The NY Times’ Samuel Freedman weighs in on the smear campaign against Debbie Almontaser and the Khalil Gibran Academy by the Jewish neocon world. It’s a fine article which I wish could’ve been written a little earlier in the campaign so that it could’ve made more of a difference in defending Almontaser and her reputation. But no matter, it’s important that Freedman has documented for the world to see the overt racism of the school’s and Almontaser’s accusers. After quoting some especially pungent anti-Arab vitriol from right-wing blogs, Freedman notes:
Thus commenced the smear campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy and, specifically, Debbie Almontaser. For the next six months, from blogs to talk shows to cable networks to the right-wing press, the hysteria and hatred never ceased. Regrettably, it worked.
Ms. Almontaser resigned as principal earlier this month. Nominally, she quit to quell the controversy about her remarks to The New York Post insufficiently denouncing the term “intifada” on a T-shirt made by a local Arab-American organization. That episode, however, merely provided the pretext for her ouster, for the triumph of a concerted exercise in character assassination.
The Times columnist has come forward to draw a line in the sand and say: “This should not be acceptable discourse in our city.” I only wish more prominent figures like Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Randi Weingarten (who sealed Almontaser’s fate by her betrayal), and even Abe Foxman would’ve done what Freedman did. Where are the leaders when you need them? Covering their asses and ducking down in their foxholes.
Who ever cared about Debbie Almontaser and what she went through in this ordeal?? Listen to a friend speak about it:
“She feels that she’s been violated, personally and professionally,” said Louis Cristillo, a research professor at Teachers College at Columbia University who has studied the experiences of Muslim children in the New York public schools. “To be painted as somebody who’s un-American, questioning her patriotism, is extremely hurtful for her. She’s really shocked at how devastatingly effective the defamation was.”
And here Freedman names names of those responsible for blackening Almontaser’s reputation:
In syndicated columns by Daniel Pipes, in articles and editorials in The New York Post and The New York Sun, on such Web sites as PipeLineNews and Militant Islam Monitor, both concerned with radical Islam, the Gibran school was repeatedly characterized as a “madrassa,” an Arabic term plainly meant to evoke images of indoctrination into terrorism and holy war.
Bella Rabinowitz, writing on March 9 in PipeLineNews, called Gibran “an Islamist public school whose curriculum shares the same ideology as the Sept. 11 terrorists.” Alicia Colon wrote in The Sun on May 1, “How delighted Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda must have been to hear the news” that New York “is bowing down in homage to accommodate and perhaps groom future radicals.”
Also important to me are the inclusion of two statements of support from local rabbis with whom the ex-Gibran principal worked in laying the groundwork for the school:
“There’s zero correspondence between the caricature and the actual person,” said Rabbi Andy Bachman of Beth Elohim, a Reform Jewish congregation in Park Slope, who was on the Gibran school’s advisory board. “The words that were used to describe her, the fears that were evoked, are absolutely unrelated to her and her life’s work. Not in any way, shape or form.”
Another rabbi who has worked with Ms. Almontaser on interfaith efforts, Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, said: “It’s all about insinuation and innuendo and this formula of Arab equals Muslim equals terrorist. The viciousness and the vileness of this case surpass anything I’ve seen before.”
This entire episode brings to mind a quotation from Pirkey Avot:
“Whoever destroys one life is as if he has destroyed an entire world.”
Similarly, whoever destroys one reputation is as if he has destroyed the good name of us all.