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Zionophobia

By Alan Manheim

Dr. Judea (Yehuda) Pearl, father of the late Daniel Pearl,UCLA Professor and the President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. 'Anti-Zionism is a bigger threat than Anti-Semitism.'
Dr. Judea (Yehuda) Pearl, father of the late Daniel Pearl,UCLA Professor and the President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. “Anti-Zionism is a bigger threat than Anti-Semitism.”

The Museum of Tolerance held its annual State of Anti-Semitism address at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, on February 13. The Museum of Tolerance, part of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is located at 226 E 42nd St in New York City. Steve Kroft, correspondent and co-editor of CBS 60 Minutes, moderated the address and the featured speaker was Dr. Judea (Yehuda) Pearl, UCLA Professor and the President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Dr. Pearl is the director of the UCLA Cognitive Systems Laboratory and is a leader in the fields of human reasoning, artificial intelligence, and philosophy of science. He has published over three hundred articles, and has written three key books in his area of expertise, Heuristics (1984), Probabilistic Reasoning (1988) and Causality (2000). Dr. Pearl is also the recipient of numerous awards recognizing his contributions to the enhancement of human knowledge.

In his remarks, Dr. Pearl, stated that he believed he was asked to speak not because of his wisdom but rather because it was the tenth anniversary of the murder of his son Daniel Pearl. Daniel Pearl was working for the Wall Street Journal and was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in February of 2002. The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed to further the ideals that inspired Daniel’s life and work. The Foundation’s mission is to promote tolerance and understanding, internationally, through journalism, music, and dialogue.

The core message of Dr. Pearl’s speech was to state that Anti-Zionism was a bigger threat than Anti-Semitism. He defined Anti-Zionism as the belief that denies the right of Jews to have Israel as a national homeland. He alluded to a portion in the Old Testament, Genesis, Section III, chapter XII, which states that god said to Abram, “and I will make thee a great nation”. Dr. Pearl apologized to the rabbis in the audience saying that the “Jews were a nation first and a religion second”.

Dr. Pearl went on to say, that because of Anti-Zionism the lives of six million Jews in Israel are in great danger. And societies, and nations that abhor Anti-Semitism are not so immune from Anti-Zionism. He repeated instances of alleged teaching by Imams and schools in Muslim society that specifically discriminate against Jews and denounce the existence of Israel. He feared that in the short term the revolutions of the “Arab Spring” may bring more harm than good, because it does not transform power from tyrants to democratic young people, but rather to the teachers of those young people.”

Steve Kroft introduced Dr. Pearl to the audience and in his remarks commented that the “killing of Daniel Pearl was a tragedy and travesty, a barbaric act motivated in part because Daniel Pearl was Jewish and an American.”

After Dr. Pearl’s remarks, Mr. Kroft interviewed him, which included questions from the audience. In response to these questions Dr. Pearl stated that legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies was not Anti-Zionism. The political disagreements in Israel over policy is very real and as examples he mentioned the turmoil over the problems of the settlers, and the belief of an overwhelming part of the population that some of the actions of ultra orthodox Jews are detrimental to Israel. He also praised President Barack Obama for publicly stating at the United Nations that Israel was the historical homeland of the Jewish people. A change in US public declarations that undermined the Iranian claim that the only reason for Israel to exist is because of the alleged atrocities of the Shoah. Dr. Pearl was not optimistic for any peace settlement but felt it inevitable that settlers would have to leave part of the west bank in order to reach a two state solution. He also stated that Jordan might be the next country in the area ripe for revolution.

The audience was large and primarily Jewish, and in fact a group of students from the Frisch School, a yeshiva located in Paramus New Jersey was in attendance and were able to have their picture taken with Dr. Pearl. There probably was only one person of the Muslim faith in the theater and that was Dr, Mehnaz Afridi, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College. The Center’s goal is to promote interfaith dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians based on the educational mission of the college.

Professor Afridi, knew Dr. Pearl in Los Angeles and is an admirer of his work at the Daniel Pearl Foundation. In an interview with the Jewish Post, Professor Afridi wished that Dr. Pearl would speak to a Muslim audience which would provide opportunity for more dialogue. She agreed that education was the key to bridging the differences between Muslims and Jews and that she strongly disagreed with any Muslim teaching that was Anti-Semitic or Anti-Zionist. It was Professor Afridi’s wish that the positive actions of Jews and Muslims working together would be shown and presented by the world’s media and this would promote more opportunity for peace.

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