The wave of Islamophobia continues to spread across the United States, as a Tennessee bill now on the table would make “following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.” The author behind this bill, one of 15 similar pieces of legislation being considered in states around the U.S., is a notorious, far-right figure: David Yerushalmi.
Yerushalmi, a lawyer, is the founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), which has been called a “hate group” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). His draft legislation served as the foundation for the Tennessee bill, and at least half a dozen other anti-Islam measures—including two bills that were signed into law last year in Louisiana and Tennessee.
With the exception of SB 1028, much of Yerushalmi’s legislation sounds pretty innocuous: State courts are prohibited from considering any foreign law that doesn’t fully honor the rights enshrined in the US and state constitutions. Because a Taliban-style interpretation of Islamic law is unheard of in the United States, the law’s impact is non-existent at best. But critics of some of the proposed bills have argued they could have far-reaching and unintended consequences, like undoing anti-kidnapping statutes, and hindering the ability of local companies to enter into contracts overseas.
But Tennessee’s SB 1028 goes much further, defining traditional Islamic law as counter to constitutional principles, and authorizing the state’s attorney general to freeze the assets of organizations that have been determined to be promoting or supporting Sharia. On Monday, CAIR and the ACLU called for lawmakers to defeat the bill.
Yerushalmi has quite the checkered past. Here’s what I wrote on him following an event in which two Congressional Republicans were presented a report, co-authored by Yerushalmi, on the “threat” sharia law apparently poses to the U.S.:
Yerushalmi has been aptly described as a “Jewish fascist” by blogger Richard Silverstein. As Silverstein highlighted in August 2007, Yerushalmi has said:
One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one…Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people…What interest does America have in a strong Israel? If your answer is democracy in a liberal or western sense, know you have sided with the Palestinians of Hamas.
Yerushalmi was a member of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, which was instrumental in the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim smear campaign that brought down Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic school in Brooklyn. He has followed his Islamophobic buddies Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in joining in their war against the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, and is an attorney with the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Geller and Spencer.
That’s not even the worst part. Charles Johnson, the blogger at the formerly right-wing, hawkish website Little Green Footballs who “parted ways with the right” for, in part, its “Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.),” has the rundown on Yerushalmi:
This is a good time for some background information on Pamela Geller’s associate David Yerushalmi, who is an advocate for criminalizing Islam itself and imposing 20-year sentences on practicing Muslims. Yes, really.
He’s not simply anti-Muslim, though; Yerushalmi also wrote a now-infamous article titled “On Race: A Tentative Discussion, Part II,” in which he advocated a return to a pre-Bill of Rights Constitution, and the restriction of voting rights to white male land-owners. Again … yes, really.
Here’s a lengthy article at Talk To Action on the bizarre views and causes of David Yerushalmi: Anti-Semitic White-Supremacist Orthodox Jew Tries To Ban Islam In US.
Yerushalmi has deleted as much evidence of the “On Race” article as he could; he removed it from the Internet Archive and the Google cache, and put his entire website behind a registration wall. But here’s a PDF that contains the full article, and it’s as ugly and twisted a piece of racism as anything I’ve ever seen. Yerushalmi opens by calling Islam “an evil religion,” and “blacks … the most murderous of peoples.”
“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote. You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect on political society, certainly took it seriously. Why is that? Were they so flawed in their political reckonings that they manhandled the most important aspect of a free society – the vote? If the vote counts for so much in a free and liberal democracy as we ‘know’ it today, why did they limit the vote so dramatically?”