One of the most troubling aspects about "peace and justice" activism in the current era is that the very same institutions that condemn Israel so vociferously have had a difficult, if not impossible time confronting the terrible misdeeds of the Assad regime in Syria, ISIS in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria with the same force with which they assail the Jewish state.
Yes, they issue condemnations, but their statements are lamentations that really do not approach in ferocity of the ugly denunciations these institutions target at Israel. In the United States, the problem is most pronounced in liberal Protestant mainline churches such as the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church, denominations that have to varying degrees of intensity support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that singles Israel out for condemnation -- in a transparent effort to eradicate the country by economic means -- while remaining shamefully silent about the genocide of Christians in the Middle East.
We also see a tendency in institutions such as the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and to my dismay as a Catholic, the Vatican and other parts of the Roman Catholic Church, to assail Israel while remaining silent about the problem of jihad.
The Catholic Church, which has condemned anti-Semitism in a document called Nostra Aetate in 1965, also has a difficult time dealing with the problem of Muslim anti-Semitism and anti-Christian hostility in Muslim communities and the religious sources they hold dear.
One source of the problem is that it is simply a lot easier and safer to speak out about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians than it is to confront the violence against Christians in the rest of the Middle East.
If you fly to Israel, you can participate in a protest against the IDF at the security barrier in the morning and be eating in a nice restaurant in Tel Aviv that afternoon without having to worry about getting shot. Protesting against ISIS or the misdeeds of the Iranian government, which puts Westerners in jail, is another, rather more courageous, thing altogether.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has a theme park for many peace activists: Israel. American clergy go on a tour organized by an anti-Israel group like Sabeel then go back home and give PowerPoint presentations about how they protested the security barrier.
Another factor is fear -- fear of Islam. The threat of violence that comes with confronting the impact of Sharia law and jihadism on human rights and national security has been significant, but it has remained doggedly unstated in the witness of churches in the United States. Condemn Israel unfairly or engage in Jew-baiting and you get a letter from CAMERA, the ADL or the local Board of Rabbis. Offend the sensibilities of jihadists and you might get killed.
On this score, it is important to note that anti-Zionism really started to manifest itself in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) -- the church where the anti-Israel divestment movement got its start in the U.S. -- with the election of a former missionary by the name of Benjamin Weir as moderator of the denomination's General Assembly in 1986.
Prior to his election as moderator, Weir, kidnapped while working as a missionary, spent a year as a hostage held in Lebanon by Hezbollah.
What did he do when he was freed and returned to the U.S.? He used his newfound fame and influence to encourage the PCUSA to pass resolutions condemning, you guessed it -- Israel.
While he did offer some criticism of Hezbollah, his heart really was not in it. It never translated into overtures presented to the denomination's General Assembly. If you read his book about his exploits carefully, you can see that he links his kidnapping to American support for Israel.
Israel was a safe target for the rage he felt over being kidnapped and having a year of his life stolen from him. The jihadists who kidnapped him were not a safe target.
Anti-Zionism delays having to face the threats to world peace and human rights presented by Muslim supremacism.
The failure to come to grips with Muslim supremacism, however, has real consequences that can be seen in the book Easy Meat: Inside Britain's Grooming Gang Scandal, by the English writer Peter McGloughlin. His book details how British political leaders and law enforcement officials turned a blind eye to -- and even suppressed coverage of -- a tremendous scandal that went on for decades: The grooming and rape of thousands of British girls at the hands of Muslim gangs in England.
In short, schoolgirls in England were groomed, raped and forced into prostitution by Muslim men who regarded them as "easy meat." When some girls went to the police, they were ignored; others remained silent because of physical threats and intimidation. "One girl had boiling water held over her throat: another had her tongue nailed to a table," McGloughlin writes.
McGloughlin quotes one source as follows:
Social workers and journalists helped conceal the problem from the general public and as a result of this conspiracy of euphemism and silence, young Muslim men living in a non-Muslim country were able to rape thousands of young girls with impunity for decades.
