Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 30, 2010

ADL'S MOST MISGUIDED MOMENT.... When I heard that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had issued a statement on the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero in Manhattan, I was relieved. Finally, I thought, a sensible, credible voice committed to combating bigotry and prejudice could remind the right-wing about the importance of respect, freedom, and how there are no second-class faith traditions here in the United States.

And then I read the statement, and my relief disappeared.

The ADL's statement started off really well. It reiterated its commitment to religious liberty, "categorically" rejected the "appeals to bigotry," and condemned those "whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry."

But then the ADL went badly off course.

"The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found."

What? That doesn't make any sense. The right manufactures a controversy, motivated by nothing but bigotry, so the facility should be built elsewhere? Why, to reward the bigots? And how many blocks away would be necessary to satisfy these demands?

"Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right."

This is genuinely incoherent, and a statement I suspect the ADL will one day look back on with regret and embarrassment.

What the Anti-Defamation League is arguing is that the sensitivities of bigots are more important than the religious liberty of American Muslims. The ADL believes faith communities should be free to build buildings, unless it might bother those who hate those faith communities.

The ADL seems to acknowledge and fully appreciate the fact that opponents of the Cordoba House are motivated by bigotry, but inexplicably calls for the accommodation of that bigotry.

As Adam Serwer concluded:

Let's be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it's been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.


Steve Benen 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Comments

If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone.

THIS. A THOUSAND TIMES. THIS. EVERY MINORITY IN THE GOP NEEDS TO HAVE THIS DRILLED INTO THEIR HEADS.

Posted by: Alli on July 30, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Time to review Englightenment 101. Liberals aren't particularly popular for this course but if there's one thing we can be consistent about, it's tolerance, particularly in one of the most cosmopolitan places on Earth. Shame on the ADL who used to know this.

Posted by: walt on July 30, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

From a commenter at the Plum Line:

I don't think the Republicans should be allowed to open a campaign headquarters in my neighborhood. I know they have rights under the First Amendment and everything, but this isn't about rights, it is about what is right. Having a reminder of the Bush/Cheney Administration so close by causes me and my family too much pain.

Posted by: sue on July 30, 2010 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

If Foxman were capable of being ashamed, he would be and this statement would never have happened. But then, he's been defending the undefendable behavior of Israel for a long time now. And, of course, he'll be rewarded with an op-ed in the WaPo, NYT or WSJ to explain how this statement is not bigoted.

Posted by: clarence on July 30, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 30, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"combating bigotry and prejudice"

They forfeited that claim. It would be accurate to write it thusly:
"combating bigotry and prejudice against Jewish people only."

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on July 30, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I reject the argument that one must be bigoted to object to the location of the Islamic cultural center.

To be clear, I would never say that they don't have the right to place the center at or near Ground Zero. However, you don't have to be bigoted to question the tastefulness of the choice.

I would compare this to the decision of the NRA to hold its convention in Denver following the Columbine massacre -- a choice that was criticized by a non-negligible number of liberal gun-regulation proponents. At the time, nobody said that the NRA shouldn't have the right to meet and speak wherever they want. People merely questioned the taste.

I would argue further, that if the NRA decided to open a Second Amendment Cultural Center and Gun Museum within a quarter mile of Columbine High School (presumably a gun store would be illegal), for the express purpose of sending a peaceful message about lawful gun ownership, that many people would grasp the crassness and lack of sensitivity even if they agreed with the message in principle.

Posted by: square1 on July 30, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

-And in tangential news, there are moves afoot to ban the swastika. (already outlawed in Germany).

Never mind that it is a neolithic symbol, found in many non Christian (eastern) religions, as well as native America.

Attacking Muslims has now become useful for the Right, since they get pushback from using Blacks and Browns as convenient boogiemen.

Posted by: DAY on July 30, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

This is exactly the sort of thing that fuels anti-Semitism. What they are saying is that "Never Again!" only applies to Jews. No other religious or ethnic group is entitled to the same degree of respect or tolerance that the Chosen People are.

Posted by: wihntr on July 30, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

square1 -- well, there are statutes of Confederate Generals throughout the South, the very place where they supervised the murder of hundreds of thousands of loyal Americans, and the flag of treason flies over numerous state capitals. Talk about bad taste !

Posted by: H-Bob on July 30, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The ADL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican party. Has been for some time.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Posted by: somethingblue on July 30, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Very slightly OT: The Republicans blocked a bill to continue to fund medical services to the families and survivors of First Responders and clean-up crews at the WTC following the 911 collapse. Why are they allowed to get away with this without a peep from the MSM, but they are all over this Muslim Community Center being built so near to the WTC site. Hypocrisy much?

