a five-point plan he said will help fight Islam. One point calls for the “monitoring of all mosques to assure that they are places of worship and not of Islamic propaganda.”

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. has said repeatedly that the city has never implemented sharia.

In a letter sent this week to residents, O’Reilly said Jones and his supporters “are coming here to promote the concept that Islam is a false faith and that Muslims by teaching and nature are violent. We know that there is no substance to their message — their goal is to promote fear and hatred in others.”

Referring to Jones supporters, O’Reilly said he is urging the public to “ignore them and their empty words. Their goal is to bait and anger us so that they can then misrepresent who we are in order to serve their personal agenda.

“Debating them and confronting them at this event or in our city can produce no positive result for us.”

Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792 or nwarikoo@freepress.com

Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

In ominous tones, Islamophobes toss around terms like “taqiyya” and “Shariah.” Do they even know what they mean?

In a now infamous column, the writer Eliana Benador argued this week that Anthony Weiner (who is a Jew) may have converted to Islam but was hiding it from the world in accordance with the practice of “taqiyya.”

“It is also important, when looking at this situation, to remember that observant Muslims practice taqiyya, an element of sharia that states there is a legal right and duty to distort the truth to promote the cause of Islam,” Benador wrote.

In invoking the Arabic term “taqiyya,” Benador exemplified a practice we’ve noticed in the past few years. It’s become common for right-wing writers and even politicians to matter-of-factly toss around Arabic terminology when warning of the Muslim threat to America. These references, often made in ominous tones, are almost always without context.

So we thought it would be useful to hear explanations of terms like “taqiyya” from an expert. John Esposito, university professor at Georgetown and author of “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam,” was kind enough to explain six of the more common Islamic terms we’ve been hearing. Esposito wrote the “What it actually means” items below, following my introductions.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: dhimmi

How it’s used: As a pejorative for non-Muslims who fail to understand — and unwittingly aid, or even appease — the Islamic menace

Example: “These dhimmi effetes at the Times think their toe licking will save them. They will be the first ones with their heads on the chopping block.” — the blogger Pamela Geller

What it actually means: “Protected people.” The dhimmi were non-Muslims living under Muslim rule who paid a special tax and in return were permitted to practice their own religion, be led by their religious leaders and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. This treatment was very advanced at the time. No such tolerance existed in Christendom where Jews, Muslims and Christians who did not accept the authority of the pope were persecuted, forced to convert or expelled.

However progressive this policy may have been in the past, it would amount to second-class citizenship for non-Muslims today. Therefore, some insist that non-Muslims must be given full citizenship rights because of the Quran’s emphasis on the equality of all humanity. This need for reinterpretation can be seen in the increased incidents of discrimination and violence against non-Muslims in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: jihad

How it’s used: As casual shorthand for Muslims’ war against the West

Example: “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.” — Newt Gingrich

What it actually means: Literally, “struggle” or “exertion” in the path of God, following God’s Will. It is a concept with multiple meanings, used and abused throughout Islamic history. The importance of jihad is rooted in the Quran’s command to struggle in the path of God and in the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his early Companions. The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known Prophetic tradition. “Greater” jihad is the struggle within oneself to live a righteous life and submit oneself to God’s will. “Lesser” jihad is the defense of Islam and the Muslim community.

Jihad as struggle pertains to the difficulty and complexity of living a good life: struggling against the evil in oneself — to be virtuous and moral, making a serious effort to do good works and help to reform society. Depending on the circumstances in which one lives, it also can mean fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, and creating a just society through preaching, teaching and, if necessary, armed struggle or holy war. A radicalized violent minority combines militancy with messianic visions to inspire and mobilize an army of God whose jihad they believe will liberate Muslims at home and abroad.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: taqiyya

How it’s used: As an explanation for why Muslims cannot be trusted — because their religion allows them to ethically practice deception

Example: “Thus it is reasonable to conclude that Keith Ellison’s deceitful pronouncements at Thursday’s Homeland Security Hearings, this past Thursday, and one day later on ‘Real Time With Bill Maher,’ are consistent with the Koranic doctrine of taqiyya, Islamic religious dissimulation.” — writer on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site

What it actually means: Precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution. Muslims recognize the personal duty of affirming right and forbidding wrong, but when confronted by an overwhelming injustice that threatens the well-being of an individual, this obligation can be fulfilled secretly in the heart rather than overtly. Among Shia Muslims, who from the death of the Prophet onward considered themselves subject to persistent religious persecution by the Sunni majority and the holders of political power, taqiyya permits not only passive or silent resistance, but also an active dissimulation of true beliefs when required to protect life, property and religion itself.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: Shariah

How it’s used: To refer to a rigid set of Muslim laws that prescribe stoning for adulterous women, execution for homosexuals, etc.

Example: “We all know what shariah law does to women — women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Sharia law. We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas.” — Texas state Rep. Leo Berman

What it actually means: Historically, many Muslims and non-Muslims have come to confuse and use the terms “Shariah” and “Islamic law” interchangeably. Because the Quran is not a law book, early jurists used revelation as well as reason to create a body of laws to govern their societies. But, over time, these man-made laws came to be viewed as sacred and unchangeable. Muslims who want to see Shariah as a source of law in constitutions therefore have very different visions of how that would manifest. Though the definition of Shariah refers to the principles in the Quran and prophetic tradition, some expect full implementation of classical or medieval Islamic law; others want a more restricted approach, like prohibiting alcohol, requiring the head of state to be a Muslim, or creating Shariah courts to hear cases involving Muslim family law (marriage, divorce and inheritance). Still others simply want to ensure that no constitutional law violates the principles and values of Islam, as found in the Quran.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: madrassa

How it’s used: To refer to a place where Muslim youth are indoctrinated into radicalism and, often, terror

Example: “I am very concerned that the school will be a madrassa, funded by taxpayer dollars. We will in effect be supporting the training of future terrorist cells.” — Opponent of a proposed Arabic-themed New York school

What it actually means: A place where teaching, studying and learning take place. In early centuries, “madrassa” came to refer to a school of higher studies (college or university) where Islamic sciences were taught. Today, the term is also often used more broadly. Like the term “school” in American English, it can refer, for example, to a university, seminary, college as well as primary or secondary school. In recent years, the term has taken on a negative connotation, and for some simplistically equated with militant madrassas or schools in Pakistan and elsewhere. While they certainly exist and are dangerous training grounds, they represent a relatively small number of the institutions/schools that are referred to as madrassas.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: Allah

