Aside from the fact that Hiroshima was a military target, and its bombing helped to end the war and save thousands of lives in the Pacific who would otherwise have been doomed by the ongoing Japanese butchery in Asia and a planned invasion of the Japanese mainland, no one has urged that there be a Southern Baptist Church or an American Methodist Church near the Ground Zero shrine as a sign of postwar harmony; such a proposal might be well intended, but it would be also grotesque.
3) Much has been made that America shows her strength and tolerant values by allowing such a symbolic structure near Ground Zero, but one wonders in a huge city like New York, why Ground Zero at all? While we believe it may reveal our liberality, our enemies, again fairly or not, will see the mosque as a sort of strong horse symbolism, in which those who evoked Islam to murder thousands of Americans found closure by tearing down godless towers and hence paving the way for Islam’s shrine to rise nearby, as in their frequent crackpot al Qaeda triumphalist historicizing about the minarets on Santa Sophia or the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the site of the first and second Jewish temples.
Surely would not the well-intentioned Muslim community of New York wish to move their proposed site just a bit further from the site of 9/11, in order not to enhance the propaganda of a crazed minority that so unfairly tarnishes their efforts at ecumenicalism?
Instead, one can already see that supporters of the mosque advertising the Ground Zero connection, but, again, for what purpose? Again, they must know that a small fanatical minority of a billion Muslims—that is, many millions—will gain confidence and encouragement from such a gratuitous act. As Lawrence Wright showed in the Looming Tower, Atta, bin Laden, Zawahiri, and others were iconic killers who, like the Taliban who in 2001 blew up the Buddhist monuments at Bamyan, chose their targets largely for their symbolic capital.
I predict that within a year of the mosque’s construction, there will be videos, posters, and pamphlets all over the Middle East, juxtaposing the minarets of the mosque with the Ground Zero memorial wreckage—shown as purported proof how such mass murder can demoralize a beaten people into bowing to the Islam of the killers. Few have commented on the security aspects of such an act, but surely it will give added confidence to those who wish to tear down and incinerate more American towers and landmarks.
4) The war against radical Islam is ongoing, as we see in a resurgent Taliban, and the recent Hasan murdering, the Abdul Mutallab attempt, and the Times Square bombing. Such a controversial decision surely can be postponed until the Islamists cease their attempts at attacking the West in general and New York in particular, given that the war so often hinges on symbolism, propaganda, and the perceived strength or weakness of the West in standing up to radical Islamists.
As we have seen from the recent rude reception in India of President Obama’s representative to the Muslim world, the response to the Obama Cairo speech, the various anti-American and anti-Semitic rantings out of Turkey and Pakistan, both the recipients of recent lavish American attention and cash, and the continual al Qaeda threatening—what we consider to be outreach and tolerance are often seen as both weakness and an invitation to even greater demands for apologies and concessions.
As it is, the current asymmetry is absurd: a Christian would incur a death sentence for building a church in much of the Middle East, Arabs vote and express themselves more freely in the Zionist Entity than almost elsewhere in the Middle East, and current U.S. outreach to Muslims and liberal immigration policies are unrivaled in the Western world, and certainly unheard of in places like Russia, China, and much of Latin America or Africa. The rest of the world, not the U.S, has a long way to go in matters of religious tolerance.
The location of the mosque is a legal, though deliberately tasteless, act that will have the effect of encouraging radical extremists in their ongoing efforts to attack icons of modern Western liberal society. Cui bono?
Victor Davis Hanson is an NRO contributor, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of the just released, The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.
Dershowitz responds: The question is not whether it is wise or in good taste to build a Muslim community center so close to Ground Zero but whether a Jewish antidiscrimination organization should take a public position in opposition.
This is not a Jewish issue. Jewish opinion is understandably divided. The ADL has an important but limited mandate. It should not dilute its role by becoming involved in trying to get the state to interfere with religious freedom.
Abe Foxman has now wisely said that the decision has been made and the ADL will not try to stop the project from going forward. That is the proper response.
Hanson: As I noted, I have no position on the ADL decision; apparently its interest had something to do with the rabid anti-Semitism of radical Islamists, the occasional point in Islamist literature that New York hosts the largest number of Jews of any city in the world; and a now tired history of many self-described “moderate” and “mainstream” mosques and Muslim communities in either disseminating or turning a blind eye toward pro forma anti-Semitic hate literature.
My interest is mostly in noting that a supposedly ecumenical Islamic group is being disingenuous in building a mosque near ground zero—less than candid in the sources and methods of its funding, less than candid about the propaganda value that such an unnecessary location will have for radical Islamists in their ongoing efforts to attack the West, and rather hypocritical in pushing for a polarizing site while calling for religious harmony and reconciliation.
In theory, this issue (especially the history of many of those behind the mosque site), like the growing tensions with Iran, Venezuela, the foiled domestic terrorist plots in New York, growing polarization with Turkey and Pakistan, and a host of other issues are American concerns, not Jewish issues per se. But what makes all of them perhaps of some interest to groups like the ADL is their shared theme of anti-Semitism, and the historical role that such insidious and incremental hatred has in leading to more overt violence against Jews.
So, yes, of course, the mosque will get built. We will praise ourselves for our tolerance and liberality; voice the accustomed and now scripted condemnation of the supposedly Neanderthal Right for its unsophisticated and bigoted opposition—and then in due time we will read some expose of the ties of some of the architects of this sick project to radical Islamist groups, as we hear the mosque heralded throughout the radical Middle East as proof of the ultimate victory of the 9/11 mass murderers.
And, yes, within that sick chest-thumping, there will also be the accustomed hatred of “Jews and crusaders”. All that I think makes the issue of some interest to the ADL in this lose/lose conundrum.
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