The Pavlov Response and the Cordoba House

Reactions to the construction of Cordoba House reveal more than ingrained prejudice and hypocrisy; they reveal jealousy, incomprehensible attitudes of self-importance, condescension, and patronization, ignorance that emphasizes separation, and a possible conspiracy that can easily pass unnoticed.

It’s acceptable that Americans show sensitivity to what has become hallowed ground – the area of destruction from the greatest terrorist attack on United States soil – given the name of “ground zero.”  It’s natural that many Americans will question the construction of an Islamic Center that will stand close to the hallowed ground – natural but not correct.

Those who view the attack on the World Trade center as being a symbol in a struggle of ‘right vs. wrong’ should recognize that there is no absolute right or wrong; “ground zero” is a symbol of how the world too often goes wrong.

A century of western interference in Middle East nations, dominating their resources, delineating  their borders, deciding their rulers, destabilizing their political frameworks, waging dubious wars which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, occupying their lands and generally creating havoc and misery don’t seem to have bothered western leaders. A conditioned mind reacts automatically, senseless, irrational and often to its own detriment.

Two city blocks north of ‘ground zero,” and two blocks south of the Warren street mosque, the Cordoba House, which contains a mosque, is mainly a mixture of learning, art and culture with a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, and bookstores. The well publicized antagonism to the Cordoba House follows the Pavlov reaction, salivating at the sound before the food is delivered, but contains other inglorious activity.

Odd that a mosque already exists two blocks from the proposed Cordoba House and has not aroused comment. Since mosques allow Muslim worshipers to find a place to genuflect rather having them lay a prayer rug on a NYC street and disturb the City’s financial district’s wall to curb pedestrian traffic, which is reported to sometimes occur outside an overflowed Warren Street mosque, another mosque would be welcome. However, this building is more than a mosque. It’s a testimonial that Muslims swim, read, think and eat fast foods, just like all Americans.  Since another mosque already exists close to ‘ground zero,’ evidently it is Cordoba House’s added features that have aroused resentment. Perhaps it seems exaggerated, but there is a lingering feeling that the antagonism to the Cordoba House includes the ultimate of anti-Semitism; “We don’t want you Semites to be part of us. You are Semites and you will remain Semites.”

A bewildering aspect of the Mosque discussion is the involvement of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the pro-Israel J Street lobby, both of whom published highlighted opinions of the Cordoba House. These organizations represent a minority of a minority of Americans, and behave as if their words have super importance. Who cares what they have to say?

The ADL reacted negatively to the Muslim building, arguing that it is too close to ‘ground zero.’

Statement On Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero

New York, NY, July 28, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today issued the following statement regarding the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero in Manhattan:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam.  The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong.  But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.  In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

“Cause some victims more pain?” Evidently,although poorly expressed, the ADL must mean surviving relatives rather than the already dead. How revealing! The ADL believes by supposition, or is it transference, without describing any polls, that the opinion of a few (or how many?) Americans (Muslims also died in the 9/11 tragedy) have precedence over seven million Muslim Americans in determining where Cordoba House should be constructed. Digest that and then answer the question: Isn’t that the most extreme prejudice; the opinion of several non-Muslim Americans is worth more than the want of millions of Muslim Americans.

This is the same ADL, which has been sued on several occasions for violating privacy rights and assisting in false charges of anti-Semitism.

Counter Punch, February 25, 2002 The ADL Spying Case Is Over, But The Struggle Continues

By Jeffrey Blankfort, Anne Poirier and Steve Zeltzer Plaintiffs in the of ADL Spying Case

In 1993, the District of Attorney of San Francisco released 700 pages of documents implicating the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that claims to be a defender of civil rights, in a vast spying operation directed against American citizens who were opposed to Israel’s policies in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza and to the apartheid policies of the government of South Africa and passing on information to both governments.

Jewish Daily Forward, 2001
Judge Slams ADL for Hurting Couple Tarred As ‘Anti-Semites’ 

by Marc Perelman, Forward Correspondent

Upholding most of a $10 million defamation suit against the Anti-Defamation League, a federal judge in Denver has lambasted the organization for labeling a nasty neighborhood feud as an anti-Semitic event. The judge’s opinion confirmed a verdict reached last April by a federal jury, which essentially accused the Denver chapter of the ADL and its regional representative, Saul Rosenthal, of falsely portraying William and Dorothy Quigley as anti-Semites. Mr. Quigley, an executive of the United Artists theater chain, said his career in the “predominantly Jewish and close-knit” film business had stalled after the incident.