How it’s used: As a negatively charged byword for a special Islamic deity

Example: “The animals of Allah for whom any day is a great day for a massacre are drooling over the positive response that they are getting from New York City officials over a proposal to build a 13 story monument to the 9/11 Muslims who hijacked those 4 airliners.” –Tea Party activist Mark Williams

What it actually means: Arabic for “God” (the term is used by Muslims and Arab Christians for God but is also used in Arabic-influenced languages and thus by Turkish and Malaysian Christians and others). Muslims believe Allah is the same deity worshiped by Jews and Christians. The first verses of the Quran present the basic Muslim view of God: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Sovereign of the Day of Judgment. Truly, it is You we worship and You whose aid we seek.” He is creator, sustainer, judge and ruler of the universe; all-powerful and all-merciful. Allah is described as the Merciful and Compassionate; every verse of the Quran begins with “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.” Believed to have revealed himself to a long line of prophets (including the biblical prophets), to Moses, Jews (Torah) and Jesus (Gospels). As in Judaism and Christianity, God is also seen as the Just Judge who is to be obeyed and feared as well as loved.

MEQ Report Claims 81 Per Cent of US Mosques Promote “Violent Jihad”

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by loonwatch

A good article from Richard Bartholomew on a “recent” report by Middle East Quarterly (part of Daniel Pipes Middle East Forum) that 81% of US mosques promote violent jihad. This is the same number that Islamophobes have been promoting for years now.

The report is filled with methodological flaws.

MEQ Report Claims 81 Per Cent of US Mosques Promote “Violent Jihad”

by Richard Bartholomew

At the American Thinker and Big Peace, Andrew Bostom discusses  ”Sharia and Violence in American Mosques”, a new article  by Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi published the Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2011, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 59-72). The somewhat inflammatory title is par for the course: Yerushalmi (perhaps best-known as Pamela Geller’s lawyer) is the brains behind the ideologically-driven “Mapping Shariah” project, which has a number of methodological problems that I outlined here. The paper is being published today; it appears that Bostom has been given an advance copy.

According to quotes in Bostom’s post (itself a diatribe entitled “Mosques as Barracks in America”), a number of US mosques were chosen at random,

(a) to observe and record 12 Sharia-adherent behaviors of the worshipers and the imam (or lay leader); (b) to observe whether the mosque contained the selected materials rated as moderate and severe; (c) to observe whether the mosque contained materials promoting, praising, or supporting violence or violent jihad; and (d) to observe whether the mosque contained materials indicating the mosque had invited guest speakers known to have promoted violent jihad.

Findings:

51 percent of mosques had texts that either advocated the use of violence in the pursuit of a Shari’a-based political order or advocated violent jihad as a duty that should be of paramount importance to a Muslim; 30 percent had only texts that were moderately supportive of violence like the Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Fiqh as-Sunna; 19 percent had no violent texts at all.

…The survey found a strong correlation between the presence of severe violence-promoting literature and mosques featuring written, audio, and video materials that actually promoted such acts. By promotion of jihad, the study included literature encouraging worshipers to engage in terrorist activity, to provide financial support to jihadists, and to promote the establishment of a caliphate in the United States. These materials also explicitly praised acts of terror against the West; praised symbols or role models of violent jihad; promoted the use of force, terror, war, and violence to implement the [strange gap here – RB] Sharia; emphasized the inferiority of non-Muslim life; promoted hatred and intolerance toward non-Muslims or notional Muslims; and endorsed inflammatory materials with anti-U.S. views… [O]f the 51 mosques that contained severe materials, 100 percent were led by imams who recommended that worshipers study texts that promote violence.

[M]osques containing violence positive materials were substantially more likely to include materials promoting financial support of terror than mosques that did not contain such texts. A disturbing 98 percent of mosques with severe texts included materials promoting financial support of terror. Those with only moderate rated materials on site were not markedly different, with 97 percent providing such materials.

These results were comparable when using other indicators of jihad promotion. Thus, 98 percent of mosques that contained severe-rated literature included materials promoting establishing an Islamic caliphate in the United States as did 97 percent of mosques containing only moderate rated materials.

Further details on methodology are provided in an Appendix, which has been posted on-line here. The list of “Sharia Adherent Behaviors” includes: “gender segregation during prayer service”, “alignment of men’s prayer lines”, the imam’s beard style, whether the imam has a head covering or not or is wearing Western-style clothing, and whether the imam wears a watch on his right wrist. Also significant is the percentage of men wearing beards or hats, whether boys have head-coverings, and whether girls and women are wearing hijabs or niqabs – “Non-Shari’a-adherent behavior”, we are told, “is to wear the modern hijab (a scarf that does not completely cover the hair) or to not wear any hair”.

For reasons that are not immediately clear, we then segue into the issue of violence, as the list continues:

If the surveyor found the Fiqh as-Sunna or Tafsir Ibn Kathir, but not more extreme materials, then the mosque was categorized as containing moderate-rated material. If the surveyor found the Riyadh as-Salaheen, works by Qutb or Mawdudi, or similar materials, then the mosque was categorized as containing severe-rated materials.

If the surveyor found no violence-positive materials or if the violence-positive materials constituted less than 10% of all available materials, then the mosque was categorized as containing no materials.

…Following the prayer service, the surveyor asked the following question: “Do you recommend the study of: (a) only the Quran and/or Sunna; (b) Tafsir Ibn Kathir; (c) Fiqh as-Sunna; (e) Reliance of the Traveller; or (f) the works of Qutb, such as Milestones, and Maududi, such as The Meaning of the Qur’an?”

If the imam or lay leader recommended studying any of the materials mentioned above except the Qur’an and/or Sunna, then the imam or lay leader was recorded as having recommended the study of texts promoting the rated material.

The “10%” principle here is a welcome nod towards proportionality, but it’s undermined by what follows. The Reliance of the Traveller and the Tafsir Ibn Kathirare both pre-modern compendiums of Islamic law; of course they contain some troubling material, like many other pre-modern texts. But they also contain a lot else: we need to understand why the imams recommend these texts, not just note that they do and therefore chalk up one more extremist. It’s also unclear whether the imams are being asked about their general recommendation practices in relation to these texts or whether they are simply advising the questioner.

Further:

If materials available on mosque premises promoted joining a known terrorist organization, such as “mujahideen” engaged in jihad abroad, then the mosque was recorded as having promoted joining a terrorist organization.

