For Montclair Local

I’m writing in response to a letter that ran on June 10, and in the print edition June 17, “Don’t dismiss Rabbi Meir Kahane as racist.”

I will start and end with a paradigm in order to enable an objective means to evaluate this statement: 

All people are equal, full stop. They differ only in skin color, language and ethnicity. Objective judgment must be based on universally agreed-upon morals. The best people exhibit the best good morals we all agree upon. 

The author of the above-referenced screed, opines that Kahane is not racist. This assertion is clearly wrong. Consider this, from the Associated Press on May 18 of this year:

“In the 1980s, Rabbi Meir Kahane's violent anti-Arab ideology was considered so repugnant that Israel banned him from parliament and the United States listed his party as a terrorist group. … During his lone term in parliament in the mid-1980s, before he was banned, Kahane was shunned by colleagues.… and frequently gave speeches to an empty chamber. His racist agenda called for banning intermarriage between Arabs and Jews, stripping Arabs of their Israeli citizenship, and the mass expulsions of Palestinians. At one point, he was suspended for waving a noose at an Arab lawmaker.”

The writer of the letter says he is not racist because he “only hated people who hated Jews.” It’s racist on its face to praise someone who only hates people who hate Jews. You should disapprove of anyone who hates any other person based on their skin color, language or ethnicity — not just Jews.

This extreme and xenophobic mentality poisons anything it encounters. For example, again from the Associated Press: “In 1994, Kahane follower Baruch Goldstein opened fire in a holy site in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslim worshippers and wounding over 100. That led both Israel and the U.S. to label his Kach movement and an offshoot, Kahane Lives, as terrorist groups.”

And the Middle East Research and Information Project wrote in February: “The victims of JDL-linked terrorist attacks in the United States were usually innocent bystanders: the drummer in a rock band who lost a leg when a bomb blew up the Long Island home of an alleged Nazi war criminal; the Boston cop who was seriously injured during his attempt to dispose of another bomb intended for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; the elderly lady who died of smoke inhalation in her Brooklyn flat above a Lebanese restaurant torched after its owners were accused of sympathies with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); the young Jewish secretary who was asphyxiated when another fire burned through the Manhattan office of a talent agency that promoted performances of Soviet ballet troupes.”

In a previous letter I voiced my concern that a racist, extremist and/or xenophobic mentality would gain a foothold in Montclair. Unfortunately, my worst fears have been confirmed with my reading of this letter. This is not the first time this man and his organization have been put forward as worthy of recognition in Montclair. Approximately 10 years ago, a Muslim, Jordanian adjunct staff member of Montclair State University told me he’d known of an event on campus that was to honor Kahane — and that it was only cancelled after he told the dean Kahane was designated a terrorist by the United States. This tells me we have elements in our community who adhere to a poisonous mentality that potentially could spoil the unusually broad and diverse culture we have cultivated in Montclair. We need to collectively oppose this by standing together and saying: “Not in our town.”

All people are equal, full stop. They differ only in skin color, language and ethnicity. Objective judgment must be based on universally agreed-upon morals. The best people exhibit the best good morals we all agree upon. 

Kevin Dawud Amin is the amir (director) Masjid Wadud mosque in Montclair.


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