The World Jewish Congress typically holds its annual meeting in Jerusalem. This year, however, the group is meeting in Budapest, Hungary — for a reason.
The WJC wants to spotlight the rise of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe. And sure enough, the presence of the WJC caused the anti-Semites to come crawling out of their holes, spewing their hateful rhetoric. The Chairman of the Jobbik Party — which sounds like a Tolkien character but is the third-largest party in Hungary — accused Israelis of trying to buy the country, and another Jobbik member of Parliament said his country had become “subjugated to Zionism” and was the target of “colonization” by Israel. The ugly speeches and slanderous scapegoating are chillingly familiar and profoundly disturbing.
I commend the World Jewish Congress for confronting the anti-Semites, and for exposing the unfortunate truth: unbelievably, even after anti-Semitism caused millions of Jews to be slaughtered in the Holocaust, there remains a deep vein of anti-Semitism in the world. It shows up every now and then, in the rise of political parties like Jobbik, in the rantings of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or in the efforts of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to obtain a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a libelous piece of venomous anti-Semitic propaganda that has motivated generations of bigots.
It’s important not to ignore the signs of anti-Semitism. The years before the Holocaust showed that merely hoping that right-thinking people will ultimately prevail isn’t good enough — anti-Semitic rhetoric and conduct needs to be confronted and defeated. That’s why moving the World Jewish Congress meeting to Budapest was the right thing to do.
According to the BBC, there’s a controversy brewing in Boston about the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. People are protesting outside the funeral home that holds his body, and his family is struggling to find a cemetery that will allow his burial.
Like every American, I’m angered and sickened by the terrorist actions of the Tsarnaev brothers, and I can understand the impulse to deny a final resting place on American soil to someone who cruelly and intentionally killed and injured innocents . . . but I say let Tsarnaev be buried. A controversy about his remains is just a distraction from the real issues raised by the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston Marathon bombing — issues like whether they should have been permitted to come to America in the first place, how they came to be radicalized and whether there are steps that can prevent others from becoming similarly radicalized, why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends allegedly would try to cover up for someone who committed a terrorist act, and whether the FBI and other authorities missed warning signs that should have alerted them to the dangers posed by the Tsarnaev brothers. Picketing some unfortunate funeral home that holds Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s remains isn’t going to help answer any of those questions.
I say, plant Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s corpse in the corner of some remote cemetery and be done with it. Ignore this wretched excuse for a human being and let his headstone crumble into dust. Forget about his body, focus on his actions, and figure out what we can do to keep them from ever happening again.
The Boston bombings came at an inconvenient time for the politicos who are working on an immigration reform bill — but that might be a good thing.
In our catch-phrase, talking-point era, the immigration issue has been reduced to mantras like “securing our borders” and fuzzy video images of people scaling flimsy walls in desert landscapes. Of course, immigration involves a much more complex, multi-faceted set of concepts and questions. We are a land of immigrants, built in large part through the hard work and aspirations of those who came to our shores in search of freedom. We need immigrants to perform certain jobs in our economy, and we want immigrants who will be doctors and entrepreneurs. We feel a more obligation to offer asylum to those seeking to escape persecution in their native lands. Millions of people now working in America came here illegally; what are we realistically to do about them?
The Tsarnaev brothers accused of perpetrating the Boston bombings cast a different perspective on the immigration debate. They didn’t come here smuggled in the hold of a ship or sneaking across the border in the dead of night. “Securing our borders” through towering walls or armed forces in the southwest wouldn’t have stopped their arrival. And what happened after they got here? News reports indicate that various members of the Tsarnaev family received government assistance. It’s not clear that the Tsarnaev brothers ever held a permanent job. If they had had to find gainful employment, and didn’t have hours of free time to surf the internet for hateful messages and theories, would they have descended into apparent jihadist beliefs? Tamerlan Tsarnaev eventually was targeted as a potential radical in comments from a foreign government, investigated by the FBI, and put on a CIA watchlist. Should something more have been done about him?
The Tsarnaevs shouldn’t define the immigration debate, of course, but neither should we ignore lessons we might learn from them. As immigration reform is debated in Congress, it’s entirely legitimate to ask whether our experience with the Tsarnaevs should cause us to revisit how we decide to allow people to come to America, what we should do, if anything, to monitor them after they arrive, and whether we should be able to take action if their conduct after their arrival indicates that they aren’t making positive contributions to society.
The second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing has just been caught, and already the full-scale second-guessing has begun.
I’m amazed at the criticism, from right and from left, that is being directed at the authorities. Shouldn’t Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be read his Miranda rights immediately? Shouldn’t he be treated, instead, as an enemy combatant and tried in a military court? Why didn’t the FBI do more to identify latent terrorist tendencies when it received inquiries about Tamerlan Tsarnaev from a foreign nation? Why didn’t the police put together Tamerlan’s lack of American friends, his prior bout with domestic violence, and his YouTube viewings of radical Islamic videos and identify him as a likely terrorist?
This kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking is absurd. By any measure, law enforcement agencies have done a pretty good job in dealing with a very difficult terrorist situation in one of our largest cities. They found and apprehended the apparent perpetrators only a few days after they anonymously committed their horrible crimes. Now the lone survivor, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, will be questioned in an effort to elicit more information about how this ncident occurred and whether there are other terrorists lurking, and then the justice system will take over. All of this seems to be proceeding as it should be.
Can’t we all reserve judgment and back off a bit for the moment? I suspect that we are going to be hearing a lot more about the Tsarnaev brothers and their activities over the coming weeks, and I would not be surprised if some of the information we obtain contradicts the conventional wisdom as it now stands. It’s time to celebrate the fact that the culprits of the Boston Marathon bombing are off the streets and let the authorities do their jobs — without the backbiting.