Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts on Abe Foxman’s Speechlessness over Fareed Zakaria’s Return of the ADL’s Humphrey Award

The dispute between Fareed Zakaria and Abe Foxman is not over. Foxman's faux "shock" over Zakariah's reaction to Foxman's efforts to stop the building of an Islamic community center a few blocks from "ground zero" may be masking efforts by Foxman to have Zakaria exit by the same route as Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr.

In response to Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman's statements last week, in which the latter both sought to exacerbate negative feelings 9/11 survivors irrationally hold toward Islam, and to further define Foxman's take on Zionist exceptionalism, author and journalist Fareed Zakaria returned the Hubert H. Humphrey Award certificate and honorarium he had received five years ago from the ADL.

On August 2nd, Foxman wrote a column in which he sided with Sarah Palin and the larger neo-con community, urging the backers of the lower Manhattan community center plan to re-think their project, possibly moving it to another part of the island:

At its essence, our position is about sensitivity. Everyone -- victims, opponents and proponents alike -- must pay attention to the sensitivities involved without giving in to appeals to, or accusations of, bigotry. Ultimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center would unnecessarily cause some victims more pain. And that wasn't right.

Earlier, on July 30th, Foxman was quoted as saying:

Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational. Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.

Zakaria reacted to the perception of inconsistency in the ADL position on the mosque with what he thought the ADL had long stood for, in a personal way. Here's his complete letter:

Dear Mr. Foxman,

Five years ago, the ADL honored me with its Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. I was delighted and moved to have been chosen for it in good measure because of the high esteem in which I hold the ADL. I have always been impressed by the fact that your mission is broad – “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens” – and you have interpreted it broadly over the decades. You have fought discrimination against all religions, races, and creeds and have built a well-deserved reputation.

That is why I was stunned at your decision to publicly side with those urging the relocation of the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan. You are choosing to use your immense prestige to take a side that is utterly opposed to the animating purpose of your organization. Your own statements subsequently, asserting that we must honor the feelings of victims even if irrational or bigoted, made matters worse.

This is not the place to debate the press release or your statements. Many have done this and I have written about it in Newsweek and on my television show – both of which will be out over the weekend. The purpose of this letter is more straightforward. I cannot in good conscience hold onto the award or the honorarium that came with it and am returning both. I hope that it might add to the many voices that have urged you to reconsider and reverse your position on this issue. This decision will haunt the ADL for years if not decades to come. Whether or not the center is built, what is at stake here is the integrity of the ADL and its fidelity to its mission. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain your reputation.

Foxman's reply is also worth a complete reprint:

Dear Fareed:

I received your letter today and must say I am not only saddened but stunned and somewhat speechless by your decision to return the ADL Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, you accepted in 2005. As someone I greatly respect for engaging in discussion and dialogue with an open mind I would have expected you to reach out to me before coming to judgment.

ADL is the same agency you held in esteem then; we have never wavered from our mission since its inception in 1913. I know you know well the work we do to fight prejudice and discrimination and promote respect and understanding among all people.

I hope you have read our statement on the proposed Islamic Center at Ground Zero and, more importantly, understand our position. We did not oppose the right for an Islamic Center or a mosque to be built. What we did was to make an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity. If the stated goal was to advance reconciliation and understanding, we believe taking into consideration the feelings of many victims and their families, of first responders and many New Yorkers, who are not bigots but still feel the pain of 9/11, would go a long way to achieving that reconciliation.

ADL has and will continue to stand up for Muslims and others where they are targets of racism and bigotry, as we have done at the request of and on behalf of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf.

I am holding on to your award and check in hope that you will come to see that ADL acted appropriately and you will want to reclaim them.

It is obvious that Foxman doesn't get why Zakariah feels so strongly about this. Nor does Foxman understand how deeply his statements must offend supporters of the First Amendment.

