Should Terry Jones be barred from Dearborn?

By Mark Taylor


How far does one’s First Amendment rights stretch in the United States?

If a person’s public demonstrations in Florida cause death in Afghanistan should he be barred from Dearborn?

That’s the question facing a judge in Wayne County Michigan today, after prosecutors filed a motion to bar Pastor Terry Jones from demonstrating outside a Dearborn Islamic center on Good Friday.

Dearborn is a suburb of Detroit, once best known for being the home of Ford Motor Company World Headquarters and the sprawling Ford Rouge Assembly Plant. But it’s now probably better recognized as a community with a substantial Arab population.

Jones is the controversial church pastor who burned a Koran in Florida, then announced it on his website. When word about it spread in Afghanistan, enraged Muslims attacked UN offices, killing 11 people in protest. Even though the UN had nothing at all to do with what Jones did, it was the closest place they could think of where they could find westerners to punish for the Koran burning.

Now Jones wants to take his mission against Islam on the road to Dearborn, where he intends to protest in front of the Islamic center. The prosecutors want an injunction to prevent him from doing so, on the grounds that he will likely spark a riot there.

The Koran burning was, of course, distasteful and irresponsible, given that the U.S. government implored him to not do it because it feared violent responses by some who were offended. Responses that the government told him could put Americans and others in danger.

The lesson was clearly not learned by Jones, who now apparently wants even more fame, or perhaps infamy, by protesting in Dearborn.

While the Koran burning was distasteful, it was clearly protect under the Constitution. So is Jones’ right to protest outside a mosque in Dearborn.

If he is precluded from exercising his First Amendment rights, then who will be next? Nazis who want to march through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood?

That’s not just an academic question. It actually was once raised.

In 1977, in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, then a community heavily populated with Holocaust survivors, a neo-Nazi group announced a march. When the village government sued to prevent the march, the ACLU stepped in and filed a counter-motion claiming that to enjoin the Nazis from marching would be a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The ACLU prevailed in court, but in the end, the Nazis never marched in Skokie.

The thought wannabe Nazis goose-stepping through the neighborhood of people who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust notwithstanding, the court made the right decision. They had the right, that they elected to not exercise, to do just that.

Similar emotions may be evoked if Jones decides to visit Dearborn. But he too, has First Amendment rights.

If we muzzle Nazis and we muzzle Jones, who knows who may be next to be silenced. Maybe Muslims. Maybe Jews.

Gary Baumgarten is editor of The Jewish Reporter.

Muslim group opposes Jewish night at ballpark

Jewish player Craig Breslow of the Oakland A's/By Natalie Litz

The Council on American Islamic Relations is opposing a decision by the Oakland A’s to host a Jewish night at the ballpark, USA Today is reporting.

Apparently the Muslim group finds the idea offsetting to some of its members.

It’s not so unusual for Major League Baseball teams to host religious or ethnic nights. And theme parks, such as Six Flags in New Jersey, have for several years now hosted Muslim days.

The best of the worst Jewish mobsters

Irving "Slick" Shapiro's NYPD mugshot


Needless to say, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky are and will remain the most famous Jewish mobsters in the strange and horrid pantheon of American organized crime. Their peculiar and vicious lunacies are remarkably well portrayed by Warren Beatty and by the incomparable Lee Strasberg. And yet Bugsy and The Godfather, Part II are the extent of most Americans’ familiarity with that crowd. And, in any case, far and away the finest film of the genre is, ironically, not one of these but is the lesser-known Robert De Niro/James Woods/Elizabeth McGovern epic, Director Sergio Leone’s 1984 masterwork, Once Upon A Time In America.

Now, I’ve no desire go all pedantic on you and survey the careers of all the Jewish gangsters whose names would have been familiar to a Michael Corleone, notorious, terrible men such as, say, Vegas’ Morris (Moe) Dalitz. Nor will I run a list for you of, say, Detroit’s old Purple Gang, many of whom celebrated the Jewish Sabbath to one extent or another. Suffice to say that Italian-Americans and Jewish-Americans shared a weird, complex organized criminal and very American history and often very odd, parallel religious lives as well.

In this vein I think of Detroit’s old, notorious Purple Gang and one Irving “Slick” Shapiro, a man who brought some particularly strange ethical standards to his chosen line of work. You and I clucked our tongues and shook our heads in darkened theaters each time a Corleone family member betrayed raw and sincere feelings of familial caring one moment and ordered hits the next. Clemenza’s “Leave the gun/take the canolis” is just one of dozens of examples. Hyman Roth’s “More than anyone, I loved him,” wherein Lee Strasberg’s Hyman Roth/Meyer Lansky mourns the murder of Moe Green/Bugsy Siegal to Michael Corleone, who had Green shot through the eye, is another.

I think of Slick Shapiro, specifically, for another reason.

It is said of him that as ruthless and efficient a killer as Irving Shapiro was, he would not take a contract if it would have him carry out a hit, or even travel to fulfill a contract, on Shabbat, Friday to Saturday, sundown to sundown. Shapiro felt similarly about our two High Holy Days, our New Year, Rosh Hashana, and our Day of Attonement 10 days on, Yom Kippur.

The rest of the calendar he was ready for assignment, open for hire, but on those days, fuggeddaboudit; he was unavailable.

And what’s even more nutty is that he wasn’t, apparently, alone among 20th century Jewish mobsters in this and, nuttier still, his Italian-American and other associates appear to have respected Slick’s weird wet-work ethic. Genuinely respected it.

Irving Shapiro’s heyday was well gone by the 1980s. And then, so was he. Slick’s eternal slate, of course, can’t come close to having been cleansed by his tip of the hat to a few holidays and the Sabbath. And yet it does suggest that even some the most vicious killers, men raised in certain compelling ethnic/religious traditions.

Irving Shapiro and his cronies murdered at least 500 men in their day.

These men seemed oddly intent on honoring their traditions even as they slit your throat, ear-to-ear.

Helen Thomas to address anti-AIPAC gathering

By Michael Foley

The organization, Move Over AIPAC says long-time Washington Journalist Helen Thomas, who was ousted from her job at the Hearst Newspapers after making what many described as antisemitic remarks, will address its pro-Palestinian conference in May.

The conference coincides with the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee  summit in the Capitol. Thomas will be the group’s keynote speaker May 21.

The 92-year-old Thomas, who was stripped of her White House press credentials when she lost her job, has just been granted credentials to cover the House and Senate for the Falls Church (Virginia) News-Press.

Move Over AIPAC says its May 21-24, 2011 conference hopes to “expose the AIPAC lobby and build the vision for a new U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.”