Jews for Donald Trump

Jews for Donald Trump

by

Howard Adelman

Arutz Sheva, identified with the National Religious Party in Israel, with the Israeli settlement movement, and with a history of consistent opposition to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), is an Israeli media outlet which includes Channel 7 and B’Sheva, an Israeli weekend newspaper with the third largest circulation in the country. Following its reports on the presidential campaign in the United States provides a number of insights. Begin with the coverage of the standard prayer invocations at the Republican Party Convention held in Cleveland from 18-21 July.

Prayers came from all faiths. Msgr. Kieran Harrington on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church reminded Republicans in a clearly political speech that “all human life is important.” As another example, a Sikh prayer was delivered on the second night in Punjabi, subsequently translated into English, by Harmeet Dhillon, a lifelong Republican and the daughter of a Sikh-American orthopedic surgeon. She called for unity among Republicans, asking them to have the “courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those with whom we disagree, for the greater good of our nation.” However, when she was editor-in-chief of the conservative student newspaper, The Dartmouth Review, in October 1988, she was very divisive. She published a satirical column by James Garrett likening the president of Dartmouth College (a Jew, James O. Freedman) to Adolf Hitler and calling the results of university policies a Holocaust. Allan Gold in an op-ed in The New York Times (5 November 1988) noted that the headline read, “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Freedmann,” echoing the Nazi slogan, ”One Empire, One People, One Leader (Fuhrer).” Dhillon denied the charges thrown at her of anti-Semitism, but, at the very least, like her contemporary leader, Donald Trump, both of their remarks and the strong defence of them instead of an apology may have smacked more of gross insensitivity.

“The Jewish prayer became controversial when a very well known and highly respected rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, rabbi of the modern Orthodox Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City for almost sixty years and principal of the Ramaz School for fifty years – now emeritus of both – was originally designated to offer the Jewish prayer at the Republican Convention. He withdrew. Lookstein was the rabbi who converted Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to Judaism and officiated at her wedding to Jared Kushner. Both were his congregants and Ivanka had invited him to deliver the prayer.

At the same time, the conversion of another American married to an Israeli, whose certificate Rabbi Lookstein signed, was rejected by the local rabbinate court in her husband’s hometown, Petach Tikva in Israel, setting off the controversy within Jewish orthodox circles between the bona fide orthodoxy of American versus Israeli rabbis and the issue of whether orthodox Jewish conversions in America were kosher. The issue was not over Ivanka Trump’s conversion because her conversion was sanctioned by a “networked” beis or beit din, a Jewish rabbinical court, while the controversial case was not sanctified by the GPS Rabbinic Court in Manhattan.

However, the bona fide of Lookstein’s orthodoxy was not offered as the explanation for his withdrawal, but rather the pressure he had come under by his former students of Ramaz. “To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community; this is a shanda [shame] beyond the pale,” wrote Jacob Savage responding to Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border and temporarily ban Muslims from entry into the U.S. His petition urging withdrawal, or, alternatively, an explanation rooted in Jewish values, had 800 signatures urging that withdrawal. Lookstein did withdraw, professing his political innocence and non-involvement. Rabbi Ari Wolf, a relatively unknown orthodox Ohio police “chaplain,” was named as his replacement.

In spite of that initial reversal, Donald Trump received relatively favourable treatment in the orthodox Jewish press, particularly through the media outlets controlled by Arutz Sheva. The convention itself marked an important turning point in the American presidential race because, according to many pollsters as reported by Arutz Sheva, Donald Trump, benefiting from the Convention “bounce,’ pulled even with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

This celebration of Donald Trump’s improvement in the polls was recently reiterated when Arutz Sheva reported that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump had shrunk to 3% (6 August 2016) according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, though when one read the full article, the headline was undermined when the piece mentioned that CBS poll reported a 7% lead and a CNN/ORC poll reported the lead as 9%. Careful reading indicated the polls more favourable to Clinton were conducted with “registered” voters as distinct for “likely voters” polled by Reuters. The precipitous drop in Trump’s support was attributed largely to his denigration of the gold star parents of a fallen American Muslim war hero who had appeared at the Democratic Convention and criticized Trump’s attack on Muslims. As well, Trump’s squabbles with the Republican Party establishment had also not helped. Making up to the Republican Party and endorsing House Speaker, Paul Ryan, and others, and dropping his feud with the Khans, were given credit for the bounce back, though not much of a bounce according to most polls.

