Rabbi At North America’s Largest Orthodox Synagogue Backs Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT)  explains why he’s promoting Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer:

BAYT is one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in North America, and Korobkin’s endorsement is a significant step in the duo’s quest to achieve mainstream respectability. The two were introduced by Korobkin at an event in Toronto that took place a couple of weeks ago, hosted by the Jewish Defence League.

Korobkin comes across as congenial and thoughtful – and, assuming he’s speaking in good faith, utterly clueless. His argument is that Geller and Spencer are “merely speaking the truth” about radical Islam, that they are not anti-Muslim, and that calls for them to be disinvited from venues and events goes against principles of free speech.

It is true that Geller and Spencer have in the past asserted that they are not anti-Muslim (see here and here), and Spencer occasionally refers to “Muslims of conscience”, but as I’ve written previously, these are very minor notes in their rhetoric. Spencer constantly makes sarcastic references to “misunderstanders of Islam” whenever an act of Jihadist brutality is reported, while Geller’s well-documented excesses include birtherism and trivialising the Holocaust through the grotesque deployment of “Nazi” accusations against just about anyone she takes against (e.g.  Elena Kagan). Meanwhile, their allies include  Babu Suseelan, a Hindu militant who claims that Muslims “breed like rats” but that Islam can be “wiped out”, and it was only bad publicly that prompted the two to cut links with John Joseph Jay, a man who openly called for violence against Muslims and others. There’s also, of course, their association with the thuggish English Defence League. It’s perfectly possible to “speak the truth” about Islamic extremism and Jihadism without resorting to these kind of antics.

And that’s before we get onto the nature of Jewish Defence League – see here for more about this group.

Korobkin also stated that he was present “on behalf” of two Muslims, named as Hossein Ziai and Tashbih Sayyed. Ziai was Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA, and Korobkin studied under him as a graduate (MA level) student, while Sayyed ran the newspapers Pakistan Today and Islam Today. Both men are now deceased; Sayyed (d. 2007) was part of the neo-Conservative movement (he was represented by Benador Associates), and would probably have approved of the posthumous association; it is less clear whether Ziai (d. 2011) would have recognised Korobkin’s claim to be acting “on behalf” on him by endorsing Geller and Spencer.

3 Responses

  1. I don’t believe calls for them to be disinvited from venues is an attack on free speech, although personally I wouldn’t ask, say, a hotel or conference centre to disinvite them, or the EDL, or an extreme Muslim group, or whatever. But where venues have a certain standing and the invitation signals an endorsement – that’s different.

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