August 31, 2010
Being Honest About Hate
The past few days offered an interesting confluence of events that serves to highlight the importance of moral consistency, principle and the danger posed by religious true believers.
In this weekend’s Jerusalem Post and this week’s Jewish Journal, Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation [named after his son] wrote a wonderful op/ed analyzing the reasons for some of the opposition to the Ground Zero mosque. In a nuanced and incisive piece, Pearl argues that the most significant underlying reason is the American public’s
No sooner did Pearl’s words criss-cross the globe then press reports from Israel quoted a Jewish New Year’s sermon by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, and now the spiritual leader of Israel’s leading ultra-Orthodox party, Shas.
These comments were delivered on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s departure for this week’s Israel-Palestinian summit in Washington.
Much to its credit, the Anti-Defamation League is one of the only American Jewish organizations (if Google is to be believed) to unequivocally condemn Yosef’s bigotry. ADL expressed outrage at the “offensive and incendiary comments made by Ovadia Yosef…..these comments do not exist in a vacuum—such incendiary expressions contribute to a potentially dangerous environment of intolerance and hatred.”
These two events—-Pearl’s commentary and Yosef’s remarks—-complement each other perfectly.
Pearl’s call for forthrightness in condemning extremism and decrying the wishy-washiness of “contextual explications” that avoid calling hate by its name, is no less relevant when the purveyor of bigotry and hate is an Israeli and a religious leader. Intolerance and extremism are no less reprehensible when cloaked in religious garb that looks and sounds familiar; in fact, it is even more insidious because of the veneer of moral authority.
For those who rightfully call upon American Muslim leaders to speak out in unequivocal terms against Hamas, Hezbollah and other Muslim haters, can less be asked of Jewish leaders to condemn an advocate of plagues and mass deaths from within their ranks?
Hopefully, before the Jewish New Year arrives there will be multiple voices in the Jewish community, beyond just the ADL, who will clearly and forcefully meet the Pearl test of “condemning terror breeding ideologies” no matter their source.