Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Obama Too Soft On Some Muslims and Too Hard On Many

posted by Brad Hirschfield

While applauding his efforts both at the inauguration and in his Al Arabiyah interview, President Obama’s words often missed the mark. With the best of intentions and in pursuit of an important goal, I think that he was too hard on many and too soft on some in the Muslim world.
Is there really a clash of civilizations, as President Obama’s words indicate? If there is not, then there would be no need to reach out to the entire Muslim world as he did in his inaugural address. If there is no civilizational clash, then he should have addressed no specific religious group, but those people who either support, or are opposed to, America and the values which animate our nation.
And if there is a genuine clash between two civilizations, what is the source of the clash? Is it intrinsic to Islam? And if it is not, and it is not, then why approach it that way? Could it be that the president was playing to those who see America’s policies as a war against Muslims? And if he was, is that approach likely to bear fruit? I think not.


We ought not to favor any conceptual model which pits two distinct civilizations against each other. Not because it isn’t nice, but because it artificially simplifies the challenges we face, and incorrectly presumes a monolithic Muslim world which is against “us”. But who is “us”? Does it mean Americans? If so, where do six million American Muslims fit into this equation? And that’s just for starters.
There is no single Muslim world, and any intimation that there is, will either work against addressing the serious threats we face from some Muslims, or cause us to miss the genuine opportunities that will be found by working more constructively with many more.
Where President Obama got it right was in using the word “mutual” to define the new way forward which he seeks.
Right or wrong in terms of specific policies, unilateralism is doomed as a guiding principle in a globalized world. Without backing down from those principles we hold most dearly, principles including openness, inclusivity, and religious tolerance, we must not simply rest in the rightness of that which we believe.
We must reach out and meet people, even those with whom we may disagree, where they are. We must not wait for them to be where we want them to be. On the other hand, we must not shy away from taking on nations who threaten the world’s ability to sustain those values we hold most dearly either.
We have to be willing to confront the real challenges posed by the hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world who according to recent research, report genuine hostility to America and our approach to personal freedom. Ultimately, it is our willingness to be extremely tough on those who pose a genuine threat to us and to our way of life that creates the foundation upon which to build better relationships with those who differ from us but are not hostile to us.
Frankly, I would have preferred no overt outreach to any specific community. I would have preferred the President reach out to all communities, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, who are ready to work with our country on the basis of shared values and commitments.
We will not always agree, but anyone who comes to the table with honesty and a willingness to work in light of those values, even if we disagree about certain specific policies, should be welcomed.



