Newsweek’s Zakaria Returns ADL Award in Protest, Rendering Foxman ‘Speechless’

August 9, 2010
by Michael Leon  

 Mayor Bloomberg defends Islamic cultural center in front of America’s symbol of tolerance (Seth Wenig/AP)

By Richard Silverstein
In the realm of the impossible is the following statement from Abe Foxman upon learning that Fareed Zakaria, noted Newsweek columnist and Muslim-American, would be returning an ADL award and honorarium in protest of the ADL’s position opposing the Cordoba House Muslim Cultural Center near Ground Zero:

“I am not only saddened but stunned and somewhat speechless by your decision to return the ADL Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, you accepted in 2005,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a letter to Zakaria. “As someone I greatly respect for engaging in discussion and dialogue with an open mind I would have expected you to reach out to me before coming to judgment.”
Foxman added that the League “did not oppose the right for an Islamic Center or a mosque to be built” but rather “[made] an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity.”

“Somewhat speechless?”  Abe Foxman?  Not on your life.  He’s just nonplussed that as a master PR tactician, Zakaria has upstaged and embarrassed him.  The leader I’ve called a “Jewish dinosaur” made political calculations that the Center could be killed and that he’d score points with Republican neocons by joining their crusade.  But when Mayor Bloomberg and even New York Orthodox rabbis took him to task, he was left looking mighty foolish, not to mention like the Islamophobe he is.
Foxman is chagrined Zakaria didn’t “reach out” to him before returning the award–did Foxman reach out to Zakaria before insulting him and his co-religionists by taking his stand on behalf of bigotry?  In claiming he supports the Center, just not the location, Foxman is trying to have it both ways.  
As Center supporters like Mayor Bloomberg have made clear, the location of the new building is part of the critical strength of its mission to bridge differences and encourage dialogue among religious traditions.  Sure you could put the project in the middle of the East River or Governor’s Island so as not to offend anyone, but what would be the message you’d be imparting?  That we respect Muslims as long as they don’t rock the boat and get in our way.  As long as they retire someplace out-of-the-way they’re OK.

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