Posted by: st john on July 30, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

H-Bob you're right, there is a certain irony to that. States (that were already overrepresented becasuse of the 3/5 compromise) overruled a fair and free democratic election and rebelled to protect an evil institution like slavery and yet statues and memorials of these traitors can be seen all over the south, yet it's in bad tast that Muslim Americans want to put up a cultural center next to the World Trade Center?

Maybe it's just me but bad taste is treating Robert E. Lee like he's some noble war hero or flying a rebel flag over a government building.

Posted by: Archon on July 30, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Go back to HEBREW SCHOOL? How about just going back to SCHOOL? I was listening to some commentators last night wanting to go back to the Judeo-Christian beginnings on which this country was founded. WTF? It was founded on RELIGIOUS FREEDOM you twerps. Remember the Puritans? Now it is a given that they were probably the right wing whackjobs of their day but c'mon...

Posted by: SYSPROG on July 30, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Mhr, it's hard to know what you meant since you mangled the parsing: "Now liberals in their need to protest how tolerant they are" - so, what? But in any case you're expressing typical right-wing simplemindedness and/or dishonesty. The issue isn't whether we approve of Islam (most of us are rationalists who don't believe any such revelations at all), but "the principle of the thing" of the Muslim's right to build on their private land, like other groups. Conservatives claim to be so sensitive to the "principle of the thing", but of course really care about who is who (or has the most money.) Also, Christianity has anti-female elements, like women not talking in Church etc. (not that today's conservatives care, nor about Jesus' condemnation of adultery (how they loved Reagan), of praying out loud (see "school prayer" and "one nation under God" etc.)

It's a good thing you and likewise wanker trolls drop piles in here from time to time, so everyone can see what you're made of.

Posted by: Neil B on July 30, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

The ADL has now announced that, for the purposes of healing, that all Christian Churches and community centers must be demolised at once so that the healing of the Amercian Indians can occur because of their sanctioning of the Doctrine Of Manifest Destiny that authorized the genocide of those American Indian peoples.

Posted by: blue on July 30, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a lifetime supporter, I find the ADL's statement profoundly disturbing. And, I would note, even a cursory glance back at Western civilization- if, to paraphrase Ghandi, such a thing actually exists*- will reveal that Islam and Judaism have gotten along far better than Judaism + Christianity or Islam + Christianity.

-Z

* "It would be a good idea" was supposedly Ghandi's response when asked what he thought about Western civilization

Posted by: Zorro on July 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B .. you are sure right about this simpleton called mhr ...........in reality Mohammad taught the Equality of women and men, and, in fact, invited the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their synagogues ...

Posted by: stormskies on July 30, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Christianity drives liberals up the wall for reasons we are all aware of.

MeatHeadRepublican exemplifes my particular beef with them: So many ignore the ninth commandment.

Posted by: Gregory on July 30, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Don't know when it happened, but ADL has gone off the rails. They get very upset on the rare occasions when Democrats use Nazi analogies or Holocaust analogies, but Beck and Limbaugh and plenty in the Republican leadership compare Obama to Hitler and liberals to Nazis every day, and you don't hear a peep out of the ADL.

Posted by: bobbo on July 30, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

H-Bob, I'm not sure how giving other examples of bad taste validates this one. Personally, I find the idea of flying Dixie over a Southern statehouse to be repulsive. Not sure how that makes the Islamic cultural center okay.

I think what a lot of people may be objecting to -- in non-bigoted ways -- are two things.

First, that the message of the center suggests that the victims are the ones who did something wrong to cause 9/11*. If you want to build a center dedicated to peace and non-extremism, maybe the place to spend $100 million is in Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

Second, the message of the center suggests that the victims' families need to be lectured about tolerance. Look, there are plenty of bigoted Americans. But the simple fact is that 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam. That doesn't need mean that all Muslims are bad. And I have no problem with efforts to remind people of that. But I can understand why people might feel that those efforts might be better directed elsewhere.

*I'm completely open to the message that the U.S. and other Western nations engaged in policies that fueled Islamic extremism, but that isn't a message that you need to shove in the faces of victims' families.

Posted by: square1 on July 30, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory - You cited the 9th commandment, but linked to the 8th.

Luckily, you're covered either way. Republicans have been known to break both of them.

Posted by: Old School on July 30, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Shame on the ADL who used to know this.

They did, didn't they? I'm not remembering wrong when I say there was a time when the ADL actually stood for principle instead of "We'll say anything, anything at all, no matter how ethically bankrupt and hypocritical, if we think in our total shortsightedness that we're protecting Jews," right?

Posted by: shortstop on July 30, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm completely open to the message that the U.S. and other Western nations engaged in policies that fueled Islamic extremism, but that isn't a message that you need to shove in the faces of victims' families.

