As in some secret society, the thought and logic driving the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), led by Pamela Geller, are becoming increasingly difficult to understand. Certainly, the anti-Muslim message in the group’s new bus ads, which, although confined to Washington, have earned national headlines, are clear: They urge, in no uncertain terms, that the U.S. should suspend aid to Muslim countries.
But there is more to the ads than this simplistic demand. They include a picture of the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in a meeting with Adolf Hitler along with the words, “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Koran.”
To boil down the entire Muslim civilization to the relationship between two despicable men, and in the process seek to discredit the entirety of the Muslim holy book, makes no sense. The ads are AFDI’s answer to earlier bus ads sponsored by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). Those ads sent the message that Israel was living the high life and taking it easy at the expense of American taxpayers. For the record, we opposed that message, which sought to recycle old anti-Semitic tropes of venal Jews into AMP’s anti-Israel message. And with AFDI’s response ads, we have the classic example of two wrongs not making a right.
Beyond the outright offensiveness of AFDI’s response — which supposedly is in defense of Israel — the ads have a fundamental problem: Muslims are not a monolithic group. To condemn all Muslims because of the hateful views of some of their co-religionists is no less offensive that those who condemn all Jews because of the hateful views or criminal activities of some Jews.
Moreover, bashing Muslims indiscriminately in the name of supporting Israel is simply ineffective. It also undermines our response to anti-Israel groups that defend their anti-Semitic positions by saying they are only being anti-Zionist. When people seek to “explain” their anti-Semitism by saying they just hate Israel, we need to call them out. And when groups such as AFDI spew anti-Muslim hate in the name of defending Israel, we need to repudiate them, as well.
Israel has a strong, compelling and morally satisfying story to tell. Her supporters should focus on those positive, uplifting and meaningful messages and engage Israel’s critics on the merits of their arguments. Group hate has no place in that discussion.