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Moriel Rothman-Zecher Headshot

Threats to America: Islamic Law Taking Over! Jews Controlling the Media!

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Islamic Law, or Sharia Law, is taking over the United States' judicial systems.

The Jews control America's news media and financial institutions.

The reasoning behind each of these two statements is startlingly similar.

Sunday morning, the New York Times ran a front-page story about an organized campaign to "cast Shariah as one of the greatest threats to American freedom since the cold war." Spearheading the campaign is a religiously observant American Jew named David Yerushalmi.

When one google-searchs the word "Jew," the first non-Wikipedia result is a website called "Jew Watch." This gem of a resource includes characterizations of Jews as "PR Liars," "terrorists," and "Jewish-Zionist-Soviet anti-American spies."

A short biographical note: In addition to being a religiously observant (and media-savvy) Jew, I am also a left-wing Zionist. In other words: a Jewish-Zionist-Soviet anti-American spy.

A second biographical note: I am sickened by Yerushalmi's campaign not despite my Jewish background, but rather because of it.

The narrative put forward by "Jew Watch" is all too familiar: There is a cabal of "American" Jews bent on subverting America from within its borders. They are tied to an international Jewish conspiracy. They and their threat to America must be exposed.

This narrative has been used throughout history to raise public antagonism towards Jews, for purposes ranging from cynically political to simply hateful. The results of such scapegoating led to horror after horror, and ultimately to what was arguably the most atrocious event in human history. Although there is certainly a difference of scale and societal pervasion, the scapegoating of American Muslims, by political leaders and cultural figures alike, is also both immoral and dangerous.

While it is impossible to link anti-Muslim violence directly to the language of anti-Sharia/anti-Islam, the past few years have contained an unsettling number of anti-Muslim attacks such as the firebombing of a Tennessee Mosque, the bombing of a Florida Mosque, and the slitting of a Muslim cab driver's throat in New York City.

David Yerushalmi, as a fellow Jew, undoubtedly grew up with a heightened awareness of the tragedy of our people's history. Perhaps he even experienced discrimination and persecution personally. It is with our shared history in mind that my anger at his words and work is compounded and multiplied.

Now, Yerushalmi and I certainly have our disagreements in other areas, as well: He is a former resident of the Israeli settlement bloc Ma'aleh Adumim, whereas I view the continuation of Israel's settlement enterprise as fundamentally anti-Zionist.

Just as I have refused in the past to let the Settler movement "speak for Zionism," so too I feel compelled to publicly reject such hatred propounded by another American Jew.

Might some elements of Islamic Law be categorically different than, say, the elements of Jewish and Christian law that have been cited to justify violence? I am personally skeptical of such a claim, looking towards Christian persecution of other religious groups throughout history, and towards the fanatical strands of Judaism that flourish in some parts of the Jewish-controlled West Bank today.

My personal opinions notwithstanding, I do think that there are certainly appropriate settings for serious, thoughtful and critical discussion of Islamic Law.

However, when that discussion is based on the premise that Islam is an inherently criminal religion, or that all Muslims have a proclivity towards violence, then that discussion shifts from legitimate intellectual debate to hateful religious scapegoating.

Thus, when people like David Yerushalmi advocate criminalizing Islam through policy that would make "the adherence to Shari'a... punishable by 20 years in prison," it is the responsibility of all anti-hatred Americans to oppose him, and of all American Jews to recall the disastrous consequences of anti-Semitic conspiracies and scapegoating and speak out against the fanatics in our midst.