Yes, GetReligion still has questions

tsbgquesJournalists ask questions.

So the first question that I need to ask today is if is actually Canon Andrew White, who one would expect to be writing to this weblog from an address that would probably end with the domain name of his organization — which would be, if you consider the URL for its website. The contact address is More on this in a minute.

It is possible that Canon White is the person who responded to my post on the forced conversions to Islam of those Fox News journalists, American Steve Centanni and New Zealander Olaf Wiig. All of this is linked to the fact that there have been mainstream media reports stating — click here for the Associated Press story — that the leaders of Holy Jihad Brigades did not think up this gunpoint conversion idea on their own:

Canon Andrew White, chief executive of the London-based Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East, said their conversion helped ensure their freedom.

“To be quite honest with you, that was our suggestion,” White told New Zealand’s National Radio. The conversion “absolutely” allowed the kidnappers to save face, he said.

“One of the key things you have to do in any kidnapping situation to work for release is to find a reason why people should be released,” he said. “So I have to admit the notion of trying to get them to say very publicly that they would convert was part of our suggestion of a way out.”

But there seem to be conflicts or holes in some of the news stories.

Thus, I have been asking if Canon White, or someone in his organization, (a) originated the idea of the men converting to Islam or (b) originated the idea of showing the videotape of the men’s statements to this effect, as a way of defusing a dangerous situation. The answer could be (a) and (b), of course.

Now I have other questions: Did the men actually convert to Islam? Or did they simply say that they would?

This leads to more questions: Do the men now consider themselves Muslims? If not, are they considered Muslims in the eyes of other Muslims, including some who might want to punish them should they choose to commit apostasy at some point in the future?

Of course, the main question I have been asking is: Why haven’t mainstream journalists been very interested in all of these questions? It’s hard to imagine many reporters drawing a similiar journalistic blank if there were forced conversions of Muslims who fell into the hands of American military personnel.

This leads us to this letter from that was sent to this blog. It is unedited.

As the person in question in this date I am rather amused by all of this information. First of all it should not have been published I talked to New Zealand Radio after Olaf’s father asked me to I refused all other interviews. I have worked on countless number of hostage cases and we do not talk about them. So I want to make the following pints

1, I am in no way a wooley liberal I am a very conservative and orthodox believer and lover of Jesus,

2, I did not get the video of the conversion made it was one of many already made several days before the release. I did suggest that this was the best video to show to get their release.

3, If you as so called orthodox Christians are really so good and strong may be you would like to join me here in my Church in Baghdadwhere I am now. All of my church leaders 11 have been killed in the past year. This is serving Jesus on the front line. Any body can make comments about Orthodoxy in the comfort and security of ther Western homes. It is not so easy here in Baghdad and Gaza.

From a Conservative Christian on the front line.

Canon Andrew White

whiteThe main point of this letter, which may or may not be from White, is that journalists should not be publishing the details of this story — period. This request is often made by religious leaders who are working in sensitive situations, let alone deadly ones. However, journalists tend to seek the facts anyway. Journalists ask questions and then they try to learn the answers.

As you can see from the comments at this site and others, there are emotional and divisive issues involved in this case. For some, the idea of an Anglican priest suggesting that these two men convert to Islam as a way of escape is totally logical. For others this idea is scandalous, especially if one or both of the men where, in fact, committed to another faith.

If this letter is from Canon White, it still does not answer the actual questions that are being asked. Whether he is a “liberal” or a “conservative” is really not a crucial question. However, I do admit that I asked a related question: Do First World Anglicans and Third World Anglicans take different approaches, when it comes to these kinds of life-and-death decisions about apostasy?

We who live in the safety of the West all need to admit that we have no idea whatsoever what we would do, should we or our loved ones be placed in a similar position. We can only pray for the believers who are there, including Canon White.

However, as journalists, we are allowed to ask questions. That is what journalists do.

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Newsweek: Can atheists save the world?

atheismMuch praise is due to Newsweek for running an article discussing atheism in its Sept. 11 edition. It is a unique way to approach religion’s influence on the country since the terrorist attacks of five years ago. My only complaint was that it mixed a bit too much opinion with the news. But author Jerry Adler snagged some real bits of news here, and his thoughtful 2,100-word article does the tricky issue adequate justice.

