The American Freedom Defense Initiative, the organizers of a May 3 event in Garland, Texas, that was the scene of a bloody shootout between Islamist radicals and local police, is sometimes referred to as a “pro-Israel group.” With friends like these, as the saying goes, we don’t need enemies.
AFDI sponsored the event, inviting people to create caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed. It drew the attention of two Phoenix men, who drove to the site and opened fire, wounding a security guard. The two men, one of whom was identified by the FBI as a jihadist terrorism suspect, were shot dead. Pamela Geller, one of the principals of AFDI, vowed to hold another such event to “demonstrate that we refuse to be silenced by violent intimidation.”
Geller is also behind efforts to place strident anti-Islam messages on buses and train stations in New York. With messages like “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran,” they appear to be condemning intolerance when in reality they answer hate with hate. Geller has been compared to the slain editors of Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine that frequently ridiculed the ideology of radical Islam. Unlike Charlie, however, Geller doesn’t seek to puncture religious fanaticism in all its guises, nor distinguish between radicals and the vast majority of Muslims who do not engage in or condone violence. The Anti-Defamation League has labeled her an “anti-Muslim bigot.”
Geller has the right to air her strident views, and political talk — however noxious or purposefully provocative — should never be answered with violence. Radical Islam is indeed a scourge, wherever it is found. But Geller’s claim to the mantle of “pro-Israel” is a distortion of the values of those who love the Jewish state. Israel needs supporters who champion tolerance and coexistence, abhor prejudice, and disdain hate speech. Otherwise, we are no better than her enemies.