Reb Eric Yoffie, Reb Arthur Waskow, and Me
by Phyllis Chesler • September 6, 2007
Earlier today I committed a dangerous act: I jumped in and, unasked, defended my colleague, the Green Party activist, Lorna Salzman, on a listserv. To do so, I spoke my mind to Reb Arthur Waskow--someone whom I know disagrees with me.
I rather loved Reb Arthur's early work, such as "Godwrestling;" he also loved my early literary and pre-2001 political and religious work. While I may also now disagree with him, this does not mean that he is my "enemy." It does mean that I may have to "wrestle" with him as Jacob once wrestled with both "God and humanity."
Lorna has been exposing the Islamification of the Green Party and I have written about this with her expert guidance. (These articles are posted on my website). Since then, I am one of the people who have been lucky enough to receive her very intelligent, passionate, and, alas, sometimes rather long postings.
Today, Reb Arthur took her sternly to task for having shared what he assumed was an utterly private email correspondence. He accused her of being "unethical." More than that: He demanded that she "name names," tell him who else had seen what she had written to him. She made an exception to her rule and did so.
I am not entirely sure whether Reb Arthur was quoting someone else or whether he was speaking on his own but whoever was "speaking," (so to speak) is trained in Talmudic hair-splitting or Islamist taqqiya. Reb Arthur admitted that he was "not saying that NO Muslims behave in the way that Ms. Saltzman describes; I am saying that ONLY SOME Muslims do, some DO NOT, and (that) 'Islam' does not".
The honorable Reb Arthur (of the Biblically flowing beard) joins the honorable Reb Yoffie (President of the Reform movement in America) in proclaiming the danger of "racism," especially towards Muslims. Both rabbis view such "racism" as equivalent to the lethal stereotyping of Jews.
However, not all things are equal nor are they the same.
As everyone knows , I work with Muslim dissidents. These are heroes who have been imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or if they are lucky, exiled by Muslim tyrannies and tyrants who ban their writings, deliver fatwas against them, launch mobs to lynch them. Many such intellectuals live in hiding in the West or write under pseudonyms. Some bravely stay at home where their work and their lives remain permanently endangered.
My ex-Muslim and Muslim dissidents happen to agree with Lorna (and myself) on the issue at hand: namely, that Islam itself poses a grave danger, that the Koran obliges Muslims to either convert infidels by the sword or to kill them; that at best, infidels are to be kept subordinate, taxed, and are expected to "know their place."
Many say that the Koran is a document of "peace" and that Islam is a religion of "peace." Western liberals desperately want to believe this. But it is not so say many Koran scholars. While statements that are "pro-peace" may be found, later verses "abrogate" or cancel out earlier Koranic verses. The matter is thorny because the chronological order of Mohammed's revelations appear out of sequence in the Koran.
Thus, Koranic scholars assure me that the obligation to kill infidels appears after the statement that it is good to live in peace with infidels and therefore "abrogates" it. The Koran also preaches the most vile and lethal hatred of Jews and other non-Muslim groups. My friend and colleague, Dr. Andrew Bostom, has just published a comprehensive and definitive source book titled "The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism" which I highly recommend.
Who exactly has radically challenged this within Islam? What imam, what mullah, what leader? Perhaps many are trying to do so. What are their names, where may we find their work?
I know: there are some Muslims who hope that it is not too late to initiate a religious reformation or reform within Islam and I hope that is the case but that has not yet happened.
Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Islam has not yet undergone a reformation. It has absolutely no history of self-criticism, and very little curiosity about or desire to learn from non-Muslim sources. Today, the most fundamentalist Muslims overtly fear and say they "hate" everything modern, American, Jewish, Western, and non-Islamic.
And so, I challenged Reb Arthur directly by suggesting that we must ask our yearned-for "peaceful" or "moderate" Muslims to stand up and denounce fatwas, hate ideology, and jihadic terrorism. (I have no quarrel with inner psychological struggle, the other interpretation of jihad). If "peaceful" Muslims fail to do so, they remain part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Good Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians, etc. who only wished to stay alive and keep out of harm's way (or to opportunistically benefit from the demise of their Jewish neighbors) did not stand up to radical evil during Hitler's demonic reign. The fact that they themselves may have been "good" or personally "peaceful" made no difference. The failure of the "good" people to risk all and to act on behalf of good is what always empowers evil.
Lorna Saltzman is an avowed atheist, somewhere to the right of Christopher Hitchens. Reb Arthur is an avowed religious liberal. Nevertheless, he ended his critique by wishing her "ten days of tshuvah (repentance)" and that "deep into" her fast on Yom Kippur (that it) "help(s) (her) do tshuvah for your hatred."
You pride yourself on tolerance and respect for others, especially for Muslims (whose behavior, had you encountered it among Orthodox Jews you would blast to Kingdom Come) and yet: Here you are, imposing your religious practices upon someone who has declared that she is an atheist. Why are you assuming that she, like you, will be observing the Jewish holidays in a religious way?
Since I do believe that we are all created "b'zelem," in God's image, I remain open to civilized and rational dialogue especially among those who disagree with each other. "Civilized" and "rational" are the key words here. Too often, they are utterly missing from such exchanges which are, increasingly, and to our detriment, mere gladiatorial spectacles for public entertainment.
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