Thousands. It was not until 2009 that British law enforcement started to prosecute and convict the perpetrators, and British society started to come to grips with the problem of the jihadist mistreatment of women in a number of cities. It was rooted in sharia law, which enshrines Muslim supremacism over non-Muslims, the dominance of men over women and codifies slavery. It has also been used to legitimate Muslim-on-Muslim violence throughout the world.
In the English town of Rotherham (population ca. 258,000), at least 1,400 children were sexually abused by grooming gangs. Schoolgirls were groomed, raped and forced into prostitution by Muslim men who regarded them as "easy meat." (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
What prompted the silence on the part of responsible elites in England? What made thought leaders in England unable to admit that young British girls were being groomed, raped and forced into prostitution by young Muslim men who waited for them as they left school? Part of it, apparently, was the fear of being called a racist or an Islamophobe.
There was also apparently the fear that publicizing the event might cause riots in the Muslim community and promote the rise of extremism in British politics. The police used this fear to justify their efforts to suppress coverage of the scandal in the media. McGloughlin writes that when a documentary aired in 2004, "The Police, the very group under the spotlight for failure to prosecute these grooming gangs, were able to use the threat that Muslims might riot as an excuse to put pressure on Channel 4 not to show its documentary" about the gangs.
What signal did journalists, activists and government officials send to reform-minded Muslims in Britain when they suppressed open discussion of the problem? Muslims who spoke in opposition to the grooming behavior learned that no one outside their community had their back. They had to endure threats from their fellow Muslims with little support from British elites.
At the same time, it is crucial to note, while this grooming scandal was unfolding in Britain, protesters regularly took to the streets to condemn Israel as it was struggling to defend itself from thousands of rocket attacks from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, 11,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
During the conflicts between Israel and Hamas, Jews were harassed and bullied by so-called human rights activists in England who largely remained silent about the grooming scandal in England. People had no problem speaking about Israel as a genocidal nation; speaking about the grooming gang crisis was apparently harder.
Clearly, some form of displacement is going on. Jews are safe to criticize; jihadists are not.
The fear that dare not speak its name -- the fear of jihadism -- is one of the primary sources of unrelenting hostility directed at Israel by the churches and human rights activists in North America and Europe.
The same churches here in the United States that have been so critical of Israel and which have supported the BDS movement against the Jewish state have been largely silent about the mistreatment of women and the genocide of religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East, especially Christians.
In sum, we are behaving like dhimmis -- non-Muslims who have already submitted to Muslim rule. When European leaders work to keep a discussion of Muslim misdeeds out of the papers for fear of offending Islamic sensibilities, they are behaving like dhimmis, just as all-too-many of our church leaders in the U.S. are behaving like dhimmis when they condemn Israel while remaining silent atrocities perpetrated by ISIS. Ironically, it is precisely this failure to respond that has inspired a number of attacks in the United States and Europe.
To understand what is going on, we need some background. Under Shariah, or Islamic law, which was codified in the years after Muhammad's death, Christians and Jews were accorded a second-class status, which in the modern era has been described as dhimmitude.
Dhimmitude is derived from the word dhimmi which is itself derived from the Arabic word dhimma, which describes a pact that was thrust upon Christians and Jews who wished to maintain their faith practices when the countries they lived in came under Muslim rule.
As part of this dhimma pact, non-Muslims agreed to pay jizya (a special "protection" tax) -- and live under a separate set of laws to remind them of their inferiority -- for the privilege of practicing their faith in a Muslim jurisdiction. Often, the jizya tax was collected in a ceremony that included a ritualistic blow to the head or the neck to remind dhimmis that they were paying for the privilege of keeping their head on their shoulders. The goal was to humiliate non-Muslims into submission.
Other rules associated with dhimmitude varied from one location to another but included a prohibition of building homes or houses of worship higher than that of their Muslim neighbors.
Dhimmis were also prohibited from riding horses, and were deprived of the right to defend themselves against Muslims when physically attacked. Public displays of religious symbols (such as the ringing of church bells or singing of hymns) was prohibited. In some instances, Jews and Christians were required to wear a colored patch -- from which was derived the mandatory yellow Star of David stitched onto the clothes of Jews during the Nazi era -- to indicate their religious identity.
