Several years back during the Ground Zero Mosque debate, I wrote an article in The Jerusalem Post titled 'What if they opposed a synagogue?' As a Jewish American, I feel it’s always important to see certain events thought the eyes of Jewish history; a past where Jews became scapegoats for everything from plagues and failed wars to controlling the world economy. Last week, hundreds of armed demonstrators descended upon a mosque in Arizona to intimidate Muslim worshipers, primarily because these people were blamed for the sins of others they’ve never met, but claimed to commit atrocious acts in the name of their religion.
Therefore, after Arizona’s recent Islamophobic incident, I asked myself some questions:
What if these armed protesters had descended upon a synagogue?
Does silence in the wake of such Islamophobia pave the way for future antisemitism?
If these armed protesters had staged an antisemitic rally to intimidate Jews, how would Jewish leaders have reacted?
“But Islam is different…” will be the eventual rebuttal from those who believe that ISIS means all Muslims are culpable for the atrocities around the world done in the "name" of Islam.
However, this mentality ignores the fact that Western nations, including the United States, profit from selling billions of dollars in weapons to Muslim countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Profit speaks louder than the Islamophobia some conservatives confuse for critical thinking, and this profit motive has allowed the most fundamentalist Muslim theocracy in the world to become the largest importer of weapons in the world. According to Jane’s, Western nations (the same countries said to be suffering from “radical Islam”) have made Saudi Arabia the largest importer of weapons in the world:
Saudi Arabia has replaced India as the largest importer of defense equipment worldwide and took the top spot as the number one trading partner for the US in 2014, according to IHS’ annual Global Defense Trade Report...One out of every seven dollars spent on defense imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia…The biggest beneficiary of the strong Middle Eastern market remains the US, with USD8.4 billion worth of Middle Eastern exports in 2014, compared to USD6 billion in 2013.The second tier of exporters to the Middle East is led by the United Kingdom with USD1.9 billion, the Russian Federation with USD1.5 billion, France with USD1.3 billion and Germany with USD1 billion.
These figures, by the way, don’t include the hundreds of billions that Saudi Arabia purchases from the US and other Western nations in long term arms deals. Therefore, one can’t say that “radical Islam” is the scourge of the planet, while conveniently ignoring the billions in weapons we give to fundamentalist regimes.
The truth is that like all religions, Islam has its extremists, and many of these extremists are emboldened by the geopolitical realities (oil and “stability” in the form of weapons deals) that send billions in weapons to a country that doesn’t even allow its women to drive a car or leave the house without a chaperone.
Such global ironies also form the basis of anti-Semtism; a hatred that feeds off irrational fears while conveniently ignoring logic and rational thought. Even today, 26% of Americans believe that Jews killed Jesus and according to The Jerusalem Post, many Americans still harbor antisemitic views:
In the latest survey, 14 percent of respondents agreed that Jews have too much power in the United States; 30 percent said American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States; and 19 percent said Jews have too much power in the business world – all figures virtually unchanged from the 2011 survey.
While most people have enough sense not to blame an entire religion for the transgressions (or perceived transgressions) of a few, there are still those who cling to the irrational views that all Jews had a role in killing Jesus, or that all Muslims flew into the World Trade Center.
Therefore, it’s important for me to put myself in the shoes of fellow Americans living in Arizona, who happen to be Muslim and who’ve experienced a vile form of intimidation and bullying.
What if Jews had been targeted?
Imagine for a moment that the following Washington Post headline, Phoenix Mosque Sees Anti-Islam Protesters Parading 'Muhammad Cartoon Contest,' was worded differently to reflect a day when antisemitism in America is as accepted as Islamophobia. The following words are from last week’s Washington Post article titled Hundreds gather in Arizona for anti-Muslim protest, but I’ve replaced the words Muslim for Jewish:
Hundreds gather in Arizona for anti-Jewish protestPHOENIX —About 250 mostly armed anti-Jewish demonstrators — many wearing T-shirts bearing a profanity-laced message denouncing Judaism — faced-off against a crowd of roughly the same size defending the faith in front of a Phoenix synagogue Friday night.
How does this sound to you? Jewish history is filled with events where hundreds gathered to do more than protest, and antisemitism feeds off other forms of hate and intolerance.
“But Islam is different!”
Great, tell that to the people making billions in weapons deals to Saudi Arabia. Jews must defend against intolerance to all peoples, especially innocent Muslim citizens in this day and age. The political winds, throughout history, have usually been against Jewish people, so to remain silent towards injustices experienced by Muslim Americans or Muslim minorities throughout the world is counterproductive and immoral. It ignores the fact that in the near future, it might be again politically correct to denounce Judaism in the manner that Islam is denounced in this day and age.