  • Your Name

    By Matthew M. Hausman
    Recently, indignant voices in the Jewish community have bemoaned the treatment of Israel with respect to bogus claims of war crimes in Gaza. Of course, the only war crimes committed under any interpretation of the international laws of war were those of Hamas, which for years targeted Israeli civilians for indiscriminate attack by missile and mortar, hid amongst its own civilians, placed missile launchers and weaponry inside homes, school, mosques and hospitals, and effectively used noncombatants as shields for the sole purpose of offering them as unholy sacrifices. As has been well documented, Israel went to great lengths to warn the populace when it would attack, assist those who wanted to leave and schedule a daily three-hour lull in hostilities to enable people to leave (many of whom were forcefully prevented by Hamas from doing so). And yet . . .
    The nearly unprecedented sympathy for the Israeli position at the beginning of the action soon gave way to ridiculous claims by self-appointed peace advocates of massacres and genocide, which needless to say never occurred. A review of the vitriol that appeared daily in the websites of groups such as Moveon.Org, the Daily Kos, the Huffington Post and Answerla.org, shows the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism in the predictable condemnations of Israel, despite the shallow attempts by apologists to distinguish such expressions merely as “anti-Zionism,” whatever that means.
    The internet is full to bursting with photos and video of supposed “peace rallies” whose participants held banners proclaiming such messages of peace as “Death to Israel” and “Jews back to the Ovens.” It is also overrun with stories of vacuous celebrities, such as Annie Lennox, condemning Israel with nary a mention that Israel had suffered daily missile attacks since ceding Gaza (even during Hamas’ supposed ceasefire), and demonstrating a clear and inexcusable ignorance of Middle East history and politics.
    Interestingly, these same self-appointed “peace advocates” never condemned Russia’s war in Chechnya, despite the documented evidence of Russian atrocities, or even the United States’ strategy of carpet bombing in Afghanistan.
    The disproportionate focus on Israel is pathological and has nothing whatever to do with legitimate, evenhanded criticism. Rather, it has everything to do with anti-Semitism. The problem is that the ridiculous accusations of war crimes or, in more polite circles, of Israel’s “disproportionate response,” are not limited to the “hard left” as respectable people like Alan Dershowitz have stated in print.
    Rather, even more “moderate” leftists and mainstream liberals exhibit the same hoary preoccupation with Israel, sometimes using more polite language to parrot the same misguided moral relativism, and still more often simply failing or refusing to chastise left-wing hate speech masquerading as concerned criticism or political discourse. And this failure to condemn is motivated perhaps by a fear of alienating the constituencies represented by the Daily Kos, Moveon.Org, and the Huffington Post et al., which in recent years have influenced and perhaps dictated numerous aspects of Democratic Party policy.
    Unfortunately, the disproportionate criticism of Israel in the name of “anti-Zionism” (which is just a more polite term for antisemitism) has clearly infected the mainstream, which has effectively endorsed these views either by commission or, more frequently, omission. Just read the supposedly objective reporting in European and American newspapers. Liberal pundits are quick to argue passionately that Israel must engage in dialogue with enemies whose charters call not only for her destruction, but effectively for murder or subjugation of the Jewish people. Some, such as Bill Moyers (never a friend of Israel nor one to read the history books), accuse the Jews of “genetic” tendencies to violence and genocide. It is not unexpected that Moyers and his ilk espouse such trash, but it is troubling that the mainstream liberal establishment has not identified their screeds as hate speech or cast them out as extremists.
    Although I may have disagreed with William F. Buckley on a number of issues, I respected him for his successful efforts in 1992 to purge the National Review and his ideological community of anti-Semitic intellectual thuggery, as practiced by the likes of Patrick Buchanan and Joseph Sobran. Both Buchanan and Sobran regularly excoriated Israel and her supporters to such a shrill degree, that Buckley came to the conclusion that such animus directed against a single country and people could only be explained by the authors’ anti-Semitic tendencies. Bill Buckley’s efforts to purge his conservative movement of such extremism was as successful as his ideological expulsion of the John Birch society in the 1960s, and he was eulogized in print for his courageous stand by many notables, not the least of whom was the always eloquent Ed Koch.
    The problem today is that there has been no similar ideological soul searching in moderate leftist or mainstream liberal circles — sadly, not even those populated by Jews. Instead, there is the constant repetition of meaningless terms, such as the mythical “cycle of violence,” which bespeaks of a moral relativism equating terrorist attacks on civilians and Arab rejectionism of Israel and all things Jewish with Israel’s responses to terrorism and her legitimate right to defend herself. Many of these people display an alarming ignorance of history when it comes to the rights of the Jewish People, their documented and continuous habitation of the Land of Israel from time immemorial, and their right to live securely within their homeland.
    More troubling still is the facile use of the term neocon by these people to denigrate positions and policies that are sympathetic to the Jewish state, but which are also associated with the Iraq War.
    Whether they are truly aware of its etymology, the term neocon usually refers specifically to former liberal or left-wing Jews who moved ideologically to the right on, among other things, foreign policy issues. The word neocon is used by people on the Left as a code for “Jew” the same way that the term cosmopolitan was employed in Stalinist Russia. Used today, the word has a meaning similar to Patrick Buchanan’s pet term the amen corner, which he coined and used during the first Gulf War to refer to Jews who he claimed were directing foreign policy to the detriment of the United States, and who were supposedly willing to send other peoples’ children to war to protect Israel. These allegations were preposterous and evocative of the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which Buckley and his fellow conservatives rejected and drove from their publications and salons.
    In contrast, those in the mainstream on the left side of the political divide cannot bring themselves to ostracize people on the extreme or even moderate Left who peddle in such rhetoric. Rather than vilify offensive personalities like Jimmy Carter and Robert Malley, they show them honor and seek their counsel, and in so doing validate their dogma. Buckley clearly was not exaggerating when he referred to anti-Semitism as a growth industry on the Left; and a look at the recent Congressional vote condemning Hamas and endorsing Israel’s right to defend herself shows that the only “no” or “present” votes were by the renegade Republican Ron Paul and assorted Democrats.
    It would be refreshing if the liberal body politic would unconditionally condemn hateful expressions regarding Israel and identify as hate speech that which is clearly anti-Semitic, whether in the slanted reporting one sees on outlets such as MSNBC or the BBC, or in hateful statements of “death to the Jews” displayed on placards at so-called peace rallies. Instead, we are treated to lectures that dissenting speech must be considered “in context” and cannot be judged without consideration of “legitimate” Arab grievances, and that such expressions, hateful though they may be to some, are protected under the First Amendment. This mantra-like invocation of the First Amendment, however, is merely used as a shield to avoid argument and criticism. While free speech is indeed and should always be a fundamental right in the America, so is the right to condemn hateful speech and criticize incitement. In truth, the First Amendment only guarantees that the government shall not take actions to abridge its citizens’ speech – it does not prohibit people, whether as individuals or in groups or political parties, from condemning the bigoted expressions of others. Take away the right to disagree and you truly quell dissent and the free exchange of ideas.
    Unfortunately, the Left has not uttered such condemnations, mainly because it does not seem believe that such speech should be condemned, and because it apparently finds such anti-Semitic expressions perfectly acceptable. More disappointingly, the moderate liberal mainstream has failed to condemn such speech the way Buckley did in 1992, or to brand as extremists and ostracize those who spew venom that is so clearly founded in classical antisemitism. It seems that the mainstream is far more afraid of upsetting and alienating the Left than in doing what is correct and decent in a civilized society, and that, my friends, is truly scary.

