They don’t mean that as a positive thing, but if they had any sense, they would. This is a few days old, but since it contains numerous Leftist assumptions about the jihad threat and the proper response to it, it is well worth examining closely: “We Are All Pamela Geller,” by Jay Michaelson, Jewish Daily Forward, September 29, 2014:
Well, now we know what it takes to stop Pamela Geller’s crusade against terrorism: an actual victim of it.
Condemned by such noted liberals as the ADL, Dinesh D’Souza, and the Daily News, banned by the Great Neck Synagogue (but embraced by Chabad), Geller is the anti-Muslim wacko who takes ads on buses and subways to remind us all that followers of Islam are “savages” and that there’s no such thing as a moderate Muslim. (Someone better inform Dr. Oz.)
The Left’s taste for ad hominem attacks and false statements of the positions of those they hate is on abundant display here. The ADL, Dinesh D’Souza, the New York Daily News and the Great Neck Synagogue all oppose Pamela Geller, so she must be wrong, right? But why is that? Who made them infallible? The ADL has libeled the preeminent lawyer and orthodox Jew David Yerushalmi as an “extremist,” an “anti-Muslim bigot” and a “white supremacist.” The ADL has even condemned Israel for fighting anti-Semitism. According to Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the ADL “remains essentially silent” about Islamic anti-Semitism, for fear of alienating Leftist donors. As for D’Souza, I could find no record of his condemning Pamela Geller. He has attacked me, to be sure, but I am not Pamela Geller, and in any case, since he demonstrated in our debates that he doesn’t know the first foggiest thing about Islam or jihad, his opposition does not trouble me. The Daily News? The mainstream media is in lockstep on the Left. The Great Neck Synagogue was intimidated by a smear campaign — and Michaelson’s mentioning it shows how those campaigns work: Left-fascists smear and defame a pro-freedom speaker to get him or her canceled. Once they get the cancellation from a harried host who doesn’t want controversy, they use it as if the group canceling the event made a judicious decision based on an evaluation of the egregious statements of the person being canceled — which is almost never actually the case. These groups just don’t want the heat, and so the Leftists bring the heat and know that they will thereby get what they want.
Anyway, as we said hundreds of times when the ad was new: the ad said, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” That doesn’t refer to all Muslims unless one assumes that all Muslims support the savage jihad against Israel that has Israeli children massacred in their beds and those massacres celebrated by people passing out candy in Gaza. Moreover, to trot out this chestnut after the savagery of the Islamic State has been on abundant display reveals Jay Michaelson to be, to say the least, tone-deaf. And “there’s no such thing as a moderate Muslim”? The Leftists and Islamic supremacists always seem to feel as if they have to lie to make their case. Pamela Geller has never actually said that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim.
Until yesterday, Geller was planning another assault on the citizens of New York, in the form of hateful bus and subway ads. But at the 11th hour, reason intervened, in the form of the family of James Foley, one of the Islamic State’s victims, who asked that Geller pull the ads.
The Foley family succeeded where an array of activists and municipalities have failed. Say what you will about Geller’s politics, her legal counsel is excellent. Her organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative — and its project, Stop the Islamicization [sic] of America — has won court victories that make it very difficult for the MTA, or its sister agencies in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to stop her. “Our hands are tied,” an MTA representative told the Daily News.
This is, after all, political speech, carefully lawyered to evade prosecution. And let’s remember that Geller has only committed to withdrawing those picturing Foley, which still leaves plenty of hate to be written on the subway walls.
Prior to the Foleys’ success, tactics have varied widely — with similarly varying results.
Michaelson is quite wrong when he refers to Geller’s legal counsel in conjunction with the Foley ad. The Foleys did not have a legal case, and did not make one. They didn’t own the picture and had no legal standing to demand that it not be used. They said it caused them distress and asked that it not be used, and Pamela Geller, as a mother who could feel the pain of their loss, agreed. That was all. It is particularly disingenuous of Michaelson to suggest that this was really all about being lawyered up, but of course he is making it his business to make Pamela Geller look as bad as possible — his caricature has no room for her to feel or exercise any human compassion. And so in this he reveals his hateful little screed for exactly what it is: the vices and evils of which he accuses her — hatefulness, small-mindedness, lack of charity — are those he himself actually suffers from most acutely.
The best the MTA has been able to win is a disclaimer that SOIA’s views are not those of the MTA. Mayor Bill DiBlasio has proposed contemplation: Those “forced to view [the ads] can take comfort in the knowledge that we share a better, loftier and nobler view of humanity.” Alright.
San Francisco’s Muni system did better, posting their own ads a few feet from Geller’s setting forth Muni’s anti-discrimination policy and explicitly condemning Geller’s statements. Better.
