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Media must tell the world that anti-Islam film was not made by Jews

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A riot policeman passes burning vehicles during clashes outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, early Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Hussein Tallal)AP2012

Tragically, September 11, 2012 will be another 9/11 remembered for blind hate, violence and unspeakable brutality and murder—a victory for the forces of evil, first unleashed by Al Qaeda 11 years ago.  

But as we Americans mourns our dead, await justice for the terrorists, wonder how many more flag burnings and indignities will mar our nation’s good name, and ponder the implications of 9/11/12 on our looming presidential elections, there is a piece of this ugliness that must be fully confronted: The "Innocence of Muslims" is a poorly produced anti-Islam film that has been used to fuel protests and violence on American diplomatic postings in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, leaving our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, dead.

It is also clear that the film is an excuse, not the cause for hateful onslaughts and that the military-style attack on a senior US diplomat was planned before anyone ever heard of this film.

What was also clear— according to major media – for a number of news cycles—was that the film was produced by an American-Israeli businessman and its $5 million budget was raised by “100 American Jews.”

It is clear that the film is an excuse, not the cause for hateful onslaughts and that the military-style attack on a senior US diplomat in Libya was planned well before anyone ever heard of this film.

But three days later it now appears that the filmmaker is an Egyptian Christian, possibly named Sam Bacile, and not an Israeli Jew. Thanks to The Atlantic’s reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, and a few other journalists, we learn that Jews likely had nothing to do with this project and that the key person in this outrage is a Coptic Christian, whose co-religionists in Egypt face heavy discrimination.

But as I write this essay, Iran’s official media, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s website and a leading Islamist online forum continue to present “Innocence of Islam” as a Jewish and Israeli project.

No big deal? Think again.

This past spring, Mohamed Merah, a French Islamist fanatic drove his motorcycle to the entrance of a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, killed a young rabbi and three little children on the school yard, including an 8-year-old girl he grabbed by her hair and executed with a bullet to her brain. Before being killed by police, Merah explained that he viewed every Jew as an enemy in his war.

Our Center’s Digital Hate and Terrorism Project monitors the 24/7 drumbeat of the hatred of Jews, Christians, and other faiths promoted by Islamist extremists worldwide.

As we approach the Jewish New Year, the last thing the world’s Jewish Community needs is  the canard that this latest assault on Islam emanated from its ranks. It would succeed in inflaming passions drawing even closer the distance between anti-Semitic hate and violent acts against the innocent.

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan was an especially saintly man. His self-proclaimed mission in life was to get people to never repeat a lie or rumor, no matter how juicy or plausible.

One day, a tearful parishioner came to him to admit that despite all of his rabbi’s sermons, he had succumbed and repeated a juicy rumor about a neighbor, which turned out to be a lie.

“What can I do to repent for my sin and rehabilitate my neighbor’s reputation?” the distraught man asked the sage. “Go home, pluck the feathers from the chicken in your barn, draw a straight line to the door of the person your hurt and then back to my study,” the rabbi answered. Three hours later the man returned and breathlessly asked, “Am I forgiven now?”

“Yes, my son, all is forgiven,” answered Rabbi Kagan, “save one last thing—now gather the feathers.”

While we should not expect much from the state-run media in Iran or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, we could use a little help from the rest of the world’s media to gather some of the hate-filled feathers. After all,  they helped scatter them in the first place.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Follow the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Facebook and on Twitter.