Anti-Muslim activist barred from speaking at federation building
July 3, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
Jonah Lowenfeld The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES – Pamela Geller, a blogger and noted anti-Muslim activist, was barred from speaking at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building on a recent Sunday.
Geller, who is Jewish, had been set to deliver an address to the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) titled Islamic Jew Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace.
The event, which had been advertised starting in early June, was abruptly cancelled just hours before it was to take place.
Among the approximately 30 would-be attendees gathered on the sidewalk outside federation’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters was Steven Goldberg, the national vice-chairman of ZOA. Goldberg said he had spoken with Federation President Jay Sanderson early Sunday morning.
According to Goldberg, Sanderson cancelled the event, citing fear that local Muslim groups might protest outside the building.
“They need spinal implants,” Goldberg said of federation’s leaders, noting the absence of protesters.
Attempts to contact officials from federation were not successful.
The Sunday morning event was the second local appearance in two days for Geller. One day earlier, Geller, together with Robert Spencer, who runs the Jihadwatch.org website, convened a panel of ‘Muslim Apostates,’ in a hotel in Manhattan Beach. The event, which drew about 200 people, was designed to protest an event being held by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) less than three miles away at the same time.
CAIR-LA, whose mission is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding,” had called public attention to Geller’s planned appearance at the federation building in a press release circulated on the afternoon of the day before Geller’s planned appearance.
The press release included a statement from an interfaith coalition that included CAIR-LA and five other Muslim groups joined with one progressive Christian group and two leftist Jewish groups condemning federation’s decision to give a platform to Geller, who they called “one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes.
“Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an antisemitic speaker,” the interfaith coalition’s statement read.
Geller, who rose to prominence in 2010 when she led the fight to prevent the construction of an Islamic centre in Lower Manhattan, is a polarizing figure. Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which she co-founded, along with Spencer, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Even Jewish community groups that have serious concerns about CAIR are also uncomfortable with the degree to which Geller vilifies Muslims and Islam.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose website includes a full description of CAIR’s refusal “to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations,” considers Geller to be a purveyor of hate speech and xenophobia.
“The fact that Pamela Geller also notes the fact that CAIR has these issues, that doesn’t mean that the other things she says about Muslims as a whole are legitimate,” said Oren Segal, the director of ADL’s centre on extremism.
Geller called the federation’s decision “a shandah,” and encouraged her supporters to “make it harder for them to cancel me than it is to cave to CAIR.”
“It’s showing how the Muslims are succeeding in shutting us down,” Orit Arfa, executive director of the ZOA’s Western Region said.
ZOA has been a tenant at federation’s headquarters for less than one year, during which time it has held two public events at the building, an appearance by David Siegel, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, and a public screening of the 1966 film Cast a Giant Shadow.
While the would-be attendees held hastily made placards proclaiming the ZOA’s right to free speech, Arfa announced that arrangements had been made for Geller to deliver her speech in another location.
Reprinted with permission of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.