Sharona Shapiro, the American Jewish Committee's Michigan director, has written what might be a break-through article "Beware Youthful Dearborn's Angry Intolerance." She worries about the legions of young Islamists in the metro Detroit area. She begins by lauding the historic civility between diverse ethnic and interfaith groups – until what she heard and saw at recent anti-war rallies in Detroit and Dearborn. Shapiro recounts her experience at a Dearborn rally on July 18.
I never felt so alone in my life. I understand tensions are high in the Arab-American community. I sincerely sympathize with the deep concern for family and friends in Lebanon; I, too, worry about family and friends in Israel. Yet it is one thing to criticize Israeli policy, and quite another to compare Israeli actions to Nazi Germany's final solution that exterminated 6 million Jews. As I walked among the rally participants, several thoughts rushed through my mind. The first was how young many of them were. A whole generation of metro Detroiters — our future neighbors, schoolmates, co-workers and leaders — will remember this day forever.
Second, I struggled to come to grips with how Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah could be so glorified. Nasrallah heads an extremist terrorist group that frequently calls not only for "death to Israel," but also "death to America." Hezbollah is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Lebanon, and hundreds of innocent civilians. As an American and a Jew, it is difficult for me to understand why so many Arab Americans in my community venerate him and others of his ilk.
Finally, the antisemitic placards at the rally were a horrendous display of Israel as Nazi obsession. Signs compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler and equated Stars of David with Nazi swastikas; one sign read, "Israel Nazi Are the Same Thing." This ugly comparison demeans the victims, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, of Nazi genocide, demonizes Israelis, and dehumanizes those who support Israel.
Shapiro concludes, reluctantly, that "the Jewish community here should be alarmed about what the future will be like for our children, and their children, in metro Detroit. The Arab Americans' youthfulness and sheer numbers must be noted. They are learning quickly about political activism in America, and have connections with activist groups throughout the world."
Operationally, she reaches the right decision: "we cannot continue relationships with individuals who refuse to acknowledge certain fundamental realities and core values that we hold so dear." But she hopes Jews will remain receptive "to the moderate courageous voices — and there are such voices — who reach out and accept these core values. We must shore up those in the Arab American community who seek to become partners."
Comments: (1) I cannot recall seeing before a member of the American Jewish establishment saying that Jews "should be alarmed about what the future will be like" in any part of the United States. (2) Shapiro's article came out on quite a day – when Naveed Haq engaged in an anti-Jewish jihad in Seattle, killing one person and injuring five. (3) Her current analysis is all the more interesting when one notes that as recently as December 2005, she appeared to be oblivious to the dangers of radical Islam. Here Shapiro is, quoted in the Detroit Free Press as critical of the television mini-series Sleeper Cell: ""What concerns me is that the vast majority of Americans ... have no contact with the real Islam. A lot of what's shown in this series is really far-fetched. Some of it is just plain wrong. And I don't think most viewers are able to sort it all out." (July 28, 2006)