Detractors have accused the ADL of being a spokesperson for the foreign nation of Israel, using its influence to promote Israel’s agenda and attacking those who criticize the agenda.

Haaretz Service 28.03.10
ADL: Carter has reverted to anti-Israel stance, despite recent apology

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter’s apology to the Jewish community over his anti-Israel views should not be taken seriously, an Anti-Defamation League statement said Sunday, claiming that Carter had continued attacking Israel even after sending an apologetic letter to the leaders of the U.S. Jewish community.

J Street took a positive stance to the Islamic center.
July 30th, 2010,

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

Why are the statements by ADL and J Street significant? Should Muslim organizations also express their attitudes on synagogues and churches constructed in the U.S.?  Let’s face it; if that happened, almost all Americans would either smirk or be confounded. Such is the power of conditioning.

Nevertheless, there is a significance to these patronizing expressions of egotism and self importance. The explanation might sound somewhat conspiratorial, but where Israel is involved conspiracies are unlimited.

ADL and J Street exhibit the ‘bad guy’ and ‘good guy” approach that characterizes Israeli politics – the Party in office is the ‘bad guy’ with oppressive policies; the Party out of office is the ’good guy’ who will undo the oppressive policies once it gains office. After gaining office, the ’good guy’ continues the same policies and the merry-go-round starts once again.

ADL’s grim stance reflects a brighter light on J Street, the ‘good guy’ during this moment.

Realize also that it is in Israel’s interests to present the local Israeli/Palestinian conflict (actually an oppression that creates innumerable crises) as a conflict between western democracy and a violent Islam. In this contest, Israel is the sacrificing vanguard holding off the Muslim hordes. By expressing themselves, the Israel oriented organizations create the appearance that the Cordoba House is related to this argument,and since Israel poses itself as a Jewish state, the Jews of the world are central to the decision on the Islamic Center’s fate  Each of the organizations popularizes the Clash of Civilizations, letting it churn in populace minds. To enhance a debate, they approach the argument from opposite sides, one being recalcitrant and the other willing to compromise. Conditioning prevents the reality that both organizations are patronizing and condescending.

There is a violent struggle between Fundamentalist Muslims and what they perceive as corrupt oligarchs and those who they claim assist in the corruption.  Basic facts and simple logic reveal there is no conflict between Islam and the western world..

Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation. Extremely devout, it is well integrated into the west. Few of the Muslim nations show excessive antagonism to the western world, and those who do, such as Libya can cite grievances.
Terrorism occurs all over the world, and Muslims play major roles; in India, China and Russia. Nevertheless, none of these nations consider the threats as part of an overall conspiracy. It’s not Asia vs. Islam or Russia vs. Islam. Only the conditioned U.S. represents  the attacks as a Clash of Civilizations.

The irony of it all is that the U.S. is the principal instigator of any Islamic threat. As U.S. manufacture of essential products declines, manufacture of terrorists increases. America’s main friends in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia, the ultimate terrorist breeding ground, Pakistan, whose government previously supported the Taliban and has elements still suspected of providing sustenance to  Al Qaeda fighters, and Israel, whose oppressive  policies against the Palestinians and actions in Jerusalem have disturbed the Muslim world and generated terrorists as fast as Katyusha rockets can be produced. Add the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and their areas of vast destruction by U.S. forces, including civilian deaths, and what can the U.S. expect other than violent reactions? 

Those interested in demeaning the Islamic world, such as the Religious Right, can take advantage of the situation. Condition Americans to identify Islam with the reactive violence and they won’t realize the proactive instigation. U.S. relations  with the Arab world are based on economic interests. U.S. relations with the Islamic world are a result of conditioning. Since it is difficult to recondition an already conditioned view, not much can be done to change Americans’ opinions of Islam.  However, since ill conditioning leads to blind actions and serious consequences, it behooves the U.S. to make certain the new generation is not conditioned to automatically reject or accept any persuasion. Start with Cordoba House.

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan). Read other articles by Dan.