There is still, in some circles, a tendency to equate opposition to the unspeakable, apartheid practices of Israel with anti-Semitism. Zionists successfully made this illogical comparison for generations, but, while it still surfaces from time to time, it has mainly gone the way of the equally illogical ‘self-hating Jew’ concept, a label slapped on Jews who oppose the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Occasionally today, this, too, is heard, but it is rare.
Currently, Muslims, and those who have even a rudimentary understanding of the religion, sometimes fall all over themselves to distance themselves from ISIS and other radical groups that hide behind the mask of religion to perform their atrocities. Fear and loathing of Islam seems rampant in the United States, as many citizens now seem to connect that religion with beheadings.
While education is vital to assist any thinking person with overcoming irrational prejudices and beliefs, there is sometimes too much energy expended in defending oneself from charges of either being anti-Semitic, or sympathetic to Muslim ‘terrorists’. One need not deny being anti-Semitic, if so charged after condemning ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. One need not proclaim that they are not a jihadist, if one supports and respects Islam, and questions long-term U.S. policy of nearly indiscriminate bombing of the Middle East. Such charges are distractions from the real issues, which include Israeli apartheid and U.S. terrorism.
This is not the say that ignorance should be ignored; unfortunately, it can be deadly. One example, of countless available, is telling: On September 15, 2001, four days after the attack on the United States, Mr. Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh, was shot and killed outside the gas station that he owned in Mesa, Arizona. When arrested for the crime, Mr. Frank Silva Roque said to the arresting officers: “I’m a patriot and an American. I’m American. I’m a damn American.” Mr. Roque believed that Mr. Sodhi was a Muslim, because he was wearing a turban. At the time of his death, Mr. Sodhi was working with a landscaper, planting flowers around the border of his gas station.
Indeed, those who see everyone wearing a turban, kefeyah or hijab as ‘out to get them’, and a threat to everything they hold dear, need to be educated, and the public needs to be protected from them. But this should not distract anyone from criticizing, and increasing awareness of, atrocities being committed by Israel and the United States.
Today, the world is understandably appalled that beheading is ever done. But the U.S. government, nothing if not hypocritical, has close ties with Saudi Arabia, where beheading as a form of capital punishment is still legal. In just two weeks in August of this year, United Nations observers say that there were 22 executions in Saudi Arabia, with at least eight of those victims beheaded. Yet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a state visit to that nation in September.
So the U.S. is selective in whom it criticizes for beheading people. ISIS doesn’t have huge oil resources, so its practice of beheading is an abominable and criminal act that demands international opposition, led by U.S. bombs. In Saudi Arabia, which is rich in oil, well, maybe beheading isn’t such a bad thing after all.
The point here isn’t the crime of beheading; it’s seeing any support of Islam as endorsing violence. It’s the perceived need to defend oneself for saying anything positive about Islam, having Muslim friends, etc. It’s the distraction from real violence, and its source, by artificially creating a need to discuss anything else, anything less important and a discussion of which will not help end violence.
Let us return for a moment to the anti-Semitism charge. No thinking person doubts that the Jewish population experienced horrific victimization during the Nazi regime. Yet past victimization does not excuse current victimizing. Because Jews in Europe had to carry identification cards, use separate streets, live in segregated neighborhoods, etc., does not justify Israel in forcing Palestinians to suffer these same indignities. Because at least 6,000,000 Jews were brutally slaughtered does not somehow excuse Israel for killing thousands of Palestinians every few years by bombing the Gaza Strip, or for destroying their houses, stealing their land, etc. Today’s issues must be addressed, regardless of the history of the current murderous perpetrator.
Israel has no moral reason for its oppression of the Palestinians. The myth that its ‘national security’ is somehow jeopardized or is at risk by a small nation it has occupied for decades is only parroted by the U.S., the United Kingdom and a few other puppet regimes. It is just and right for people the world over, including in Israel, to oppose the horrors being perpetrated on the Palestinians. When they do so, artificial charges of anti-Semitism can and should be ignored.
Islam is not an organization of violence. Whereas some in the U.S. have co-opted the term ‘Christian’ to justify their hatred of the poor, women, homosexuals and others, when Christianity, as taught by Jesus Christ, embraces all people, some Muslims have taken certain passages from scripture out of context to justify their violence. Anyone who supports Islam, has Muslim friends, etc., can condemn acts of violence throughout the world without needing to justify their support or respect for Muslims.
One wonders what it will take for this to happen. At what point will U.S. citizens, seeing a man with a kefeyah around his neck, or a woman wearing a hijab, not run in fear in the opposite direction? When will the mainstream news media recognize that the clothes a person wears do not necessarily signify their religious or political affiliations?
These are difficult questions to answer, especially since a paranoid society is not often eager to surrender its fears; after all, those fears are much of what defines it. But regardless of when that happens, what date far in the future a reasonable level of acceptance of everyone will be offered, current atrocities must be addressed. Nothing, and certainly not spurious accusations, should distract from doing so.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press)