The War Against Tolerance (with response from Phyllis Chesler)

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May 10, 2010

The “new anti-Semitism” is no longer new, having been the topic of research, extensive debate, and a number of books over the last quarter century. “Today anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism,” Phyllis Chesler stated concisely after publishing her 2003 book on the topic.

In an interview with National Review after the book’s release, Chesler stated that the new anti-Semitism has been “embraced and romanticized by Western liberals, public intellectuals, Nobel Prize winners, all manner of so-called progressives and activists and, to a great extent, by the presumably objective media.” In an article “Leftist Anti-Semitism” she states, What is “new” about anti-Semitism is that it is now “politically correct” on the presumably anti-racist and feminist Left to hate Jews and especially the Jewish state.

According to Chesler, as well as many others likeminded Jewish pundits writing about the new anti-Semitism, this phenomenon is a partnership of leftists and Muslims. One of the by-products of the redefiniton of anti-Semitism has been a growing partnership between many Jewish leaders and the Religious Right, often described in terms of defending the Judeo-Christian world against Islam. Another byproduct of this partnership is the belief that supporting the Christian Right can serve as bulwark against Islam in the U.S. and countries around the world.

In “Leftist Anti-Semitism” Chesler decries the European doctrines of multicultural tolerance and adds, “a similarly dangerous, multi-cultural tolerance also exists in America. So far, however, it has won support mainly among our intellectual elite and our liberal and progressive media.” The article was billed as a symposium sponsored by FrontPage, an extremist, rightwing online magazine founded by David Horowitz who is also founder of the “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”. The event has now been held at over 100 campuses around the nation and featured speakers such as former Senator Rick Santorum, Ann Coulter, Robert Spencer, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Michael Medved, Daniel Pipes and Dennis Prager.

In this single-minded zealotry, the struggle against Islam appears to be seen as a zero sum game - whatever is bad for Muslims, must be good for Jews. But what is the cost of this attack on multiculturalism? Is it possible that some Jewish leaders are hacking away at the very same foundations which have provided a peaceful existence for Jews in the U.S. and elsewhere over the last several decades? Is attacking multiculturalism really beneficial to Jews?

Chesler, a self-declared radical feminist, published The Death of Feminism in 2006. Discussing the book she stated, “I mourn the Stalinization and Palestinianization of the feminist postcolonial and postmodern academy and media. Because such feminists refuse to “judge” Islamic gender apartheid, they and their institutions and organizations have become anti-activist, anti-American, anti-Israeli, isolationist, and, at best, tools of the Democratic party. At worst, they are apologists for Islamist jihad.” The Guardian also interviewed Chesler concerning her 2006 book, commenting that “Chesler’s critics say the vehemence of her language points to Islamophobia,” and Chesler’s defense that, “feminists are now much more concerned with the occupation of a country that doesn’t exist - namely Palestine - than they are concerned with the occupation of women’s bodies worldwide”.

Chesler has become an unlikely star in some sectors of the Religious Right world, most recently for her interviews and commentary concerning Rifqa Bary, the 17-year old girl who ran away from her Muslim family in Ohio after converting to Christianity. After fleeing by bus to Florida, Bary resided at the home of the pastor of Global Revolution Church in Florida for almost three weeks before her frantic family learned that what had happened to her. Rifqa then made national news when she stated that she would be the victim of honor killing if forced to return to her family. Her parents, immigrants from Sri Lanka, claimed that this was not true, that they loved their daughter and wanted her back regardless of her religion.

Earlier this year, Rifqa was returned to Ohio, where the latest reports indicate that she is living in foster care where she will remain until reaching the age of eighteen. Of course, there is no way of knowing what actually took place in the Bary household before Rifqa ran away, but according to Chesler, the outcome was assured if she was returned to her home. Fox News interviewed Chesler who stated, “Anyone who converts from Islam is considered an apostate, and apostasy is a capital crime. If she is returned to her family, if she is lucky, they will isolate her, beat her, threaten her, and if she is not ‘persuaded’ to return to Islam, they will kill her. They have no choice.”

Bary became a cause celebre in some circles. As the case was pursued in the Florida courts in November, hundreds gathered as part of “Free Rifqa” campaigns, some wearing t-shirts with the words “Islam is of the Devil.” A group called The Macabean Resistance carried signs with graphics of Chanukah menorahs, stating “Know Your Enemy.” Like many groups using Jewish symbols when they rally against Islam, this one is not Jewish but they have a website titled Builders of Zion.

The Bary family became the subject of intense media scrutiny, in what Time described in August 2009 as a “culture war circus,” but there was less focus on the nature of the organizations with which exploited this underage former cheerleader, waitress, and honor student.