So what Michaelson wants is this: municipalities should be able to suppress political speech that goes against the line of the elites. If they cannot suppress it, then the elites should make sure people know that this speech deviates from the acceptable line of thought. What Michaelson wants, in other words, is the suppression of free speech and open debate, in favor of a single acceptable political line enforced by force from above.
Moderate Muslim organizations have started their own counter-protests: the #MyJihad campaign (which Geller has co-opted) and humor-based campaigns such as “Fighting Bigotry With Hilarious Posters,” which warns us that “the Muslims are coming — to your radiology department.” Nice.
How did she “co-opt” the #MyJihad campaign? By running actual statements of actual jihadists. Not acceptable! Only fantasy jihad is politically acceptable, not actual jihad!
And enterprising activists have made an art form out of directly “modifying” Geller’s posters, sometimes just with black spray paint but other times with pictures of Geller herself and witty speech-bubbles like “I’m obsessed and must struggle to stop.” I won’t name acronyms, but some left-leaning Jewish organizations have gotten in on the act too.
Now the cat is fully out of the bag. By applauding this vandalism, Michaelson reveals that he is the son and heir of the Nazi brownshirts who shouted down and physically intimidated anti-Nazi speakers in the early days of the Third Reich, for he, like them, wants the speech of those whom he hates forcibly suppressed.
Here, however, I’d like to take a different tack.
Not really different at all. Read on.
Geller’s ads may have been pulled, but her presence is still felt keenly in our community, and I think it’s too easy to focus on Geller as a racist clown, thus giving all the rest of us a free pass. Geller is like a pro-Israel Barry Goldwater: in our hearts, many in our community believe her to be right.
What race is jihad mass murder of innocent civilians again? I keep forgetting.
So, rather than Di-Blasian self-satisfaction, I’d like to invite the exact opposite: self-questioning. It’s highly appropriate for this season of repentance, and it is a lot more productive. We should be asking ourselves: What views do I hold that enable, or resemble, such extremism? If I’m on the Left, do I call out my friends when their anti-Zionism slides into anti-Semitism? And if I’m on the Right, do I hold myself and my friends accountable for views which border on bigotry?
Okay, I’ll start: what views does Jay Michaelson hold that “enable, or resemble, such extremism?” Well, I doubt he holds any views that coincide with Pamela Geller’s passionate defense of freedom and individual rights, but I’d classify as truly “extremist” his view that political speech that is not accepted by the ruling class should be forcibly suppressed. He might enjoy his totalitarian state, but I’d be scaling the Wall at the earliest opportunity.
Let me give some examples, direct from Geller herself.
One of Geller’s new ads states that “Hamas is ISIS, Hamas is Al-Qaeda, Hamas is Boko Haram, Hamas is CAIR in America.” Factually, this is quite false. In fact, while Hamas has nominally supported ISIS in Syria — thus damaging ties with its historic sponsor, Iran — the Islamic State is a Salafist jihadist/fundamentalist movement that regards Hamas as impure and the Israel/Palestinian conflict as largely irrelevant. In fact, Hamas’s best friend today is Qatar, which is in the coalition opposing the Islamic State. Unsurprisingly, Geller is just ignorant here.
This is false in every particular. In reality, the Islamic State doesn’t oppose Hamas, and while it has said that it wants to consolidate power in Iraq and Syria before attacking Israel, it has not called Hamas impure or the jihad against Israel irrelevant; on the contrary, it has sought ties with Gaza jihadis. Unsurprisingly, Michaelson is just ignorant here.
But to vilify CAIR in this way is defamatory, like saying that AIPAC is Baruch Goldstein. Do some CAIR members support Hamas? Probably. Did some AIPAC members support Goldstein? Probably. Does that make them identical? No.
Michaelson is apparently also ignorant of the fact that the Justice Department named CAIR an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case. Its cofounder and executive director, Nihad Awad, openly declared in 1994: “I am in support of the Hamas movement.” Awad and Omar Ahmad came out of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) to start CAIR. The IAP was later shut down as a Hamas front. This is much more than just “some CAIR members” supporting Hamas.
Now I want to turn the question inward. Have I learned enough about the differences among Muslim groups, or do I reduce them all to the “Them” in an Us/Them dichotomy? Do I recognize that all religious and national groups have their moderates and extremists? That Paul Ryan isn’t Bill O’Reilly isn’t Pamela Geller — even if they’ve all intersected at times?
And do I appreciate the consequences for American civil society if I were really to believe, as another Geller ad insists, that “yesterday’s moderate is today’s headline”? Is everyone who has an expansive view of the Second Amendment the same as mass shooters in Colorado and Connecticut? Is every conservative in the KKK? Do we see what this kind of thinking would mean?
