Saturday, July 26, 2008

Armed Religious Paramilitary Trains in the Catskills

Before 9/11 religious fundamentalists plotted to bring down a holy building. A coalition of Christian fundamentalists and Jewish Orthodox cults schemed to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The World Trade Center fell to Muslim fundamentalists in fall of 2001.

Fast forward to upstate New York, where an orthodox Jewish group conducts paramilitary training, courtesy of retired Israeli Defense Force personnel. The group's beliefs, mostly stated by leader Yonatan Stern, include:

1. American Jews have "felt a false sense of security in the United States."

2. "The threat is not from the American people or government," but from "terrorist sleeper cells that want to target Jews. These people are very dangerous and the FBI issues warnings against them very often."

3. "The average American is friendly to Jews, but we're worried about those individuals on the periphery of society."

4. "We realized there is a need for this kind of organization, and as Israeli combat veterans living in the US, we have the skills and ability to respond to this."

5. "We believe all Jews in the US must be legally armed and trained, and towards this goal we hold paramilitary training camps to train and equip Jewish American youth."

6. "We strongly believe in the constitutional right to bear arms and we express this right to its fullest."

7. The group claims to be "well-connected with the New York police and fire departments" and it invites "all members of the law enforcement community to join in our life-saving activities."

8. "We are all legally armed and carry radios and cellphones" during all hours of the day, and even on Shabbat, "as we need to be constantly ready to respond to any incident."

9. the group does not exclude secular Jews, Stern says, but asks that they respect the Orthodox nature of the camp by observing Shabbat in public and refraining from bringing non-kosher food.

10. "We wouldn't have a problem with non-Jews coming either, but no non-Jew has applied thus far."

The training began three years ago. What happens when this group shows up at the next disaster to save Jews? How will the authorities respond?

If their paramilitary services are accepted, will they push aside Gentiles in favor of their Orthodox friends? Might they ignore atheists in need of aid? And what happens when they run across a suffering Muslim? Do they train on headcounts and collateral damage?

We've already seen the franchising of parts of the American public safety system. Private fire fighting companies did banner business in Southern California during their widespread fire storms. Sovereign Deed will pluck its clients out of a disaster zone, long before the common citizen.

When did it become American to rely on the corporate profit motive to optimize safety for the wealthy? Why do we need armed religious groups, regardless of brand, conducting paramilitary training so they can save "their brethren"?

If these people want to be policemen and save any American, join the force. If they want to be soldiers fighting the good fight, join Uncle Sam's army. Mr. Stern, our next conflict could well be against an extraordinarily grave , "nukular equipped Jew hater", at least that's the spin. Think of the profitable war tourism and nonprofit fundraising doors that effort could open.