Tag Archives: Paris

By not calling out Islamic Extremism, President Obama is actually hurting innocent Muslims

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I have friends from all walks of life.  I don’t pick friends based on race, color, religion or lifestyle.  I pick my friends based on common interests and how they are as human beings.  That’s assuming they even want to be my friend.  I’ve always maintained, and when you look around you’ll see it to be generally true, that the person who is not a racist or bigot is more comfortable criticizing someone regardless of what they are.  To put it in more basic terms, it’s never shocking to find out that a white man who never says anything bad about black people is actually a racist.  I’m not saying criticizing someone of a specific race is a prerequisite to treating people equally, but I am saying that overcompensation in one direction is often a red flag that something is not right about someone’s thinking.

When you speak of the President of the United States, the general rules of behavior don’t apply.  Therefore when President Obama shows his consistent discomfort and reluctance to call out  Islamic extremists by name, he may not be revealing a bigotry towards Muslims, but he is doing exactly what he claims he does not want to do, and that is marginalize the Muslim population.   No matter how often the President refuses to say the constant barrage of terror is being committed by Muslim extremists, the facts are the facts and the whole world knows it to be true.  Paris, Brussels, Lahore, San Bernadino, various cities all over Israel, are all places where there are examples of recent acts of terror all committed by Muslim extremists.  There, I said it. Muslim extremists. But I did not say all Muslims are terrorists did I?  If anything, by calling the terrorists Muslims Extremists I am separating them from the rest of the Muslim population.  To prove my point, I could easily forward this piece to the likes of M. Zuhdi Jasser, a great Muslim American, without being concerned that I would offend him. Why? Because I am comfortable in making the distinction between him and the terrorists that happen to be the same religion as he and many more millions of Muslims who are not terrorists. When a President leaves a philosophical vacuum he leaves the door open for the less intelligent and thoughtful to make very broad, bigoted, and very often dangerous generalizations.  To be blunt, it is better to make the statement ‘all Muslim are not terrorists, but most terrorists these days are Muslim’, than it is to pretend none of the terrorists are Muslim.

When the President says the terrorists do not represent Islam, he may be making what he perceives as an ideologically positive statement, but the truth is that the IS in ISIS or ISIL still stands for Islamic State, and the followers of the terrorist organization identify themselves as Muslims.  To not distinguish members of ISIS from decent Muslims does not make that go away.  If anything it helps create the reaction some people will have when they read this, which will be to say, “there are no good Muslims”.

Yes Mr. President, there are many people who feel and speak that way.  Why?  Partially because they are extremists or radicals themselves, partially because some are just racist, but very importantly and not to a small part because of the vacuum created by your reluctance to call it by name.   If you look around the world, specifically the western world, other than the Pope, no one individual can impact people’s thinking with words more than the President of the United States of America.  By avoiding the terms Islamic extremism or Muslim terrorists, this President may just be doing the exact opposite of what he claims he wants to be doing, and the anger and hatred it may cause may do all of us more harm than good.

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The Party may be cancelled but Purim lives on

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I’ve always loved Purim.  The whole concept behind it is a beautiful one.  It saddens me, as it does so many others, that the terror attacks and subsequent atmosphere in Brussels has caused the cancellation of Purim celebrations.  But make no mistake. With or without festivities, there is no cancellation of Purim and what it represents, especially in these times.

Purim is a holiday based on events that took place in ancient Persia, now known as Iran, during a time when Persian leadership sought to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the planet.  Sound familiar? It should.  Besides being something that tends to happen far too often, a nation looking to rid the world of Jews, modern day Iran is testing missiles decorated with the words “Israel must be wiped out”.   Hard to believe that a nation like Iran could not have evolved further from its hatred of over 2,000 years ago, yet here we are again.

Of course what makes matters worse is that the cancellation of festivities is not directly connected to Iran.  After the most recent brutal attack by ISIS and the attacks in Paris, it is a wise bit of caution to consider European Jews to be in some significant danger. That too should sound familiar, as I am sure it does.  Europeans need to wise up to the dangers facing them, because last time they took a “levelheaded” and patient approach to rising fascism and violence, the continent was left in shambles.

