Some time ago one our participants at Israel Thrives suggested that my focus on Israel, and the rise of Political Islam, is myopic in terms of the forthcoming US presidential election.
I take such criticisms seriously and even though I might not respond immediately - or at all - it does not mean that I am not chewing on the matter.
This writer proposed that there are plenty of other things to consider, beyond the never-ending Arab-Israel conflict, when determining who to vote for. He is right, of course. Americans are coping with a huge range of life-effecting issues that must be addressed through our politics.
So, why focus on an entirely sectarian issue like the Arab-Israel conflict?
There are a number of reasons.
This first is that the focus of Israel Thrives is what it is. If it were a blog devoted to fishing nobody would complain that it is not discussing duck hunting. This is not to say that murdering perfectly innocent ducks isn't a worthwhile endeavor, delicious as they are, but it simply has nothing to do with fishing other than the fact that both are outdoor sports.
What is more troubling are charges of semi-irrelevant sectarianism, because such charges promote indifference of, and dismissiveness toward, the fundamental issue of Political Islam.
When we dismiss concerns about Jihadism as racist, anti-Muslim, Islamophobic bigotry (as Pamela Geller might put it) we not only stifle the possibility of discussion through a slander that has ruined peoples lives, but call our own ideological credibility into question.
Jews or no Jews, al-Sharia persecutes millions of people throughout the Middle East and Europe and how we react to that persecution speaks volumes toward our credibility in speaking on other issues concerned with human rights.
1) The Abuse of Non-Jews Under Sharia
The Jews of the Middle East are victims of al-Sharia who refuse to be victims of al-Sharia.
Israel may be The Dhimmi that Got Away, but that doesn't mean that the much larger, hostile, majority-population of the Middle East are not intent on retrieving it.
That is, even as Israel stands strong militarily, technologically, and economically, Israeli-Jewish society lives under a constant threat of Jihadi violence that kills innocent people thereby propelling hatred and fear throughout much of the culture.
Israel, however, has the IDF, but the Christian Copts in Egypt do not.
The Yazidis of Nineveh, Iraq, do not.
Neither do women anywhere in the Arab-Persian-Muslim World who are generally treated - at least, according to contemporary western standards of human decency - as something approaching chattel.
We are talking about hundreds of millions of people, almost all of whom are non-Jewish, who live under medieval systems of jurisprudence derived from Islamic primary sources. We know that in many parts of the Islamic world, such as Saudi Arabia, they are still hacking at body parts as a form of Holy Justice.
In the Quran, Surah 5:33, we read that one such punishment takes the form of chopping off one foot and one hand from opposite sides of the individual's body and then, presumably, leaving that person to simply writhe to death in the sand.
One can only wonder if that particularly evil form of "justice" is still practiced in Riyadh today.
2) The Maintenance of Ideological Credibility
How we respond to the issue of rising Political Islam is, or should be, an expression of our political ideologies.
If we claim to stand for social justice then we have an obligation to stand up for women in the Middle East, Gay people in the Middle East, and all non-Muslim peoples living under al-Sharia. And it must be said that the greatest victims, by far, of the Jihadi trend are Muslims, themselves.
If we fail to speak out definitively against Political Islam then we cannot claim the mantle of social justice or universal human rights and, therefore, any claims that we make along such lines can be airily dismissed, with the wave of a hand, as hypocrisy.
That is, if we claim to stand for women's rights, but cannot bring ourselves to vocally and consistently condemn practices like burying condemned women up to their shoulders in preparation for a proper stoning in Iran, then we have no right to claim to stand for women's rights.
If we claim to stand for GBLTQ rights, but cannot bring ourselves to vocally and consistently condemn the execution of Gay people under al-Sharia, then we have no business claiming to be pro-Gay.
If we claim to stand for secular democratic principles in western lands, but have no problem with dual and, thus, unequal legal systems in European countries, then our claims to stand for secular democratic principles are precarious, at best.
Finally, for those who think that standing for universal human rights is inconsistent with being pro-Israel, then I recommend that one read more deeply into the history of the Jewish people under thirteen centuries of Islamic dominance in the Middle East, prior to World War I.
Thirteen hundred years of second and third-class non-citizenship under the boot of imperial Islam was quite enough for the Jewish people, and all other non-Muslims, living in the Middle East.
One cannot understand the never-ending conflict if one refuses to place it into its larger historical and geographic context.
Martin Gilbert's, In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands (2010, Yale University Press) is a good place to start.