First, I can't think of a better place to start than Mayor Bloomberg's stellar speech on the subject. It really hits home that the question here is one of our deepest commitments to religious liberty.
“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.
“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ (Bloomberg’s voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) ‘What beliefs do you hold?’
“The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.
Damn the fuck straight.
Meanwhile, I wish I could give a cookie to the AJC for not opposing the building of the mosque, but you know what? I can't. This is such an open and shut case that the mealy-mouthed, ham-handed decision by which the AJC -- after agonizing deliberation -- deigned to give its approval is worth nothing to me. This passive-aggressive "questions have been raised" formulation, wherein any Muslim in the public sphere must carry a punch card indicating the last time they condemned Osama bin Laden, is incredibly pernicious and must be countered at all costs. I bow to no one in opposing radical extremists of all stripes and denominations -- Islamic ones included -- but Muslims don't have an a priori obligation to show themselves to be peace-loving. Like all other persons, we ought to assume they fully buy into the panoply of human rights protections and human values until they, personally, show themselves otherwise. The burden is on those making the allegation that this group is aligned with Islamic radicals. It is a burden they cannot meet.
Of course, that pales in comparison to the contempt I feel for Abe Foxman right now, and the tragic little tears he's crying about how everyone is ganging up on the poor ADL and not recognizing for its "nuance" ... ugh. Gag me. That was decidedly not the lesson Foxman needed to learn. The lesson he needed to learn is that pissing away decades of credibility opposing religious bigotry is going to meet with backlash. As it should.
That being said, I'm not sure the ADL's position on this is fairly traceable to its position on Israel. In fact, I think Beinart misunderstands the proper role the ADL should take with regards to Israel, for the ADL is not a domestic Israeli human rights organization. To be sure, it should oppose religious discrimination anywhere and everywhere, including in Israel. But the ADL, as an international organization, is properly concerned with the way that anti-Israel animus in the global community both inspires and is inspired by anti-Jewish sentiment. I reject the notion that the fact that Israel is a place where Jews have power completely obviates any and all discussion of anti-Semitism in the context of Israel.
The far-right ACLJ has announced it is filing a legal challenge seeking to reverse the decision of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declining to designate the site a "landmark", thus allowing the mosque to proceed. The suit must be for show, because I can't imagine even the ACLJ believes it will win an "abuse of discretion" argument, and effectively their suit can be summarized as haling the NYCLPC into court for not deciding to violate the Constitution (Cf. Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993)).
Finally, the backers of the have publicly thanked their Jewish backers. You're welcome, but honestly? Just doing my duty as an American.