This is the first I'm hearing that the place is intended to shove a message in anyone's face. I haven't been following the story closely because I don't really care about zoning in New York City. Is that true? Is it intentionally confrontational?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 30, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not remembering wrong when I say there was a time when the ADL actually stood for principle

Was there? I feel like they're in the same vein as William Donohue's Catholic League, a PR enterprise that likes to get into the news.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 30, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Flip, maybe I'm older than you are, or perhaps I'm misunderremembering -- I do not remembering the ADL behaving this way, say, 25 years ago. Going into a meeting and can't research anything now, so hope others will join in...back later.

Posted by: shortstop on July 30, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

"By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization."

(head splode)

Posted by: agave on July 30, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Square1,

The simple fact is that 9/11 was perpetrated by an extreme Muslim offshoot in the hope of sucking America into a war that would make it appear that America was opposed to Islam in general.

Your stupidity in falling for this is hereby noted.

When all Muslims defend Al Qaeda, and in particular, when those American Muslims do who want to build this center, then you can compare Islam to the NRA, which mindlessly opposes all gun control.

Until then, your analogy is idiotic.

Posted by: Charles on July 30, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Isn’t the proposed construction blocks away from ground zero ?

Where’s the problem ?

Posted by: Joe Friday on July 30, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Please Steve.. you know what they say about people living in glass houses?

Here is what ADL said:

"In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some **victims** more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right."

and you said:

"What the Anti-Defamation League is arguing is that the sensitivities of **bigots** are more important than the religious liberty of American Muslims."

(double-star emphasis mine)

I really expected better from you.

Posted by: Dilip on July 30, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Since some have brought up "the message" of the Islamic Center, what indeed is their message if they have one in particular? (Being named "Cordoba" already suggests tolerance, since that city in Moorish Grenada was a tolerant syncretist culture as shown in the recent PBS special put forth by the Cordoba Initiative, not related directly AFAIK to this center.) AFAICT, it's the bare fact of being "Muslim" that's the problem to modern "conservatives" (maybe call them Contraserveatives: against service to the public!) not some specific message. If the Center has a specific, objectionable message then there may be a point - I doubt it, but is there?

Off the rails - every conservative-allied group is going off the rails these days, it's de rigueur.

Posted by: neil b on July 30, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

This is the first I'm hearing that the place is intended to shove a message in anyone's face. I haven't been following the story closely because I don't really care about zoning in New York City. Is that true? Is it intentionally confrontational?

No, he's simply making it up -- or as we say where I come from (i.e. downtown Manhattan) he's lying.

Posted by: Stefan on July 30, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

So, no comment on the disrespect of 911 "victims" who are denied funding by the U.S. Senate for medical conditions brought on by their service to the "attacks" by so-called Muslims? So, it is disrespectful to build a Muslim community center in the "shadow of the World Trade Center (which, I don't believe is casting a very long shadow today)" but not disrespectful to deny medical care to the "heroes" who helped with the clean-up and were lied to about the safety of the area?

Posted by: st john on July 30, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Line everyone truly concerned up, shoot them all and let their deities sort them out!

Jews, Christians, Muslims... they're sociopathic and delusional. The proof is right there in the pudding. Any "healing" will happen when we as a nation revisit our disasterous foreign policy and purge the influence of religidiots. I know, wishful thinking.. Psychos!

Posted by: Gawd's Trollop on Terra on July 30, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

[...] we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found -- ADL

"Funny"... I didn't go to a Hebrew school but, all the same, I know what the name of that "alternative location" might be. It used to be called "ghetto", and Old Europe had one in every city, to keep the Jews penned in. Very handy for every drunken Christian who happened to pissed off about something and needed a bloody "release" of his feelings. Not to mention how handy it had been for the Nazis, when it came to their "final solution".

I'd have thought that ADL might have been at least as aware of those "alternative locations" as I am.

Posted by: exlibra on July 30, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think it speaks to your even-handedness that I've been reading you and corresponding with you for at least six years and did not realize until now that you were Jewish.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson on July 30, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I assume we'll get a second shot at this story over the weekend ("This Week in God").

-and the religious zealots will once again display their ignorance of logic, history, and tolerance. . .

America: Love it, or leave it! Yahweh, or the highway?

Posted by: DAY on July 30, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I am so glad that the ADL has just come out against construction on the Jerusalem Temple Mount, out of sympathy to the victims.

Oh, wait…

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on July 30, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

In case anyone thinks that only Muslims, or Christians are prejudiced against other religions:
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100049072/jewish-hostility-to-christians-the-prejudice-no-one-ever-writes-about

Posted by: neil b on July 30, 2010 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

I find this completely unsurprising. The ADL is the American voice of the anti-Arab wing of Jewish political thought in Israel - the Likud - and the right wing Jews know very well who their main supporters are now of maintaining Greater Israel, which is the American Christian Wrong, the evangelicals who believe supporting Israel now will bring the Apocalypse and The Rapture sooner (to the very person detriment of the very right wing Jews who welcome the support of these people). The ADL will do anything to promote the cause of Israel Uber Alles, and this plays right to that.

