Local Jewish leaders condemn attacks in Libya, Egypt

Local Jewish leaders condemn attacks in Libya, Egypt

The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ condemned the attacks on United States diplomats in Libya and Egypt.

A rocket attack Tuesday in Benghazi killed four U.S. diplomats, including the Libyan ambassador, Chris Stevens; Sean Smith, an information management officer; and two other as yet unnamed staff members. 

On Tuesday evening, Egyptian protesters climbed over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, pulled down an American flag, and tried to set it alight.

The attacks follow the release online of an Arabic translation of a movie attacking the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The federation statement said it decried “the breaching of sovereign U.S. territory and the desecration of the American flag. Our hearts go out to the families of those who were killed and hope that calm is quickly restored.”

It continued, “During this time of volatility we must ensure that heightened cooperation and coordination between the United States and Israel, America's unwavering friend and only democratic ally in the Middle East, remain steadfast so that Iran and anti-American forces do not gain access to nuclear capability.”

Meanwhile, a top Reform rabbi appeared with Libya's U.S. ambassador and Muslim and Christian leaders condemning the attacks, along with the anti-Muslim film that allegedly incited the violence

“This act of violence, and the similarly threatening violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, must be condemned unequivocally,” Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, said at a news conference Wednesday at the National Press Club. “The losses of life in this manner are an affront to the values of humanity and tolerance that are at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

Saperstein appeared at the event with Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan envoy to the United States; Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America; the Rev. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist who is president of the Interfaith Alliance; and Haris Tarin, the director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Saperstein also singled out for condemnation the film “Innocence of Muslims,” which is circulating on the Internet and has been accused of inciting the attacks. The film, made in America, insults Islam.

“It was clearly crafted to provoke, to offend and to evoke outrage,” he said. “The denigration of religion and religious figures and the intentional framing of religious texts and tenets in this manner must likewise be condemned.”

The Muslim speakers, including the Libyan ambassador, abjured violent protest against perceived insults.

“Our differences, if we want to express them, have to be in peaceful ways,” Aujali said.

Other Jewish groups condemned the violence, suggesting that in its wake the offense of the film was secondary.

“Whether this murderous attack was premeditated or in reaction to a profoundly offensive anti-Islam film, nothing justifies the violence and killings of an innocent U.S. diplomat and embassy personnel,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.

The American Jewish Committee similarly emphasized, “Whatever the provocation by the exercise of free speech in the United States, nothing can justify this heinous attack on U.S. Embassy personnel who sought to assist in building a new era in post-Gaddafi Libya.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said “there can be no justification and no legitimization for such violence.”

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