That may seems reasonable so far as it goes, but again it begs a lot of questions. Some general sympathy for a mujahideen group involved in military conflict in somewhere in central Asia is a very different proposition from supporting al-Qaeda, so we need more than just a broad-brush “terrorism” label if we are to understand what is going on and why. And we need to know more about how the materials are made available, and in what ways they are promoted. Are leaflets given out to attendees, or is “promotion” simply an obscure poster pinned to an unmoderated noticeboard somewhere on the premises? There’s scope for various interpretations there.

If materials available on mosque premises indicated that speakers came to the mosque to raise money for specific terrorist organizations, then the mosque was recorded as having openly collected money at the mosque for a known terrorist organization.

…If any of the materials featured on mosque property promoted engaging in terrorist activity; promoted the financial support of terrorism or jihadists; promoted the use of force, terror, war, and violence to implement Shari‘a; promoted the idea that oppression and subversion of Islam should be changed by deed first, then by speech, then by faith; praised acts of terrorism against the West; or praised suicide bombers against Israelis, then the mosque was recorded as having promoted violent jihad.

This raises further questions: are we talking about organisations which are banned under US law, or organisations around which there are suspicions (reasonable or contrived) of links to terrorism?

We all know that some mosques in the USA and elsewhere promote radicalisation and extremism. We also know that others need to do more to ensure that radical elements do not gain a toe-hold. But this kind of inquisitorial and quantitative approach is of very limited value and is probably even misleading. If one wants to know whether a mosque “promotes jihad”, one needs to get a sense of the overall teaching and the general perspectives of those who attend. Simply totting up whether an undercover visitor can spot or elicit something troubling is an insufficient methodology. And what purpose is served by mixing all this in with a list “Sharia Adherent Behaviors”, other than to give Muslim cultural practices a sinister hue?

The Middle East Quarterly has a note on its peer-review process here. Previously, it rejected peer-review on the grounds that most specialists were not interested in “American interests” or were hostile to USA; however:

…In 2009, circumstances have begun to change. This journal finds itself part of a growing community of specialists not hostile to the United States and its allies. As other journals and organizations have joined our ranks, they increased the circle of those with professional and expert knowledge of the Middle East and created a larger pool of reviewers to engage in a constructive process of refereeing.

Salon: Jews and Muslims united for sharia?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon.com)

Jewish groups mobilize against anti-sharia bills that would also bar arbitration under Jewish religious law

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

We’re a bit late to this one, but Ron Kampeas of JTA has a fascinating recent piece on fears that anti-sharia initiatives brewing around the country could also threaten observance of traditional Jewish law, or halachah.

You don’t hear much about halachah, or rabbinical courts known as beit din, even though both have been a feature of observant American Jewish communities for years.

But some Jewish groups are now lobbying against anti-sharia bills that have been drafted — possibly as a way to preempt constitutional challenges — to bar any and all foreign or religious law in U.S. courts, not just sharia:

“The laws are not identical, but as a general rule they could be interpreted broadly to prevent two Jewish litigants from going to a beit din,” a Jewish religious court, said Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group. “That would be a terrible infringement on our religious freedom.”

A number of recent beit  din arbitrations that were taken by litigants to civil courts — on whether a batch of etrogim met kosher standards; on whether a teacher at a yeshiva was rightfully dismissed; and on the ownership of Torah scrolls — would have no standing under the proposed laws.

A spokesman for the Orthodox Union explained that a prohibition on religious law would be a problem in situations when Jewish law comes up in civil courts:

Such laws “are problematic particularly from the perspective of the Orthodox community — we have a beit din system, Jews have disputes resolved according to halachah,” Diament said. “We don’t have our own police force, and the mechanism for having those decisions enforced if they need to be enforced is the way any private arbitration is enforced” — through contract law in the secular court system.

Some prominent Jewish groups seem to be putting some real lobbying muscle into this issue in state legislatures, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Sharia, by the way, did not come up in last night’s GOP presidential debate.

Tom Coburn: Norquist is “chief cleric of sharia tax law.”

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2011 by loonwatch

What the hell does this even mean?

Tom Coburn: Norquist is “chief cleric of sharia tax law.”

by David Safier

Wow. I repeat. Wow.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is so pissed at No New Taxes guru Grover Norquist, Coburn called the guy the “chief cleric of sharia tax law.”

I thought they reserved that kind of language for Democrats.

Do I sense trouble in paradise? Are some conservatives, even those with impeccable credentials,feeling the constraints of the ideological straitjackets put on them by the farther-than-far Right?

Coburn wants to get rid of a $5 billion ethanol subsidy. Norquist says that’s only OK if there are $5 billion in tax cuts to keep it revenue neutral. Which prompted Coburn to call Norquist the “chief cleric of sharia tax law.”

Look at this list of some of the other “renegades” wanting to break free of the No New Taxes shackles.

These include stalwart conservatives such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. And on the ethanol issue, Coburn has drawn support from the Heritage Foundation.

Fight among yourselves,guys. Play “More conservative than thou.” Keep up the good work.

Legislators introducing anti-Sharia bills don’t know anything about Sharia

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on April 7, 2011 by loonwatch
Loon Lawyer David Yerushalmi is behind the surge of anti-Sharia bills

It might be a good idea for us LoonWatchers to begin to contact these state senators and representatives and provide them with information about the Loons who are behind these proposed anti-Sharia bills. Sure, they may not care, but at the very least I think it could lead some of these officials to reconsider sponsoring these bills once they find out that 1) there is no threat posed by Sharia to our legal system, and 2) that the people pushing these bills are wacked out crazies who foam at the mouth at the mentioning of Islam and Muslims (i.e. they’re bigots).

Salon.com – The sharia panic factory by Justin Elliot

One of the more striking things about the current anti-sharia craze is how often state legislators who introduce anti-sharia bills can’t answer basic questions about Islamic law or why they see it as a threat.

In Alabama, for example, when the state senator who sponsored an anti-sharia bill was asked by a reporter to simply define sharia, he responded: “I don’t have my file in front of me.” In Florida, anti-sharia bill sponsors couldn’t name a single case where Islamic or international law had been used in a troubling way in U.S. courts. When, on Wednesday, I interviewed a Nebraska state senator behind a similar bill, I asked him about what cases were causes of concern to him. He responded: “I’m not in my office to look them up.”

How could all these legislators be so uninformed about their own bills? A big part of the reason is that most of them did not actually write the legislation in question. Rather, many of the anti-sharia bills being considered around the country are either based on or directly copied from model legislation created by an obscure far-right Arizona attorney and activist named David Yerushalmi.

