Jewish Journal

Briefs: ‘Islamist Threat’ panel stirs emotions at UCLA; Goldhagen: Iraq conflict increased worldwide

Posted on Apr. 19, 2007 at 8:00 pm

'Islamist Threat' panel stirs emotions at UCLA

The audience at the panel discussion on "Totalitarian Islam's Threat to the West" wanted red meat, the protestors wanted to make a stir, the battery of campus cops at UCLA wanted to prevent violence -- and all sides got pretty much what they came for.

In contrast to most academic panels, which often leave the listener at sea on the speaker's point, the three on the dais made their views crystal clear.

Their opening statements alone made President Bush or former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon look like bleeding heart peaceniks. For example:

Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute: "Islam is a totalitarian ideology which wants to control the world. You can't negotiate with it. It must be crushed by force, it must be crushed militarily ... it can be defeated easily, if we have the will to do so."

Wafa Sultan, Syrian American lecturer and author: "There is no difference in the political ideology of radical and moderate Muslims. You need a microscope to see the difference."

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum: "Islam wants to impose shariah [Islam's fundamental religious law] on the whole world and control every aspect of life. We must crush the will of Islam until its followers give up this goal."

The scene on April 12 at UCLA's Moore Hall, the site of the discussion, was reminiscent of a busy airport during a security alert.

Policemen guarded all four entrances to the hall and some 400 attendees waited patiently in line for individual body checks before grabbing scarce seats.

After a while, a lone protestor showed up, carrying a sign with the words, "Hands off Syria, Iran, Down with U.S. Aid to Israel."

The bearer of the sign identified himself as a member of the Spartacus Youth League -- shades of Berkeley in the 1940s -- but declined to give his name.

He proved to be a Trotskyite decoy. Inside the hall, about 20 members of the Muslim Students Association, some from as far away as San Luis Obispo and Irvine, were waiting for Pipes to speak.

As soon as he opened his mouth, the students got up and left, while the audience hastened their exit with rhythmic chants of " Out, Out, Out."

Officially sponsoring the event was a student group called LOGIC, which, according to its Web site, stands for Liberty, Objectivity, Greed, Individualism, Capitalism. It is an affiliate of the Ayn Rand Institute, which was out in force with sign-up tables, pamphlets and free copies of its founder's massive bestseller, "Atlas Shrugged."

The central philosophy of Rand, both the author and the institute, is "objectivism," which holds, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "that all real achievement is the product of individual ability and effort, that laissez- faire capitalism is most congenial to the exercise of talent, and that selfishness is a virtue, altruism a vice."

The most visible current champion of the philosophy, and, with Pipes, the most outspoken foe of Islam, is Yaron Brook, who was born in Jerusalem, the son of recent immigrants from South Africa, and served three years in military intelligence. He earned a civil engineering degree at the Technion, but felt "oppressed by Israeli socialism" and left for the United States in 1985.

Brook was named head of the Ayn Rand Institute in 2000, and since then has tripled its size, he said. Headquartered in Irvine, the institute now has 34 employees and a $6 million annual budget.

He told The Journal that while the institute focuses mainly on domestic issues, such as the defense of capitalism and business, he felt he had to speak out against the "existential threat" of Islam.

"There are few others willing to call a spade a spade," he said.

Brook sees no significant shift in the "liberal" attitude of most American Jews, which calls largely for encouraging moderate Muslims, rather than a World War II-type "unconditional surrender" by Islam.

"There seemed to be some shift to the right after Sept. 11," he said, "but now the large middle segment doesn't know what to think."

-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

(Web editor's note: For a similar demonstration at a similar Pipes appearance at UCI, see this YouTube video.

Goldhagen: Iraq conflict increased worldwide anti-Semitism

"Anti-Semitism has become particularly acute as a result of the conflict in Iraq and is taking on the forms, ideas and structure of globalization," Daniel Jonah Goldhagen said in a speech at the Yom HaShoah program April 15 at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood.

Goldhagen, the author of "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust," believes much of today's anti-Semitism is centered in the Islamic world and is a function of "the obsessive focus on Israel as a pariah state." Moreover, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are frequently linked. Goldhagen illustrated this by citing a British Labour parliamentarian quoted saying that Bush, Rumsfeld and their associates are "puppets of a Jewish cabal which has taken over the government of the United States."

In spite of the fact that Christian churches are no longer interested in demonizing Jews, there has been a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, where a large percentage of the population believes Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries. Violence against Jews and Jewish institutions has increased so much that, especially in France and Germany, Jews once again feel physically threatened and forbid their children to display outward signs of their religion such as wearing kippot or Stars of David.

While earlier forms of anti-Semitism were local in nature, Goldhagen says that global anti-Semitism extends beyond national borders and focuses on Israel and the United States. Where once Jews were characterized as powerless, sly and corrupt, "their image has changed from Shylock Jews to Rambo Jews," powerful in contrast to "the poor, suffering Palestinians" whose images are seen the world over. "In the Arab-Islamic world, anti-Semitism is Nazi-like and institutionally supported and is used by local governments as a convenient and cynical tool to divert attention from deeper problems," Goldhagen said.

He added it has also been institutionalized at the U.N., as illustrated by the resolution equating Zionism with racism, and the Durban Conference, both of which legitimized hatred of Israel and the Jews.

Even in the United States, which he characterized as today's only haven for Jews, Goldhagen sees a growing opposition to the pro-Israel lobby, especially the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which anti-Semites are attempting to use as a wedge issue.

-- Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

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