AJC’s Harris paints dark picture
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AJC’s Harris paints dark picture

Right now, David Harris isn’t saying that the Western world is knocking on the doorstep to some sort of doomsday showdown with the radical Muslim world. In metaphoric terms, the western world is kinda just inside the front gate and walking along the path to the doorstep, according to the executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

Though Harris, who will speak at the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly on Tuesday, is charged with alerting the global Jewish community and the non-Jewish community to the dangers and trouble facing Jews, it just seems that these days the trouble facing the Jews is the same as the trouble facing the rest of the world — and it is that not-quite-yet-imminent, but definitely lurking, clash with the radical Islamic world.


Harris says the Iran issue is "moving to some sort of climax."

"I don’t want to use the term ‘catastrophic situation,’" he told The Jewish Standard in an interview earlier this month, "But we have serious challenges, and they are real, and not hyped. They potentially touch all of us, and we need to face them squarely."

There are four essentially pressing challenges that the world must deal with, immediately to quell what might be a perfect storm against the West: Iran’s desire to cross the nuclear threshold, the Palestinian street’s decision to elect Hamas as its representative government, the lynching of ‘3-year-old French Jew Ilan Halimi, and the recent bloody uproar by the Muslim world over anti-Muhammad cartoons printed in Danish newspapers.

Two of those issues are obviously the world’s problems. Iran is on the brink of acquiring the materials to build nuclear weapons, much like North Korea was a couple of years ago, and there is a point of no return, as Harris called it, that, once Iran crosses, it will be very difficult to dissuade it from actually going nuclear. The world was unable to stop North Korea from crossing that point, and now the U.S., China, Japan and South Korea are finding it nearly impossible to convince North Korea to give up its quest for nuclear capability.

"The Iran issue is moving to some kind of climax," said Harris, "in the sense that if the U.S. and others are really serious about denying Iran the mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle and learning to have the ability to produce nuclear weapons, something is going to have to happen sooner rather than later. This cannot go on. It is a global poker game that has been going on for more than ‘3 years, and the Iranians are more than content to let it continue. But there will come a time when they cross the threshold."

And if Iran does become a nuclear power, Israel is right in its crosshairs.

"We’ve already have a proxy of Iran on Israel’s border," said Harris, of Lebanon, which has become a puppet of Iran, and from which the Iran-funded Hezbollah has been attacking Israel from the country’s southern border.

The other global issue is the radical Muslim world’s reaction to the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that portrayed Muslims as violent. The global reaction to those cartoons — violent protests that resulted in mass destruction of property and several deaths.

Harris said that he was in Copenhagen during the riots that ensued after the cartoons’ publication. "They were stunned at the reaction in the world to the publication of those cartoons," he said. "Because this is not about the Jews or Israel. This is about a radical form of Islam that says, ‘We are untouchable….’ People are beginning to understand that we are all in this together. Jews may be more vulnerable than others because we become the first target or the obvious scapegoat, but now it’s not just the Israeli flag that is being burned. The Danish flag is being burned next to it, and next to the American flag and the British flag."

Those flags are routinely burned on the Palestinian streets in Gaza and the west bank. The fear now is what is going to happen now that a government has been elected in the Middle East that holds that hatred of Israel and that wish for its destruction and replacement by a Muslim state as official party doctrine, as does Hamas.

"In a way all of these issues are becoming more sharply defined," said Harris. "Take the issue of Hamas. It was always there, and it always posed a threat. But there was at least a cold comfort that it represented a minority view and was not included in any Palestinian Authority. But now Hamas has a PA forum, and it has traveled to Moscow and South Africa. Here it is sitting on the European Union and United Nations terrorist list, but it is now starting to get political traction."

It’s a sign of radical Islam being able to reach the four corners of the earth, said Harris.

Though the murder of Halimi by a black Muslim may seem the most Judeo-centric of the four situations, it is potentially the most telling, said Harris — and that is not only because the Jewish world must now seriously wonder about the fate of the world’s third largest Jewish community and to what degree events in France affect Jews in other parts of Europe.

We are now seeing in Europe, "highly ‘Aryan-ated’ Muslim communities, and the re-emergence of anti-Semitism, whether from within this community, or from the extreme right wing in Europe" he said. "It is getting a second life because of the growing reaction to immigration in Europe."

And then, he says, there is the "Big elephant in the corner of the room that is too seldom discussed, but is critical to all of the above, and that is the energy question. As long as we are totally dependant on oil form the Mid-East and places like Venezuela, that is our nation’s Achilles’ heel," he said

But, all is not dark, he said, because this could be a great moment for the Jewish community to band together to first start to do something about the environment, and for the Jewish community to try to push the non-Jewish world and the government to act.

"There is a lot to be done on a lot of fronts, but this is a moment when we all need to get together and at least try to inspire hope," he said. "This is not the first time the good guy has faced off against the bad guy. We faced daunting odds on the eve of World War II and on the eve of the cold war, but our allies persevered, and we both won.

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