The Corner

Beinart on the Ground Zero Mosque

Thanks to Obama’s brilliantly successful effort to pour gasoline on the Ground Zero Mosque debate, I’m planning on writing a column about it (just like pretty much everyone else in the world, thanks to Obama). I was doing some reading on the subject and got around to Peter Beinart’s column, which has been referenced a lot by other writers. Alas, I find it nearly entirely irrelevant to the actual debate. Peter famously thinks uncritical support for Israel is a cancer, eating away at Jewish America. Not surprising then that he singles out the ADL for “hypocrisy” because they oppose the Ground Zero Mosque. He writes:

For a long time now, the ADL seems to have assumed that it could exempt Israel from the principles in its charter and yet remain just as faithful to that charter inside the United States. But now the chickens are coming back home to America to roost. The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue? Would the ADL for one second suggest that sensitivity toward people victimized by members of a certain religion or race justifies discriminating against other, completely innocent, members of that religion or race? Of course not. But when it comes to Muslims, the standards are different. They are different in Israel, and now, it is clear, they are different in the United States, too.

Indifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment. Last Friday, in the case of the ADL, we learned just how far that cancer has spread.

It seems to me the cancerous logic of Israel-obsession is infecting Peter’s analysis as well. Why? Because who cares about the ADL? Even if the ADL is being hypocritical (I’m not entirely persuaded, but then again I’ve often thought the ADL was boneheaded in the past, so a little flip-flopping from boneheadedness might be a sign of wisdom), so what? 

The ADL is not the yardstick for this debate. And, near as I can tell, Israel’s relevance to the actual substance of the issue ranks just ahead of Belize’s.

Meanwhile, Peter gives away his real position without an iota of argument: The builders of the Ground Zero Mosque are “completely innocent.” Innocent of what? I don’t know and Peter never says. He simply asserts that the ADL’s position is wrong because it is not maintaining its own (often asinine) consistency. I suspect that Reuel Marc Gerecht is right when he guesses that Peter hasn’t bothered to find out if the builders of the Ground Zero Mosque are “completely innocent.”  They simply have to be.

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