Though the reporting tended to be balanced once the bias of the headlines and the lead to the story were discounted, most op-eds in Arutz Sheva appeared to be highly critical of Hillary Clinton and generally favourable to Donald Trump. David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with the Kasowitz law firm and a close confidante of Donald Trump as well as his adviser on Israeli affairs, publicly declared that Donald Trump would, upon winning the presidency, withdraw American support for the two-state solution, move the American embassy to Jerusalem, put more pressure on the Palestinian Authority and end U.S. economic “coddling” of the PA (seemingly in contradiction to Trump’s early statements in his primary campaign that he would remain neutral in dealing with Palestinians and Israelis), and withdraw the designation of Israeli settlement activity as “unhelpful” in fostering peace and certainly not endorse any characterization of the settlements as illegal. Friedman went further and declared in Trump style, without proffering any evidence, that Hillary would be “terrible” for Israel, and had no love for the Jewish state.

Barak Obama (as well as Hillary Clinton) has been harshly critical of continuing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” Obama, however, has not strayed from the continuing American established policy that settlement activity was not defined as a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords or their subsequent implementation agreements, and is neither illegal nor in violation of the letter of the Oslo Accords and its supplements. Eliot Abrams, President Bush’ national security advisor, wrote on 8 April 2009 that the specific guidelines negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel merely stated that any settlement activity would not diminish the territory the Palestinian Authority would get in any peace agreement. In any case, the settlements, even with their expansion as a result of national growth, consist of less than 2% of the territory of the West Bank. However, most international observers go further than Obama and Clinton and regard the expansion of the settlements as not only illegitimate in violating the spirit of Oslo because they undercut the prospect of peace, but also regard them as illegal according to international law.

But what a radical shift Donald Trump would make on Israeli policy, assuming that Friedman has articulated Trump policy correctly. “Trump policy first and foremost is to trust Israel that they know what they are doing. They are not a client state of the United States. They are a partner with the United States in a global war on terrorism. We trust our partner and we want our partner to be secure and safe. We trust them to do the right thing.” Reflexive support of a two-state solution would no longer be a premise in American foreign policy since it has proven to be a failure if Trump were to be elected.

On 22 July 2016, Ben Ariel published an article in Arutz Sheva headlined, “Trump: Clinton’s legacy doesn’t have to be America’s legacy.” He repeated Trump’s condemnations of Clinton’s polices while she was Secretary of State in Libya, and with Iran., Egypt and Syria. “In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS wasn’t on the map. Egypt was stable. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was somewhat under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region and around the world. Libya is in ruins. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to take control. Iran is on a path to nuclear war. Syria is engulfed in war.” Trump ran as the candidate of law and order, of America first, of making America great again. The report captured and summarized Trump’s speech, but there was no fat check of his assertions – such as, “America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (In a report by KPMG in 2013, in a comparison of 114 states, the U.S. ranked 55 in comparing personal tax rates around the world.)

Yet an article by David Rosenberg on 24 July 2016 reinforced Trump’s message when it was headlined, “Could Clinton’s VP pick hurt her chances with Israel supporters,” as if all supporters of Israel opposed the nuclear deal. At the same time, an op-ed by Jack Engelhard appeared entitled, “Trump’s speech was huge.” This paragraph in the article is typical of his vociferous cheerleading for Trump. Fact-checking was labelled merely “nitpicking.” “Trump delivered the goods for nearly every segment of American society, and true Zionists who wanted a good word about Israel got it when he named Israel as ‘our greatest ally in the region.’ This drew sustained applause from the packed house. Among Democrats, meaning Liberals, such talk usually gets jeers.”

In another op-ed piece in the same issue, Rabbi Dov Fischer, who gives himself the tile of Prof. Dov Fischer even though he is only an adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, in an op-ed article entitled, “I think I understand Trump,” explained Trump’s delivery of the longest nomination acceptance speech at any convention as a means to undercut all his naysayers on the three main commercial networks who might otherwise devote the time to dissecting and criticizing the speech if it were shorter. There were no criticisms of the speech in Arutz Sheva. Other than these two pro-Trump op-eds for Trump, there were no critiques let alone analyses of Trump’s speech, only one reasonably objective report, but under a distorting headline, and one anti-Kaine diatribe under the guise of reporting.

