Reprinted with permission from The Shalom Center

Last month, two suicide bombers killed more than 15 Israeli civilians in Beersheva, and maimed many others -- a horrible, despicable act.

Ironically, the town plays an important peacemaking role in part of the traditional first-day Rosh Hashanah Torah reading -- Gen. 21: 22-34. The story is about how Abraham acts in Beersheva to make peace beyond a dangerous conflict.

Though Muslims consider the peacemaker Abraham the first Muslim, Hamas, which claims to be rooted in Islam and to be acting in God's behalf, seems not to have read the story. Hamas claims responsibility for the Beersheva killings as what it calls retaliation for the killing of its leaders by the Israeli government, which claimed responsibility for their killing on the grounds they had ordered and approved many murderous bombings.

But many Muslims profoundly condemn such actions. To prevent such murders, it will be crucial to strengthen those Muslims. For in the short run as well as the long run, only the community from which terrorists spring can prevent such acts.

One such person is Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim who teaches in France and preaches that Muslim grievances against various policies of the US government and Muslim objections to the culture of consumerism, the Market as God, must NOT be expressed through violence, through terrorism.

He preaches that the Muslim countries must reform themselves from within, not whining as victims of the West but creating societies of decency and democracy that can go beyond their own history and the present misdeeds of the West.

Notre Dame University in Indiana invites Professor Ramadan to join its faculty and its institute for peace studies. The State Department grants him a visa, months in advance of his when he is coming to teach -- now, as the semester begins.

But just a few days before he is to teach, with his old apartment empty, his family ready to fly across the ocean, his kids enrolled in an Indiana school, his students at Notre Dame waiting, the State Department -- your State Department, my State Department -- cancels the visa.

Why? The Department of Homeland Security said it had given the State Department information about Professor Ramadan, but declined to say what it was except that, "Generally speaking, the criteria for revocation of visas include public safety risk or national security threat."

The State Department said Professor Ramadan's visa was revoked under a legal provision [evidently of the "Patriot Act"] that bans espionage agents, saboteurs and anyone the United States "knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, is engaged in or is likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity." It could not provide any details about Professor Ramadan's case.

Notre Dame University in Indiana, that well-known nest of anti-American terrorists, says it has vetted Professor Ramadan thoroughly. It has no doubts about his worthiness as a professor of peace studies and Islamic ethics.

One of the best ways to support ultra-Islamist terrorists, like those who committed mass murder in Beersheva, is to make no distinctions between serious Muslim critics of the West who oppose terrorists, and terrorists themselves. Humiliating Muslim scholars, denying them the opportunity to teach in the US and thus show us the deep differences among Muslims, teaching the mass of Muslims that the US government has contempt for all of them -- a great formula for supporting Hamas.

This action is rooted in exactly the same stupidity, ignorance, and arrogance that predicted Iraq would shower US invaders and occupiers with flowers and join in building a pro-American bulwark. Eighteen months later, a bloody mess.

The name "Beersheva" is a serious pun on the Hebrew word "sheva." It means "Wellspring of the Oath/Seven." It is where Abraham peacefully negotiated with and took an oath [sheva] for peace with a neighboring leader, with seven [sheva] ewe-lambs as the symbol of the oath. The issue was access to life-giving water. The process of peacemaking was subtle and intriguing.

Whether one views Abraham as the first Jew or the first Muslim, or both, we might still hope to listen to the lesson.

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