Ground Zero
Ground Zero in Manhattan Photo by AP
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Sometimes, our eyes behold beautiful sights to which we have not given due attention in the past. This week, for the first time, to mark the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American ambassador to Japan participated in the memorial ceremony for Hiroshima's victims. The city also expects a visit from U.S. President Barack Obama in November. The Japanese, who experienced this horrific event firsthand, wish to hear with their own ears about his vision for dismantling nuclear weapons.

Japan has not forgotten what the Americans did to it at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nor have the Americans forgiven it for Pearl Harbor. It is not necessary to forget and forgive; it is merely necessary to act in a civilized fashion and internalize the fact that there is always a time to rend and a time to sew. David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett understood this as well: It was not merely for the sake of the reparation payments that they decided to turn over a new leaf in Israel's relations with Germany.

But nevertheless, there is something about America, and there is an extra something about New York. Last week, a public committee decided unanimously to permit a large Islamic center, which will include a mosque, to be built adjacent to Ground Zero. The voices of those who were opposed, who compared the initiative to allowing an idol in the Temple, were drowned out by the voices of those who supported it.

There is nothing more annoying than the assertion that "all Jews are the same," or alternatively, "all Zionists are the same." Zionism, like Judaism, was never all cut from the same cloth, or forged of the same spirit, and in recent generations, these differences have become even more pronounced. Like every movement for national self-determination, Zionism too has beautiful aspects as well as some rather ugly ones. Everyone who identifies with it chooses the way he wishes it to look.

And sometimes, we do what is hateful to us to 1.5 billion Muslims as well. Like us, they are not all cut from the same cloth, nor do they all think the same way. Not all of them are members of the Taliban or Al-Qaida; most of them are horrified at the sight of towers collapsing on those inside them, or noses or ears that have been cut off and little girls' eyes that have been gouged out on the way to school.

Sharif El-Gamal, for example, who initiated the plan for the Islamic center near Ground Zero, represents hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers - doctors and lawyers, teachers and students, policemen and firemen - who consider Mohammed their prophet. He himself belongs to the Jewish community center on Manhattan's Upper East Side. "My sister-in-law is Jewish," he says, "and this year, I was blessed with my first Jewish niece."

It is not clear what gremlin got into Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who was at the forefront of those denouncing the plan as a "provocation." Why be in such a hurry to reject a building whose founders say it is intended to promote interfaith dialogue? After all, they promised that "extremism will have no place here."

Any responsible person must reach out to every moderate, while at the same time distancing and condemning every extremist. Those who conflate people of good intentions with those of evil intentions, whether by commission or omission, will return the world to a state of chaos and lead it to Sodom.

That is Europe's mistake: It is pushing Turkey into Iran's arms. That is also the mistake being made by former Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir's successors, who continue chanting that "the sea is the same sea and the Arabs are the same Arabs" - which, of course, is akin to other abominable statements like "all Muslims are the same."

Perhaps it is the Jews who sometimes constitute the best proof that there is no inoculation against anti-Semitism.