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David Yerushalmi is a lawyer and anti-Muslim activist who founded the group Society of Americans for National Existence (aka SANE Works for US) and has served as counsel to the Frank Gaffney-directed Center for Security Policy (CSP). Described as a “white supremacist” by Mother Jones magazine and as a “Jewish fascist” by blogger Richard Silverstein, Yerushalmi has been a principal agitator in efforts to pass state legislation that would criminalize the practice of sharia, or Islamic law, and has called for a “war on Islam.”
Yerushalmi has authored a number of controversial texts about purported Muslim influence in the United States, including a September 2010 CSP report titled Shariah: The Threat to America. The report, which was endorsed by several Republican Party figures like Pete Hoekstra and Michele Bachmann, “proposes the alarming conclusion that many apparently-lawful U.S. Muslims are waging a ‘stealth jihad’ to impose sharia on the U.S. through peaceful means, and that virtually all major Muslim-American organizations are affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni fundamentalist organization.” The report advocates banning those who espouse sharia from holding public office or serving in the U.S. armed forces, and prosecuting those who practice Sharia.
Critics of the report pointed out that all Muslims adhere to some version of Sharia, which broadly refers to Islamic religious ideas and beliefs, and that adopting the kind of recommendations advocated in Yerushalmi’s report for CSP would in effect mean criminalizing people for their religious beliefs. According to Sumbul Ali-Karamali, author of The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing, "Assuming all Muslims follow medieval Islamic rules today is like assuming that all Catholics follow 9th century canon law. Being Muslim does not require a governmental imposition of something called ‘sharia law,’ any more than being a Christian requires the implementation of ‘Biblical law.’”
In March 2011, right-wing legislators in Tennessee introduced SB 1028, a bill based on draft legislation produced by Yerushalmi. According to one report, SB 1028 would make "material support" for Islamic law punishable by 15 years in prison, define traditional Islamic law as anti-constitutional, and authorize the state's attorney general to freeze the assets of groups that support Sharia.
After the Tennessean criticized the bill, Yerushalmi posted a diatribe against the newspaper on the website of his group Society of Americans for National Existence: “The Tennessean newspaper lies, the left-progressives join hands with the Muslim Brotherhood sharia advocates and all shed crocodile tears wishing for the demise of good law, good sense, and this nation's national existence.”
Discussing Yerushalmi’s role in promoting this kind of legislation, which has been passed in Oklahoma and proposed in several other states, Mother Jones reported, “Reports about the rise of the anti-Sharia movement have typically focused on Oklahoma's voter-approved constitutional amendment, which explicitly prohibited state courts from considering Islamic law (a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against the amendment in December). But the movement began much earlier, with a sample bill Yerushalmi drafted at the behest of the American Public Policy Alliance, a right-wing organization established with the goal of protecting American citizens from ‘the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Shariah Law.’”
Yerushalmi’s work has also caught the attention of the national mainstream media, including the New York Times, which reported in July 2011 that the anti-Sharia legislation campaign was “the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Crown Heights,Brooklyn, in the office of a little-known lawyer, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Despite his lackof formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence overAmerican public discourse about Shariah.Working with a cadre of conservative public-policy institutes and former military andintelligence officials, Mr. Yerushalmi has written privately financed reports, filed lawsuitsagainst the government and drafted the model legislation that recently swept through thecountry—all with the effect of casting Shariah as one of the greatest threats to Americanfreedom since the cold war.The message has caught on. Among those now echoing Mr. Yerushalmi’s views are prominentWashington figures like R. James Woolsey, a former director of the C.I.A., and the Republicanpresidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, who this month signed apledge to reject Islamic law, likening it to ‘totalitarian control.’ Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined thanreal. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advanceIslamic law. Instead, they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen inEurope, where multicultural policies have allowed for what critics contend is anoveraccommodation of Islamic law.”