The ADL hasn't been a voice of "sanity" and "moderation" or "tolerance" for a very, very long time.

This announcement plays straight to the people who give the ADL money. Why is anyone surprised they would answer their master's voice?

Posted by: TCinLA on July 30, 2010 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Dilip, what **victims** are complaining about the construction of the community center? I've only heard, read and seen about the bigots; aka Palin, Newt etc. Nary a word from any 9/11 survivor or the relative of anyone killed in the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps that's why Mr. Benen used the word "bigots"?
I really expected better comprehension from you, Dilip.

(THIS double star emphasis is mine, mine, all mine!)


Posted by: Doug on July 30, 2010 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

How many Muslims were murdered at Ground Zero on 9/11 by a group of ultra-right-wing murderous religious fanatics?

People seem to keep forgetting that along with Christians, Jews and members of other faiths (or no faith at all), members of the Muslim faith were killed on 9/11. And I doubt if the surviving family members of the Muslims murdered on 9/11 have much sympathy for Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda or any other members of their religion capable of such a horrific act. Just a guess. And maybe some of the surviving family members might even attend this Muslim Community Center

My religion? I consider myself a Christian, but of the liberal kind, one who believes in interdenominational peace, tolerance and acceptance.

And another thing, wasn't there a Christian church at the foot of the World Trade Centers? Talk about proximity. And how close is the nearest Jewish synagogue? Or Buddhist temple? Or Hindu temple? Not that it matters. A building is just a building. It's what is being taught inside the building that seems, to me, to be what is important.

Posted by: The Oracle on July 31, 2010 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

The people who are most upset about the Islamic Center are not the victims, but rather those who have shamelessly exploited the horror of 9/11 for their own ends.

Osama Bin Laden despises moderate Muslims. He is very happy that his actions have made them victims of increased hatred and bigotry.

Posted by: david1234 on July 31, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I'm rethinking my opinion of ADL.
Block the building of temples near holy churches by the God killers? After all Gibsonian followers are still very upset.
ADL has made itself into an object of pity.

Posted by: Fuzzykisser on July 31, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

the issue is is it appropriate for the adl to make this comment about what's appropriate for "healing". To make this statement is out of bounds for them. They weaken the integrity of their organization's mission by indulging in such sentimentalism. Which only obscures the real issues.

Posted by: marcelle on August 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

square1: "I would compare this to the decision of the NRA to hold its convention in Denver following the Columbine massacre -- a choice that was criticized by a non-negligible number of liberal gun-regulation proponents. At the time, nobody said that the NRA shouldn't have the right to meet and speak wherever they want. People merely questioned the taste."

I don't think is analogous. I don't remember this particular controversy, but presumably the argument was more or less as follows: The goal of the NRA is to increase the availability of guns. To the extent that the NRA is successful in achieving this goal, people like the killers at Columbine will have an easier time obtaining guns, making such massacres more likely in the future. Therefore, the NRA position amounts to saying that the occasional loss of life in events such as the Columbine massacre is a worthwhile price to pay to preserve gun owners rights. Whatever the merits of that tradeoff, it is insensitive of of the NRA to present their message that the victims at Columbine are simply not all that important (compared to gun owners rights) so close to the location of the tragedy.

The above is not my argument, and I don't endorse it. I'm just stating it to make its structure clear.

To make an analogous argument about the location of the Islamic cultural ceneter, you would have to claim that the cultural center would be advocating for policies that would make future terrorist attacks more likely. The ADL hasn't made this claim. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, have any of the other critics of the center. As far as I can tell, most of the critics of the location of the center don't have a coherent logic at all. It seems to be pure bigotry, blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few. The ADL does spell out a logically coherent argument, but their position in a nutshell is that they oppose it because other people oppose it, so they don't provide an independent reason (other than bigotry) to oppose it.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist on August 1, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

@wihntr

You make a valid point that the statues of Confederate generals dot the south.

You don't have to go the South to view such statues. A trip to Gettysburg or Antietam battlefields will show you plenty enough. Do they desecrate these"sacred" sites. Not at all IMHO. They were built after the Civil War in a spirit of reconciliation.

Posted by: Pietr Hitzig on August 1, 2010 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

bobbo--you are way way off on your comment. Take a look at the ADL report "Rage Grows in America"

Posted by: Michael on August 3, 2010 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Just bookmarked this website with my jumptags account .. thanks

Posted by: watch dexter free on December 2, 2010 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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