The most beautiful thing about the story of Purim for me was always the fact that it is a story in which the Jewish people did not have to suffer greatly before their redemption. It’s impossible to know how today’s travails will end up, but if history is to repeat itself, my prayer for this Purim, is that the establishment of liberty and freedom for all people in the world, not just Jews, can happen with limited additional suffering.  In the meantime to my fellow Jews I urge you to remember this.  Even when the celebration is cancelled, Purim never is.

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The Impact of ISIS on American Politics

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Like it or not, ISIS is influencing the American electorate. It would appear that the horrific terrorists attacks in Paris had an effect on much of the country not felt after any of the many and equally horrific terrorist attacks in Israel. Suddenly the dialogue changed from attacks on “those people over there” to an “attack on us and our way of life”.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe Americans to be good people.  I am proud to be one. When they do hear about terrorist attacks in Israel, a large percentage are for the most part supportive and compassionate.  But there in lies the first problem.  When an Israeli citizen gets gunned down or stabbed it’s not given the same significant coverage by many of the news outlets. Last week when 18 year old Ezra Schwartz, an American, was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel, CNN still headlining with the search for one of the Paris attackers, listed the other top stories on the bottom left of its website.  The terrorist attack in Israel and Ezra’s death was one story down from Carly Simon’s revelation that Warren Beatty was the subject of her 70’s hit “You’re so Vain”.   Hard to blame the average citizen if as a result many do not even know who Ezra Schwartz is.

Ironically the murder of Ezra, an American citizen would by itself not have done much to influence the average person nor most of the presidential candidates, but since the attacks in Paris national security and the war on terror have now become that issue the candidates clearly deem as the one they are choosing to exploit to get elected.

Forgive me if I seem cynical, but prior to the attacks in Paris the only Republican candidate I heard make mention of Israel in the previous debate was Ted Cruz.  Granted I didn’t watch the entire debate, and I am not saying there aren’t others who clearly support Israel; Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush clearly have shown a tendency towards friendship towards the Jewish state;  but in this particular debate it was only Ted Cruz who appeared to make a point of the importance of the relationship between the 2 countries. All candidates expressed the importance of stopping ISIS, but since no one in either the Republican or Democratic field is a supporter of terrorism, I would expect nothing less.  What did strike me is that until Paris, no one seemed to be making it clear how important of a fight the fight against ISIS really is. Now all of that has changed.

With the threat of ISIS finally being taken as seriously as it should have been at least a year ago, presidential hopefuls are doing their best to impress the American electorate with their tough words and strategies.  The impact it seems to be having on the American people is when presented with a choice between a more mild-mannered intellectual approach or a loud bombastic aggressive approach, the polls suggest the people prefer the latter.  Henceforth the increasing popularity of Donald Trump.

I actually think the reaction of the people is just another example of what makes the United States of America such a great country.  In previous times when a global power was faced with bad economic times and the threat of an aggressor looking to destroy its country and kill its people, the backlash lead to vicious dictatorships and the murder of countless numbers of innocent people.  In America our backlash is Donald Trump. Might not be my first choice, but in today’s political climate worse things could happen.

The big question is, do any of the candidates on both sides of the political aisle have what it takes to defeat this global threat?  Loud words and exuberant proclamations may get someone elected, but when push comes to shove the actions taken and decisions made by the next president may very well determine the future of the entire civilized world.  With the increased attacks and ongoing threat from ISIS, it would appear that the Islamic State has, willingly or unwillingly, impacted how we choose to shape that future.  Hopefully the choice we make will be in our favor not theirs.

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TheThreat of a Terror attack and its Psychological Impact

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Yesterday ISIS came out with a video warning of an impending attack in New York.  A few days earlier in Washington, D.C.  No one in Paris will ever again doubt the threat of an ISIS attack until the organization is destroyed.  Part of the threat on New York is specifically aimed at Times Square.  Although one expert says the specific warning might indicate that there actually are not any sleeper cells in New York since no place that has been attacked received such a specific warning, I’d still be pleasantly surprised if a camera shot of Times Square this Friday or Saturday night would show crowds as large as what we are accustomed to seeing.  Terror cell or not, the threat is out there, and that scares people.