As his views have gained more public notoriety, Yerushalmi has appeared to restrict access to his writings. The website of his group SANE, for instance, is password protected. And according to blogger Charles Johnson, Yerushalmi has tried to remove content from racist publications he has penned, including an article called “On Race,” which was published in a right-wing political zine called The McAdam Report. The article, according to Yerushalmi, aims to address “the troubling question of race. I choose to do so because several visitors to our SANE Works for USwebsite have commented on the dangerous line they suggest we tread here. What they mean by this in the main, if I may read a bit between the lines, is that a discussion of Islam as an evil religion, or of blacks as the most murderous of peoples (at least in New York City), or of illegal immigrants as deserving of no rights, is, if not racist, so close to being so as to be alienating.”
Yerushalmi holds many of the same views of hardline neoconservative writers like Rachel Abrams and Jennifer Rubin, including an intense dislike for liberal Jews. He once wrote, “One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one. Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people. … Most Israelis are raging Leftists, and this includes the so-called nationalists who found a home in the ‘right-wing’ Likud political bloc or one of the other smaller and more marginal right wing parties.”
According to Alex Kane of Mondoweiss, “Yerushalmi was a member of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, which was instrumental in the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim smear campaign that brought down Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic school in Brooklyn. He has followed his Islamophobic buddies Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in joining in their war against the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, and is an attorney with the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Geller and Spencer.”
Yerushalmi’s work has been promoted and/or published by a host of neoconservative-affiliated groups. He claims to have “designed and co-authored a ground-breaking peer reviewed empirical investigation on sharia-adherence and the promotion of violent, jihadist literature in U.S. mosques published in the Middle East Quarterly,” which is published by the Daniel Pipes-led Middle East Forum. His SANE website is promoted on the website of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, whish is led by Robert Loewenberg. And the Center for Security Policy published various writings by him, including a monograph entitled “Financial Jihad’: How Should America Respond?”
Blogger Daniel Luban provided a collection of Yerushalmi quotes in an entry on Lobelog titled “Sharia Report Author Has Record Of Hate Against Muslims, Jews, African-Americans”:
“It shall be a felony punishable by 20 years in prison to knowingly act in furtherance of, or to support the, adherence to Islam.”
“The Congress of the United States of America shall declare the US at war with the Muslim Nation or Umma.”
“The President of the United States of America shall immediately declare that all non-US citizen Muslims are Alien Enemies under Chapter 3 of Title 50 of the US Code and shall be subject to immediate deportation.”
“No Muslim shall be granted an entry visa into the United States of America.”
“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote. You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect on political society, certainly took it seriously. Why is that? Were they so flawed in their political reckonings that they manhandled the most important aspect of a free society – the vote? If the vote counts for so much in a free and liberal democracy as we “know” it today, why did they limit the vote so dramatically?”
“The Jews it seems are the bane of Western society. I will ignore the Leftist version of the Jewish problem. … But the Jewish problem for conservatives is a different and quite interesting affair. It is most interesting because so much of what drives it is true and accurate.”
“Jews of the modern age are the most radical, aggressive and effective of the liberal Elite. Their goal is the goal of all ‘progressives:’ a determined use of liberal principles to deconstruct the Western nation state in a ‘historical’ march to the World State…”
Tim Murphy, “Meet the White Supremacist Leading the GOP's Anti-Sharia Crusade,” Mother Jones, March 1, 2011, http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/david-yerushalmi-sharia-ban-tennessee; Andrea Elliott, “The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement,” New York Times, July 31, 2011.
Tim Murphy, “Meet the White Supremacist Leading the GOP's Anti-Sharia Crusade,” Mother Jones, March 1, 2011, http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/david-yerushalmi-sharia-ban-tennessee
Tim Murphy, “Meet the White Supremacist Leading the GOP's Anti-Sharia Crusade,” Mother Jones, March 1, 2011, http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/david-yerushalmi-sharia-ban-tennessee.
Andrea Elliott, “The Man Behind the Anti-ShariahMovement,” New York Times,July 31, 2011.
David Yerushalmi, “On Race,” The McAdam Report, March 12, 2006, www.mcadamreport.org/The%20McAdam%20Report(585)-05-12-06.pdf.
Quoted in Richard Silverstein, “David Yerushalmi Devout Jewish Fascist,” Tikun Olam, August 24, 2007, http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2007/08/24/david-yerushalmi-devout-jewish-fascist/.