Top Reform Rabbi, Jewish Groups Condemn Libya Attack on U.S. Envoys

Rabbi David Saperstein, joined by Christian and Muslim leaders, also condemns film said to have sparked the outrage.

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A top Reform rabbi appeared with Libya's U.S. ambassador and Muslim and Christian leaders condemning the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, along with the anti-Muslim film that allegedly incited the violence.

A rocket attack Tuesday in Benghazi killed four U.S. diplomats, including the Libyan ambassador, John Christopher Stevens.

"This act of violence, and the similarly threatening violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, must be condemned unequivocally," Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, said at a news conference Wednesday at the National Press Club. "The losses of life in this manner are an affront to the values of humanity and tolerance that are at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

Saperstein appeared at the event with Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan envoy to the United States; Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America; the Rev. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist who is president of the Interfaith Alliance; and Haris Tarin, the director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Saperstein also singled out for condemnation the film “Innocence of Muslims," which is circulating on the Internet and has been accused of inciting the attacks. The film, made in America, is said to insult Islam.

"It was clearly crafted to provoke, to offend and to evoke outrage," Saperstein said of the film. "The denigration of religion and religious figures and the intentional framing of religious texts and tenets in this manner must likewise be condemned."

The Muslim speakers, including the Libyan ambassador, abjured violent protest against perceived insults.

"Our differences, if we want to express them, have to be in peaceful ways," Aujali said.

Other Jewish groups condemned the violence, suggesting that in its wake the offense of the film was secondary.

"Whether this murderous attack was premeditated or in reaction to a profoundly offensive anti-Islam film, nothing justifies the violence and killings of an innocent U.S. diplomat and embassy personnel," the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.

The American Jewish Committee similarly emphasized, "Whatever the provocation by the exercise of free speech in the United States, nothing can justify this heinous attack on U.S. Embassy personnel who sought to assist in building a new era in post-Gadhafi Libya."

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said, "There can be no justification and no legitimization for such violence."

Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador speaks to local media at the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya, April 11, 2011. Credit: AP

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