Just when one would expect objective reporting on the Democratic Convention, all one could read was one attack after another on the Democratic presidential team. The attack on Kaine continued in the next issue (25 July 2016) headlined, “Clinton VP tapped pro-terror Muslim leader (Esam Omeish) for immigration seat,” with an on-line video clip of a pro-jihadi speech that Omeish gave. In 2007 (my italics), Governor Kaine of Virginia had appointed Omeish to Virginia’s Immigration Commission, though, after learning more about him, he pressured Omeish to resign, which Omeish did. The story was a denunciation of Omeish and, by extension and association, Kaine, even though it was really about an inadequate vetting process. Omeish had been vice-president of the Dar Al Hirjah mosque and responsible for hiring the radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S drone in 2011 in Yemen. Two of the 9/11 terrorists attended that mosque. Another op-ed piece by Stanley Zir was a vitriolic attack against Obama for allowing the theft under his watch of America’s identity as a Great Nation.

The 27 July issue included anther op-ed by Jack Engelhard with the headline, “Hillary flees to sanctuary city, Philadelphia. He pronounced that Hillary had won over her audience, not by her brilliance but “wore them down through exhaustion” as he repeated the usual Trump litany of accusations against Hillary. “It’s how the Clintons do it – they beat you into submission. They’ve spent (ill-gotten) millions crowding out anyone who might be more qualified. As for Hillary, throughout her shady past, has she ever met a payroll? Yes, but mostly for herself, her foundation and her cronies.” While Ben Sales gave a reasonable, if very brief, report of Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, Ben Sales wrote that, “Sanders’ delegates not listening,” a statement that proved to be totally false in subsequent polls.

In the next issue, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld wrote a rebuke of the petitioners who “forced” Rabbi Haskel Lookstein to withdraw offering a benediction at the Republican convention, which he insisted was always politically neutral, though anyone with the least knowledge knows that it is not. He asked rhetorically in a rebuke, “how about the Chillul Hashem [desecrating the name of God] of publicly humiliating a rabbi – your rabbi – in the media? What about the Chillul Hashem of a massive rebuke to someone who could be the next President of the United States? What about the mitzvah of ‘v’ahavtem es hage. You must love the convert’? Don’t you think your actions were a public humiliation of Ivanka, the Jewish daughter of the ‘anti-Semite’ Donald Trump?” What is worse, comparing the criticism of a rabbi and of the Republican presidential candidate to profaning God’s name, or comparing university policy to a Holocaust? I personally find it hard to choose which is the worst, but they are both of the same order.

The overt bias against Obama and Clinton and the overt favouritism towards Donald Trump continued in issue after issue. The same 28 July issue included a repetition of an accusation by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham that, “Obama increased aid to Arabs, but not to Israel.” The 29 July issue by Shai Landesman reported Trump’s charge in some detail that, “Hillary’s refusal to mention radical Islam proof that she is unfit.” Finally, a seeming reproof of Trump came from Jack Engelhard commenting on his horrible handling of the Khan affair, but the so-called critical comment came as a backhanded excuse and plea for support. “We need him and we need him to stop making such blunders.”

So the question arises not simply about completely skewed journalistic bias, but about why a leading voice for Jewish orthodoxy is providing such strong support for Donald Trump. I suggest that it could not be based on the conclusion that his temperament (which this media outlet ignores), lack of experience (which this media outlet ignores) or his blatant and outright lies repeatedly exposed by other media outlets (which this media outlet ignores) are not relevant. The possibility of Donald Trump favouring their radical right-wing agenda of increased settlement in the West Bank and refusal to contemplate a Palestinian state living in peace beside Israel is the prime motivation.

Eric Metaxas, the biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pronounced that Donald Trump is culturally Jewish and his bigotry is just “shtick.” Other Jewish supporters offer other reasons than his bias towards an expansionist Israel. Like many non-Jewish supporters, they see him as saying it “as it is” instead of being politically correct (when he most often says it as it isn’t), applaud him for being refreshingly honest when he tells lie after lie without explanation or apology, regard him as a great business success in spite of Michael Bloomberg’s scathing attack on his business credentials followed by that of Warren Buffett. They generally give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt when he is attacked for his bigotry and for being a demagogue, for his loose generalization in place of worked-out policy provisions. It is not clear, but it may also be the case, that Donald Trump’s attitude to Muslims articulated what they themselves were too timid to utter.