The article provides interesting and much-needed commentary on the status of atheism in America, with plenty of back and forth between the believer and genuine unbeliever. I would also like to contend that while the article is about people who promote the idea that religion is silly and should fade into history, it was accurately placed under the “religion” heading. I mean, even the most avowed atheists believe in something.

Alder tracks the responses of Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett and Richard Dawkins to the 9/11 attacks. All three have, in one way or another, argued that religion is outdated and that “the five-century-long competition between science and religion is sharpening.” Adler contrasts the beliefs of Harris, Dennett and Dawkins with those of the vast majority of Americans.

This was the most illuminating exchange in Adler’s extremely well-written article:

But Dawkins attempts to show how the highest of human impulses, such as empathy, charity and pity, could have evolved by the same mechanism of natural selection that created the thumb. Biologists understand that the driving force in evolution is the survival and propagation of our genes. They may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness, Dawkins writes, even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests — say, by risking our life to save someone else. Evolutionary psychology can explain how selfless behavior might have evolved. The recipient may be a blood relation who carries some of our own genes. Or our acts may earn us future gratitude, or a reputation for bravery that makes us more desirable as mates. Of course, the essence of the moral law is that it applies even to strangers. Missionaries who devote themselves to saving the lives of Third World peasants have no reasonable expectation of being repaid in this world. But, Dawkins goes on, the impulse for generosity must have evolved while humans lived in small bands in which almost everyone was related, so that goodness became the default human aspiration. This is a rebuke not merely to believers who insist that God must be the source of all goodness — but equally to the 19th-century atheism of Nietzsche, who assumed that the death of God meant the end of conventional morality.

But Dawkins, brilliant as he is, overlooks something any storefront Baptist preacher might have told him. “If there is no God, why be good?” he asks rhetorically, and responds: “Do you really mean the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up.” That’s clever. But millions of Christians and Muslims believe that it was precisely God who turned them away from a life of immorality. Dawkins, of course, thinks they are deluding themselves. He is correct that the social utility of religion doesn’t prove anything about the existence of God. But for all his erudition, he seems not to have spent much time among ordinary Christians, who could have told him what God has meant to them.

atheismI didn’t mind Adler’s editorializing as much as I would have on a subject with more practical implications, such as abortion or marriage policies. The debate over atheism is fairly basic. One either believes that God does exists or he does not. Also, in long-form journalism some liberties will be taken. Saying that one side’s position is clever is stating opinion, but it helps the reader walk through a tricky subject.

News coverage on atheism is difficult to find these days, largely because there is so little happening in that area. Also, the development of ideas, while very newsy in my mind, does not lend itself very aptly to the breaking news story the same way a development in science or medicine does.

The argument that atheism is out of vogue in America and does not deserve much coverage or commentary is not adequate because, as Adler clear points out, there are intelligent people proposing arguments for which Christian scholars still don’t have good answers (Alder highlights the “theodicy” problem). Some journalists have the privilege of covering the development of ideas, regardless of how popular those ideas are.

p.s. For more to chew on in the atheism debate, check out this cartoon.

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Modern evangelism? (Muslims 2, Anglicans 0)

400 1 AndrewWhiteChasing a comment from a reader that led to a blog down under, it certainly seems that there’s another bizarre angle in the already hot story of the forced conversions of those Fox News journalists, American Steve Centanni and New Zealander Olaf Wiig, to Islam.

It appears that the leaders of the so-called Holy Jihad Brigades did not come up with this gunpoint conversion idea. No, this concept came from the Rev. Canon Andrew White (pictured), an Anglican leader at the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East. Here’s a slice of the story:

President of the foundation, Canon Andrew White, says his organisation negotiated with the kidnappers and eventually located them with the help of Palestinian groups. He says the kidnappers appear to be a break-away faction of a larger terrorist organisation, and probably staged the kidnapping to give themselves credibility.

Before the pair were released, a video was shown in which they converted to Islam. White says this was his suggestion.

This, for me, raises two questions.

First, was it White’s suggestion that the men convert to Islam or that the video of the men be released to the media (or both)? This isn’t very clear and that’s a crucial question.

Second, I wonder why this fascinating detail — an Anglican priest suggests that two men convert to Islam, placing them under a possible death sentence if they recant? — has not been reported by journalists in the United States and England. That is, if it’s true. I cannot find any mainstream media references to this fact in these two lands.