The Nebraska case is instructive. State Sen. Mark Christensen introduced a bill(.pdf) in January to bar the use of any foreign law in Nebraska courts. When I spoke to Christensen on Wednesday, he acknowledged he did not have a deep understanding of the issue, referring me back to his office when I asked him what cases involving sharia or foreign law were troubling to him.

He summed up his reason for sponsoring the bill: “This is America. We use America’s law.” (For more on what sharia actually is, see here and here.)

It turns out Christensen introduced the bill after his office was approached by the head of the local chapter of the anti-Muslim group ACT! for America, Christensen aide Dan Wiles told me. ACT! for America is a Florida-based group led by Brigitte Gabriel. In a profile last month, the New York Times detailed Gabriel’s strategy of selectively quoting the Quran to paint most or all Muslims as violent extremists.

“They came and talked to several different senators, and Sen. Christensen decided to introduce the bill,” Wiles said, adding that he was presented with model legislation. “It pretty much was exactly what was drafted and introduced,” he said. “Everything substantive was the same.”

The model legislation in question originates with Yerushalmi, the Arizona lawyer who is associated with several organizations including the American Public Policy Alliance. The model anti-foreign law bill on the Public Policy Alliance’s website has been used in states including Florida, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota. It is called “American Laws for American Courts.”

Who is Yerushalmi? His background leaves little doubt that these anti-”foreign law” bills are designed to target sharia.

He has written, for example, that “The Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.” A group he founded, the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), has reportedly advocated for a law making it a felony “punishable by 20 years in prison to knowingly act in furtherance of, or to support the, adherence to Islam.” The Anti-Defamation League has also called out Yerushalmi for his “anti-black bigotry.” (Mother Jones also has a good profile of Yerushalmi here.)

So next time the sponsor of an anti-sharia bill can’t answer basic questions about Islamic law, it’s a good sign Yerushalmi’s role deserves more scrutiny.

Richard Silverstein: David Yerushalmi Threatens Defamation Lawsuit

Posted in Loon People, Loon Rabbis with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2011 by loonwatch

Richard Silverstein takes David Yerushalmi to task. Yerushalmi threatened him with a lawsuit, it didn’t work out for old Yeru.

David Yerushalmi Threatens Defamation Lawsuit

by Richard Silverstein (TikkunOlam)

NOTE: I originally published this post in reply to a threat of a defamation lawsuit from David Yerushalmi.  I temporarily withdrew it in order to consult with counsel.  I post this now.

But before I do, since I wrote this, the Anti Defamation League, a group with whom I often disagree, has published a strong denunciation of Yerushalmi’s views under the headline “Extremism,” which is worth noting:

One of the driving forces behind Shari’a-related conspiracy theories and growing efforts to ban or restrict the use of Shari’a law in American courts is David Yerushalmi, an Arizona attorney with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.

…Yerushalmi has not only actively promoted his conspiratorial vision of Shari’a law, but has also sought to portray all Muslims as a threat. In one March 2006 article, for example, Yerushalmi even went so far as to claim that “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization…The Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.”

That same year, Yerushalmi founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), a “think tank” that has published anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and anti-black materials, as well as New World Order-style conspiracy theories.

…Yerushalmi’s main instrument, SANE, is also openly hostile to undocumented migrants in the United States. It advocates somehow sealing all American borders and building “special criminal camps” to house undocumented migrants…

…Yerushalmi [has] defend[ed] people accused of anti-Semitism such as Mel Gibson and Pat Buchanan because they “have the potential to save the West from itself and from Islam.”

The statement doesn’t at all deal with Yerushalmi’s Kahane-like pro-settler views about Israel, which is understandable since the ADL’s difference with him on this subject might be more nuanced.  But such as it is, the statement should gain broad visibility and further reinforce Yerushalmi’s reputation as a far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim bigot.

My original post follows:

A short time ago I published a post about David Yerushalmi’s leadership of various state campaigns to ban Sharia law.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years you’ll remember back to 2007 when I wrote several posts about Yerushalmi’s leadership role in the campaign against New York’s Khalil Gibran Academy and the accompanying demonization and forced removal of principal Debbie Almontaser (which was later found wrongful by an EEOC ruling).  I reviewed his then publicly-accessible website, Saneworks, for the overtly racist rhetoric it contained.  I called him then a “Jewish white supremacist.”

Mother Jones recently published its own profile of Yerushalmi’s efforts to ban Sharia law and called him simply a “white supremacist.”  Apparently, he didn’t like that.  Didn’t like it one bit.  As a result he sent Mother Jones a message saying that he was compiling a record of the magazine’s coverage of him as part of a legal brief.  Not exactly a threat of a lawsuit, but not far from one.

To me he was far more explicit.  He sent this to a lawyer representing me in my current libel suit which will be heard in Los Angeles in the coming days:

I am reluctantly forced to revisit the statements your client, Richard Silverstein, has made about me on his blog. When he first attacked me personally and stated that I was a fascist, racist, and Kahanist, I ignored them, even as others of his ilk provided these baseless statements “legs” allowing countless more “eyes” the opportunity to read what your client understood and represented to be carefully calculated factual statements about me.  These statements are demonstrably false and your client made them knowing they were false or acting recklessly in this regard.  This recklessness I believe was established in his deposition testimony in the Neuwirth case.

I ignored these publications because your client uses this kind of ad hominem invective on a regular basis and I was just one of many people he attacked personally without any real factual basis.

Unfortunately, your client has republished the original articles via links in a most recent piece stating that I am a white supremacist. I might still have ignored this except for the fact that it has now concretely and specifically injured me in my legal profession in Arizona. I have now lost an African American client who was prepared to retain my firm but for your clients defamatory publications, because he could not afford to be associated with someone accused of such beliefs even though he knows I do not hold these beliefs. Much of his business is in public relations and this charge by your client was for him too much to sustain.

My staff and family have prevailed upon me to sue your client for defamation. Again, I am reluctant given the First Amendment issues, but I believe there is a strong basis to assert that his wholly unfounded, false, and defamatory statements, which have now led to concrete damages that I can measure minimally in excess of $100,000 suggests to me that my staff and family have the better argument.

The suit will be brought in Arizona.  An interesting and related case is Yetman v. English, 168 Ariz. 71, 811 P.2d 323 (1991).