In September 2009, Rifqa was the featured star of a conference call of major Religious Right leaders including Lou Engle and Shirley Dobson, chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and wife of James Dobson. The call was claimed to include thousands of “prayer warriors” in opposition to a Muslim prayer event to be held in Washington D.C. the next day. On the call, Engle states that Muslims are taking the supernatural power of “forty days of Ramadan and channeling it like an arrow into the White House.” Engle prays to “turn the whole nation of America into a prayer storm where Muslims come under the influence of Jesus and come to be saved.” After telling her story Rifqa was asked by Lou Engle to pray and launched into a prayer so frenzied that is was described by Right Wing Watch of People for the American Way as “little more than chaos and static.” Right Wing Watch, which has monitored Rifqa Bary’s odyssey throughout the entire drama, has posted the audio which I have listened to repeatedly. Rifqa clearly asks for the “breaking of binds of generational curses” and for God to spit fire from heaven to break the hardened hearts of her people. “Generational curses” is lingo used by a specific charismatic evangelical movement which teaches that other religions and belief systems are blocked from evangelization by “territorial demons.”

While still in Ohio Rifqa was baptized by Brian M. Williams, a self-described missionary who was associated with Bound4Life in Columbus, Ohio, an anti-abortion group founded by Lou Engle. Engle is a rising star in the Religious Right, a “prophet” in the inner circle of a rapidly growing movement called the New Apostolic Reformation. Sometimes simply described as Apostolic and Prophetic, the movement has organized millions of nondenominational charismatic evangelicals around the world in what are called relational networks, under the authority of apostles and prophets. The stated goal of the movement is taking “Christian dominion” over society and government. Other religions are described as being demonically possessed and blocked from converting to evangelical Christianity by what are called “territorial demons” and “generational curses.” A major emphasis of Engle and other leaders is raise a generation of young warriors in preparation for the end times.

Over the last year Engle has become increasingly visible in political circles, including an internationally televised event with Newt Gingrich and the anti-healthcare reform Prayercast event that included participation of several members of the House and Senate including Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, and Sam Brownback. Engle was first brought to national attention in the award winning documentary Jesus Camp, which showed camp programs training kids to be warriors for Christ. Engle handed out small plastic fetuses to young children and led them in shouts of “righteous judges, righteous judges!” Later he took some of the camp children to Washington D.C. where they stood outside for hours with red tape with the word “Life” written in black, over their mouths. Engle would later found Bound4Life based on similar anti-abortion protest tactics.

Engle is also founder of “The Call,” a series of day long stadium events held in cities in the U.S. and in countries around the globe. The Call Nashville on 07/07/07 closed with three hundred men, described as Gideon’s Army, marching into the stadium with large shofars. Country singing star Rick Scaggs led the stadium in seven shofar blasts. The Call Jerusalem in May, 2008, was dedicated to bringing together “Jew and Gentile believers” to pray for the conversion of Israeli Jews to evangelical Christianity in order to bring about the return of Jesus. At “The Call San Diego” in November 2008, Lou Engle warned that failure to pass Proposition Eight (outlawing gay marriage), “would bring about a spirit of darkness that that a spirit that is more demonic than Islam.” By the end of the twelve hour event, Engle was calling for martyrs from the stage. Two weeks ago Engle led “The Call Uganda” in Kampala, where speakers rallied the crowd in support of the draconian anti-gay bill currently under consideration by the Uganda Parliament. The current bill would require execution for some offenses and three years imprisonment for others who fail to report homosexual acts.

Engle and Mike Bickle, another leading prophet, describe themselves as training a generation of Nazirites who will be pure, restore the nation to its moral foundations, and “prepare a nation for the visitation of Jesus Christ.” Bickle is the founder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) Kansas City, a model for 24/7 prayer now seen in locations around the country and the world. A recent “Holy Ghost Encounter” at IHOP was claimed to include the miraculous healing of many participants. In a 2009 video taken of Rifqa Bary at the IHOP in Columbus before she ran away, she states that “the Lord is raising up the Nazirites, you either choose to be a part of it or you don’t… I’m telling you God is raising up a generation… who wants the glory of God to manifest here and now… revival is coming to America.” A male voice can be heard saying “yea” and “amen” as Rifqa shouts out about God raising up the “Esthers and Jeremiahs.”