This tactic may have broken a dangerous logjam. Still, it is an interesting theological move by a Christian cleric, to say the least. Who says that First World Anglicans can’t do evangelism? (Cue: rim shot.)

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Yo, Baltimore Sun, look in your own town

int1Since I live in Baltimore, in a neighborhood where we are not allowed the option of taking The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun is my main newspaper at breakfast.

Thus, I was interested to notice a very nice feature this morning in the Baltimore newpaper that had a Washington dateline. The story was written by Liz F. Kay and the double-deck headline read: “Strengthening distant bonds through faith — A Washington church brings Lebanese Christians together through prayer, good works.”

Once again, let me stress that this was a good story and a valid story. I am not saying The Sun should not have covered this story.

Kay’s report focused on the lives of Christians from Lebanon who worship at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church (left), a 400-family Eastern Rite parish in northwest Washington. About 40 percent of Lebanon’s population is Christian. Thus, we read:

Our Lady of Lebanon’s parishioners, like other U.S. Maronites, have donated to groups such as the Catholic Schools of Lebanon and Caritas Lebanon, the main local partner of Catholic Relief Services, the Baltimore-based international aid organization that just expanded its efforts there. The groups are helping Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics such as the Maronites who are struggling to reconstruct their villages after a cease-fire agreement ended major fighting a few weeks ago.

It is also clear that The Sun realizes there is another reason this is a regional, Washington-Baltimore story.

Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary opened in 1961, and the parish was formed a year later. The church opened its modern white building in May. The parish offers two Sunday Masses — one in Arabic and another in English, although the celebrant gives his homily in both languages at each service. Syriac, a version of the Aramaic spoken during biblical times, is also used at some points.

Parishioners, who live within a 60-mile radius of the church, including Virginia and Maryland, recited the rosary in Arabic before the Arabic service began.

Like I said, this is a good story and there is a decent — not ironclad, but decent — hook between this Washington community and Baltimore.

8 23 06 photo2But as I read the story, I thought to myself: “Oh my, I wonder how this story makes the Lebanese Christians feel at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Hunt Valley?”

Hunt Valley is, after all, a major Baltimore suburb. In fact, the people of St. Mary’s recently hosted — at the peak of the Hexbollah rocket attacks and Israeli counterattacks — a service gathering Orthodox Christians from parishes all across the Baltimore area to pray for peace in Lebanon.

Of course, the service also tried to raise awareness of relief efforts for Lebanon, relief efforts organized by the International Orthodox Christian Charities — an organization that is located at “110 West Road, Suite 360, Baltimore, Maryland 21204. Phone: 410-243-9820; E-mail:” At least that is the listing in The Sun‘s reference pages.

Oh well, I am sure that those relief efforts continue and that the need is urgent. The second photo with this post shows an early truckload of goods arriving in Lebanon from this Baltimore-based project. The Baltimore Sun might want to do a Baltimore-based follow-up story for its Baltimore readers.

However, it is sad that yesterday — Sept. 7 — was the actual feast day for the St. Mary’s parishioners, a festive time that featured a visit by their bishop, an American of Arab heritage. Click here for pictures from his visit there last year. That feast day would have been a nice news hook for a story in the local newspaper, if it was looking for a story about local people from Lebanon who are trying to help people in Lebabon.

Yes, I must confess that I know all of this because Bishop Thomas will be at my own parish this Sunday, in Linthicum, which is an old suburb of Baltimore.

My question: Did The Sun look for a local story? Does anyone there know that there are Arab-heritage parishes and ministries — with strong ties to Lebanon — in Baltimore itself? Just asking.

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To convert or not to convert, that is …

ignatiusLionIf you have followed this blog from Day 1, then you are almost certainly familiar with the work of Dr. Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House. As I mentioned during my recent visit to England, Marshall is also one of my colleagues at the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.

When you combine his writing, speaking and research, Paul is one busy man, far too busy to be a regular contributor at this site (but we can wish). However, he does have a new piece in The Weekly Standard that may as well be a GetReligion commentary — so we will gladly treat it as such. It’s called “A Conversion You Can’t Refuse: And the Western media can’t comprehend.”