I certainly understand your client will raise the standard First Amendment defenses: opinion, hyperbole, no actual malice.  If we get past these, your client will have the opportunity to test “truth” as a defense. It is to that end and to that purpose I am now drafting my complaint.

Your client may avoid the suit by deleting all articles published on his blog or other forum that refer to me in the defamatory ways described.

I am providing this to you confidentially.  If you client chooses to make this public, and he certainly may, this settlement offer is rescinded.

Thank you.

David Yerushalmi

Law Offices of David Yerushalmi, P.C.:

Washington, D.C., New York, California & Arizona

I’ve debated how to address this threat and of course I’ve engaged pro bono legal case in the event he follows through on it.  But I will not be cowed by a bully.  I stand by the posts I’ve written by him.  I will not remove them.  I will gladly meet him in court or anywhere in defense of both my right to speak and publish, and the truth of the statements I’ve written about him.

David Yerushalmi is a fraud.  His claims about Islam are false, as anyone with any real knowledge of the religion will tell you.  His game is political opportunism to advance a strident right-wing anti-Muslim agenda.  An earlier iteration of his anti-jihad campaign involved a colleague, Dave Gaubatz, who did a “James O’Keefe” and infiltrated Virginia mosques posing as a new member.  They published their supposedly shocking accounts of radical jihadist activity which turned out to be “sky is falling” nonsense.  Gaubatz, for those of you who may not remember, was recently successfully sued for arranging for his son to pose as a CAIR intern, whereupon he stole internal organization documents for the purposes of discrediting CAIR.  The court ordered Gaubatz to return the documents.

Even Yerushalmi’s name is fake.  His family birth name is Beychok, born of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to America.  To be clear, I’m not saying that Yerushalmi’s legal name isn’t that.  I’m talking about the underlying motivations regarding Jewish nationalist identity that are involved in such a name change.  Yerushalmi means “from Jerusalem.”  Yerushalmi is as much a resident of Jerusalem as I am.  He doesn’t live in Jerusalem nor do I.  Let me make clear that I have no problem with Jewisholim changing their name once they move to Israel, taking Hebrew names such as Yerushalmi.  But to do so when you live in America is pure preciousness.  He wants to tell you that he supports the settler concept of the eternal inviolability of Jerusalem as a Jewish city and capital.  He wants to tell you he believes in the whole nine yards of ultra-Orthodox extremism regarding God’s sacred gift of all of the Land of Israel to the entire Jewish people in perpetuity.

Yerushalmi denies he is a white Jewish supermacist, yet writes in his website and other online venues nonsense like this:

…Our constitutional republic was specifically designed to insulate our national leaders from the masses,democracy has seeped up through the cracks and corroded everything we once deemed sacred about our political order. Prior to the Civil War, the electorate, essentially white Christian men, had access to local government. It was here, where men shared an intimacy born of family ties, shared religious beliefs, and common cultural signposts, that representative government was meant to touch our daily lives. With the social and cultural revolution which followed the emancipation, man’s relationship to political order was radically nationalized and democratized.

And believe me, Yerushalmi doesn’t use the term “democratized” in a flattering way.  Here he clarifies that he isn’t opposed to the paternalistic democracy of the Founding Fathers in which selection of senators and even the president was not given directly to the people (or as he calls them, “the masses”):

The founding fathers themselves of course opposed “democracy” in its simple formand created a wonderfully elaborate system to shield government from mass democracy

Here he expounds on the perniciousness of:

Raw or radical democracy where all men and all ideas and all cultures are deemed equal and given equal voice. That is of course the agenda of the Left…

Yerushalmi of course opposes Israeli democracy as well, or at least the current version which accords rights to Israeli Palestinian citizens.  Larry Cohler Esses, in a series he wrote for Jewish Week on the Stop the Madrassa campaign led by Yerushalmi, noted that the latter called for Israel to “cast off the yoke of liberal democracy.”

It should be noted that Meir Kahane maintained precisely the same dismissive attitude toward Israeli democracy, saying that if given a choice between the latter and a Jewish state he would choose the latter.  In fact, Kahane was perfectly comfortable with a Jewish state that was not democratic.  It should come as no surprise that during a session in which he deposed me for the libel lawsuit I mentioned above, he revealingly referred to Kahane with the honorific, “the Rov” (or “Rabbi”), a traditional Jewish way by which yeshiva students refer to an honored teacher.

Cohler Esses also notes that Yerushalmi believes that left-wing Jews:

…Destroy their host nations like a fatal parasite…One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one. Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people.

Most Israelis are raging Leftists, and this includes the so-called nationalists who found a home in the ‘right-wing’ Likud political bloc or one of the other smaller and more marginal right wing parties.

What’s extraordinary here is that even the far-right secular nationalists of Likud come under withering condemnation.  The only true Jews and true Zionists can be the ultra-Orthodox like himself.

In a recent NPR interview, he either dissembles regarding his true views or he has radically reversed himself since he published earlier statements I’ve quoted previously in this blog.  Here are some of his earlier legislative proposals regarding Islam in American life:

…Islam requires all Muslims to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic with a political system based upon Shari’a.

…Adherence to Islam as a Muslim is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the US Government through the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the US Constitution and the imposition of Shari’a on the American People.

HEREFORE, IT IS RESOLVED THAT: It shall be a felony punishable by 20 years in prison to knowingly act in furtherance of, or to support the, adherence to Shari’a.

The Congress of the United States of America shall declare the US at war with the Muslim Nation.

He has clearly soft-pedaled such extremist views in order to win acceptance for them in the context of this current anti-Muslim national legislative campaign.  But compare the following claim about his legislation (from the NPR interview) with the above views and judge for yourself whether this leopard has changed its spots:

The law does not even criminalize the absolute practice of Shariah. In fact, you could go to Times Square and you could print out: I advocate Shariah, I even advocate, in theory, jihad against America and my statute does not touch you. The statute says the attorney general simply designates someone who practices a Shariah with terrorism component.

Given what I quoted above, you tell me whether or not the following statement from the interview is a lie:

Q:…Is your view of the measure [the anti-Sharia law bill] motivated in part by a view that Islam is inherently violent and that its adherents are inherently predisposed to violence because of their commitment to religious Islam?

Mr. YERUSHALMI: No.

And in this statement, he doesn’t exactly lie, but he deliberately deceives the listener into believing in his pro-Muslim altruism, which is in truth anything but:

I have represented pro bono Muslim-Americans.