But, as with many non-Jewish Republicans, many Jewish Republicans are reconsidering their support for the GOP candidate for the presidency while the vast majority of Jews continue to back the Democratic ticket and continue their long pattern of voting against their personal self interest in favour of a larger vision of justice and tikkun olam, mending the world. I do not have any idea of the degree, but the stand of Arutz Sheva has even helped push at least some orthodox Jews away from Orthodoxy itself. “Peace through strength, unwavering [and uncritical] support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad” are slogans viewed as the voice of Balaam, blessings that end up being disastrous. But they were the blessings that the Republican Jewish Coalition conferred on Donald Trump.

“The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates Donald Trump on being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Throughout the course of this long campaign among Republicans there has been unity in the belief that Hillary Clinton is the worst possible choice for a commander in chief. Secretary Clinton has proven time and again through her record and her policies that her candidacy will compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel. Along with the Presidential race, the RJC will be working hard to hold on to our majorities in the Senate and the House. It is critical that these majorities be preserved. To do this we must remember our core principles: peace through strength, unwavering support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad.”

With the help of Alex Zisman

Refugees and Terrorism

Refugees and Terrorism

by

Howard Adelman

In Own Sound, Ontario, a thirty something man wore a jacket that had on its back the following:

Terrorists

Murderers

Fake refugees

Welcome to Canada

Though many Canadians and Americans have raised concerns about security checks, since the terror attacks on Paris this past Friday, there have been many voices urging a reconsideration of the number, the manner and even the prospect of allowing the entry of so many refugees who are believers in Islam. For example, Jack Engelhard, a well-known writer, wrote an Op-ed in Arutz Sheva’s Israel National News on Monday:

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/17897#.Vkx-JnarTek.

Jack Engelhard is the Ben Hecht of our time, an out-and-out Israeli revisionist so it should be no surprise that he won the Ben Hecht award for his writing. The above was but one of his many columns in that outlet for right-wing Zionist views. He is the author of novels as well as essays – Indecent Proposal: The Original Novel (2001) and the more recent, The Bathsheba Deadline: An Original Novel. The latter, self-published I believe, is a newspaper thriller with such paragraphs as: “We kissed. She sighed, as only a woman can sigh. We kissed again and she sighed again. She said she loved me and hoped –her only hope was that I hadn’t come along too late. There is nothing worse than two people hooking up when it’s all over…”

The first novel is not nearly as badly written, but it comes close. It is an update of the Abraham and Isaac story, of calling their wives sisters in front of strangers so an alien stranger will not kill them to make their beautiful wives concubines. In the novel, an Arab billionaire, Ibrahim Hassan, offers Joshua Cantor, a Holocaust survivor and speechwriter, $1 million if he can sleep with his wife. Both books allow Engelhard to use fiction as a format to expound his ideological fantasies.

Engelhard is an articulate and outspoken writer, though clearly not a very good one, but he does not mince words. That is an advantage in citing him. The essay on Syrian refugees is entitled, “Now who’s being paranoid: After the Paris bloodbath – time to throw out the trash.” In spite of all the empirical evidence otherwise clearly indicating average Muslims are as opposed to terrorism as much as anyone, he began with the claim that Muslims felt no shame over what happened. “So what are we supposed to say when a company of Muslims steps in, as they just did? There is no shame in their eyes over what happened.”

He went on with the following as examples of his declarations:

  • “What happened? Islam came to town. That’s what happened and now more than 100 Parisians are dead.”
  • “Muslims are suspect. Too bad about the ones who are no part of this and in some places targets or victims as well.”
  • “But that’s what they’ve done to us, the Allah Akhbar crowd. They’ve turned us into justified bigots. We fear all of them, the good along with the bad. Yes I said this and you can quote me, ‘justified bigotry’…but within the context of people who intend to do us harm.”