It is, of course, about the kidnapping of the two Fox News journalists, American Steve Centanni and New Zealander Olaf Wiig by the so-called Holy Jihad Brigades (click here for a previous post by the soon-to-be Ms. M.Z. Hemingway on that topic). One of the key lessions learned in this episode, according to Marshall, is that far too many journalists still do not, well, get religion.

But there are other problems. Here is a large slice of what Paul has to say:

… (Honest) local reporters have their lives threatened if they tell the truth. Palestinian journalists have been killed for reporting that reflects adversely on Hamas or Fatah. Many denounced the Fox duo’s kidnapping, and two days after their release, dozens of journalists in Gaza demonstrated outside the Palestinian Legislative Council offices, demanding an end to the intimidation that cripples their work. Centanni and Wiig made headlines because they worked for an American broadcaster: The suppression of local reporters is all too frequently ignored.

The coverage also showed the continuing cluelessness of much of our media when it comes to religion, despite its growing influence in all Middle Eastern conflicts. Centanni and Wiig were not merely kidnapped but also — something new in the Palestinian areas — forced to announce that they had converted to Islam as a condition not only of their release but of their survival.

The significance of this forced conversion has been downplayed in the media. The New York Times and the Washington Post even pronounced the two “unharmed” on release. This judgment is perverse. If Muslim prisoners in American custody were forced to convert to Christianity on pain of death or as a condition of release, the press would denounce it as virtual torture, and rightly so: No sane person would say the prisoners had suffered no harm.

This blindness also trivializes religion. Many people would sooner die than deny the commitments that shape their lives.

Crucifixion of PeterUnderline that point, please.

Try to picture an army of Ann Coulters — in black leather skirts, perhaps — forcing a pair of defenseless Muslims to convert, with swords at their throats and video cameras aimed at their faces. That would not happen, of course. At worse, Coulter would force them to listen to her do dramatic readings from her upcoming greatest hits collection. But you get the point. At Georgetown University, if would almost certainly be a thought crime to ask two Muslims to get a cup of coffee and discuss the Trinity.

Anyway, this story is not over. The two journalists now must live as Muslims — or face a death sentence, should some imam somewhere choose to issue one.

P.S. Over at Beliefnet, Rod “Crunchy Cons” Dreher pounded out a post titled “On the failure to become martyrs,” asking his readers if they thought it was wrong to convert or to fake conversion under these circumstances (forget the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights for a moment) and the result was a blitz of impassioned commentary. You can’t tell me that this topic was not worth a page-one feature story or two.

Check it out.

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One extreme or the other

Adam Gadahn 20060922This weekend, while many Americans were wrapping up their last summer vacations, another American was seen on an Al Qaeda propaganda video. The video, featuring ex-Californian Adam Gadahn, warned Americans to convert to Islam before it’s too late.

I have not read a full translation of the 48-minute video, but apparently it’s a long encouragement — aided by the threat of force, sure — for Americans to renounce Christianity and convert to Islam. It’s almost as if al-Qaeda is trying to tell Americans something. It’s almost like they think this a religious war. It’s almost like the pattern of forced conversions or threats of violence add up to something.

Let’s see what the mainstream media do in the wake of this latest religious missive. Hmm, that’s a curious headline from the Associated Press’ Salah Nasrawi — “Latest al-Qaida message seen as PR bid“:

The new al-Qaida video featuring an American calling for his countrymen to convert to Islam raised fears it signaled an imminent attack, but experts in the region said Sunday it is more likely a bid to soften the terror group’s image.

A public relations bid to soften the terror group’s image? That doesn’t seem to match with the rhetoric from the video, does it? I watched a bit of CNN this weekend where one of the talking heads wondered if the video weren’t an appeal to be better understood. Nasrawi didn’t quote from the video.

The way much of the media treat these Islamic terrorist threats is imperialistic. They apply Western values and constructs to Muslims who view the public square rather differently. These Muslims could not be more clear about their religious aims. But when the media try to analyze them for American audiences, we get insights such as these:

There have been widespread reports that some Muslim religious figures strongly criticized al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden over the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he failed to follow directives in the Quran that require potential victims be warned that conversion to Islam could save them.

The criticism led to speculation after Gadahn’s appearance that the Saturday video meant a warning was being issued and a new attack was imminent.

But experts discounted those fears.

