An Oversimplification

Letter to the Editor

Published October 04, 2012, issue of October 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In his apparent drive to combat the real-world problem of anti-Semitic bias, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (“Fuel for the Days of Rage,” September 28) seems unfortunately — and ironically — oblivious to his own counterproductive stereotyping of another group: “political Islamists.” Without defining the term, he glibly suggests that those so identified seek, as an “annihilative impulse,” to “behead all those who insult the prophet,” motivated by their rage against “the world’s opposition to their unbounded totalitarian aspirations.” Goldhagen apparently acknowledges not at all that, in fact, political Islam — reasonably defined as a set of political ideologies and movements holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system whose teachings should be preeminent in all facets of society — includes individuals and groups with a wide range of beliefs and practices, ranging from violent extremism (Al Qaeda) to non-violent movements (Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood), and parties that have embraced democracy and tolerance of others (Turkey’s AKP).

Goldhagen’s failure to distinguish among the diverse strains of local, regional and global political Islamism, ostensibly in service of a generalized “clash of civilizations” worldview, does little to advance our political and cultural understanding of the Muslim world. Nor does it serve as a basis for the kind of discerning and nuanced American foreign policy the ever-changing conditions in that part of the world demand. That policy should include direct engagement with political Islamists who eschew violence, embrace democracy (before and after they achieve power), and protect minority rights.

Violent Islamic extremism is cause for worldwide concern, but painting all political Islamists with the same brush does little to advance the interests of Israel, the U.S. and Jews everywhere.

MICHAEL FELSEN
Jamaica Plain, Mass.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.