From: "Joel Bellman" Date: Thursday, July 20, 2006 8:39 AM Subject: An Open Letter to Ramona Ripston Friends: I thought you might be interested in seeing the following letter, which I sent today. Joel Bellman ***************************************** Ramona Ripston, Executive Director ACLU of Southern California 1616 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dear Ramona: I write with a heavy heart, as a long-time ACLU member of more than 30 years' standing, to express my most profound disappointment and strenuous disagreement with the ACLU of Southern California's decision to honor Salam Al-Marayati with a "Religious Freedom" Award at this year's upcoming Garden Party on September 10 http://www.aclu-sc.org/Events/101851/. I'm not sure when he and MPAC would legitimately deserve such recognition, but it most certainly is not a time when MPAC is falsely blaming Israel for defending herself in a two-front war launched without provocation by Islamic terror organizations with the support and sponsorship of two rejectionist Islamic nations. As a consequence, this will be the first ever Garden Party that I intend to boycott, and I will urge all of my friends to do the same. I've known Salam personally for nearly 20 years. Under ordinary circumstances, I can tolerate his posturing on MPAC's behalf as the voice of "moderate" Islam, although his actual political positions are scarcely distinguishable (except in tone) from those of most of the anti-Israeli Muslim world. Today, Israel finds herself under fierce military attack across two internationally recognized borders by guerrillas from Hamas in Gaza, and from Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. In both cases, Israel had unilaterally relinquished territory (even dismantling settlements and evicting Israeli citizens), and watched while free and democratic elections welcomed violent extremists into the political fold, and in Gaza even put them in charge. And then, rather than moderating their behavior and assuming the responsibilities of civilized governance, these groups instead took the opportunity to mobilize and mount armed assaults that killed and captured Israeli military personnel. The inevitable and entirely predictable military response has called down terrible death and destruction throughout the Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, bringing ruin to large portions of a nation that sought no war with Israel, but which has been effectively hijacked by extremists supported and controlled from Syria and Iran. The blood is entirely on their hands, yet when even Arab nations like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were able, at least initially, to recognize and condemn Hezbollah's aggression, MPAC has once again laid the blame squarely at Israel's doorstep. In a July 16 communique http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=378 MPAC willfully distracts us from the real issue by asserting, "Regardless to the role of Iran and Syria in this conflict it is illegitimate for pro-Israeli sympathizers to skirt from Israel's responsibility for escalating the level of fighting within the region," and then for good measure makes a positively Orwellian bid for spin control by adding that "MPAC also calls upon all those who are engaging in an analysis of the current situation to cease the use of Islamic terminology to explain this very clearly political narrative." In a July 19 communique http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=380 MPAC calls on "all people of conscience" to oppose a congressional resolution in support of Israel and instead "to demand an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and condemn the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian and Lebanese people." In it Salam is quoted as saying, "We must make our voices heard in order to do all that we can to bring an end to this merciless round of violence, and to restore the sanctity of all civilian life." Not a word, of course, about the culpability of Hamas and Hezbollah, not to mention Iran and Syria, in fomenting and exacerbating this crisis. Last Friday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah blustered, "You Zionists, you wanted an open war and you will have it." Today, Hezbollah's apologists are pleading for relief and rescue from the calamity it brought down upon itself, but it is universally recognized that any ceasefire leaving Hezbollah's weapons and warmaking capacity intact would be merely setting the stage for a future attacks and ongoing suffering and civilian casualties on both sides. Salam's statements are perfectly consistent with MPAC's, CAIR's (Council on American-Islamic Relations) and other Muslim propagandists' post-9/11 efforts to recast the global struggle against radical Islamic terrorists as somehow having little or nothing to do with Islam per se, when in truth it has everything to do with Islam in its most virulent and dangerous form. We are meant to believe this is simply one more post-colonial liberation struggle, like so many others long sentimentalized by the Left -one in which Islam plays at best an incidental part - rather than properly recognizing it as the epicenter and flash-point of radical Islam's war on the West, war on modernity, and even a nihilistic war against itself. It is particularly repellent to me that not only Salam, but Rabbi Beerman and Rev. Regas are similarly to be honored with this award - when all three recently participated together in the farce of MPAC's " Interfaith Vigil to End the Occupation" following the initial attacks on Israel. To reiterate: Israel no longer occupied Gaza or Southern Lebanon. Free elections had been held, after which Israel was attacked first from those territories without provocation. And amid all the crocodile tears shed by MPAC over civilian casualties, it is Hamas and Hezbollah who secrete their weapons and mount their rocket and missile attacks from within civilian neighborhoods, using the Palestinian and Lebanese populations as both willing and unwilling "human shields," and who target civilian, not military, areas inside Israel. Hezbollah and its sponsors have put civilians on both sides of this conflict squarely in harm's way - and your prospective honorees have turned the situation on its head to cast the principal victims as the aggressors. At this critical juncture, these three are those whom the ACLU of Southern California has seen fit to honor in the name of religious freedom? For shame, Ramona. For shame. In frustration and sorrow, Joel Bellman Subject: RE: No Honor for MPAC's Al-Marayati Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 12:38:30 -0700 From: "Bellman, Joel" To: Elizabeth - I will look forward to that. I've been getting an unbelievably enthusiastic response from everyone to whom I have sent it (virtually all on the Left). Back in 1978, she kindly took the time to write me a very thorough two-page personal letter attempting to defend the ACLU's position on the Nazi Skokie march, which as you know cost the ACLU many members (including me for a couple of years, as I think you and I once discussed). That said, I was disappointed that she focused relentlessly on the issue of whether Nazis should have free speech rights, not on the specifics of how they should be allowed to exercise them in this unique situation - thus entirely missing the point, because I agreed with her that they should have those rights. But for me, it was instead a time/place/manner issue, and that didn't include a residential street where Holocaust survivors would be forced to see uniformed Nazis marching past their front windows. I know the courts eventually agreed with the ACLU position (anyone can be wrong), but I objected to the way she mischaracterized the objections that many of us had to the ACLU position. I mention all this because I will be very unhappy, again, if Ramona responds with boilerplate about the right to dissent, the need to maintain open dialogue, etc. etc. - and does not substantively address my objection to singling out for special honors this particular trio - and most especially Salam and MPAC which he represents, when they are engaging in such an outrageous and disingenuous media blitz in the middle of a terrible and entirely unnecessary shooting war where his constituency are clearly the aggressors. Of course they all have their rights to speak, which I continue to defend. I am explicitly objecting to the ACLU of So Cal decision to pay them special tribute in the midst of this deplorable propaganda campaign. Cheers, Joel
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