He is indeed representing, as far as I know, three Muslim-Americans who were allegedly legal clients of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  They are suing CAIR.  David Yerushalmi is on a political jihad against CAIR, which he views inaccurately as a pro-jihadi Muslim extremist organizations.  So yes, he’s representing a grand total of three Muslim-Americans in a single case, but only because he believes it will advance his own anti-Muslim political agenda.

Let’s examine this statement too in light of what I quoted above:

I have stated on the record, the pietistic worship of the divine through Islamic worship, Jewish worship, Christian worship, atheistic worship or humanistic, is protected and absolutely sacrosanct in our system.

How can you claim the above, when you’ve also called for the U.S. Congress to declare war “on the Muslim nation?”  There may be a poorly drawn distinction he is trying to make here between Islam as a religion and what he considers radical Islam which professes, again according to him, Islam as a political system.  But you’d have to forgive most lay people for missing that distinction and believing he’s at war with all Islam.

In the interview he also makes the statement:

I…certainly can’t be a white supremacist, only because I’m an orthodox Jew…

That’s why I called him a “Jewish white supremacist” since that conveys that he isn’t the same as Richard Butler or the Aryan Nation.  Nevertheless, his views, especially those regarding Islam, are not that dissimilar.  Yes, he’s dressed up his ideology (or should I say, theology) with a certain level of intellectual rigor lacking in most white supremacists.  But the fact that he is a racist cannot be denied without doing violence to the truth.

Of course a Jew can be a white supremacist if he denounces “liberal democracy,” disdains minorities, and believes in waging “war against Islam,” as he has said.

Let me also make absolutely clear, my quarrel with David Yerushalmi is purely political.  It is a quarrel among Jews about the meaning of Jewish identity and the role of Israel in Jewish life.  It is a battle over ideas.  If he wants to have such a battle in a courtroom or any other venue, I’m prepared.  Of course, Yerushalmi prefers to hold the battle in the courtroom because he doesn’t trust the rude democracy of the blogs and internet.  He knows his ideas will lose in a free and fair debate as our founding fathers envisioned.  So he resorts to legal threats.  It’s really a reverse form of the term beloved by far-right pro-Israel advocates like Alan Dershowitz, lawfare.  That is, it’s a form of political harrassment through abuse of the legal system to bring purely political arguments which should be resolved in the traditional American way such things are resolved; and instead attempting to bankrupt or otherwise intimidate the victim into silence.

Some people also call these legal actions SLAPP (Strategic Limitation Against Public Participation) suits which are often used by companies and other well-heeled individuals to limit discussion of issues sensitive to them.

The anti-jihadi lawyer’s claim of damage or losing business is a twisted version of what he attempts to do to his enemies.  He knows how difficult it is for an individual blogger to retain pro bono legal counsel and take the years that such cases can involve.  So he holds this over one’s head as a cudgel to stifle free speech and debate.  Well, not this blogger.  Not now.  Not ever.

Finally, I have no personal malice whatsoever against Yerushalmi.  I don’t know him personally.  I don’t want to know him personally.

NOTE: Yerushalmi has withdrawn his lawsuit threat in a note he sent to my counsel.

Upset Over Nothing: Salon.com debunks latest Sharia scare

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2011 by loonwatch
Anti-Sharia propaganda is a load of BS

Justin Elliot of Salon.com has been on point in his reporting over the last few months of the hysterics of the Islamophobes. He deserves massive credit for going to experts (i.e. people with actual credentials to discuss a certain topic) on Islam and Islamic law to find out the truth of these matters. Here, Elliot discusses a recent case in Florida where Islamic law was used in the ruling of a civil dispute between two groups of Muslims with Cyra Choudhury of Florida International University College of Law. The verdict: these types of cases happen all the time in American courts.

In addition, Muslim Americans are not the only ones who use their religious law to draw up contracts between themselves. In fact, Americans Christians and Jews have done this throughout American legal history without so much as a peep that their religious law was going to overcome the U.S. Constitution.

For all of the jingoism and pretentious patriotism that these loons display, they do not know much about how their own legal system operates. The freedom of contract allows Americans to resolve their disputes through any law they want to contract upon. If two Americans want to make a contract based upon Sharia or French law, then they have the right to do it and courts will hold them to that contract based upon the law they freely contracted upon.

However, criminal law is already established by each state – so there will never be the stoning to death of an adulterer or the amputation of a theif’s hand for theft. Why? Because criminal penalties cannot be arbitrated between individuals – they are matters of the state.

But don’t expect the Islamophobes to know any of this. They’re too caught up in either being afraid of a threat that does not exist or are intentionally ignoring these facts for the sake of drumming up hostility against Muslims.

Salon.com – Debunking the latest Sharia scare by Justin Elliot

The movement to ban the use of sharia in the United States continues to grow, even as its proponents struggle to find examples of Islamic law posing a threat to the American way of life.

Anti-sharia activists have now resorted to focusing on an obscure Florida civil lawsuit called Mansour vs. Islamic Education Center of Tampa. The case, which has been elevated to cause celebre status in the right-wing blogosphere involves a mundane financial disagreement between two factions of the Islamic organization.

But in a ruling in the case last month, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen wrote a sentence that has been seized on by anti-sharia activists: “This case will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law.”

On the surface that may sound odd. And, indeed, the typical right-wing reaction has gone something like this: “A Florida judge ruled that a Muslim v. Muslim case can proceed under sharia law. I’m being unbelievably serious here! This kind of crap is why I drink, which would get me beheaded under sharia law. ” Ironically, Nielsen is a registered Republican and Jeb Bushappointee.

And as it turns out, the case is entirely routine, according to Cyra Akila Choudhury, a professor at the College of Law at Florida International University who has been following the case closely. Nevertheless, the uproar over the case is “already bolstering the political prospects of an [anti-sharia] bill being considered by the Florida legislature,” Politico reported.

I spoke with Choudhury to find out more about the case and why it’s not at all cause for alarm. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the dispute that led to this ruling?

The dispute is between two factions of an Islamic organization, the Islamic Education Center of Tampa, and centers on control of money that was given to them by the government through an eminent domain taking. It was about $2.2 million in this taking, so the controversy arose over who was going to control the proceeds from the settlement. As the lawsuit was moving along, the parties agreed to arbitrate, and the arbitrator would be a Muslim law scholar, an a’lim. That is somebody who is well-versed in Islamic law and would settle the dispute in terms of Islamic law principles.

Who are the two parties?

