Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't always believe what you see!

The seal of the Holy One, Blessed be He is truth.
-Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 64a

Rashi [note for Muslims, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki called “Rashi” is the foremost medieval commentator on the Torah] tells us this saying refers to the Hebrew word for truth, emet, formed from the first letter of the alphabet, alef, the middle letter, mem, and the final letter, tav. The G-d of truth is found wherever there is truth and His absence is felt wherever there is falsehood.

“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” [Quran, al-Tawbah 9:119]

Ibn Kathir [note for Jews: a commentator on the Quran as widely used as Rashi is for us] glosses : “It means: be truthful and adhere to truthfulness, and you will be among its people and will be saved from calamity, and this will make a way out for you from your problems.”

Baruch Hashem (Alhamdulilah!) I have friends on virtually all possible sides of nearly any issue you can think of. Out of their love for keeping me informed, I receive daily emails purporting to give me the absolute truth on the latest atrocity committed by someone or another. Others are posted on facebook, the ultimate source of all that is true and good. (Kinda..) Usually it is a multimedia presentation including a youtube video or a few photographs and you often get the same one over and over again in various forms. It can be bewildering. At the time of the Gaza Flotilla boarding by Israeli soldier, I received films from all sides of the issue, with little lines and circles and arrows purporting to tell me the real story. While it was clear that the smudges and lines were not hugging and kissing, it was not clear who was hitting who or what they had in their hands. I have also received supposed interviews with Israeli “settlers” who look and sound like they should be in a mental hospital. These are hardly the folks that I know who live beyond the “Green Line.” I have also received pictures of the overflowing markets of Gaza to convince me that post-war Gaza is really a thriving garden spot. The occasional Holocaust denial pieces are so outrageous that they mostly speak for themselves. (One hopes!)
I take these things with appropriate gigantic grain of salt.
My friends are not liars. In their personal relationships they would never be untruthful. They are good folks, people of integrity. But in their zeal to share their “side” of the conflict, the need to “score points” seems to obscure the need for truth. It is what Reb Nosson of Breslov called “Netzachon” the blind desire to win, that is the killer of all truth and peace.

I have decided to make this a point of activism. If you send me one of these emails, you are going to hear from me and you will hear me tell you not to try to poison me with your paranoid half-truths, generalizations and confabulations. (I get 10 points for using that in a sentence)

I will use these blog pages to expose them from time to time. I hope that you will too. (That includes Anti-Muslim, Anti-Jew or Anti-Israel stuff which falls into this category.)

Let me start with this one which actually was sent on to me by one of the smartest people I know with a note saying something like “What do you say to THIS?”

At last, there was actual proof that Jewish college students are surrounded by maniac Muslims who admit to being “Nazi Youth” and to their genocidal fantasies. One member of the UCSD MSA had finally let the cat out of the bag to David Horowitz (renowned speaker on “Islamo-Fascism.”

This video was everywhere accompanied by articles proclaiming the "Aha!" moment. This was the proof.

Pretty damning stuff huh?

What didn’t get so much publicity was the letter written by the student Jumanah Imad Albahri which responded to the video and its distribution. Its well worth reading.
Do I agree with everything in it? No. [anti-semitic in “normal” use means anti-Jewish, no need to play semitic semantics with it] Should she have matched Horowitz's sarcastic tone with her own? No. Her story however is very plausible. It makes perfect sense as you view the film again. You can see how this piece of video was created and deployed to misrepresent the truth.
Are there people who get caught doing outrageous and wrong things on film? Of course. Do they represent their religions or civilizations? Probably not. But some things are just plain false. This young woman was wronged. So before you believe everything you see, put your commitment to the truth into action and do the research. I offer this only as an object lesson.

Here is the letter. You judge for yourself…

UCSD Muslim Student Responds to David Horowitz Event
Posted on May 16, 2010 by fortruthforloveforjustice

To the General and Campus Communities:

As you are all well aware, I am the one who spoke at the David Horowitz event this past Monday May 10, 2010.

Allow me to begin by stating that I do NOT condone murder, I do NOT condone genocide, and I do NOT condone racism under any circumstance whatsoever against Jews or anyone else. These accusations are lies that I refuse to allow David Horowitz and his allies to perpetuate in their irresponsible and hateful smear campaign against those who disagree with or differ from them.

On April 19, 2010 I volunteered to speak at the Racism/Genocide Holocaust Event last April only because of my strong convictions against genocide like the Holocaust. I was there every step of the way during the protests denouncing racism on campus last quarter—from the very beginning to the very end. Never have I uttered a negative syllable towards or about any person because of their ethnicity or religion on campus or otherwise, Jewish or otherwise. Regardless of my participation in these events, for Mr. Horowitz to insinuate that I am anti-Semitic is ridiculous; I am a Semite.