If the reports are so widespread, how come they are not identifiable here? If this unverified criticism led to speculation, could the reporter share with us who was doing the speculating? Or are we just supposed to believe it without any evidence? And finally, who are these experts?:

“This is not a warning for an attack. It is rather a speech aimed at winning the Americans’ sympathy and understanding,” said Gamal Sultan, editor of the Islamic magazine Al Manar.

Columnist Mishari al-Thaydi of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat agreed, saying al-Qaida is trying to portray itself as a group with a religious mission, not a terrorist movement.

Who are these people? What is Al Manar? What is Asharq Al Awsat? Is it too much to ask for a few more details here? And as much as I hope that this latest violent threat is not carried out, did Salah Nasrawi try to get perspective from folks who are more concerned about it than the ones quoted?

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Post covers culture, not religion has a handy religion section that grabs stories from just about everywhere. From India to Dupont Circle to national politics, religion stories are appropriately all across the board. It’s no surprise that two very long stories dealing with Muslims in the Washington area (published on Monday and Tuesday) landed there. But unfortunately they are less about God and theology and more about life and culture.

The second article, titled “For Conservative Muslims, Goal of Isolation a Challenge,” is long overdue. It’s thorough and does an adequate job describing the challenges of Salafism in America, but there is little explanation of the sect’s history and why people are devoted to it. The best perspective we’re given is that it’s akin to Christianity’s fundamentalists, such as Jerry Falwell. Sorry, but that’s not good enough.

The article tackles its religious subjects from the edges, but each time it gets close to highly controversial religious subjects in Islam, it backs away. Take for instance this discussion on Koran commentaries:

For many years, the Saudis distributed a widely used English edition of the Koran with commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. But in the late 1990s, they began giving out a new edition called “The Noble Koran,” with commentary that reflected the Wahhabi outlook of two scholars at the University of Medina.

Many local Muslims were particularly embarrassed by commentary that disparaged Jews and Christians even though neither group is mentioned in the original Arabic. “The outcry was so great. . . . People were disgusted,” said Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, head of Bethesda’s Minaret of Freedom Institute, an Islamic think tank. “And it wasn’t just liberals. I couldn’t find an American Muslim who had anything good to say about that edition. I would call it a Wahhabi Koran.”

Anybody want to give us an idea of what in the commentary was so inflammatory? We have hints (it’s disparaging of Jews and Christians) and that it’s based on Wahhabism, but otherwise we are given little. If you want details, you might want to click here and check out a complete essay on the subject in the Weekly Standard. This is sobering stuff.

While that is just one complaint representing my general displeasure with the second article, my exasperation with the first article, “Young U.S. Muslims Strive for Harmony,” was much greater. Not only does it read as a piece on Islamic culture, not religion, it approaches the issue with the wrong questions.

The general question that the reporter tries to answer is “How can Muslims in America be both good Americans and true to their Islamic faith?” It’s a very good question to ask in, say, Europe, where young Muslims have not had a good public track record, but here in America I believe that the right question should be along the lines of “Why do Muslim Americans not feel assimilated?” Of course barriers exist for Muslims that do not exist for others, but what are they and how are they being surmounted?

The other problem I had with the article involved the Post‘s never-ending quest to find an ideal moderate. The problem with this quest is that it pits two sides that may not be diametrically opposed to each other as the Post would have us believe. Consider the following example. It describes the choices of Mohamed Magid, Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Basim Hawa, a son of Palestinian immigrants; and Tiffany Ballve, a convert to Islam.

Afterward, Magid said that he worries when young people go to extremes, staying in the mosque all day and calling movies or sports or social activities haram, forbidden. To him, these are part of a balanced spiritual life.

“All the extremism now in Britain, all this is because people have the wrong idea of what religion is. I tell young people, ‘You have three choices in America — isolate yourself; assimilate and do everything in popular culture that you’re going to do; or integrate’ — and that’s what we’re advising people to do.”

Magid does not sanction all mainstream American activities — adult co-ed swimming and shopkeepers selling alcohol are not all right with him. But he is troubled by those who preach against a long list of American activities, from celebrating Thanksgiving to shaking hands with non-Muslims.

Hawa is constantly making decisions on when to participate and when to excuse himself. He and Ballve don’t celebrate birthdays, but they play soccer and go to her parents’ house for Thanksgiving.

As I grew up, I was always fascinated to learn about the various traditions that conservative families observed (I grew up in a fairly traditional conservative family). Some families did not celebrate Christmas, others did not let their children date, listen to rock music or stay out late and others had strict dress codes that were akin to ones we see in conservative Muslim cultures.

