21 May 2007

21 May 2007 - David Duke supports Harvard Halutz-hunters

In retrospect, it was just a matter of time, but white supremacist David Duke has now backed the wacky group of Harvard students who are hunting for former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz at the Business School. Perhaps the so-called Alliance for Justice in the Middle East didn’t anticipate getting support from racists, neo-Nazis and such, but incite a lynch mob to look for a Jew and it’s bound to happen.

I saw the original story at Little Green Footballs; I’m not going to link to the Duke site directly because I don’t feel like boosting his traffic. It’s pretty easy to find, anyway. Interestingly, Duke has actually posted the Harvard group’s “Wanted” poster directly on his own website. I would warn the Harvard vigilantes, but—darn!—they don’t allow comments on their website.

A few years ago, when I was living in a Muslim community in Cape Town, I encountered Duke’s propaganda as it circulated among my Muslim friends, who had no clue what Duke actually stands for. Some time later, I penned the article below for the Cape Times. By the way, I should add that “coloured” has a peculiar meaning in South Africa and is not, as in America, a derogatory term.

Islamic world's tradition of tolerance and learning holds key to its future

By Joel Pollak

I was nervous as I arrived for my first Arabic class at a madrasah in one of Cape Town's former coloured townships.

I had grown up thousands of miles away, in a family of Jewish ex-South Africans in suburban Chicago. I had always wanted to study Arabic - to master the poetic inflections of the language that had once been the lingua franca of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike in the Middle East.

In the aftermath of September 11, that desire acquired a new urgency. I had moved back to South Africa the year before, and found accommodation with a Muslim family in a working-class neighbourhood in Cape Town near where my Jewish grandmother had been born 80 years ago.

I wanted to help, in a small way, to bridge the volatile cultural divide that seemed to be widening between Islam and the world, and between Jews and Muslims in particular. Learning Arabic seemed a good place to start.

With the help of a friend in the community, I soon found a teacher. I told him that I was Jewish, and explained why I wanted to study Arabic. He said I would be welcome as a student, and gave me directions to the madrasah.

The first class was somewhat tense. The teacher, a young but venerable sheikh, sat at his cluttered desk at the head of the small classroom. I pulled up an old chair and joined the other two students, young men in white robes who eyed me curiously.

The sheikh gave me a primer and taught me the first line of letters from the Arabic alphabet. When I had finished reciting, the sheikh and his students gave vent to their political curiosity.

What did I think of the ongoing US war in Afghanistan? Was there any oil there? What did the US really want? And so on.

I tried to answer: "I don't think there's any oil there. I think that the US is primarily concerned with the oil in the Caucasus regions, and securing a pipeline route through Turkey."

"Yeah," one of the students interrupted with a derisive snicker. "Turkey is controlled by the Jews."

The sheikh looked alarmed, almost embarrassed on my behalf. Apparently the other students didn't know I was Jewish. I cleared my throat and answered softly. "Yes, well, I don't think that's true, but Turkey has very repressive laws when it comes to religion. It's easier to be a Muslim in France than in Turkey." At this they all laughed and nodded.

Later, the sheikh informed them: "Actually, you know, Joel is Jewish. He comes from a Jewish family."

To my surprise, this provoked no reaction whatsoever from my classmates.

There seemed to be almost no connection, in their minds, between the voracious world-domineering Jews of their nightmare fantasies and the real-life, Arabic-reciting Jew sitting next to them at the sheikh's desk in the madrasah.

A few months later, one of the students sent me an article he had found on the Internet. It was called "How Israeli terrorism and American treason caused the September 11 attacks". He felt that this article proved that Jews and the Jewish state, instead of Islamic terrorists, were responsible, and he had shared it with many of his friends.

What my friend did not know was that the author of the article, David Duke, is one of the most notorious white supremacists in the US and a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. He and his supporters hate Muslims almost as much as they hate Jews, and in fact neo-Nazis in the US have debated which group they should eliminate first.

Once, the Muslim world offered Jews a degree of tolerance that was often denied to us in Christian Europe.

Today, much of the Muslim world has imbibed the anti-Jewish beliefs that ultimately led to the murder of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

When Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed addressed leaders from 57 Islamic nations last week at the summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, he told them that "Jews rule the world by proxy".

Repeating the century-old myth of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, he added: "They get others to fight and die for them ... they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power."

Mohamed made the bizarre claim that Jews "invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others".

By implication, all of these supposedly Jewish inventions are evil, and persecuting Jews and denying us equal rights are acceptable and desirable actions.

The response to Mohamed's speech was overwhelming: he received a standing ovation. When Yemen's foreign minister was asked about Mohamed's comments about Jews, he replied: "I don't think they were anti-Semitic at all. I think he was basically stating the fact to the Muslim world."

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid tried to justify Mohamed's anti-Jewish statements by linking them to criticism of Israel.

But in doing so, he merely illustrated further how the use of scapegoats - in this case the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - has allowed many leaders in the Muslim world to avoid responsibility for their own failures.

The irony was that the rest of Mohamed's speech was truly constructive. He called for Muslim nations to embrace science and technology, to transcend petty religious differences, and to abandon support for political violence.

But the anti-Jewish messages cancelled out the positive ideas in the speech - not simply because those messages offended Jews, but because any society that views democracy, equality and human rights as malicious and foreign is unlikely to fulfil its potential.

There are, of course, many Muslims who reject anti-Semitism as completely as some others choose to embrace it.

A distant relative of the Muslim family I moved in with objected vehemently to my presence, saying that they "ought to be burned for harbouring a Jew", as if my religion made me some kind of fugitive. But my hosts stood up to this intimidation, and we enjoyed many happy months together.

If I may, as a non-Muslim, offer some advice, it is this: the Islamic world will gain nothing from the destructive, racist ideologies of anti-Semitism.

Rather, it is the Islamic tradition of tolerance and learning - which I have been so fortunate to experience firsthand - that holds the key to the future.

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