It should go without saying that an actual attack is far worse than a threat.  The devastation caused by last weeks loss of life and innocent people injured in Paris is as bad as it gets.  That doesn’t mean ISIS doesn’t have other ways of attacking us. Displaying an evil cleverness unlike any previous terrorist organization, it would hardly be surprising if ISIS was actually cashing in their psychological chips and using the threats purely as a way of damaging the morale and economy of people in western countries, particularly the United States.

Americans by and large are a tough people.  I think there will still be crowds of people at Times Square in the coming weeks, but I also believe that some damage will most likely be done just from the threats put out there.  If the nations of the world show a strong resolve and display an indignant attitude towards the threats, then at least we’ve won one of the battles.  Of course that’s easy for me to say, since I may or may not be at Times Square this weekend.  I’ll let you know on Monday.

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Why I “Liked” the Page of a Muslim Man

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I am not alone in being someone who has called for Muslims to take action or truly speak out against their fellow Muslims who have chosen to be extremists or terrorists.  For those who do not know, as a special occurrence is about to take place in Oslo, Norway, I first bring to you Yousef Assidiq, a man who is truly doing his part to save civilization, and whose Facebook page I “Liked” before writing this article.

Yousef Assidiq is one of the leaders of a group of young Muslims in Norway planning to form a ring of protection around a synagogue in Oslo.  Assidiq made the following statement:

“I want to say on Saturday that if anyone wants to attack Jews either verbally or physically, that they will have to go through me first. An attack on Jews is an attack on me and on all Muslims.”

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/02/18/norwegian-muslims-to-form-peace-ring-around-oslo-synagogue-254796465/

I have often said that it is not enough for Muslims to sit back and claim they are against terrorism in their ranks but do nothing to actively oppose it.  There never seems to be a shortage of Muslims taking to the streets to protest against Israel, but when ISIS beheads someone or burns people alive and Muslim terrorists go on shooting rampages in Paris and Copenhagen, we don’t see mass protesting like we do when Israel defends itself against Hamas, an organization not that much unlike ISIS.  So for Yousef Assidiq and his friends to stand up and take real action in defense of innocent Jews in Norway, we all need to show support, show gratitude, and realize that he and others in his group are the types of brave people the world needs more of if civilization is to survive.

And then there is 17-year-old Hajrad Arshad,  one of the main organizers who made the following statement on Norwegian television.

“We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening.”

Sadly I don’t get many opportunities to make posts like this, but it is incumbent on us to not only recognize it, but strongly support it, for these young heroes may hold the key to everyone’s future.  They are putting what is right in front of their own personal safety, and for that I hope everyone joins me in saying thank you and God bless you.

 

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Open Letter to Mehdi Hassan in response to his letter to “Free Speech Fundamentalists” in the Huffington Post

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Dear Mehdi,

I am not Islamophobic.  I am also not a liberal pundit.  I am however a Jewish American Zionist who is opposed to any extremism that leads to violence against innocents.  Although I know you are not Jewish and would guess there is a better than fair chance that you are not a Zionist,  if I am to take you on your word in this letter, you are opposed to extremist violence against innocents. However, unfortunately like too many other decent Muslims, I believe you are missing a crucial point in your argument.  The concerns you have revolve around circumstances created by fellow Muslims, not the liberal hypocrites you feel the need to attack in your letter.

CLICK HERE TO READ MEHDI HASSAN’S LETTER

I think there are those who are standing up and screaming for free speech that are indeed hypocrites.  I do not however feel that they are the problem, nor do I believe that you are utilizing your time in the best manner possible by using this moment to expose their flaws.  This letter you wrote is the first thing I have ever seen written by you.  I do not know how much time you have spent on the more critical aspects of the global crisis we find ourselves in today.  I accept and appreciate how devastated you were personally by the awful acts of terrorism in Paris.  It is for this reason that I write to you with a degree of respect.  However, I believe it is critical for you to understand Mehdi, that the entire narrative is generated by the vicious behavior of more than a few Muslims.  And what I hope you realize, is that my making that statement does not make me Islamophobic.  I would be happy to meet you, shake your hand, have a drink or lunch and have a nice conversation.  I would look at it no differently than getting together with anyone else for the first time.  You being a Muslim does not make me see you automatically as a threat  or a problem.  That would make me Islamophobic.  Being honest about the reality of our world today, albeit harsh, does not.