They’re different factions of this organization. In January, the side that emerged victorious from the arbitration filed a motion asking the court to essentially enforce the decision of the arbitrator. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, in which parties decide not to go into court and not litigate. The rules that apply are chosen by both parties in the agreement. We do lots of arbitration in this country. We apply all kinds of laws, we have many religious mechanisms; for instance, the Jewish community has the beth din. That is basically an alternative court that applies Jewish law and performs litigation with regards to all kinds of civil disputes. It’s very common, and it has existed for many years.

In this Florida case, the judge’s ruling is getting all the attention. When he uses the line “this case will proceed under ecclesiastical Islamic law,” what is that actually about?

What the ruling put very simply was, “You agreed to these rules, and the court is bound to apply them.” It isn’t about who wins. The arbitrator has already decided who wins. The judge’s role in the conflict is to enforce or to set aside the arbitration result. It is very difficult to set aside an arbitration result. You have to show that there was some sort of impropriety in the procedure.

Did the judge decide that the arbitrated agreement should or shouldn’t be enforced?

It’s still out. He still has to hear evidence about the process. The decision says “the court will require further testimony to determine whether the Islamic resolution procedures have been followed in this matter.” So it’s clear from this that one side is resisting enforcement based on some challenge of improper procedure. The judge has to hear evidence on that. This is very similar to many other arbitration scenarios. You can pick for your arbitration any set of laws that both parties agree to — within reason. It’s really a contractual matter. You’re entering into a contract with the other side to arbitrate your disagreement, and you agree upon the rules, and the arbitrator applies those rules. So for instance sharia law in this case simply applies the ecclesiastical religious law of the two parties. This is a conflict around a religious institution. It’s not a dispute between say, a Muslim property owner and his Christian or Jewish neighbor — but even there, if they agreed to use sharia law, that would be enforced.

What do you make of the intense reaction to this decision around the country?

It has been peculiar. What the judge did was extremely noncontroversial, particularly when it comes to religious organizations. It happens all the time. It happens with regards to the Jewish mediation and arbitration, it happens with arbitration that has used foreign law. What’s disheartening about this is the level of misinformation and the level of ignorance about our own legal system that has been propagated by people who either have an agenda or simply do not understand what we do in the civil system. This really is fundamentally about our right to contract. If we unsettle arbitration rules on the grounds that we don’t like a law that somebody is agreeing to arbitrate under, we’re going to have a lot of problems when it comes to all kinds of other contractual arbitration clauses that call for foreign law. In a place like Florida, for example, with Latin America on its doorstep, there’s so much business done with Latin American countries.

There’s currently an anti-sharia bill in the Florida legislature. If a law like that passed, how would it effect a situation like this?

The way that the Florida measure is written, it would only prevent the application of foreign law if that foreign law did not guarantee the constitutional rights of the litigators. So essentially it creates a floor. It creates our state constitutional rights as a floor and says you cannot apply foreign law in any arbitration proceeding if that foreign law will work to deny the rights provided by the constitution of the state. Which is an incredible waste of time. Our laws are already the laws of the land.

If you ask the lawmakers, “Has there ever been a situation in which sharia has been applied in a way that is antithetical to our public policy?” The answer is always no. It’s a fundamental misapprehension of our legal system to believe this can actually happen. People are writing on the blogosphere “Judge Nielsen is pro-sharia law, what’s next? Stoning of women?! Chopping off heads?!” We have a criminal system of law in the United States. The state prosecutes criminals under state criminal law. It’s never going to apply Jordanian law in the United States. That would never happen. You have to be completely ignorant to make these claims, unless you’re making them opportunistically in order to fan the flames of bigotry.

TPM: Tension amongst anti-Sharia’ Islamophobes and More Shocking Video

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon People, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by loonwatch

Ryan J. Riley of TPMuckracker reported on two anti-Sharia’ protests being led by Islamophobes Terry Jones and Frank Gaffney in Washington D.C. The protests were supposed to be in response to a “pro-Sharia’” rally by goonish buffoon and well known media whore Anjem Choudary. Choudary canceled his rally, but the anti-Sharia advocated went ahead with their rally. Of course it turned into a bit of a joke with the usual anti-Islam and anti-Muslim message.

Gaffney, Jones Fight For Soul Of Anti-Sharia Movement At Rally By White House (VIDEO)

Rev. Terry Jones, the man who rose to national prominence last fall when he announced (but later backed off of) a plan to burn copies of the Koran, was clad in a beat-up black leather jacket when he showed up to a park across the street from the White House a few minutes before noon on Thursday.

His black sunglasses resting a few inches above his signature handlebar mustache, Jones hopped up on a bench in Lafayette Park and announced that his organization Stand Up America was holding a rally.

An aide to Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the American Center for Security Policy, didn’t take kindly to that and quickly told the National Park Service that Jones wasn’t a part of their group and didn’t have a permit for his rally. So Jones and his crowd, many of them decked out in biker gang gear, set up shop in the midst of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The common enemy of both groups was radical Muslim Anjem Choudary, a London-based preacher who has been dubbed a “media whore” and has already made the rounds on Fox News promoting his “Sharia4America” rally, which was postponed just a few hours before it was supposed to begin on Thursday.

Jones claimed credit for Choudary’s decision not to show up. But the Gaffney team apparently wasn’t eager to have their event usurped by the mustachioed pastor from Florida.

“I don’t know who they are. We were just going to stand there on the bench, seemed like a good place to speak, but I guess they had reserved that,” Jones told TPM. “Then I heard somebody jump up and say ‘they’re not associated with us!’ So I honestly don’t know who they are.”

Gaffney told TPM after his press conference that he “didn’t see any squabble” when Jones showed up to the park, but said Jones “is not associated with us” and “didn’t have a permit.”

“I have no association with him at all,” Gaffney said, adding that he “was not inclined to share” his view on Jones.

So despite their common enemy, there is a ideological and tactical divide between the Gaffney and Jones camps.

“It’s a difference of approach, and some of it is territorial,” said one member of team Gaffney who requested anonymity. “One is more comprehensive and professional — he’s got his whole group behind him — whereas Terry just has his biker crew. One is more intellectual, the other is more agitated. One is based on patriotism and constitutional law, the other is based on theology.”

The formal events had both ended but attendees were still hanging around by the time a Muslim man holding a Starbucks cup and wearing a bluish winter coat with writing on the back began chanting Arabic prayers in front of the White House. That’s when attendees of both rallies merged around the man soon breaking into chants of “U.S.A.” and “Jesus” and renditions of “Amazing Grace.” Those throwing tiny crosses at the man’s feet appeared to be from the Jones camp.

