Regarding the role of religious leaders in combatting terrorism ("Let the Forces of Religion Expel Terrorists," Op-Ed, August 4): The ultimate test of the sincerity of religious leaders is their willingness to condemn wrongdoing by an individual or group who claim to abide by that religion's tenets. However, it seems that this litmus test has been applied only to Muslim leaders, while some leaders of other faiths seem to have been granted a blanket exemption from such examinations. Authors Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper ignored the statements issued by U.S. and world Muslim leaders condemning the killing of Col. William Higgins.
Judaism is an honorable monotheistic religion recognized by all Muslims and Christians. The state of Israel is considered by most Jews to be the sacred symbol of their faith. Consequently, the greatest test of a Jewish religious leader's commitment to universal human rights must be seen as his or her willingness to condemn unjust acts perpetrated in the name of Israel. Unfortunately, however, Jewish leaders--Hier and Cooper included--have failed in this ultimate expression of adherence to their faith's principles of justice.
Several recent violent and unjust incidents and the response, or lack thereof, of Jewish leaders clearly illustrate this failure to defend universal rights:
-In October, 1985, a terrorist bombing took the life of a Palestinian activist, Alex Odeh, in Santa Ana. Irv Rubin of the Jewish Defense League--an FBI-classified terrorist group--appeared on television stating that Odeh "apparently got exactly what he deserves."
-Currently, the prime suspect in the Odeh killing, JDL member Robert Manning, resides freely in the Occupied West Bank, with Israel refusing to cooperate with FBI officials and extradite him to the United States.
-During the \o7 intifada,\f7 Israel has committed a host of human rights violations against civilians and has been heavily criticized by such internationally respected organizations as Amnesty International. Such actions include shooting at unarmed civilians, beating women and children, bone-breaking, house demolitions, mass arrests without due process, and the illegal expulsion of Palestinian political prisoners to Lebanon.
-The sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest sites, has been repeatedly violated by Israeli soldiers and police attacking Muslim worshipers as they attend obligatory Friday prayers (Jan. 15, 1988, is one heavily reported example). In many cases, Muslims have been completely prevented from attending their mosques, being turned away by Israeli soldiers or restricted to their homes under intolerably lengthy, military-imposed curfews.
In all of these instances, barely a word of protest from Jewish religious leaders has been heard. In those rare instances when some question arises concerning Israel's policies, any implicit criticism is heavily diluted with praise for Israel's "democracy": Even more disappointing is the fact that those Jewish leaders who have harsh words for repressive Israeli tactics are berated and condemned by other religious leaders like Hier and Cooper. Such a muting of criticism only serves to undermine true justice for all peoples.
Hier and Cooper would be well-advised to re-evaluate their own stands on state-sponsored terrorism in the name of God. Perhaps when they have realized their errors, they too can step onto the public podium and renounce the likes of Rubin, Manning, Shamir, Rabin and Sharon. Otherwise, they should not be too surprised when some fair-minded adherent to Judaism comes along and renounces them.