There was always a reason behind the strict rules. The reason could be argued and debated late into the morning, but the important part was that there was a reason.

Throughout this article on the culture of Islam in America, reporter Tara Bahrampour failed to cite the reasons for why conservative Muslims believe what they believe and why others disagree with them. She cited no reasons for why Magid does not celebrate birthdays or why some believe that sports are forbidden. Answering those questions and explaining the reasons would produce some interesting stories that shed light on how Muslims practice their religion in America.

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Liberal anti-Semites on the rise?

coverThe other day I received a blunt, fiery, angry email. It was from an anti-Semite who was mad at me for writing a Scripps Howard News Service column in which I quoted several Orthodox Jews discussing the meaning of repentance and forgiveness in Judaism and, in particular, why they thought that Mel Gibson — if he is a serious Catholic believer of one form or another — was going to need to do more than seek out a few good photo opportunities on a holy day or two.

This ugly letter kind of came out of right field at me, because most of the negative email I received about that particular column came from the Jewish left. Perhaps the writer was just mad, period. Perhaps he would have come out firing with all guns at any column that said the vile language Gibson used was sinful and should lead to repentance, confession and serious efforts at change (the kinds of sacramental efforts that have helped the actor in the past).

But I also have to confess that I was surprised to get a letter from a right-wing, secular anti-Semite. It had been so long since I had been exposed to that particular brand of poison. However, I have been paying attention in recent weeks to some interesting essays that have raised questions about anti-Semites on the left. It seems that some people in the Democratic Party are worried about this and, at the same time, journalists are trying — honest, they are trying — to figure out where anti-Semitism ends and fierce opposition to the actions of the state of Israel begins.

Thus, I have not seen an actual news report on this trend. At the moment, it’s hovering at the level of op-ed columns by unusually candid voices on the left. There is, however, no question about who first put the topic into mainstream print. That would be former Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis, in his much-quoted Wall Street Journal essay, “Liberal McCarthyism — Bigotry and hate aren’t just for right-wingers anymore.” You see, Davis made the mistake of supporting Joe Lieberman. We all know what that means in the new blogosphere:

Here are just a few examples (there are many, many more anyone with a search engine can find) of the type of thing the liberal blog sites have been posting about Joe Lieberman:

. . . • On “Lieberman vs. Murtha”: “as everybody knows, jews ONLY care about the welfare of other jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact, so that we might better ignore all that jewish propaganda [by Lieberman] about participating in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on” (by “tomjones,” posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).

• “Good men, Daniel Webster and Faust would attest, sell their souls to the Devil. Is selling your soul to a god any worse? Leiberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. Hell, his wife’s name is Haggadah or Muffeletta or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover” (by “gerrylong,” posted on the Huffington Post, July 8, 2006).

• “Joe Lieberman is a racist and a religious bigot” (by “greenskeeper,” posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).

And these are some of the nicer examples.

There are, Davis said, veteran Democrats on the traditional left who have begun to worry about their own physical safety, because they do not support some of the hatred that is being spewed on the digital left. These old-guard Democrats find it hard to believe what they are seeing and hearing.

It was no surprise, then, when the gadfly Nat Hentoff took up this theme. After all, Hentoff is a Jew — right?

Hentoff started with Davis and the blogosphere, but then veered into another setting worthy of mainstream coverage.

Similarly, little noted during the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on college campuses around the country is the occasional morphing of anti-Israel hatred into plain classic anti-Semitism. For example, waving in the California sun on a campus was the regret: “Hitler didn’t finish the job!” These are not entirely rare instances. On April 3, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reported: “Many college campuses throughout the United States continue to experience incidents of anti-Semitism … When severe, persistent or pervasive, this behavior may constitute a hostile environment for students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“On many campuses,” the commission continues, “anti-Israel or anti-Zionist propaganda has been disseminated that includes age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes … that perpetuate the medieval … blood libel of Jews slaughtering children for ritual purpose … as well as Jews as overly powerful, or conspiratorial.”

Here is my question: Have I missed something? Has there been coverage of this issue in the major newspapers and newsweeklies and I simply missed it? Has anyone seen anything in The New Republic, since that is a crucial forum for these kinds of issues?

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