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November 30, 2006 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-11-30

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Reality Or Pipe Dream?

New York

t a time when 'the
greatest threat facing
the Jewish people and,
indeed, the entire world, is from
Islamic extremism — its ideo-
logical totalitarianism, its use
of terror and suicide bombs, its
goals of developing nuclear and
other weapons of mass destruc-
tion — the question of relations
with Muslims in general is at
center stage. Recently, after I
gave an address on the subject
of the Islamic extremist threat,
I responded to a question about
dialogue by saying that it is a
"pipe dream" because "there is
no one to talk to."
As the leader of an organiza-
tion that is committed to inter-
group and interfaith dialogue,
with many programs all over the
United States and around the
globe premised on it, I want to
explain what I meant and what I
didn't mean.
I believe dialogue is critical to
preventing an escalation of the
deadly "clash of civilizations:'
which so many are predicting,
from becoming a reality. There
are many tools and perspec-
tives that need to be employed
to move relations in a positive
direction, and dialogue is one
of them.
We abhor and work daily to

counter efforts to stig-
erance in Judaism,
matize and demonize
Christianity and
an entire religion or
Islamic religious texts.
people because of the
It never happened
acts of some. Making
because — after ini-
distinctions is a vital
tial enthusiasm — the
part of our work. Only
Muslim leader didn't
days after 9-11, when
deliver. I have had
Abraham H.
reports started surfac-
similar discussions
ing that there-were a
with Jordanians and
number of attacks on
Saudis, but we are
Muslims in this coun-
still lacking a Muslim
try, the ADL placed ads
in major national newspapers
Not only on a conceptual level
urging Americans "not to fight
but also practically, Muslims
hate with hate." Blaming all
represent many different things.
Muslims for the acts of the ter-
There are governments and
rorists is not what America was
people around the globe that are
about and it surely is not what
predominantly Muslim that do
the ADL was about. Most recent- not reflect the Islamic extremism
ly, when a Pakistani Muslim
that is the threat. Throughout
man was attacked in Brooklyn
the country, the ADL and
because of his religion, the ADL
Muslims participate together in
spoke out forcefully against
coalitions to fight hate and intol-
the hate crime and joined in a
erance. When St. Louis' Interfaith
dialogue with local community
Dialogue celebrated its 20th
anniversary, an ADL official was
We know that all the major
the keynote speaker.
religions have in common a fun-
damental moral core that needs
No Stereotyping
to be reinforced and nurtured,
Let us be clear: No one has
particularly in the face of those
the right to demonize Islam or
who want to use religion for
stereotype Muslims. There obvi-
evil purposes. A few years back,
ously are individual Muslims
I tried to get a project off the
with whom to dialogue and
ground together with a Muslim
we need to work to identify
cleric in Turkey, who has a fol-
more interfaith dialogue. But it
lowing of millions, to produce
must be noted that too many
a work citing instances of tol-
moderate Muslims fail to stand

up against the extremists. And
millions of average Muslims
often buy into conspiracy theo-
ries about Jews and the West
emanating from extremists.
We are concerned about those
who engage in violence rather
than dialogue in response to
grievances, such as the car-
toon depictions of the prophet
Muhammad and the pope's
comments about Islam. We
worry about the tendency—
when Islam is the majority
religion — for states too often
not to respect religious freedom,
human rights and equal rights
for women.
When I said that there was
no one to talk to, I was mostly
thinking of the unwillingness of
the leading American Muslim
groups to do the most basic
things: accept Israel's existence
as a legitimate state in the
Middle East; reject terrorism
unequivocally because no cause
justifies terrorism; not view
attacks on Israel as legitimate or
suggest Hezbollah and Hamas
are not terrorist groups; and
speak out against the virulent
anti-Semitism coming out of
large parts of the Arab world.
For us, these principles are
the sine qua non for dialogue.
They have nothing to do with
legitimate criticism of Israeli
politics. We expect that there

will always be different views
between us and Muslim groups
on issues. That won't stop dia-
logue. But rejection of Israel's
legitimacy, rationalization of
the terror and the teaching of
hatred will
What to do then when dia-
logue is important — where
smaller dialogues take place
but the bigger ones can't? The
answer is to continue to look for
and to encourage those Muslims
who believe in compromise and
who accept Israel to continue
to insist that those who reject
the basic principles are not
acceptable until they do, and to
look for those common areas of
agreement outside Middle East
issues upon which we can build
We must also give support
and encouragement to all
the moderates of the Islamic
world who are ready to stand
up, because their strength can
enhance the entire world and
move us to a future of hope and
progress rather than one of con-
flict and despair. II

Abraham H. Foxman is national

director of the Anti-Defamation

League and author of "Never

Again? The Threat of the New Anti-

Semitism." This op ed originally


appeared in New York Jewish Week

on Nov. 17.

Global Warning



f anyone still doubted Iran's
sponsorship of overseas ter-
rorist attacks, an Argentine
prosecutor has provided proof
positive of Iranian terrorism's
worldwide reach.
In an 800-page report, Judge
Alberto Nisman implicated . top
Iranian officials in ordering
Hezbollah to carry out a 1994
terrorist attack on the Jewish
cultural center in Buenos Aires
that killed 85 people and wound-
ed 300.
Nisman said the decision to
bomb the building "was under-
taken in 1993 by the highest
authorities of the then-govern-


November 30 2006

ment of Iran." He asked
a federal judge to issue
arrest warrants for
eight senior Iranian
officials, including -
Hashemi Rafsanjani,
who was president of
Iran at the time and
who currently chairs the
powerful Expediency
Rafsanjani has spoken
matter-of-factly about destroy-
ing Israel, declaring that the
"application of an atomic bomb
would not leave anything in
Israel but the same thing would
just produce damages in the
Muslim world."
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson

in Buenos Aires con-
gratulated the pros-
ecutor for his findings
in the "most lethal
anti-Semitic attack
since World War II,"
saying the investiga-
tive report provides
"convincing evidence )
that the attack "was
planned and financed
by the government
of Iran and carried out with
the operational assistance of
Hezbollah and Iranian diplomats
based in Argentina."
In 1992, another bombing was
carried out against the Israeli
Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing
29 people and wounding 240.

While no one has been convicted
for that attack, it too has been
blamed on Hezbollah.
The Argentine report comes
at a time of heightened con-
cerns about Hezbollah's pres-
ence here at home in the United
States. Spokesman Paul Bresson
has announced that "the FBI
has increased its focus on
Hezbollah," saying "those investi-
gations relate particularly to the
potential presence of Hezbollah
members on U.S. soil."
These startling developments
should focus attention on the
need to block Iran on the many
fronts on which it poses mortal
threats to the United States and
its allies.

Iran is continuing to move
ahead with its nuclear weapons
program. Iran's support for
Hezbollah remains intact. Iran
is doing all in its power to.
undermine any prospects of
Israeli-Palestinian peace by sup-
porting llamas and Islamic Jihad
America and its allies must
build a united front to stop
further misdeeds by Iran and
prevent the radical regime from
continuing its nefarious efforts to
support terrorism, thwart peace
and develop a nuclear arsenal. Ll

Howard Kohr is executive director

of the American Israel Public Affairs


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