I attended the event as an individual, not as a representative of any organization, least of all the MSA. My presence was solidly founded in my academic and personal quests to hear diverse viewpoints. Unfortunately, Mr. Horowitz is a seasoned polemicist whose intent is not to encourage academic discussion by expounding his arguments or even supporting his positions with hard facts, but to excite the passions of an audience. Mr. Horowitz spent an hour indiscriminately attacking liberals, students, Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians, utilizing verbiage that completely departed from an academic tone and delved into hate speech—especially labeling groups and individuals that support Palestinian rights “terrorists.”

Insofar as my references to Hitler and the Nazi Youth programs: it was Mr. Horowitz who spent a substantial amount of time referring to the MSA as the “Hitler Youth” and its Justice in Palestine Week as “Hitler Youth Week”— pejorative titles that as a human being, a student of history, and a person of faith, I find disgusting. I uttered them in a sarcastic manner only to point out the ridiculous and slanderous nature of Mr. Horowitz’s labels—Nazis sought the extermination of anyone who was not “white,” and this racial category excludes the vast majority of the Muslim population.

I asked Mr. Horowitz to explain the purported connection between UCSD’s MSA and “Jihadist Terrorist Networks.” His pamphlet did not mention the organization; rather it focused on other groups like UCI’s MSU and Berkley and LA’s MSA chapters, and offered supporting grounds that can be characterized as shaky at best, with sources that had little credibility. He chose not to engage my question (his opening arguments were the verbatim generalizations made in the pamphlet, though my question asked for specifics) but instead decided to subject me to an interrogation because of my headscarf and Palestinian kuffiyeh. The fact that Mr. Horowitz claimed on a respected national cable news network that the MSA receives forty thousand dollars to put on Justice in Palestine Week, speaks volumes to his status as a gross exaggerator who should not be trusted to deliver opinions on anything. The information can be found here on UCSD’s official website

Towards the end of the exchange, I became emotional. I could no longer hear Mr. Horowitz speaking and so did not even hear his injection of Hezbollah’s credo of “rounding up” Jews in his last tangent. I could no longer contain my anger at being implicitly and improperly labeled a terrorist, an anti-Semite, and a proponent of genocide. The answer I was coerced into giving grossly misrepresented my beliefs and ideologies.

My answer, “for it,” in the context in which it was said does NOT mean “for” genocide. I was referring to his initial question that asked me for my position on Hamas, a topic that for his own political reasons he was relentless in pursuing. “For it” was not a legitimization of Hezbollah’s or anyone else’s credo for that matter that Jews should be exterminated. In fact, Mr. Horowitz’s intent was to entrap me with his barrage of questions so that he could avoid answering my question, and construe any answer that I would provide as anti-Semitic, genocidal hate speech in order to further his political agenda.

I am not a member of Hamas, nor have I ever given support to Hamas, nor do I agree their actions or stances wholesale, but I refused to offer Mr. Horowitz a blanket condemnation of Hamas that night. I felt that doing so would be a blanket condemnation of the Palestinian cause. I refused to throw the baby (the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people) out with the bathwater (Hamas.) In addition, Mr. Horowitz asked me to condemn Hamas as a genocidal organization; which to my limited knowledge on the subject, is another unsupported claim made by Mr. Horowitz.

My opinion of Hamas is not as simple as condemn or condone, “for it” or “against it.” I firmly believe that the killing of civilians, even as “collateral damage” regardless of creed, politics, sexuality, nationality, or ethnicity is one of the highest crimes in the eyes of God and is morally reprehensible and abhorrent. But I condone Hamas in its ambition to liberate the Palestinian people. I condone Hamas as the duly elected representative government of the Palestinian people granted governance in an election overseen by our ex-President Jimmy Carter; and characterized as fair, open, and fully democratic. I condone Hamas in its desire to end the inhumane siege of the Gazan people. I condone Hamas in its struggle to free the 10,000 Palestinian men, women, and children unjustly locked away in Israeli prisons. It seems that in Mr. Horowitz’s logic, my support of freedom, peace, and justice makes me a “terrorist.”

David Horowitz can try to erase my history, the history of my grandparents, the history of the Palestinian people, he can call me a terrorist, he can mischaracterize my faith as bloody, and my God as false, but I will NOT allow him to vilify me as a racist or a proponent of genocide and remain silent.

For Peace, For Love, For Justice,

Jumanah Imad Albahri


  1. Horowitz is a skilled propagandist, and Ms. Albahri was easy prey to his tactics. As a Jew passionate about Israel, and as someone probably more skilled than Ms. A, I would still probably fare equally poorly in a confrontation with Horowitz. I would condemn Hamas and Hizbolla, but I would not be able to stand up to the next set of affirmations he would demand, and so I would come across as a self-loathing Jew, a traitor to my people, etc. In Horowitz's Flatland, anyone who perceives dimensions is a traitor.