“Is he yelling U.S.A.?” asks one man in the crowd. “It doesn’t matter — he’s anti-women, he’s anti-freedom,” one woman said. “Take it back to your own country!” said another man. “No Sharia law!” shouted another.

As the man kept worshipping and the crowd thinned out, Jones ran into Randall Terry, the militant anti-abortion activist who has been churning out the type of media coverage Jones’ Koran burning stunt got for years.

“You should’a burned the Korans by the way, you blinked. You should’a burned them,” Terry said.

Thanks to a “International Judge the Koran” event Jones and his group have in the works for March 20, he may get a shot to do just that — provided that’s how the people vote on his website. If the people decide the Koran deserves to be burned, that’s just what they’ll do.

“We’ll definitely do it, yes,” Jones said.

I don’t know where this Muslim man came from, from the report below it seems he was not there for the Choudary rally but actually shows up every couple of days to pray near the White House. Why? I have no idea. He also has something written on his back which I can’t quite make out, but the video below shows him being subjected to something along the lines of what happened at Yorba Linda. He is peaceful and non-confrontational and the crowd levels heavy amounts of invective his way. Maybe he was trying to send a message of defiance, that “I don’t care what you think, and that this is a free country”?

Here is the report from Riley on the Muslim man who was praying:

Anti-Muslim Protestor Throws Crosses At Feet Of Man Praying By White House (VIDEO)

A group of anti-Sharia protestors who planned to counter-protest the planned pro-Sharia rally by the radical provocateur Anjem Choudary in front of the White House on Thursday found themselves without an opponent to debate.

The counter rally planned by Frank Gaffney in response to Choudary’s pro-Sharia demonstration was left without a raison d’etre after Choudary failed to show up as he’d previously announced (and promoted on Fox News). That left Gaffney and his group preaching to the choir so to speak as they denounced Sharia law to their followers as well as media and curious onlookers.

But just as the rally was dying out, a Muslim man who showed up to pray in front of the White House. He was quickly surrounded by a large group of protestors who shouted an array of insults at him: mocking him for drinking Starbucks coffee, telling him to go back to his country and even throwing tiny crosses at his feet as he prayed. I captured the scene in the video below.

He’s still worshipping as I write this, but the anti-Sharia crowd is beginning to thin out. A police officer on the scene told me the man showed up to pray at the White House every couple days.

I’ll have more on the counter protest this afternoon.

 

Why American Indians Are Watching The Fate Of The Oklahoma Sharia Ban

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Why American Indians Are Watching The Fate Of The Oklahoma Sharia Ban

(TPMuckracker)

by Rachel Slajda

So far, the outrage over the so-called Sharia ban Oklahoma voters approved this month has focused on the freedom of religion of the state’s Muslim residents, culminating in a lawsuit by a CAIR official that has successfully stalled the law from going into effect.

But there’s another minority the ban could affect: American Indians.

The proposed constitutional amendment, approved by voters in a 70-30 margin, would prohibit state courts from considering not only Sharia law, but international law — defined as the law of other “countries, states and tribes.”

Oklahoma has a relatively large population of American Indians, who make up about eight percent of the state population, compared to one percent of the country as a whole. Part of the reason so many Indians live in the state is forced relocation programs like the Trail of Tears, which moved tribes from land in the Deep South to what the federal government had designated Indian territory in Oklahoma.

It’s possible the amendment could affect how disputes between Indians and non-Indians are settled in state courts, as well as the many historic treaties between tribes and the U.S.

Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that personal injury lawsuits, filed by non-Indian casino patrons, could be tried in state court. It’s still messy, though: Several tribes have entered arbitration with the state over the rulings, and some of their motions are still pending.

And then there are the treaties between the state’s tribes and the federal government. The ban specifically defines international treaties as a “source of international law.” So how would the Indian treaties be treated?

No one really knows, yet. Tribes and tribal lawyers are waiting to see what happens, mostly voicing private concerns but no official positions.

“It wouldn’t seem like it would be legal,” Chris White, director of governmental affairs for the Osage Nation, told Indian Country Today. “I’m not an attorney, but that’s the reason why the people I’ve talked to about it are concerned. They’re concerned about the treaties.”

Barbara Warner, the executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, told the Norman Transcript she’s heard concerns that the law could be “detrimental” to the tribes.

An Oklahoma University law professor, Taiawagi Helton, who specializes in tribal law, told the Transcriptthe language is too “ambiguous” and allows ways for the “opportunistic” to avoid tribal law that would hurt their case. But he added that he believes the law will be struck down.

“The likely effect is it won’t have much effect at all,” he said.

The amendment is barred from going into effect until Nov. 29, when a federal judge will rule on CAIR’s legal challenge.

 

Arguments to take place in Oklahoma over ban on Islamic law in courts

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by loonwatch

(CNN) — A federal judge will hear arguments Monday on a temporary restraining order against an Oklahoma referendum that would ban the use of Islamic religious law in state courts.

Oklahoma voters approved the amendment during the November elections by a 7-3 ratio. But the Council on American-Islamic Relations challenged the measure as a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a temporary restraining order November 8 that will keep state election officials from certifying that vote.

“What this amendment is going to do is officially disfavor and condemn the Muslim community as being a threat to Oklahoma,” Muneer Awad, executive director of CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter and the lead plaintiff in the suit, said earlier this month. In addition, he said, the amendment would invalidate private documents, such as wills, that are written in compliance with Muslim law.

The amendment would require Oklahoma courts to “rely on federal and state law when deciding cases” and “forbids courts from considering or using” either international law or Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, which the amendment defined as being based on the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.

In bringing suit, CAIR argued that the amendment violates both the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Awad has said the amendment passed “under a campaign of fearmongering” about Islam.

The entire U.S. Muslim population is about 2.4 million — less than 1 percent of the country, according to a 2009 survey by the nonprofit Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

But supporters said a New Jersey case, in which a judge refused to grant a restraining order against a Muslim man whose wife accused him of raping her repeatedly, made it necessary for Oklahoma to take action to keep Islamic law from being imposed there.

The New Jersey decision, in which the family court judge found the husband was abiding by his Muslim beliefs regarding spousal duties, was overruled by an appellate court.

But in automated phone messages in support of the amendment, former CIA Director and Oklahoma native James Woolsey warned that there was a “major campaign in Europe to impose Sharia law” and that Islamic law “is beginning to be cited in a few U.S courts.”