As some readers here may know, I firmly back the strong belief of all the survivors of the assault on the U.S.S. Liberty by Israeli jets and torpedo boats, that the attack on their ship was as deliberate as was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Did Foxman realize when he sided with Sarah Palin, that there has long been a mosque inside of the Pentagon? Or that, by applying his standard, one might suggest, in view of what Foxman terms "location and sensitivity," that the Jewish Chapel, located within a block or so of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, be moved further away, so as not to offend the relatives of:

LCDR Philip McCutcheon Armstrong, Jr. Navy Cross

LT James Cecil Pierce

LT Stephen Spencer Toth, Silver Star

CT3 William Bernard Allenbaugh

SN Gary Ray Blanchard

CT2 Allen Merle Blue

QM3 Francis Brown

CT2 Ronnie Jordan Campbell

CT2 Jerry Leroy Converse

CT2 Robert Burton Eisenberg

CT2 Jerry Lee Gross

CT1 Curtis Alan Graves

CTSN Lawrence Pasul Hayden

CT1 Warren Edward Hersey

CT3 Alan (NMN) Higgins

SN Carl Lewis Hoar

CT2 Richard Walter Keene, Jr.

CTSN James Lee Lenau

CTC Raymond Eugene Linn

CT1 James Mahlon Lupton

CT3 Duane Rowe Marggraf

CTSN David Walter Marlborough

CT2 Anthony Peter Mendle

CTSN Carl Christian Nygren

SGT Jack Lewis Raper, USMC

CPL Edward Emory Rehmeyer, III, USMC

IFCN David (NMN) Skolak

CT1 John Caleb Smith, Jr.

CTC Melvin Douglas Smith

PC2 John Clarence Spicher

GMG3 Alexander Neil Thompson, Jr.

CT3 Thomas Ray Thornton

CT3 Philippe Charles Tiedke

CT1 Frederick James Walton

It would be as foolish to start a movement to move this Jewish community center in Annapolis as it is to attempt to thwart construction of the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. Neither the 9/11 attackers nor the planners of the attack on our men at sea in June 1967 represent the ideals of their faiths or the hopes of their communities.

I'm going to donate $10.00 to each project. Here are their donation pages:

Friends of the Jewish Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy

Cordoba House

Here's Zakaria's explanation of his return of the award:


Anonymous said...

Zakaria's response was quite appropriate. The ADL was once a valuable organization but their response proves that they no longer subscribe to their original purpose. Too bad, in these difficult times we really need an organization that stands up to anti-semitism. The ADL no longer does.

Makabit Bat Guriel said...

I don't quite understand your positions on the United States military and their people. In one post you slam the hell out of a few guys flying planes in Seattle and here you are "standing up" for another group.
It's so damn transparent how you consider them useful idiots when it suits you.
Too bad you didn't fall over a railing down by Pike Place Market...splash!

The Contentious Centrist said...

I'm noting the two photos you posted representing the two persons involved. There is Fareed, looking so sweet and smiling as though he couldn't entertain a racist thought in him mind and there's Abe, with his fat ugly mug and his hand, shaped like a claw reaching for the viewer's face. Despicable choice of contrasting images aiming at creating a palpable feeling of aversion to Abe. Propagandists usually resort to this kind of methods to induce in their more hapless readers the "correct" understanding.

There is something very disturbing about the need to beat on those who feel the megamosque for the betterment of humanity intended for Americans in Lower Manhattan is not quite the way to go about enhancing goodwill and harmony among people.

As has repeatedly been stated, the resentment against this initiative has nothing to do with the rights of its planners to build wherever they want. That right has been loudly and fully acknowledged by all. What has been questioned was the politics of the initiative, its desirability to be placed right there on that spot, bewildering all people of common sense and genuine inclination to promote intercultural harmony. The fact that I have a right doesn't mean I'm absolutely obliged to exercise it. 21-year-olds have a right to drink alcohol. That doesn't mean they are absolutely obliged to fulfill that right, especially when there are indications that they might be alcoholic.

The Contentious Centrist said...

I missed this tidbit:

"As some readers here may know, I firmly back the strong belief of all the survivors of the assault on the U.S.S. Liberty by Israeli jets and torpedo boats, that the attack on their ship was as deliberate as was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."

which may explain more than anything why you found that particular photo the most appropriate to represent the head of the Jewish ADL.