Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Van Was Right, So Are We

March 25, 2013 3:22 am 1 comment

A man, believed to be Ambassdor Stevens, being carried by civilians in Libya. Photo: AFP/Getty.

My grandfather Edward Bulkeley Van Zile was a zealous anti-Communist. He couldn’t understand why anyone would downplay the threat of Communism. He experienced the efforts American church leaders to make nice with Communist leaders as a betrayal of the country he had served during World War I and which had elicited the sacrifice of his oldest son during World War II.

His anger at the people who wanted to appease – and not stand in opposition to – Communism and its supporters is evident in letters he sent to New Hampshire’s Manchester Union Leader. In one instance, he railed against clergymen who met with leaders of Communist China over the objections of the U.S. State Department.

Van, as he was called, lost his job as advertising manager at Yankee magazine in part because of his zealous anti-Communism. He had a difficult time getting along with people. Part of the problem was his anger at people who didn’t feel the threat of Communism as viscerally as he did. He was a vessel of anti-Communist outrage and he paid the price.

As a result of his cantankerous ways, Robb Sagendorf, Yankee’s publisher, fired him. The letter Sagendorf wrote to my grandfather afterwards was pretty moving. Sagendorf was distraught over having to fire his friend and employee, but there was no way he was hiring Van back, despite pleas from other employees at Yankee to do so.

He was too abrasive; too much of a curmudgeon.

Looking through the scrapbooks and correspondence that document my grandfather’s life, I see a lot of myself in him. The similarity struck pretty close to the bone a few months ago when I read through one scrapbook and saw an entry in which he jokingly asked if the Roman Catholic Church would take him if he left the Episcopal Church over its appeasing tendencies.

A few years ago I left the United Church of Christ and became a Roman Catholic in part because of the dishonest story the UCC’s leaders, peace activists and General Synod told about the Arab-Israeli conflict. These institutions, like those of other mainline denominations, had offered a distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict and had condoned some ugly Jew-baiting by so-called peacemakers from the Middle East.

And to add salt to the wound, the denomination did not speak up forcefully about the oppression of Christians in Muslim-majority countries. In sum, UCC peace activists and denominational officials demonized Zionism, Israel and its supporters, but remained silent about Islamism and the misdeeds of its adherents.

Like my grandfather, I took the sins of my church leaders as a personal betrayal and wrote about it. My grandfather joked about leaving his church and of becoming a Catholic. I actually did it.

The echoes are unmistakable.

Because of my familial connection to anti-Communism, I recently read a book that was published in 1998 – Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism by Richard Gid Powers. This book was published 15 years ago but provides startling insight into the events of our times.

Again, the echoes are unmistakable.

First off, the two movements were (or are) right. Communism destroyed millions of peoples’ lives in Asia and Eastern Europe, just as Islamism is destroying peoples’ lives in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. People who embrace these ideologies lead the societies they control into perdition.

Both movements were (or are) opposed by people who refuse(d) to acknowledge the threat of totalitarianism. Just as significant numbers of intellectuals, journalists and clergy turned a blind eye to the destructiveness of Communism, another generation of intellectuals is unwilling to confront the destructiveness of shariah law. For the anti-anti- Communists and their ideological inheritors (the anti-anti-Islamists) those who oppose totalitarianism represent a greater threat than totalitarianism itself.

The anti-anti-Islamists promote an obsession with Israel and in some instances, traffic in classical tropes of anti-Semitism to dramatize their story.

They write books that obscure the truth about the legacy left by Islam’s founder, Mohammed.

They downplay or ignore the suffering endured by women in Muslim majority countries.

They ignore the mistreatment of religious and ethnic minorities who are suffering terrible acts of violence at the hand of Islamists who invoke the teachings and actions of Mohammed and his companions to justify their acts of violence and oppression.

To make matters worse, they portray the people who insist on talking about these things as Philistines by calling them bigots and Islamophobes.

The goal of these epithets is to stifle discussion about the most pressing question of our time: How are we going to deal with the desire of Islamists who seek to mimic Mohammed’s legacy and follow his teachings to the letter in the modern world?

The desire to ignore this question and leave it for the next generation to contend with is understandable. It’s rooted in human nature. It’s still wrong.

The similarities don’t stop there. Just as J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy undermined the credibility of anti-Communism as a movement, some anti-Islamist activists behave in ways that undermine their cause.

They badmouth and dismiss reform-minded Muslims who are struggling to confront the anti-Semitism of their co-religionists.

Sometimes they make allegations about anti-Israel activists that are not true.

And some groups use a legitimate concern over Islamism as justification for their own extremist politics. The point of fighting against Islamism is to prevent the spread of fascism, not foster it.

All these behaviors give people an excuse to ignore the threats anti-Islamists are legitimately trying to warn people about.

But as we recount the sins of some anti-Islamists, we have to admit that as a whole, the movement is right about Islamism, just as the anti-Communists in the 20th century were right about Communism and just as 19th century abolitionists were right about slavery.

Shariah is an evil system of oppression that demands outrage – just as slavery and Communist oppression demanded outrage.

The greatest danger facing afflicting anti-Islamists is the same one that afflicted my grandfather – hopelessness. He lacked faith in his fellow citizens to see the truth and act on the truth about Communism.

I wish my grandfather, that vessel of anti-Communist outrage, had somehow lived long enough to see the collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Van had his demons, but history proved him right.

One way or another, it will prove the anti-Islamists right as well.

Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). His opinions are his own.

1 Comment

  • Sonia Willats

    Dexter. You should read C S Lewis’s “The Last Battle” It gives an almost prophetic commentary on “Chrislam”.

    Unfortunately the Catholic Church has not always had a wonderful record towards Jews either; or to any who opposed it’s power, like the Albergensians. Any organisation that weilds great power and wealth should be suspect by Christians. Jeshua had to catch three fish to pay the temple tax. He did not seek power “My Kingdom is not of this world… etc.”

    But good that you seek truth, and defend Israel.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →