USA: Why stop at Jews?
Youssef M. Ibrahim

The US Congress should be congratulated and at the same time reprimanded for passing the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.

This highly commendable bill passed last week requires the US State Department to monitor anti-Semitic abuses around the world and document acts of physical violence against Jews, their property, cemeteries, and places of worship abroad. Moreover, it stipulates that those found abusing these places should be held accountable.

That is fine, but why stop there? How about other minorities that are discriminated against daily around the globe? Is it okay to persecute other ethno-religious groups – including Chechens, Muslims, Arab Americans, African Americans, Palestinians, to name a few – who need equal protection and are often in even greater peril than Jews?

The new act is not wrong, but incomplete. It should be rewritten as the ‘Global Protection Act against All Bigotry’ designed to cover those who are in as much peril as Jews, if not more.

Indeed, the US State Department and its African American boss, Colin Powell, objected to the new law precisely for that reason, pointing out that it would be seen as giving preferential treatment to Jews over other religious or ethnic groups in human rights reporting.

The objections were, of course, swept away by Congress. The bill, signed recently by President George W. Bush, was sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., sole survivor of the Holocaust death camps. Coming from a man who knows how ugly persecution can get, this is particularly shortsighted.

As it stands, the law marks a further descent toward a bizarre sort of ‘amorality’ – the suspension of balanced and fair judgment in favor of opportunistic behavior. It gives credence to those who claim the United States observes double standards as did Pat Buchanan, the right-wing conservative author and political US commentator, who once observed that the US Congress has become `Israeli-occupied territory.`

Nor is this double standard limited to matters of ethnic minorities. The amorality of Congress has gone way beyond the realm of its blind pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli bias of many years. Feted and bribed with tons of money and perks by armies of giant industries, financial entities, multinational business groups, and members of the so-called industrial-military complex, Congress has issued over the past decades law after law that benefit these businesses at the expense of the very American people whose interests members of Congress are supposed to protect – precisely against such sharks.

We know, we read, every day of hundreds of people living in Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, America, and Uzbekistan, and many other places around the globe being arrested without charges, jailed, killed, and persecuted.

In the past two years alone, some 200,000 Palestinians have been made homeless as Israeli army bulldozers systematically demolished their homes and decimated their lives. The list of those wronged is long.

Lantos should contemplate a wonderful precedent with which he is intimately familiar. Years ago, after much deliberation with Jews, the Vatican reached an exemplary religious edict ending the blaming of Jews for the death of Jesus Christ in church rituals and mass.

The logic remains solid. While it may be true that some Jews, more than 2,000 years ago may have inveighed against Jesus, all Jews should not be blamed for his persecution now or in the future.

Alas! To this day during the Passover Holy Jewish Feast, many impressionable Jewish children sit around their Passover dinner tables listening to elders recounting to them how Egypt and Egyptians persecuted Jews forcing them to cross the Red Sea into the Sinai desert thousands of years ago.

Shouldn`t that ritual be reexamined with the view that it promotes unnecessary lasting hatred against all Egyptians for an act that may have taken place many thousands of years ago?

America should lead by example, not by accommodating lobbies of unrivalled powers. That cheapens the whole act of anti-discrimination. Lantos, an ardent, fanatical supporter of Israel, should rise above his narrow views. He should act as a patriot whose concerns transcend self-serving goals.

Indeed, all of us, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, or people of any other faith, must arise every day asking the question: `What crimes are being committed in my name, or in the name of my religion today and who is doing it?` For if we are here asking Jews to be fair, we must implement the same standards.

Among Muslims and Arabs, there are still those who deny that a horrible Holocaust was perpetrated by the Nazis against European Jews during World War II. That is insulting to intelligence, history, and decency.

Some fanatical religious Muslim ulemas (scholars) continue to refer to Christians and Jews in public sermons as `sons of monkeys and pigs,` as happened one recent Friday on an Arab government television station.

That is beneath the dignity and commands of Islam, which designates both Jews and Christians as `people of the Book.`

The question is will the US Congress have the integrity, the moral courage, and the vision to see that protecting Jews is only the first part of protecting everyone.

Its concerns must encompass the million victims of Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. For the world to adopt America`s moral parameters, they must be stretched to fit and make sense.

Youssef M. Ibrahim is a former Middle East correspondent for the ‘New York Times’ and energy editor of the ‘Wall Street Journal.’