Muslim Wire

G-d help us

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 22, 2009

By Joseph Aaron

Proving once again that anyone who thinks he knows absolutely everything, in point of fact knows absolutely nothing.

It’s been 35 years now that I have worked professionally as a journalist, and along the way, I’ve learned a few things about human nature. And one of them is that. That anyone who thinks they know everything, really knows nothing.

The most recent evidence of that comes from no less than the Supreme Court of the United States.

The justices were recently hearing arguments in the case of Salazar v. Buono, which deals with the constitutionality of a six-foot cross sitting on a war memorial in California’s Mojave National Preserve.

The memorial was put up 75 years ago and was intended to honor soldiers killed in World War I. In 2004, Congress declared the site a national memorial.

The case was brought by a National Park Service employee who said he thought having a cross on federal land violated the first amendment of the Constitution, which bans government establishment of religion. Those supporting the site say it is a secular memorial, intended to honor war dead.

Making the case that it is not a secular memorial was attorney Peter Eliasberg of the American Civil Liberties Union who said the cross “signifies that Jesus is the son of G-d and died to redeem mankind for our sins.”

And here’s where the rule about ‘knowing everything, knowing nothing’ comes in. Taking issue with Eliasberg was Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his brilliance and his arrogance.

Scalia, one of six Catholics on the Supreme Court, disagreed with Eliasberg, saying that the cross is “the common symbol of the resting place of the dead.” He then mocked Eliasberg, asking sarcastically if Eliasberg would rather have “some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David and, you know, a Muslim half-moon and star?”

Eliasberg held his own, showing how ridiculous was Scalia’s contention that the cross is “the common symbol of the resting place of the dead.” Said Eliasberg, “I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.”

Scalia, who thinks he knows everything, proved conclusively that he knows nothing, by responding, “I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.”

Surely, Scalia knows outrageous when he sees it. For how outrageous is it that a justice of the Supreme Court believes the cross is “the common symbol of the resting place of the dead.”

Anyone who knows Jewish history and knows how the cross was used to persecute Jews would know that. Anyone who knows anything about Judaism or knows even one Jew, would know that Jews would not be comfortable with a cross on their grave.

It is why, appropriately, at Arlington National Cemetery, you see Stars of David sprinkled among the crosses marking the graves of this nation’s military fallen. If you want to honor a fallen soldier, you do so by honoring, not insulting his faith, not having the symbol of one religion ‘cover’ people of all religions.

And yes, Justice Scalia, what in the hell would be wrong with a war memorial that had “some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David and, you know, a Muslim half-moon and star.” That, indeed, would perfectly capture the religious freedom this country holds so dear.

I don’t scare easily, but I gotta tell you, I was scared when I read what Scalia had to say. Not because I really care about the cross on this war memorial in the Mojave Preserve that’s been around for 75 years. Truth is, I’d leave it alone, think it wrong to make a federal case out of it. Jews need to pick their battles and fight for things that really matter.

What scares me is not this memorial to the past, but that someone with Scalia’s mindset is sitting on the highest court of the land making decisions that will affect all of our futures.

Let’s move on from this crazy Catholic to those crazy Muslims, and another case of those who think they are smarter than everyone actually being dumber than everyone.

Seems that ivory tower pointy-headed bastion of Yale University recently published a book titled, “The Cartoons that Shook the World.” But before it did, it censored one of the cartoons the author of the book had included.

The illustration was one of Muhammad that appeared in a Dutch newspaper in 2005. It was a cartoon many Muslims found offensive, believing it to be insulting to the Islamic prophet. They expressed their displeasure not by writing letters to the editor of the newspaper or canceling their subscriptions to the newspaper, but rather through violent demonstrations across the Islamic world that damaged a lot of property and injured a lot of people.

Now, I don’t mean to belittle another religion’s beliefs. I understand that Islam does not believe in depictions of Muhammad and so would find a cartoon of their prophet a defamation. I well understand, since the Torah’s Ten Commandments forbid graven images of G-d.

But the fact is that one often finds illustrations, depictions and cartoons of G-d, some of them mocking, and yet I cannot recall a single case where Jews chose to riot as a result, where they beat people up, burnt buildings, as a result.

There is a way to act, a way to express displeasure. And once again, too many in the Islamic world somehow feel exempt from accepted norms of behavior. It feels the Palestinians deserve their own state and so, as a result, believes itself justified in blowing up mothers and grandfathers and babies having lunch in a pizza shop in Jerusalem. It doesn’t like a cartoon that makes fun of Mohammed and so feels justified in taking to the streets with clubs and rocks.

Outrageous, as Justice Scalia would say. But frankly not as outrageous as what Yale University did.

Which was give in to cowardice, which was ally itself with terror, which was censor a book.

Whatever you say about that cartoon about Muhammad, it surely was a cartoon that “shook the world” which is what the book was about. For Yale, out of fear that its campus might be bombed if it published a book with that cartoon in it, to give in to that ugliness is way beyond outrageous.

We need to stop being intimidated by, yes, appeasing, unacceptable behavior. Some Muslims responding violently to a cartoon does not mean we need to then stop publishing cartoons. It means we need to stand up and tell them violence is not the way to express unhappiness with something.

Yale’s action only serves to enable the actions of Muslims acting badly, indeed to encourage their irrational behavior. Yale should be a place that teaches, sets an example, not one that gives up freedom of expression out of concern for some crazy Muslim reaction.

Okay, finally, those crazy Jews. This is the story that makes me maddest of all, that I find the most outrageous of all. Because I expect Jews to be better.

I feel such shame about this. As I’ve written before, for years and years now, thousands of Ethiopian Jews have been living in squalor in Ethiopia, waiting for Israel to bring them home.

Israeli prime minister after prime minister has promised he would, talked about how he planned to, but nothing happens. It is nothing short of a disgrace.

When any group of Jews is in danger, somehow Israel has been able to mobilize quickly and get them all out and all to Israel, whether it was hundreds or thousands. From Yemen and Russia and South Africa and France and everywhere around the globe. No effort has been spared, nothing has been impossible, no time was wasted.

Except in the case of the Ethiopians. Year after year, they sit, they wait, they pray, while Israeli promises are not kept.

There’s always some new bureaucratic holdup, some budgetary excuse, some vague problem. Meanwhile, many of the Ethiopian Jews, especially the children, are literally starving to death.

Recently, Dr. Arthur Eidelman, formerly the chief of pediatrics at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, went to Ethiopia where he found “clear signs of malnutrition in children, particularly under age 6.”

Jewish children. Yes, rabbi after rabbi, investigation after investigation, has shown the 9,000 or so Ethiopians who are waiting, are Jews. And yet, for some reason, Israel seems to feel it needs to over and over verify conclusively that every single person waiting in the Jewish compounds in Ethiopia, is Jewish.

Enough already. They are Jews. They are suffering. Bring them home.

In a good sign, Israel’s new interior minister said there were “steps in place” to bring all 9,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. All of them.

But. But, he said, that would be done at the rate of 100 a month, so that all will be in Israel by the year 2017.

Why 100 a month? If it wanted to, Israel could fly them all out in one month. One flight a day, 300 on each flight. All out, all in Israel before Chanukah. 2009.

Enough. I don’t care what outrageous thing a Catholic justice might say or Muslim protesters might do. But I do very much care that we have a Jewish state, that we have suffering Ethiopian Jews who so much want to be in Israel, and that we say, after years of delay, okay, but it’ll take eight more years.

If Israel is what Israel is supposed to be, we will bring them home. Now.


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