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Friday, May 18, 2007

Zarelli: US protecting Islam at expense of Jews and Christians

Some interesting stuff regarding next month's Convergence Northwest conference, to be held in early June in Vancouver. The event may feature former Israeli prime minister and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu as a keynote speaker, and has a distinct conservative tone.

State Senator Joseph Zarelli, R-18th District, is one of the key organizers and was quoted in the (Portland) Jewish Review discussing his motivations:
The Zarellis set forth three goals for the conference:

• Provide an honest depiction of the current state of the war in Israel, the threat of terrorism, and how they both affect the United States.

• Establish effective, direct relationships between Israeli and local community leaders.

• Empower local leaders to begin making impacts within their communities with ripple effects reaching to our federal government.

"People need to be educated," said Sen. Zarelli. "Then we'll have a greater impact in Congress."

Tani Zarelli believes very few Americans truly understand what is at stake in the Middle East.

"There is a real enemy out there," she said. "They intend to wipe the Jews off the earth and the United States that stands behind them."

The senator expressed alarm over the failure of Americans to understand how they may be playing into the hands of those he believes may not have America's best interests at heart.

"If you listen in the United States," he said, "there is such an effort to protect this one particular belief system (Islam) at the expense of Judaism and Christianity."

He pointed to the recent creation in New York City of a controversial public school focusing on Arab language and culture.

Although named for a renowned Christian-Lebanese poet and proclaimed by some as a center of tolerance and cultural bridge-building, New York's publicly funded Khalil Gibran International Academy has drawn fire from conservative critics and others, such as Jewish commentator Daniel Pipes, as a potential hotbed of militant Islam and a model for segregation at public expense.
Daniel Pipes? They must mean this Daniel Pipes, who writes and works with such reputable outfits as and that stellar truth-teller David Horowitz, according to a Wikipedia entry. You can read a recent New York Times article about Khalil Gibran school if you wish. Sounds like a bunch of parents acting stupid to me.

And really, what the living heck are the Zarellis talking about with this alleged effort to "protect Islam" at the expense of Judaism and Christianity? How exactly do the views of Daniel Pipes about some program in New York apply to the 18th legislative district, anyhow? All very strange, and the arrogance of conservatives who continue to imply that they are the only ones who really understand the threat posed by terrorism grows very, very old. The Zarellis are certainly free to organize any conference they want, but that means others are free to examine the claims being made about it and at it.

In that vein, Jewish Review had a rather candid article, concerning the model for the Vancouver conference.
The Convergence Northwest Conference 2007 that will take place in Vancouver, Wash., in June takes its name from a similar gathering in Savannah, Ga., last October.

That event, dubbed "Convergence: Claims and Challenges of Israel's Future in the Middle East," was organized by an Israeli businesswoman, Orly Benny Davis, who lives in nearby South Carolina and reportedly dreams of building the Third Temple on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

Although a variety of voices "converged" for the Savannah conference, including the Atlanta-based Consulate General of Israel for the southeast United States, not everyone was entirely happy with the event.

Besides those who characterized Davis' views as extreme, others were troubled by the significant involvement of conservative Christians.

In very broad terms, there are two perspectives in the Jewish community on working with Christians on behalf of Israel.

At a time when some mainstream Christian sects have distanced themselves from Israel and taken up the cause of the Palestinians, a number of evangelical or fundamentalist Christian sects not only have stood by Israel, but have stepped forward to take an active role in building grassroots support for the Jewish state while lobbying hard in Washington to help ensure continued U.S. support for Israel.

Savannah Reform Rabbi Arnold Mark Belzer is among those Jews who, at the very least, are skeptical of the Jewish alliance with Christians
He declined to take part in the Savannah Convergence conference or to promote the conference at his Congregation Mickve Israel because, according to a report by Rachel Pomerance in the Forward, he objected to Davis'politics.

But it was more than Davis' politics that rankled Belzer. He elaborated for the Jewish Review.

"I think it does matter who your friends are," he said, pointing to what he described as the Christian right's commitment to doing whatever is necessary to hasten the coming of Armageddon and the return of Christ, which, some on the Christian right believe must be preceded by the unification of greater Israel, the ingathering of the Jews in the Holy Land and their ultimate demise.
The article goes on to give something of a rebuttal from Convergence Northwest speaker and Jewish Review publisher Charles R. Schiffman, so credit where credit is due to the publication for discussing the matter, and if you're interested, go check out the full article. It's a fascinating discussion.

Another item in one of the two Jewish Review articles was that Benjamin Netanyahu, scheduled to keynote the conference, may have to appear by satellite if elections occur in Israel. So Vancouver may not be world news headquarters for a day after all.

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