Sarah Palin, among others, will tell you that New York is not really America. Some 35 percent of its population of 8 million is foreign born and over 200 languages are spoken in the houses of worship in its five boroughs, which include over 100 Muslim mosques.
How else to explain that after a protracted battle that set off a national "debate" over freedom of religion, New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously yesterday against granting historic protection to an otherwise undistinguished building at 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, clearing the way for a $100 million building opponents call the Ground Zero Mosque that will house a mosque, education center, 500-seat auditorium, and swimming pool.
And to add insult to injury, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is Jewish, delivered a moving speech later in the day in support of the mosque in particular and religious tolerance in general as Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor who is head of the bigotry-fighting (sic) Anti-Defamation League, continued to rail against it.
Foxman recently called General David Petraeus a "Jew baiter" because of his frank assessment of the state of play in the Middle East. But while his irrational hatred of Muslims is ironic, as well as deeply embarrassing because of my own Jewish roots, it is not surprising, coming as it does in an age when the Israeli government is racist, paranoid, bloodthirsty and belligerent, as well as determined to alienate its best friends as it squanders the moral high ground it once enjoyed.
Let's be perfectly clear: The fight over the Ground Zero mosque is not a debate in any sense of the word. It is an ugly reminder of the racism and religious intolerance that the Republican Party has so effectively tapped into not coincidentally at a time when a history-making African-American with a funny name occupies the Oval Office.
Sarah Palin doesn't have the brains to understand the separation of church and state mandated by the Constitution. It is no surprise that a group led by Pat Robertson, a loathsome Christianist bigot, is going to court to block the mosque. Abe Foxman, who has revealed his true self in conveniently forgetting that America is an extraordinary racial and cultural assimilator, gets no slack.Top photograph by Seth Wenig/The Associated Press