An Open Letter to Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Dear Mr. Gutow,

I recently saw your conversation with Rabbi Mark Golub concerning Pamela Geller’s anti-Jihad ads in the New York City subway system and I want to tell you that, in my opinion, you are doing the Jewish people, and the Jewish state of Israel, a terrible disservice. I do not question your good intentions in the least, please understand, but I cannot allow your comments to pass without some necessary rebuttal.

You have suggested that Geller is a racist, or an “Islamophobe,” for putting up the following advertisement:

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In response, your organization, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), put out a statement claiming that, “The message is bigoted, divisive, and unhelpful.” In your conversation with Rabbi Golub you noted, rightly, that “Jihad is a part of the inner workings of Muslim theology” and that the Jihad is not limited to violent extremism, but is also a primary concept within normative Islam which refers to methods by which the devout come to know Allah.  It is often said to mean the internal, spiritual struggle one undergoes as part of one’s religious journey within Islam.

However, upon giving your discussion a close listen there is one salient point that leaps out and that you fail to acknowledge.  Political Islam is not a matter of a few violent extremists hiding in caves.  Political Islam (or “radical Islam” or “Islamism”) is a rising political movement throughout the Muslim Middle East with many millions, if not tens of millions, of adherents, that calls for the return of the caliphate, the oppression of women, the murder of Gay people, the genocide of the Jews, and is driving non-Muslims out of the Middle East, all in the name of sharia.

That is what Geller is responding to.

What you have failed to understand is that Pamela Geller is fighting against that which all good liberals should be fighting against. Geller, and many, many other people, are standing up against the most violent and rigidly conservative and racist political movement on the planet today.

Furthermore, whatever your best intentions, you ultimately end up conflating Islam with political Islam, or what Geller calls the “Jihad,” and in doing so necessarily run cover for the latter. By downplaying political Islam as just a matter of a few crazed, violent extremists you veil the truth that political Islam is one of the fastest rising political movements in the world and it is a movement typified by genocidal racism.

To suggest, as you did, that calling out political Islam, through using the word “Jihad,” “would be like calling all Zionists racists” is to equate the movement for Jewish nationalism with the foremost racist ideology in the world today.

In my opinion, you have made a terrible mistake and have defamed Geller because your desire for peaceful relations between religions trumps your acknowledgment of the reality of political Islam.  Political Islam cannot be wished away.  It cannot be ignored and claiming that those on the front lines against that movement, as Geller is, are “Islamophobic” is to protect that which seeks the downfall of the Jewish state, if not the Jewish people.

I know that is not your intention, but you know what they say about good intentions.

I would very much encourage you to rethink your position and to stand with those of us who oppose political Islam.


About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at