The ADL, the mosque, and Jewish-Muslim relations in Scottsdale


I just wrote a story attempting to depict the bigger picture in Jewish-Muslim relations in the United States, in the wake of the ADL-Ground Zero mosque firestorm.

A little bit got edited out for space, but it’s worth noting: The same week the ADL’s national office said it was opposed to building the mosque at Ground Zero, the regional office in Arizona took on the Scottsdale Board of Jewish Education for running a course on Islam taught by a historian, Carl Goldberg, who believes the religion promotes violence.

From the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix:

One .. handout is titled "Troubling Passages in the Koran," and includes 34 passages that Goldberg finds disturbing. Such passages include: "The unbelievers among the people of the book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of hell; they are the vilest of all creatures," and, "Women are your fields; go then, into your fields whence you please."


(Rabbi Charles) Herring (who leads a Jewish-Muslim interfaith group) said that his Muslim friends get upset when people cite negative passages from the Quran in an attempt to denounce Islam. "My response to them is, ‘Do you want me to give you all the page numbers in the Torah of horrible stuff? Because it certainly is there.’ And they decline. They say, ‘This is not the answer. We will speak intelligently.’"


Bill Straus, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that he is familiar with Goldberg’s position, that he has a problem with it and that he questions Goldberg’s ability to teach objectively about Islam.

"Having heard some of Carl’s allegations, and asking people in the Muslim community whom I feel I can trust, ‘Is that true?’ I always get the same answer: ‘That’s if you want to interpret it like the people who want to kill us, the most radical of the radicals,’" said Straus.

"Looking at the Muslim faith through the eyes of Carl Goldberg would be like studying the Jewish faith through the eyes of someone who is suspicious of Jews and views them as his enemy."

To that, Goldberg responded, "I would not use Bill Straus as an authority. He knows nothing about Islam. He’s never studied it."

"No, I’ve never studied Islam," confirmed Straus. "But I’m an authority on prejudice, and Carl Goldberg, like everyone who insists that they have the answer and there is no other, allows that to prejudice his view of Islam."

Now, did Straus miss the Abe Foxman "hate Muslims" memo? Is he about to become the ex-regional director of the ADL?

No. This is pretty much tried and true ADL stuff. Check out the group’s reaction after the firebombing of a Jacksonville mosque in May.

What’s missing in much of the reporting is that Foxman is credibly grounding this view in ADL’s position on the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz in the 1980s — don’t pray for healing where the unhealable still lie.

Now, this may be misguided — there are reports that plenty of 9/11 families are for the mosque, Ground Zero is not Auschwitz, normative Islam is not as responsible for Al Qaeda as the Church is for anti-Semitism — or not. The wounds of 9/11 still fester.

But to characterize this as some kind of fundamental shift in how the ADL approaches bigotry, as Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan and Jon Chait do, is blinkered and unfair.

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