That is part of the reason I am so disheartened and worried at the frivolous way in which organizations committed to the necessary vigilance and education to protect Jewish people from bigotry and violence and to the proper celebration of the incomparable contribution of Jewish people to planetary civilization sometimes seem to risk the integrity of their principles in the service of other causes and hence undermine their effectiveness in pursuing their actually indispensable task.
Here in the United States it has been the eagerness with which some leaders have sought to create the obviously false impression that anybody who disapproved of the treatment of the Palestinian people by the present foreign policy of the State of Israel are all anti-semites for holding such views (including, presumably, the many Jewish people who oppose these policies, including many Jews who are also citizens and even representatives of the State of Israel) that has seemed to me hitherto the most cynical and damaging mis-appropriation of the necessary critique of anti-semitism in the service of short-sighted and parochial political ends.
However, the recent statement of the usually valuable mainstream Anti-Defamation League in opposition to the proposal to build the Cordoba House, an Islamic Community Center two blocks from the site of the ruin of the World Trade Center, is another, and comparably damaging, diversion from and blow to the vital work of exposing and overcoming anti-semitic bigotry in the world.
Here is the final paragraph of ADL's misguided and heartbreaking statement:
Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is 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 will cause some victims more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right.
Let us be clear, the community leaders who have proposed and invested in Cordoba House do have the right to build at their chosen site (not "may"), and they certainly have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam (not "may"), a positive message modeled explicitly, in fact, on the sort of positive message sent by the construction of many Jewish Community Centers.
And like most of the statements which eagerly exploit the passions generated by the description of the site as one that is "in the shadow of the World Trade Center" when it is in fact fully two blocks away from that site, the ADL statement fails to mention that the site is located in the midst of a community for which Islamic residents and workers and visitors are an indispensable part of the living fabric -- a reality out of which emerge concrete needs and opportunities that are not exactly irrelevant to the decision to build a community center there.
The ADL statement condemns those whose opposition to the Center is an expression of bigotry but then makes a plea for sensitivity to the pain of some of the survivors of terrorist crimes. But, again let us be clear, there is no pain that might be occasioned by the sight of an Islamic Community Center that is not an expression of the bigotry ADL claims to disapprove.
The terrorists responsible for the crimes of September 11, 2001 obviously represent (as criminal cohorts always do) a vanishingly small and misguided minority of the over a billion and a half human beings on the planet who espouse the Islamic faith (among them, many victims of these acts of terrorism themselves, working in or visiting the World Trade Center that day), and it is only ignorance born of bigotry that would mis-identify that minority with the faith as such and hence take offense at the existence of an Islamic Community Center nearby in the first place.
Not only his targets but also every bigot himself is a victim of his own bigotry, violently cut off by it from some portion of the meaning-making life-invigorating presence of humanity's diversity by ignorance, hostility, and fear.
I do not doubt that a samesex or interracial kiss in sunlight causes pain and distress to the homophobic or racist bigot too ignorant or afraid to connect the joy of people different from themselves to their own joy. Nor do I doubt that the sight of a Jewish merchant in the neighborhood causes pain to the anti-semite. It is hard to imagine that the misguided authors of the ADL statement would likewise concede uncritically to the pain of the anti-semite but would seek instead to overcome that bigoted pain through the difficult world-building work of education and open dialogue.
Needless to say the facilitation of such education and inter-faith dialogue is one of the reasons the Islamic Community Center is to be built. ADL makes a mockery of its own stated educational mission in failing to support the shared vision out of which the Islamic Community Center arises as well.
One wonders, given the premise of their statement, why the ADL seems so insensitive to the pain that would be aroused should they succeed in the hearts of every non-bigoted person in the world sure to despair upon seeing the site where the Cordoba House would have stood were it not for the victory of voices of ignorance and hate?
That ADL's shoddy reasoning mirrors so precisely the frankly idiotic tweets of reactionary know-nothing abomination Sarah Palin on this issue should have been an immediate and decisive indication that they had been driven by the most superficial thinkers and immature hot-heads among them into the most questionable company imaginable. It will require long years of good works to undo the damage to their reputation representated by this appalling statement.
Again, given the importance of the work to which they claim to be committed this is a terrible shame -- shame compounded on the shameful bigotry to which they have given vent in the content of the statement itself.
By way of conclusion, let me quote the opening lines of ADL's statement, and note simply that the harmful and ill-considered words that follow these stand utterly condemned by the principles rightly invoked here only to be abused in the statement as a whole:
We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths -- to build community centers and houses of worship. We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.