  • Robert

    I suppose the poster above lacked an original thought and had to cut and paste another’s at length, when a link would do. As for
    “Ultimately, it is our willingness to be extremely tough on those who pose a genuine threat to us and to our way of life that creates the foundation upon which to build better relationships with those who differ from us but are not hostile to us.”
    There’s extremely tough, and there’s wild eyed crazy. Recent events cause many of us to wonder how close Israel is to becoming like its adversaries.

  • Susan

    The antisemitism in the Muslim world is mostly of Christian European origin, but that doesn’t seem to prevent antisemitism from permeating the Arab and Muslim world.
    Obama should be telling Muslim leaders that Jews don’t control the media and there are no international Zionist conspiracies.

  • Zvi I Weiss

    I disagree with the statement that the “clash between civilizatios” is not intrinsic to Islam… I believe that from the start of Islam there has been an ongoing “drive” to bring everyone under the “rule” of Islam. Look at the theocratic societies under Islamic rule. Look at Saudi Arabia where th ONLY religion that can be openly practiced is Islam. Look at the schools that Saudi Arabia suppots around the wrold teaching a “no holds barred” version of Islamic supremacy. Look at Iran where all legislation is subject to religious veto AND the organs of government are used to “put down” dissent. Look at the Taliban when they were in control. If you are not convinced by the current situation — look at the history. Maimonides had to flee [ultimately to Egypt] because of the Islamic ocnquests. At best, one could hope for an enlightened Islamic figure who would CHOOSE not to “crack down” on he Jews.
    If you need still more convincing, look at the institution of the “Dhimmi” — in the Islamic world whe Jews and Christians are “tolerated” but clearly not “equal”.
    Look at the treatment of the gentle B’hai hwo originatd in Iran and are treated as Heretics.
    Finally, look at the fact that NOT ONE Major Islmic figure hs CONDEMNED the attacks of terror on Jews. (And, please do not cite for me some Islamic figure in Italy or the U.S. We all know that the Major center(s) of Islam are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Arab countries.)
    Has ANY Major Islamic figure ever condemned the Grand Mufti for his alliance with Hitler [May his name be blotted out]? On the contrary, we find Iran led by a denier of the Sho’ah — and NO MAJOR SHI’ITE FIGURE TELLS HIM THAT HE IS WRONG! When the Pope “reinstatd” a man ho denied the Sho’ah, the Pope — at least — made clear that such denial is wron. When was this done by a Major Leader in the Islamic world?
    So, instead of fooling yourself with sweet fantasies, it is time to wake up. There is a clear reason why the Torah describes the Children of Ishma’el as “his hand against all” and as a “Perreh Adam” (best translated as a “wild man” who respects no one else).
    When we can face the hard truth — perhaps the — and only then — some ral progress will be made.

  • Bonnie

    President Obama has confused culture with ideology. It is the various interpretations of Islam that are creating the divisions in the Arab world, fed by the extremists on anti-semitism and anti-western rantings and propaganda. They don’t want their contemporaries to realize that Judaism has reconciled the levels of belief and their ever changing dynamics. We are a single culture with many different faces. That must really scare hell out of extremist Muslim leaders and in that respect, I agree with you, Rabbi.

  • Homo Mysticus

    “Zvi I Weiss
    February 2, 2009 12:39 PM
    I disagree with the statement that the “clash between civilizatios” is not intrinsic to Islam… I believe that from the start of Islam there has been an ongoing “drive” to bring everyone under the “rule” of Islam”
    Sounds very familiar………..the Israelite romp through Canaan…G-d told them too of course……the Crusades of Christianity, in Jesus name of course. And how about our current venture into Iraq? To establish democrasy of course……in the name of thee Constitution and all free thinking people……..of course.
    Homo Mysticus

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