Tuesday, August 01, 2006

anti-semitism: from seattle to malibu

Yesterday, Academy Award winner Mel Gibson went to rehab after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The police report indicates that during his arrest, Gibson launched into a "profanity-laced tirade" against Jews. He also claimed to own Malibu and shot a sexist remark at a female officer.

As star blogger Arianna Huffington suggests, "the Gibson Affair" was a defining moment for Hollywood. One might expect a tidal wave of press releases condemning Gibson's remarks from the Hollywood elite, but no such thing has happened yet. Huffington encourages other actors and movie execs to ostracize Gibson and separate the extremists like Gibson from the rational thinkers.

This incident comes after Friday's hate crime in Seattle, where one woman was killed and five others were critically injured. All of the victims were Jewish.

Police said the gunman had been arrested without a struggle inside the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, where the shooting took place, and was being questioned by police.

The gunman is a U.S. citizen, and police said initial contacts with him by phone while he was inside the building indicated that he was a Muslim.

Amy Wasser-Simpson, the federation's vice president, told the Seattle Times in a story on its Web site that the man got past security at the building and shouted, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," before he began shooting.

Since the attack, authorities are precariously monitoring Jewish organizations and synagogues in Seattle. The Reuters article also indicates that extra precautions are being taken at mosques in case of a retaliatory attack.

As the Israel announces plans to expand the ground war in Lebanon as long as a rocket threat to northern Israel is present, global critics have voiced their concern about the fragile situation in the Middle East. Many have called for a ceasefire, including Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican. The European Union is also expected to order a ceasefire, with the possibility of sending troops to the region to encourage peace. Others, including President Bush, support Israel's right to self-defense but warn that Israel should take care not to harm Lebanon's fledgling democracy.

In a joint statement, key House Democrats Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland condemned Hezbollah and urged the return of the kidnapped soldiers. The statement went on to recommend that the Palestinian Authority take similar action in Gaza.
Those who finance, direct, or otherwise support acts like these need to understand that they have produced an extremely dangerous situation and that they are responsible for the consequences. Israel has an inherent right to defend itself, and the United States supports our ally.
Unfortunately for Israel, the world judges its actions harshly. Vocal critics point to the contrast between the number of Lebanese dead and the number of Israeli dead. "The Bunker Blog," a highly-acclaimed diary of events from an Israeli perspective, informs us that this difference in numbers is because of Hezbollah's determination to use Lebanese civilians first as shields and then as propaganda, and documents these comments by a Shia Muslim from Lebanon:
After Israel left Lebanon, it did not take long for Hezbollah to have its say in other towns. Received as successful resistance fighters and armed to the teeth, they stored rockets in bunkers in our town as well. The social work of the Party of God consisted in building a school and a residence over these bunkers! A local sheikh explained to me laughing that the Jews would lose in any event because the rockets would either be fired at them or if they attacked the rockets depots, they would be condemned by world opinion on account of the dead civilians.
There is no doubt that Muslim extremists in Gaza and Lebanon are anti-Semitic. There is no doubt that Americans citizens that perpetrate hate crimes against Jews, such as the attack in Seattle, are anti-Semitic. Now it seems that even Mel Gibson, once accused of anti-Semitism because of his religious affiliation and his film The Passion of the Christ that purportedly portrayed Jews in a negative light, is indeed anti-Semitic. As the old adage goes: in vino, veritas.

I second Arianna Huffington's call for a separation between rational people and extremists. As shown in Seattle, extremism is also a domestic issue. Even in America, there are people with the despicable worldview of a terrorist in the Middle East. We must work to distance ourselves from extremism, lest we lend credence to anti-Semitic opinion at home and abroad.

Reading the horror stories of the survivors of the Qana bombing, any rational person's instinct is to criticize the tactics Israel is using to take on Hezbollah. Then a thought arises: will this criticism come across as part and parcel of the anti-Semitic worldview of the Gibson crowd?

Which is yet another reason Gibson needs to be ostracized: his lunatic ravings make it all-the-harder for legitimate criticisms of Israel's methods to be expressed and to be heard with uncluttered ears.

Legitimate criticism is healthy and warranted. Unhealthy and unwarranted are comparisons of Israel's self-defense tactics to the oppression of Nazi Germany, as proclaimed recently by protestors in Los Angeles and London. Anti-Semitic tirades by Hollywood stars are inappropriate and revealing of character. Obviously, hate crimes against any particular group are tragic and should not go unpunished. But what do this weekend's events say about the state of things? Anti-Semitism, quickly becoming a real problem again in Europe, is making a repeat performance stateside and the events unfolding currently in the Middle East are only adding fuel to the fire. Where are all of the rational thinkers?

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