Earlier this year Pamela Geller's scheduled appearance to talk about “free speech” at a Long Island Synagogue created unrest and controversy in New York's Jewish community after the Synagogue Men’s Club first invited, then disinvited the infamous anti-Muslim blogger. Geller, who is the leader of an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, later attacked the Synagogue for choosing to "bow down,” but it was the exchange between supporters of her hate group and a local newspaper that grabbed our attention.
On April 11, 2013 The Island Now posted an editorial covering the unfortunate willingness of religious institutions to host Geller's hate-mongering, and the lack of rational expressed by Geller's supporters in attendance (one Geller admirer alleged 75% of Muslims in the US are trying to force their religion on non-Muslims).
In response to the editorial, reader Joan Swirsky submitted a letter to the editor of The Island Now passionately defending Geller. According to Swirsky, we should overlook Geller's affiliation with a designated hate group because she is “soft-spoken" and "often humorous."
The letter to the editor then goes on to argue Geller is not a bigot. And to prove it, includes a link to watch Geller’s tirade. If you click on that link and watch the nearly thirty minute performance, you would hear Geller call Muslims "the greatest threat to free men."
Thankfully the Island Now recognized that Geller and her supporters happen to be one of the greatest threats to common sense. In an unprecedented move, the online paper wrote a response to debunk a letter to the editor from one of its own readers. The Island Now stood strong behind its editorial, insisting hate speech does not belong at a religious event.
Our Views: We beg to differ
Posted By The Island Now: Thursday, May 16, 2013
We don’t often reply to letters from readers in this space. But the words of reader Joan Swirsky cannot stand without response.
Swirsky wrote about an editorial in which we called activist Pamela Geller a “bigot” and criticized Great Neck Chabad for inviting Geller to speak on April 14.
She writes that “Geller is soft-spoken, often humorous, and the opposite of hateful.”
Really? Geller once posted a drawing on her blog of Muhammad with the head of pig superimposed over his own. She also said that Muslims have sex with goats.
When she was criticized for this, Geller responded by saying, “I don’t know where it is in America that you can’t make jokes or make fun.”
On her blog, Atlas Shrugs, she posted a mock photograph of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in a Nazi uniform and a doctored photograph showing President Obama urinating on an American flag and said the president had been involved as a youth with a “crack whore.”
That’s just a sample of Geller’s venom.
Swirsky asks if we would criticize an organization that invited a leader of the Klan or a Neo-Nazi to speak. Indeed we would, but as in the case of Geller, we would recognize their constitutional right to do so.
We would make an exception for a college or university that invited such vile people to participate in a debate-type format where their comments would be challenged.
That didn’t happen at Great Neck Chabad or when Geller spoke before the Nassau County Federation for Republican Women two weeks ago. Apparently the GOP on Long Island has written off everyone who worships in a mosque.
Swirsky then calls us “leftists” and compares us to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We’re proud to be in the company of that great American hero. She claims that FDR, “abandoned the Jews to Hitler’s annihilation.”
She is as ignorant of history as she is about the free press.
In a review of the book, “Roosevelt & Hitler: Prelude to War,” Robert Clive, writes thatthe author of this book“seeks to set the record straight by detailing how FDR worked relentlessly to involve the U.S. in a war against Hitler that the American people as a whole had no genuine interest in.”
We stand by our editorial and our belief that speakers who are divisive and hateful, even if they are “soft-spoken,” and “humorous,” should not be honored guests at religious or political events.
CAIR-New York applauded the efforts of the overwhelming majority of Long Islanders of diverse backgrounds and religions who opposed promoting Geller's hate at a religious center. CAIR-New York also applauds the Island Now for an act of journalistic courage. Unlike many mainstream media outlets who report about hate groups to drum-up viewership and controversy, the Island Now used the opportunity to stand against bigotry.