To this litany of assessments and judgments, he added:

  • “Later, G-d can sort them out but meanwhile our reckless leaders keep importing them by the planeload. Obama is even accelerating the welcome.”
  • “In Canada, I have just learned, federated Jews are spreading out the red carpet for these newly arrived ‘Syrian migrants,’ most of them men without women or children; most of them of military age and most of them deserters. But these Jews know better and have chosen to be more hospitable than Abraham and more merciful than G-d.”
  • “It’s about their commandment that commands them to kill. That’s it, period. Will the Left get this message? Probably not.”
  • “Yes I am intolerant against people who keep blowing us up. Sorry. I am funny and intolerant that way.”

His statements have at least the benefit of being clearer than that of the 26 American Republican governors, almost all from the southern states and the mid-western and non-Pacific western states – all states with a well-deserved fame for their hospitality – who would ban the entry of Syrian refugees into their states, for most of them, not just Muslim refugees, but all Syrian refugees. Of course, in the American system which guarantees the free movement of people within its borders, state governors cannot legally ban the entry of Syrian refugees. But they can make it inhospitable for them to come. They can deny settlement agencies the funds for ESL training or help in accessing employment. So the governors will have a rationale:

There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

These efforts to do all that they can to discourage entry into their states would undoubtedly not survive a court challenge, even in a Republican-dominated Supreme Court, but they would be effective in the long interim before such a court case is heard. Further, the governors will get their Republican colleagues with a majority in Congress to pass legislation denying funds for their resettlement. Obama will undoubtedly veto such a bill, but, in the interim, the extremely modest initiative of the Obama administration to resettle 30,0000 refugees would be so immersed in controversy, bad taste and bigotry, that refugees will only come to America because their conditions are so terrible.

This is unequivocal grandstanding on the immigration and refugee issue in anticipation of the forthcoming election in 2016. In Canada, where unexpectedly we had a very different outcome from a much more muted debate on refugees, even the 25,000 that the Liberal government has pledged to bring is modest. The debate has focused on the efficacy of such a rapid intake by the end of the year.

But let us go to the so-called “justified bigotry” argument. Terrorism did not begin when Muslims came to town. It was a radical Sikh group, members of Babbar Khalsa, that blew Air India Flight 182 out of the air. Now a Sikh is Canada’s Defence Minister, responsible for protecting the security of Canadians. Canadian authorities have worked diligently to deport Toronto’s Ramanan Mylvaganum, a Canadian with two graduate degrees and a Sri Lankan Tamil, who was convicted of supplying weapons and ammunition to the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), a terrorist group. Though violence and terror can come from almost any group, identification with the Muslim religion has recently become the most prominent. And that terrorism does not only come from Arabs – a Somali group in Canada was believed by Canadian security agencies to be planning a terror attack within Canada.

If we extend the reach from terrorism to violence, we recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the Vietnamese to Canada; they have been a tremendously successful community. But they also produced a very small number of violent youth gangs that acted on behalf of the Chinese mafia to kill rivals in the fight for control of the illicit drug trade. Or if we go back a number of years, we find the record of association of violence and even terrorism with a wide variety of ethnic groups. In my first year as a professor at York University in 1966, anti-Castro terrorists, with a safe haven in Florida, used a bazooka to attack the Cuban embassy in Ottawa. Subsequent bombings took place against the Cuban trade delegation and a bomb was exploded in the Cuban pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. About seven more bombing incidents followed, most in the next ten years.

Armenians have targeted Turks – attacking the Turkish Commercial Counselor in Ottawa in 1982 and paralyzing him, assassinating the Turkish military attaché to Canada in that same year and three years later killed a Canadian security guard when the Armenians seized the Turkish embassy in Ottawa. And, of course, we must not forget our own Irish Fenians whose terrorist raids go back to the nineteenth century – after all, they were the ones who assassinated Thomas D’Arcy McGhee, one of the fathers of confederation, in 1868. Nor the American terrorists who used Canada as a base – such as the John Wilkes Booth team that planned the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Montreal.

Though Israelis, and Jews more particularly, have been targets of Arab terrorist attacks in Canada, the far-right Jewish Defence League (JDL), founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose goal was to protect Jews “by whatever means necessary,” is a prescribed terrorist group connected with fifteen terrorist incidents in the U.S. The group with the strongest terrorist record in the United States was once protected by many of the governors in the American southern states who now object to the intake of Syrian refugees – namely, the Klu Klux Klan. The number of terror incidents they perpetrated numbers in the thousands and even perhaps the tens of thousands.