The ad is making a valid point: all too many jihadis were taken as moderates in their communities and by authorities before they embarked upon jihad. There is nothing being done in Muslim communities to teach against the ideology of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State that Muslim groups in the West ostensibly reject. There needs to be a public discussion of this and of what can and should be done about it, but it is buried by people like Michaelson under charges of “bigotry.”
Let’s take a second example. “Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran,” an AFDI poster blares. And indeed, the Quran has many violent passages, including some about Jews — most notoriously 5:60, which says that “some” Jews have been transformed into “monkeys and pigs.” It is definitely triumphalist in nature. (See, e.g. 4:101, 66:9, 28:66.)
But have you read the Quran, cover to cover?
Yes, many times.
Including verses like 2:256 (“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error”), or the many similar exhortations in 6:107, 11:28, 42:8, 65:26, and elsewhere? Or, for that matter, 2:47, which exhorts “Children of Israel! Call to mind the favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all other nations”?
Michaelson doesn’t explain why Islamic antisemitism is global in extent despite all this supposedly positive material in the Qur’an about Jews. He probably thinks it’s because of Israel’s supposed atrocities. In reality, the Qur’an only speaks positively about Jews who accept Muhammad as a prophet and become Muslims, and speaks quite negatively about those who don’t. The Qur’an makes this clear when it says that “those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings” (98:6). Who are “those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture”? They are the Christians and Jews who do not become Muslims. The Tafsir al-Jalalayn explains: “Before his [that is, Muhammad’s] arrival they had all agreed to believe in him when he would come; then those who disbelieved in him from among them became envious of him.” The passages about Jews and Christians being saved refers to Jews and Christians who become Muslims, while those who remain Jews and Christians are “the worst of created beings.” In his commentary on 5:69, Ibn Kathir makes this clear, telling Jews and Christians that they will have “no real religion until you adhere to and implement the Tawrah [Torah] and the Injil [Gospel]. That is, until you believe in all the Books that you have that Allah revealed to the Prophets. These Books command following Muhammad and believing in his prophecy, all the while adhering to his Law.”
To be sure, ISIS’s barbarianshave not lived up to these nobler teachings. Nor did the Crusaders, of course, live up to theirs.
Very common to bring up the Crusades in this connection. Highly fallacious nonetheless, as there are no New Testament passages comparable to Qur’an 9:29, enjoining believers to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers. But even if there were, what difference, as Hillary Clinton might say, would it make? Even granting that the Crusades were terrible, does this mean we should not resist the Islamic State and the identify the origins of its ideology? Michaelson apparently thinks so.
And have you read the Hebrew Bible, cover to cover? Including Deuteronomy 7:2-3, which calls for the complete ethnic cleansing of the Land of Israel, along with similar exhortations in Numbers 31:7-18, Joshua 11:12-15, and elsewhere? And is not Judaism likewise triumphalist, sure that it is the one true religion?
Again common, but facile and silly. Until armed groups of Jews begin committing violence on a global scale and invoking Deuteronomy and Numbers and Joshua to justify it, this is a comparison that may look good on paper to the ignorant and uninformed, but actually has no substance.
All Western religions have teachings of peace and teachings of violence within them. All have followers who emphasize one or the other. All can be triumphalist, violent, and ethnocentric — or the opposite. In some times and places, the fundamentalists hold sway; in others, the moderates. This is reality.
Not really. No Western religion besides Islam has any teaching mandating the conquest and subjugation of unbelievers.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the irony here. In condemning all Muslims as savage and violent, Geller is herself becoming like those Muslims who are. She is a fundamentalist like they are fundamentalists; she is irrational like they are irrational.
Geller savage and violent, eh? Whose head has she cut off?
And another irony: So are we, if we simply assume that Geller is over there, and I’m over here. Moderate/Extremist is just another Us/Them dichotomy — one that gives me a pass just as Geller’s Us/Them dichotomy gives her.
Actually, we are all Pamela Geller to some extent: She is simply the manifestation of the fearful, irrational, and hateful parts of each of us. There’s a Geller inside me and a Geller inside you. I can listen to that part of myself and “know she’s right.” Or I can listen to it, reflect on it, and explore whether that’s the voice I want to obey.
Indeed, what finally defeated Geller — in this particular battle at least — was nothing more and nothing less than basic human decency. A grieving family with every reason to support her vitriolic rhetoric has instead asked her to back off. They have risen above vengeance to something better.
It is all too human to support Pamela Geller, and all too human to simply blow her off. But as the Foley family has shown, it is also possible to rise above her.