Dhimmi testimony was not accepted in Muslim courts, rendering them vulnerable to mistreatment and oppression. Criticizing Islam or agitating for one's liberty and equality was out of the question. The first line of enforcement for these rules was the leaders of the dhimmi communities themselves. Jewish and Christian leaders were obligated to make sure that the people in their communities did not offend Muslim sensibilities.
The governing classes in Europe, particularly in Germany and England, have worked to keep non-Muslims in line by suppressing media coverage of the mistreatment of women in their respective countries in the past few years. The national assemblies of mainline churches have played a similar role by ignoring the genocide of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. The violence we have seen on the internet and on our televisions has terrorized us into remaining silent about these outrages. It is a conspiracy of fearful silence -- convenient to maintain in the short run, but fatal over of the long term.
Obsession with Israel allows activists to ignore another reality about jihadism -- that numerically speaking, most of its victims are in fact, Muslim.
Shia Muslims have been the targets of suicide bombings perpetrated by Sunni extremists in Afghanistan, and where Sunnis are the minority, they are the victims of violence perpetrated by Shia Muslims.
In 2011, the National Counterterrorism Center issued a report that estimated that Muslims comprised "between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related casualties over the past five years," an assessment that makes perfect sense giving most of the terror attacks that have taken place in recent history were perpetrated in Muslim-majority countries.
Our so-called intellectuals seem to have been trained to turn a blind eye to the anti-Israel incitement, hostility and violence that has been a problem in the Middle East for decades. These so-called intellectuals were trained by a small number of Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank and elsewhere in the Middle East who told us the problem was not jihad, and not Muslim supremacism, rooted as they are in Islamic sources, but in the Jewish people, rooted as they are in the land of Israel.
As journalists, intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians were intimidated into remaining silent about the misdeeds of the jihadists, they were given an alternative target to attack, toward which to redirect their guilt and overcome their feelings of powerlessness. To prove how courageous they were and how serious they were about human rights, they libeled Israel.
This is a good way to sooth a guilty conscience, but as a strategy to protect our civilization and actually promote human rights, it simply does not work. In the globalized world that we live in, the problems that have afflicted the Middle East for so long -- the hostility toward Jews, lack of respect for human rights, hostility toward religious freedom and contempt for women -- are now making their way west through both immigration and the internet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, recently reported a threefold increase in the number of women at risk for female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States. One factor contributing to this problem is an increase in the number of immigrants from countries where FGM is practiced. To be sure, Muslim-majority countries do not have a monopoly on the practice of FGM, but Muslim religious belief and practice help maintain a critical mass of people who engage in this mutilation.
Mohammad did apparently declare it an honorable practice, and this statement has had real consequences. The increase of this practice in the United States is terrible news for human rights activists; sadly, some commentators will be reluctant to address the issue for fear of being accused of "Islamophobia."
In sum, Western efforts to formulate a response to jihadism have been hindered by the journalists, intellectuals and religious leaders on whom we counted to inform us about these problems in the Middle East. Instead of telling us the truth about Islamism and jihadism and its impact on life in the Middle East, Western journalists, human rights activists and religious leaders have encouraged us to view Israel as the problem, and not the other, truly antagonistic, model in the region.
Here is how I think Pastor Martin Niemöller would characterize the events of the past few years in the West:
First they attacked Israel, but I didn't live in Israel and everyone around me said Israel maybe deserved it, so I did not speak up.
Then they attacked Jews in Europe, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak up.
Then they attacked Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, but I did not live in Iraq and Syria and I did not want to offend Muslims, so I did not speak up.
Then they assaulted our wives, sisters and daughters and me in Europe, but by then there was no one left to help us.
In this time of trial, during which the very foundations of our moral and intellectual order are under assault, it is time we find our voice to address this problem while we still can. We must speak up, loudly, and soon; if we do not, deliverance may not arise from another place.
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.