Tablet Magazine‘s Marc Tracy picks up a depressing statistic out of a new Marist poll: 71 percent of New York City Jews who are registered voters oppose the building of the Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero.
Given that Jewish-Americans are a reliably liberal group on most issues, that statistic says a lot about the nature of the mainstream discourse about Islam and how Islamophobia is accepted in this country. It’s a big problem, and one that needs to be combated.
Also–and I don’t think this is just me connecting Israel to every single issue–there’s a Zionist angle to analyzing that statistic. Many Jewish-Americans, especially older ones, still have a deep, emotional connection to the State of Israel. They see Israel has being besieged by those terrible, genocidal Arabs and Muslims. Just look at Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest piece in the Atlantic, where he points out that Israel sees the Islamic Republic of Iran as “a threat to Israel’s very existence.” That notion glosses over the complexity of Iranian society and the fact that, as Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett point out in Foreign Policy, “roughly 25,000-30,000 Jews continue living in Iran, with civil status equal to other Iranians and a constitutionally guaranteed parliamentary seat.” And in the United States, Arabs and Muslims are often lumped in to one big, giant mass of people who are anti-Semites. That misses the diversity of the Arab and Muslim worlds, the distinction between the likes of al-Qaeda (who only represent a tiny sliver of Muslims) and Hamas and Hezbollah, and contributes to a complete misreading of the Israel/Palestine conflict.