Among the ethical obligations imposed upon Jews are these two: honoring the dead, and comforting mourners.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin gives this highly relevant example of the former:
After the terrorist attack on New York City’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, religious Jews came to recite psalms on behalf of the victims. At first this went on near the site, and then continued in a trailer set up as a chapel outside the office of the medical examiner, where the remains of the dead were delivered. Some two hundred Jews, many of them affiliated with Manhattan’s Congregation Ohab Zedek, were involved in the effort, which continued around the clock for seven and a half months. — Telushkin, A Code of Jewish Ethics, Vol. II, p.96 [my italics]
Those who mourn for the victims of 9/11, of course, are long past the traditional mourning period. But can anyone doubt that their loss is still with them? After all, their loved ones were murdered, their lives cut short early. What could be more unkind than to tear open their wounds today?
So even if you believe that the building of a mosque next to the site is intended as a gesture of reconciliation (and if so, see here), shouldn’t you respect their wishes? The plan is to dedicate the building on September 11, 2011, exactly ten years after the murders. Anyone who can’t see the cruelty in this is worse than blind.
And so, enter J Street, the ‘pro-Israel’ group which is in part funded by Israel’s enemies and which time and again takes positions on critical security issues that are diametrically opposed to those of Israel’s democratically elected government.
J Street did not need to take a stand on the Ground Zero mosque. AIPAC certainly did not. It isn’t an Israel-related issue, and it isn’t even a Jewish issue. But they did:
The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.
As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.
What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be. — J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami
J Street’s sheer stupidity combines with its insensitivity to make them look like idiots in both the logical and moral realms.
The suggestion that Muslims are ‘treated differently’ than other religions is absurd. Nobody says they can’t build yet another mosque in New York — it’s just this particular location that presents a problem. If those planes had been hijacked by Buddhist monks, then possibly some of us would feel funny about putting a monastery here, too. But they weren’t.
The thought of the Osamas of the world ‘whipping up jihad’ with this issue is beyond ludicrous. Does anyone really think that someone whose ideology prescribes that infidels should be subjugated or killed cares that said infidels might be prejudiced against Muslims? And is the way to prevent terrorism to voluntarily subjugate ourselves to every culturally narcissistic demand made by Muslims?
And then we get to the issue of sensitivity: the basic human decency that demands that if the relatives of murder victims don’t want a reminder of the murderers next to the graves of their loved ones, then it could be built a mile or two away. How hard would that be?
One of the reason’s that Ben Ami has injected J Street into this controversy is to help one of his bosses, Barack Obama. The administration is stuck between a rock and a hard place, because it craves Muslim affection too much to oppose the mosque, but yet is unhappy that Republicans — including Rick Lazio, who is running for governor of New York — are making an issue of it. So Ben-Ami can help by attacking “pandering politicians.”
So far it’s not working. No less than 58% of likely voters in the State of New York think that the mosque should go somewhere else.