Last week's shooting attack at the Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist prompted an insightful column from Washington Post writer Richard Cohen Tuesday. Alleged shooter James W. von Brunn's racist and anti-Semitic views thankfully are considered the rantings of a crackpot to most Americans, Cohen writes.
But as President Obama seeks new dialogue with Muslims throughout the world, Cohen argues it's necessary to call out bigotry that runs rampant through the culture. He notes it is in textbooks and popular media outlets:
"There is, in fact, nothing that von Brunn professed that is not commonly heard or published in the Middle East. Do Jews control world finance, media, international organizations and the United States itself? Of course. Are they capable of the most foul deeds, including the infamous 'blood libel,' which means using the blood of non-Jewish children in the preparation of traditional foods? Again, of course."
Cohen focuses on messages in the Middle East, but such anti-Semitism also has been epoused by people with iconic images in the American Islamist community. Take Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which touts itself as America's premiere Muslim civil rights organization. During a speech before Georgetown University's Muslim Students Association in 1998, Awad said Jews controlled the Clinton Administration's foreign policy:
"Who is opposing the latest agreement with Iraq? Look at their names. Look at their ethnic, their ethnic or religious or racial background. You will see that these are the same groups that belong to the same interest groups in the Administration."
Two years later, Awad was quoted in the Al-Lewa'a newspaper saying that "The Jewsplan to distort Islam's image and have succeeded in their plans. This Jewish plan hadborne hostility towards Islam and deforming its image."
The current head of CAIR's Chicago office, Ahmed Rehab, wrote an essay while a DePaul University student in 1996, which minimized the Holocaust and claimed talk show host Charlie Rose's question "confirmed the Jewish control over the media."
Then there's the common invocation of a Quranic verse that says God turned Jews into monkey and pigs. At a 1997 conference at Brooklyn College organized by the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and co-sponsored by CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), among others, cleric Wagdy Ghoneim led the audience in chanting:
"No to the Jews, Descendants of the Apes"
Similarly, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Sami Al-Arian, who fired up a pro-PIJ rally in 1991 by saying God had turned Jews "into monkeys and pigs, had become discontent and angry with, had cursed in this world and in the hereafter, and had imposed a punishment on them in this World until Judgment Day."
In that same rally, Al-Arian friend Fawaz Damra invoked the same line.
Cohen's concern was that this hatred be confronted abroad, or Arab leaders "will find that the peace that most of them undoubtedly want will not be possible." The same can be said for Islamists here in America.