What Do Jews Have to Do With the Cordoba House?

Some compare opposition to anti-Semitism

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As the debate over the Cordoba House escalates, some observers are seeing parallels between the culture war over Islam in America and the anti-semitism of years past. The Cordoba House, an Islamic cultural center planned for lower Manhattan, drew an especially fierce protest this weekend, following weeks of intense media coverage and an opposition campaign led by such conservative figures as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. They were joined in opposition by the Anti-Defamation League, a conservative Jewish-American organization. Now, Daisy Khan, the wife of the center's founder, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and a hanful of Jewish-American writers are beginning to warn that the opposition campaign has echoes of anti-semitism, with some Jewish writers even questioning the roles of their fellow Jews. Here's what they have to say.

  • Jews Should Know Better  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg warns, "I find it particularly disturbing to see Jews, of all people, participating in this type of questioning. Worse, some Jews are joining the on-line anti-Muslim mob. Anti-Muslim sentiment in America today has many of the hallmarks of the anti-Semitism of yesteryear. American Jews should be able to see that."
  • We Were Once Considered 'Alien and Dangerous'  The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart fumes, "And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too."
  • Cordoba House Has Name Tied to Medieval Anti-Semitism  The New Republic's Marty Peretz comes out against the center. "Have you wondered, as I have, why this project is called the Cordoba Initiative? Well, the city was conquered in 1148 by a Muslim dynasty, the Almohades, who offered the Jews a rich choice: conversion to Islam, death or exile. The family of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides was born in Cordoba and Moses ben Maimon spent his childhood there. Until, that is, the Muslims arrived. When given their options, they left. Which is what most of the Jews did then. And there started the long journey of exile from Spain until 1492 when nobody was left."
  • Islamophobia Should Alarm Jews  Tablet's Daniel Luban writes, "Many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order." He compares the anti-Islam movement to "1850s Know-Nothing anti-Catholicism or 1950s anti-Communism—or, for that matter, late-19th-century European anti-Semitism."
  • Jews Should Be All About Religious Freedom  Think Progress' Matthew Yglesias writes, "You don’t expect Jews to stand up and applaud the construction of new Mormon temples, but I do expect them to acknowledge the right of Mormons to build temples and to stand up to demagogues who would try to abridge that right. And this is what we have going on in Lower Manhattan today. A completely legitimate undertaking that’s being stymied out of a mixture of geographical ignorance, a slanderous attribution of collective responsibility for 9/11 to all Muslims, and political opportunism. On the other side are people standing up for non-discrimination and religious freedom."
  • Founder's Wife Compares Opposition to Anti-Semitism  Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, said on This Week on Sunday, "I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That's what we feel right now. It's not even Islamophobia, it's beyond Islamophobia. It's hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious -- Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what's going on around the nation."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.