  2. Beautifully said Yosi.
    For those of you not familiar with the "Flatland" concept this video of Carl Sagan might be instructive.

  3. Thank you for this excellent blog. I have been a pacifist for over 40 years, participated in many, many peace-oriented actions, and I am sick and tired of everyone who speaks for peace and justice being labeled as an antisemite or a self-hating Jew. I have always found it rather weird when a bare-headed bigwig from some secular Jewish org confronts me, in my beard, payos (sidecurls) and yarmulke, and calls me "self-hating." I am proud to be a Jew who is actually practicing Judaism -- including the oft-ignored wonderful teachings that Judaism has about PEACE.

    There are times when I wonder if we are making an idol out of Israel. Think aboujt it: A Jew can say "I don't believe in God" and who bats an ete? But say that you don't support something Israel is doing, and you are branded a heretic or worse. So what are we really worshipping? Somewhere along the line, our values have gotten way off track.

    "Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend" (Talmud, Pirkei Avot 5:11)

  4. Not being able to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah, in my opinion, is a pretty straightforward wrongdoing, Jewish or non-Jewish. I would expect anybody Muslim or Jewish to also condemn the KACH party (

    You can say you agree with resistance for Palestinian self-determination, but don't agree with civilian targeting and tactics by the organizations.

  5. I am glad to see Reb Yonassan join the discussion. I am a long time fan of your writing.

    Matan, if you watch the video you will see that it is Horowitz who insists on keeping the discussion on a "for or against" basis. He didn't talk about actions about organizations. Had he said, "targeting innocent civilians for or against" she would have said against.
    One of the great skills of demogoguery (is that a word?) is keeping things in the artificially black and white. Or as Yosi Gordon said, in "Flatland."

  6. I didn't think about it that way, I can see where that would have been more effective.

  7. Yes, Reb Tvi, "Demagoguery" is a real word -- and you have defined it very well here. Keeping things in black and white ignores the rainbow of possibilities in between. Not mere "gray areas," but a multiplicity of possible solutions.

    Regarding Hamas, I most certainly DO NOT support the killing of innocent people -- not by Hamas, not by the IDF, not by the CIA, not by anybody. IS THAT CLEAR, MR. HOROWITZ??? (Just in case his lackeys are lurking here.)

    But I ALSO think it was a big mistake for the USA (I am an American, BTW, so I criticize my own government here) not to recognize Hamas as the elected government in Gaza when they won. The USA can't go around self-righteously calling for democracy and free elections, then refuse to recognize the government that gets elected. By all accounts, Hamas won the election fair and square so, as far as I am concerned, like it or not, they are the government of Gaza. (Have you noticed how we don't hear so much about "building democracy" lately, ever since Hamas won?)

    Recognizing a government does NOT mean to condone everything that government does. We already recognize LOTS of governments with less than stellar human rights records. The liklihood is that, had the Hamas government been recognized by the world and allowed to enter the United Nations, the peace negotiations, etc. they would have eventually begun to mellow out, both internally and with pressure from other nations. This has happened with China, Russia, other enemies of the past.

    But declaring Hama to be outlaws has placed them outside the realm of international law and has just escalated the violence. And the ongoing blockade/boycott of Gaza has done nothing to further peace. It has only served to hurt innocent people and feed a continuing hotbed of anger. It's easy to point to Hamas bombs and missles as acts of violence - -which they indeed are, and I DO NOT CONDONE THAT! -- but the ongoing suffering of innocent civilians on a day to day basis, the daily grind of people who are purposely cut off from jobs, food, medical supplies, basic necessities of life -- that, too, is a form of violence. And I don't condone that, either.

    Years ago I debated (or tried to debate) Meir Kahane on KSTP radio in Minneapolis. His technique was the same as Horowitz: Make everything into black and white, use insults to get your opponent off guard (among other things, Kahane called me a "tragic wimp for peace" - assuming, I suppose, that my manhood had to be tied into war?), ask simplistic "yes or no" questions, distort the person's answers -- need I go on?

  8. Very nicely said, Reb Yonassan.
    I very much appreciate your struggle with these issues. I am also painfully aware that an observant lifestlye, a commitment to Torah, and long payos don't protect one from being called a "self-hating Jew" or worse "a tragic wimp for peace."
    The latter might make a great T-shirt though.
    "Kahane called me a 'tragic wimp for peace" and I all I got was this T-shirt." Resistence comes in many forms. :-)