Jewish Seattle author sparks fury by claiming Chabad attack not anti-Semitic

Richard Silverstein's article triggers an immediate and widespread war of words on the Internet.

chabad house raid 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
chabad house raid 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An American Jewish author sparked a furious war of words on the Internet with British and Israeli opponents of anti-Semitism when he wrote that last month's terrorist attack on Mumbai's Chabad House was anti-Israeli and not anti-Semitic. "Pakistani militants have been known to select prominent foreign targets within Pakistan, as the Mumbai terrorists did [in India] last week," Seattle-based Richard Silverstein wrote on the Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog. "But few, if any, Pakistani militants have been known until now specifically to target Israelis. I say, Israelis rather than Jews because the single surviving terrorist noted that they chose Chabad House to avenge the suffering of the Palestinians. Therefore, the attack was anti-Israeli, though not necessarily anti-Semitic," he continued. Silverstein, who has a blog called Tikun Olam and is a contributor to Haaretz, the Forward and the Los Angeles Times, said the terrorists "were seeking redress for crimes against Palestine" as well as "revenge against India over Kashmir." He also attacked Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Israeli news site Arutz Sheva. "So Livni and Arutz Sheva need to see the attack as emblems of Muslim perfidy and anti-Semitic hate," he wrote. "It allows them to either win an election (in Livni's case) or to argue that Israel must battle to the death with the Palestinians and never give an inch (in Arutz Sheva's case). That is why we must deny them the opportunity by cutting through the fog of terror and laying bare the essentials of this case." Silverstein's article triggered an immediate and widespread war of words. Posting on the Guardian blog, one of the first protesters, "Lipschitz," said: "A non-Zionist rabbi and his wife lie dead, but it's not anti-Semitic because one of the terrorists says they wanted to avenge the suffering of Palestinians?! ... You give this wannabe mass-murderer the benefit of your doubt. "How about I go out and murder a couple of black people because I'm angry with Mugabe? Or Congo? Or Rwanda? Would that be racist? Does that help you to understand the idiocy of your moral bypass? ... "Al-Qaida declares itself to be anti-Semitic. They go out and kill Jews. If you want your local terrorist group to be allowed into the al-Qaida franchise then you have to do likewise. That's why this group kills Jews." A poster named "Geary" posted sarcastic approval, "I agree with Mr. Silverspoon. It was all an entirely justified reaction to the continuing brutal Israeli occupation of Kashmir." Alex Stein, an Israeli writer, posted on the Guardian blog: "In the midst of the maudlin clamor for explanation, one thing is clear: The terrorists wanted to kill Jews... And in choosing their target, they also gave the lie to the idea that this was some kind of proportionate response to the oppression of the Palestinians. If that was their agenda, they could have targeted the Israeli Consulate. Instead, they attacked a Jewish communal center and in the process killed a Satmar Hasid, known for its virulent anti-Zionism." The case was taken up by two popular British Web sites noted for opposing anti-Semitism, "Engage" and "Harry's Place." Silverstein used his own blog to fight back with an article titled "Mumbai and the Jewish Jihadis." "Yes, I know, jihadis are supposed to be Muslim. After all, Islam created the concept. But I'm afraid that it's somehow rubbed off on many right-wing Jews. They need to see all of Islam arrayed against all of Judaism in a holy war in which we will all fight to the death," he wrote. Using a similar tone, Silverstein addressed his detractors in a post on Engage: "Chew on this, my little Jewish holy warriors," before linking to an article that quotes the surviving Mumbai terrorist saying they "were sent with a specific mission of targeting Israelis to avenge atrocities on Palestinians." Writing on Engage, Israeli analyst and Jerusalem Post blog contributor Petra Marquardt-Bigman said it was important to counter Silverstein as "in addition to trying to claim he is the one to define what's Jewish-left-progressive, he also tries to define what coexistence between Jews and Muslims requires."