In Canada we have had our own FLQ that killed a Quebec cabinet minister. We have even had our own home-grown government terrorism. In the seventies, the RCMP committed arson and set fire to our research centre – Praxis – on Huron Street. So did terrorism start when Muslims came to town? Definitely not. It is not just an exaggeration; it is an outright lie. That is not to say that the current form of terrorism practiced by the Islamicist fundamentalist terrorist group, Islamic State (IS), is not the most vicious we have ever seen. I believe it is. And, perhaps the most dangerous. But they constitute a very small, but very significant, minority of Muslims.

If that is conceded, and it is further conceded that other Muslims are the main targets of IS, does this justify barring all Muslims? Does this provide a rationale for “justified bigotry”? Only if we want to betray our fundamental values of respect for human rights and tolerance for minorities. Only if we want to go back to the days prior to 1967 when bigotry was an integral part of Canadian law and immigration practice. Only if we want to go back to a time when a Canadian deputy-minister responded in the thirties to the question about how many Jewish refugees Canada could take, responded: “None is too many.” If I may paraphrase Peter Klein, who arrived in Canada as a Hungarian refugee, “Do not grant IS a post-terrorist victory by getting us to surrender our humanism, our humanitarianism, our respect for human rights and our sense of tolerance that characterizes the Canadian social fabric.”

Engelhard complained that most of Syrian refugees are of military age and most of them deserters. They are not at all. In the United States, where statistics are available and the country to which Engelhard is referring, in four years since the Syrian war broke out, the U.S. has only admitted less than 2,000 Syrian refugees, a paltry number by any standards. Half have been children. Half have been women, 25% over 60 years of age. Young men of military age constitute a very tiny minority.

Sometimes, a family does include refugees with adult children of military age. In Calgary a few weeks ago, I interviewed a mother and her three sons, aged 18, 22 and 26, who had arrived in Canada 36 hours before. The oldest son had been conscripted into the Syrian army and had been killed by IS. The other three were escaping the draft. The whole family was escaping persecution because they were Christians. As Marcus Gee wrote in this morning’s Globe and Mail, “The Syrian refugees are victims of terror, not agents of it.”

Further, with respect to importing draft dodgers and deserters, it is well to remember that the largest influx of refugees and migrants into Canada consisted of Americans fleeing the Vietnamese war. Most were single men of military age who were either draft dodgers or deserters. Using Engelhard’s “reasoning,” we would never have admitted any. Further, we do not blame Engelhard for the recent spate of hate crimes committed against Muslims in Canada just because he, and those of his ilk, publish screeds linking Muslims with terrorism. Why should the ordinary Muslim be blamed for Islamicist terrorism? As The French ambassador to Canada said, such a connection is an “intellectual aberration.”

Why the “justified bigotry? Because the Muslim Koran commands them to kill. It is certainly true that the Koran has over a hundred verses commanding its believers to kill infidels. The latter are allegedly different than similar commandments in the Torah and the Old Testament of Christianity that targeted the elimination and genocide of specific groups because they were enemies of the people of Israel. But the Bible commands us to welcome the stranger in the most repeated passage in that text. The Qur’am calls for the protection of asylum seekers. A famous Arabic homily states that, “The stranger is blind.” Immigrants and refugees who come to our shores know so little about our land that they are vulnerable. That is why they must be welcomed and given guidance and help. Verse 4:97 in the Koran asks rhetorically, “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” Every part of the earth belongs to God no matter what nation or religious group currently dominates in that country.

Bigotry is never justified. It is only ignorant.

However, when the everyday settings or ordinary people rather than specific officials or even specific modes of air transport, like planes, are attacked, when soccer stadiums, restaurants and dance venues for our youth become the targets, then the terror is far more frightening because it aims, not just at our abstract moral principles, but at our day-to-day way of life. ISIS is indeed a scourge. But the worst way to counter that scourge is to adopt their intolerance. The best way entails cooperating with the vast majority of Muslims who are as terrified as the ordinary Canadian or Frenchman, or, perhaps more so, as they become targets of a violent backlash encouraged by the over-the-top statements of Engelhard and some political leaders.