In interviews with Florida law enforcement, Rifqa describes that the only person willing to baptize her was Brian Williams, a chapter leader of Bound4Life, who she describes as later moving to Kansas City to work for the International House of Prayer. Rifqa describes Lou Engle (mispelled in the transcript) as “like her hero.” When she arrived in Florida, Rifqa stayed with Bary Blake and Beverly Lorenze, described by many as saving the young girl from certain death. Lorenz described himself as the apostle of Global Revolution Church and the website indicated a partnership for missionary outreach with IHOP. However, the leadership of the church has since [relieved the couple of their positions for lying to the church and exposing them to legal jeopardy, to which Blake Lorenz responded that the leaders firing him were “demonically possessed.”

Florida authorities found no credible threat against Rifqa Bary. But now it appears she will remain with a foster family in Ohio until she is eighteen years old. We may never know whether her family was actually a threat to her, and her safety is of the utmost importance. However, those Jewish leaders who would consider participating in, and promoting, the type of Islamophobic hysteria seen in the case of Rifqa Bary should consider the ramifications, and perhaps imagine if Rifqa was their daughter.

It is not so far fetched to imagine a Jewish child in a similar situation. The Israel Mandate of IHOP is an international effort to recognize Israel’s role in the end times and to “make establishment of a Messianic Jewish Body in Israel a top priority in prayer.” IHOPs around the nation and the world have this as one of their primary missions. The literal demonization is also not limited to Islam. The Presiding Apostle of the movement, C. Peter Wagner, has written entire books about the territorial demons that must be battled before “Christian Dominion” can take place. One book entitled “Confronting the Queen of Heaven” describes a spiritual warfare excursion in which top leaders traveled to the Himalayas to do spiritual battle with the “Queen of Heaven,” a demon considered to block the conversion not only of Muslims but also of Roman Catholics.

Another literal demon targeted by the Apostolic and Prophetic movement is named the “Religious Spirit.” Wagner is editor of a book entitled Freedom from the Religious Spirit: Understanding How Deceptive Religious Forces Try To Destroy God’s Plan And Purpose For His Church, in which he describes the need to defeat the “high level demon” which is the source of legalism in the church and is credited for Pharisaic Judaism. He adds, “This is how the Pharisees ended up killing Jesus. The Pharisees were out to do away with Jesus.” One of the apostles who heads an international network of deliverance centers (for deliverance from demons) writes, “I repent for relying on my own intellect in worship…I repent and renounce all legalism, traditions, and religious formulas…. I choose to no longer partner with the spirit that killed Jesus and that continues to attempt to kill the work of the Holy Spirit today.” This demon is described alongside the New Testament quote repeated on page after page throughout the book, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.”

Perhaps the ramifications of promoting the Religious Right and its Christian nationalism as a deterrent to the “new anti-Semitism” is shortsighted.

After reading Tabachnick’s piece, Zeek editors asked Phyllis Chesler to respond. She does so here

Thank you so much for contacting me. I do not know why this reporter is so committed to portraying me as a right wing zealot. The author certainly did not attempt to reach me for a comment. My radical feminism stands for all time and has been actively in the world since 1967. I doubt this author can describe her own work in this way.

But there is something more insidious going on here. Rachel Tabachnick is saying that young, politically progressive Jews should stay away from cases where potential honor killings are alleged or involved because those who support such cases are right-wing Christian zealots. Neat trick. This certainly scapegoats right-wing Christian zealots for the considerable crimes of Islamic/Islamist gender and religious apartheid, including honor killings.

Why would ZEEK want to publish such a view and at such length? Why would ZEEK wish to demonize me, not only for my stated views, but to find me guilty by association with other demonized thinkers?

For the record: I have had absolutely nothing to do with the activism around the Rifqa Bary case and do not know and have had no contact with the various people whom the article names. Tabachnick and your editor, are further endangering a vulnerable and innocent young girl (Bary) with this attempt to paint both her and her supporters as…hateful, chaotic, frenzied, irrational, etc. And why would they do that? It is so painfully off topic.

Perhaps that is the point: To rile your audience up against right wing Christians so they will forget all about Islamist hatred of infidels, opposing Islamic sects, women, and the general practices of Islamic gender and religious apartheid.

All best,

Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D

Co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969); co-founder of the National Women’s Health Network (1975); co-founder of the New York Feminist Seder (1975); co-organizer of the first Jewish Feminist Conference (1973, 1975); Co-founder of the International Committee for Women of the Wall (1989); member, steering committee for the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (2009); Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies (1969-1998); author of fifteen books (including the landmark WOMEN AND MADNESS (1972), WOMAN’S INHUMANITY TO WOMAN (2002), and THE NEW ANTI-SEMITISM (2003) and thousands of articles, including two studies about honor killings–and the woman who was once chosen as one of the 50 most important Jews by…The Forward itself.

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