By Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel
In recent days, the whole world has witnessed the spectacle of the Obama Administration from President Barack Obama down apologizing for the fact that some Americans exercised their right of free speech to make a video, ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ that offended Muslims. “Hateful,” “offensive,” “reprehensible,” and “disgusting” were some of the grave terms used by Administration officials to describe the video.
The video, broadcast by extremist Muslims to whip up violence, led to Muslims rioting and killing Americans at embassies and consulates across the Muslim world. Yet Jews, Christians, Hindus and adherents of just about any other faith do not generally embark on a course of homicide and vandalism when their respective religions are insulted or denigrated.
In fact, a great deal of offense – to put it mildly – is often directed by Muslims at Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others, but without Obama Administration officials condemning the “hateful,” “offensive,” “reprehensible,” and “disgusting” nature of these efforts.
Did Christians assault those who attended the original exhibition of Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’? Will they be doing so when it is appears again shortly in New York? And who thinks the Obama Administration will criticize the insensitivity and offense of re-exhibiting it?
Thus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphatically and repetitively criticizes the ‘Innocent of Muslims’ video but she said nothing earlier in the year when she attended the Broadway hit musical, The Book of Mormon,’ which remorselessly denigrated the Mormon faith.
Clearly, the Administration’s spurious gravity on the issue reflects nothing about sincere if overreaching deference to religious sensitivities and everything about fear of violence from extremist Muslims.
In the words of British commentator, Douglas Murray, in the past week, “the US Secretary of State turned into a film critic, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – head of the most powerful and expensive military in history – relegated himself to a telephone-salesman offering up his country’s founding principles at a knock-down price, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney decided that his job included condemning the work of amateur directors.”
The Administration’s reaction sets a dangerous precedent. When it apologizes for an obscure American exercising freedom of speech, it stimulates the most totalitarian elements in the Middle East by implying that there is some reasonable correlation between the offense and the subsequent crimes. Yet free speech, if it is to have meaning, requires that even the expression of the offensive and ill-informed be accorded protection. In a liberal democratic society, much that is offensive must be tolerated, largely because we understand that the only sort of society worth inhabiting is one which preserves the right to give and receive offense.
The imbalance between the treatment accorded one religion and another, between American founding principles like freedom of speech and the implied advice of self-censorship that the Obama Administration has offered ought to shock us. So, too, should something else, to the extent that we hear about in our media: the lack of reaction to vilification of Jews by the Palestinians and other Muslim societies surrounding Israel.
Where after all, was the Obama Administration when the Chief Justice of Palestinian Authority PA) Religious Court, Tayseer Tamimi – not an obscure Palestinian fringe figure – stated that, “Concerning the Jews … they make false claims, lies, forgery, slander, and fabrications”?
Where was it when Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, described Jews as “the enemies of Allah”?
Where was it when PA Mufti Muhammad Hussein, citing Islamic tradition, said earlier this year in a PA broadcast that “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him‘”?
Where was it when PA children were taught the other month that Christians and Jews “are inferior and smaller, more cowardly and despised”? Where was it in May, when Palestinians vandalized the ancient Jericho synagogue
The truth is that the Obama Administration has shown no interest in ending Palestinian defamation of Jews. President Obama has said that he will hold Palestinians “accountable” for incitement, but never has – certainly not if accountability means public condemnation, diplomatic pressure or withholding U.S. aid.
The only responsible U.S. response to the murder and mayhem directed at Americans overseas on this occasion or any other in which Muslims take offense at the expression of others is one which makes clear that violence and threat do not pay. Those governments that encouraged violence or failed to quell it in timely fashion should be answering questions, not America. And those who incite hatred against others – like Mahmoud Abbas’ PA or Mohamed Morsi’s Egypt – should not be receiving funding from the U.S. taxpayer.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’ Center for Middle East Policy.