How does this connect to your issues with what you call the Free Speech fundamentalists?  Unfortunately it is very simple and very basic.  They are not murdering anyone.  They are not trying to stop people’s activities at all costs regardless of the carnage or loss of human life. I’ve seen very little of the product to come out of Charlie Hebdo. Why? Because it is irrelevant in what should be the discussion today?  If I were to play devil’s advocate and say the creators of the product produced by Charlie Hebdo were and are offensive and disgusting, that would be a very minor infraction compared to murder.  Making offensive cartoons is not a crime punishable by death.  As you know and have stated.

You are fed up?  So am I. I am fed up by those who believe that a proponent of free speech who verbally attacks those whose viewpoints they despise are considered to be against free speech themselves.  That is hogwash.  I write Open Letters, many a lot harsher than this one, all the time.  Sometimes I am insulting, demeaning, and even downright nasty.  But I have never threatened one person with physical harm nor do I ever encourage or belong to any organization that does encourage physical harm, even to those I know hate me just for being Jewish.  Instead I exercise my free speech to expose them for what they are, and do my best to help encourage a verbal process that makes them shut up.  But let’s be honest Mehdi, there is a lot more chance of this letter generating a threat against my safety than there is of your letter generating one against yours.

All actions have consequences and words have responses.  If I attempt to drown your words either through my words or a process, I am not opposing free speech.  Instead I am using my free speech to battle you in the appropriate and civilized manner.  As I know you to believe as well, violence is neither an appropriate nor civilized manner in which to silence someone and someone who holds that same opinion is not a hypocrite just because in their expression of their free speech they say something we find ignorant or abhorrent. It just gives us the opportunity to oppose them in the same manner. Unless what they say promotes violence, in which case I think we would both agree they are not on our level.

Some of your points I believe to be valid and some points I disagree with vehemently, but I only truly take issue with what I consider is your moving the narrative in a wrong direction, and for that reason I hope you reconsider your approach.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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A Shining Light for us all

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This past Sunday afternoon I was looking forward to watching the football game between Dallas and Green Bay when I decided to take a quick look at the major cable news channels’ coverage of the Paris terror attacks.  One hour later I was still watching CNN.  Part of the reason was the fact that I was somewhat moved by the significant coverage given to the murder of 4 Jewish people, something we as Jews are not accustomed to nowadays.  The main reason however was the courageous and eloquent representation of the plight of French Jews as put forth by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.

Simone is the Director of the AJC, “American Jewish Committee”, and a long-time resident of Paris.  Her representation as a Jewish citizen of France  was what is known in Jewish teachings as a “Kiddush Hashem”.   Literally translated as a “Sanctification of God”, a Kiddush Hashem speaks to when a Jew’s behavior represents the people in a positive light, particularly to fellow Jews.  In the case of Simone, her representation was a Kiddush Hashem to the entire world.

Her accounting of the anti-Semitism that the Jews of France have been dealing with for many years was important for everyone to hear.  Thanks to people like Simone, we no longer live in a world where Jews remain silent when attacked, and no longer do they quietly hope it just goes away.  In fact, the most inspiring words she spoke were the words that spoke of French Jews not fleeing the country, but rather staying, fighting, and remaining in the country they have called home for quite some time.  She spoke positively of those who choose to go to Israel for ideological and positive reasons, but strongly encouraged no one to leave out of fear.  As someone who is staying and fighting, she has every right to make this bold and courageous statement.

I want to thank Simone Rodan-Benzaquen for her permission to write this piece, but most of all for standing up for all of us in defense of good over evil.  She is a shining light in this very dark world and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for what she has done, and continues to do for all of us.  France may be in the forefront today, but we are all in this together.

 

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