Thursday, October 4, 2012

The HuffPo Vs Geller (Part 4)

In what I believe is now the eighth article directly attacking Pamela Geller's "Savage" ads, the Huffington Post has called up Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, a Reconstructionist rabbi, to take her turn raking Geller over the coals. Apparently the fact that the MTA has decided to take the ads down has not stopped the Huffington Post from stomping along down the warpath. Unlike Joseph Ward and Frank Garcia, Rabbi Kreimer does not go so far as to call for silencing Geller's point of view. However, she does make some troubling remarks that I feel should be brought to your attention.
"The campaign strives to be as clever as it is malevolent. Geller claims it is simply a pro-Israel political statement. But the ad's text is a calculated echo of Ayn Rand's slur that Israel's opponents, and indeed all Arabs, are 'primitive ... savages.'"
First of all, the word "primitive" does not appear in the advertisement. It did appear in Ayn Rand's commentary to describe Arab culture. I have a feeling that commentary about Israel's culture would be considered "legitimate criticism" by the readership of the Huffington Post but that is besides the point. Rabbi Kreimer should have more than enough to criticize about the ads without trying to put words in their mouths.

Secondly, if I were an Arab I would be bothered by all of these people simply assuming that when someone says "savages" or "jihadists," they not only mean "Arabs," but they actually mean all Arabs. I don't think anybody would disagree with me that the ads were very clearly intended to provoke, but just because that was their goal doesn't mean it's also acceptable to accuse them of bigotry that simply isn't there. Clearly Rabbi Kreimer knows this so she tries to make it about who Geller is, rather than what Geller said:
"The issue of free speech is, however, a red herring. The campaign aims to distract and confuse Americans. Geller has played that game before. Concern for sensitivity to victims' families served as a cover for the anti-Muslim agenda in Geller's last major initiative, the controversy she helped create around what she misnamed the "mosque at Ground Zero.""
None of that makes sense. How is free speech a "red herring?" That's entirely what this is about: are we willing to live in a society in which all points of view are allowed to be shared, even ones that commit the cardinal sin of offending Muslims? And although I probably agree that Geller has an anti-Islam agenda, how is that a problem? People have the right to be critical of any religion that they like.

Let me break once again and remind you that if this were an anti-Jewish advertisement or anti-Christian, I highly doubt it would have received any kind of attention at all. With that in mind, let's get back to Rabbi Kreimer's attack on Geller:
"Like Geller's other pet project, "Stop Islamization of America," the campaign is designed to stoke anxiety that American Muslims do not understand and support America's freedoms. Geller posts provocative ads. She then reports on her blog -- with great satisfaction -- any examples of Muslim Americans reacting in ways that fail to appreciate the complex, messy business of freedom of speech in this country."
What did the advertisement have to do with American Muslims? Oh wait, we're supposed to just assume that it did because that fits what the Rabbi wants us to believe, rather than what is true. Unless all American Muslims are jihadists or enemies of Israel, then they had nothing to be offended about. However based on what the Huffington Post has reported so far, quite a few expressed outrage.

Now as for this thing about her blog, I haven't read it so I went to the horse's mouth to find what Rabbi Kreimer was referring to. A preliminary analysis revealed a couple of interviews with Geller, article about attacks on Nigerian Christians and French Jews, a few posts bashing President Obama, and a lot about this:

Which is quite ironic because in the next paragraph Ms. Kreimer said that American Muslim spokesperson "responded...appropriately." Though I guess Mona Eltahaway doesn't represent anyone but herself, it seems dishonest that the most famous reaction to the posters (even to the point where the Huffington Post actually noticed it) doesn't get any attention. Furthermore, one of the interviews with Geller points out that how this all got started were a series of anti-Israel ads, which apparently did not mean anything to either the Huffington Post or Rabbi Kreimer. Can't say I'm surprised to hear that bit though.

Rabbi Kreimer is starting to finish up:
"As Jews, we regularly expect Muslim and Christian friends to denounce anti-Semitism and terrorism within their own communities. In fairness, it is our duty to join others in stepping up when Jews are the ones promulgating hate. Geller knows well that apparent support for Israel is one way to package an anti-Muslim message that makes it tricky for Jewish leaders to offer unequivocal and unified denunciations."
Do we expect Muslim friends to criticize the Palestinians when they blow up a bus or shoot rockets? And do we expect them to criticize Iran when President Ahmadinejad calls for the dissolution of the "Zionist Entity?" That's a serious question: I honestly don't know. From where I stand, I don't expect anyone to criticize the actions of their co-religionists because I know that that is one of the tenets of religion. If they don't, however, I can judge them about it. But I don't see a lot of Muslim students standing in solidarity with Jewish Berkeley students when their campus turns into a war zone every year during Israel Hate Week.

Let's not get sidetracked. This ad is not equivalent to either anti-Semitism or terrorism. It is critical of terrorism using language that the Rabbi thinks is too strong. Fine, that's her opinion. I'm not writing this article to defend the ads, only Geller's right to publish them and the truth about what they do and do not say.

I also like how when at the beginning of the article Rabbi Kreimer said that the ads were anti-Arab, now they have become anti-Muslim. Can you please pick a target and stick with it? The reason why Jewish leaders aren't offering unequivocal denunciations is precisely because Geller was smart enough to target the ads not against Muslims or Arabs, but Israel's enemies. And why would Jewish leaders defend Israel's enemies? Because Muslims want them to? Why should Jewish leaders go along with that?

At this point Rabbi Kreimer concludes with a statement that although she respects free speech, she also doesn't condone bigotry. Although I don't see it as bigotry, at the worst inflammatory, this is a reasonable point of view. And I hope that someday we might see another ad on the Huffington Post giving the other side of the story, but I wouldn't count on it.


  1. The truth of the matter, of course, is that people who view Geller's ad as racist are racists.

    This is true because the only way to see the ad as racist is if you conflate all Muslims, or perhaps all Arabs, as "Jihadis."

    They aren't.

  2. I believe that's not true that MTA has in fact decided to take the ads down. Where do you get that from? I know they made a new ambiguous & absurd ruling in regard to reaction of ads being conditional as to whether ads will stay up or not, but that will be easily challenged in court. Even Alan Dershowitz commented on MTA"s new rules. According to Atlas Shrugs 2000 they are going to court today in Washington because the transit system there are refusing to post her ads. AFLC is contesting the ruling on behalf of Pamelas organization FDI.


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