In fact, one of the goals of those terrorists is to encourage that very backlash as well as engage in revenge for Western attacks in Muslim states and efforts to disrupt the ordinary lives of the French and of Canadians. It is to prove that we are as biased, as much bigots and racists, as intolerant as they are. As Stephanie MacLellan wrote in her op-ed piece in The Toronto Star yesterday, for the terrorists, emigration is “a dangerous major sin,” leaving the land of the caliphate for the land of the unbeliever is punishable by them. Flight embarrasses the extremists and their narrative that Muslims will never be accepted in the West. Tolerance undermines their either/or reasoning, the same type of reasoning that Engelhard employs – “Either us or them.”

Sheema Khan made the point eloquently in her op-ed in yesterday’s Globe and Mail.

The backlash against Muslims has begun. As if somehow, they are responsible for the heinous actions of mass murderers. As if the faith they profess is one and the same with the twisted ideology of militant extremists. After issuing statements condemning the attacks, attending vigils for the victims and sending messages of condolence, Muslims gird themselves for the suspicion, vandalism and hateful comments that invariably follow. Yet our Canadian fabric is resilient, as demonstrated by the good people of Peterborough, Ont., who rallied around the Muslim community after its mosque was torched on Saturday.” (Over $100,000 was raised, more than enough to repair all the damage.)

One of the worst parts of this backlash is how painful all of this has been to our Canadian citizens who are Muslims. This morning in The Globe and Mail, Naheed Nenshi, Canada’s first Muslim mayor of a large city, Calgary, with a reputation as the best mayor of any large city, expressed how upset he has been at the tiny minority of Canadians who generalize from the perhaps .1% of Muslims who sympathize with or support terrorism. He himself refused to generalize from the minority of Canadians who are bigots to any irrelevant generalizations about all Canadians.

There is a risk, but it is very tiny, especially when compared to the benefit to the refugees and the threat and fear they face.  However, Canada benefits when an overwhelming number of Canadians in leadership positions welcome Syrian refugees. Those leaders come from all the professions. Large business organizations have backed the intake of refugees and indicated that they would be preferable to those taken into Canada on the Temporary Unskilled Worker Program. In Alberta, 2,000 former Sudanese refugees have settled in the small town of Brooks with a population in the greater area of 20,000, and work in the meat packing plant there. The Canadian Meat Packing Council, and Maple Leaf Foods would welcome refugees to work in its meat packing plant in Brandon, Manitoba. Universities have offered free spaces for university-aged refugees.

The Harper government may have offered a paltry number of admissions, but at worst it explained that it was worried about security concerns. It never justified its limited response on racial or religious grounds. In imitation of its Tory predecessor, the Trudeau government Ministers all stress that “security is at the forefront” in the admission of Syrian refugees.

Let me conclude very simplistically:

  1. a) There are security checks prior to entry into Canada;
  2. b) Terrorists rarely use refugee systems to enter a country because that path leaves a big track, unless they enter en masse in a large migration movement where there are no border checks, a situation not applicable to Canada;
  3. c) Is the tiny risk of allowing entry to one refugee who may be a terrorist worth the sacrifice and suffering of so many refugees? If risks to ourselves of a relatively minute order outweigh the suffering of those refugees, then we have lost our moral compass;
  4. d) The type of refugees we take – families with children, persecuted minorities, refugees first cleared by UNHCR – are least likely to be terrorists;
  5. e) If similar reasoning was always used in the past, most of us would not be here;
  6. f) That “bigoted” reasoning was akin to the reasons offered when Jews were barred from entry into Canada – and Chinese and Sikhs, etc.

There is a fight going on that is much larger than the political wars over refugees taking place in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, much larger even than the war on terror. It is the war over the hearts and minds of Muslims being waged by Muslims themselves. Will Islam emerge as a faith rooted in compassion, tolerance and respect for the Other? Or will it be a religion of fear and terror, of subjugation instead of a respect for rights. In that fight, it is our duty as Canadians of whatever faith (or no faith) to weigh in on the side that supports those pushing for a tolerant and open Islam instead of reinforcing the fascists and bigots within Islam.

 

Tomorrow: Jacob and his wives

Sunday: Fighting Terrorism