By Michele Justic
Free speech may be guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, but it means nothing if people lack the courage to take up the challenge. Pamela Geller, author of the Atlas Shrugs blog, knows a thing or two about speaking out and paying the price for truth. On Sunday, April 14, Ms. Geller spoke at a hotly contested event in Great Neck, along with Greg Buckley Sr., whose son died at the hand of Afghan police being trained by the U.S. Marines.
The two distinguished speakers had been scheduled to speak at the Great Neck Synagogue. Rabbi Dale Polakoff had given the green light to the GNS Men’s Club to make the preparations and spread the word. But it was not to be. Habeeb Ahmed, president-elect of the Islamic Center of Long Island and commissioner of the Nassau County Human Rights Commission, pulled out all the stops to intimidate Rabbi Polakoff to cancel the event. Fearing for the safety of his congregants, Rabbi Polakoff regretfully canceled. Perhaps Chabad has more of a history of dealing with totalitarian regimes due to its long history in Soviet Russia. Or perhaps it was the unique strength of Rabbi Yosef Geisinsky, rabbi of Chabad of Great Neck. Chabad of Great Neck stepped up, with minimal time to prepare, to host the event. Rabbi Polakoff attended, as a show of his support.
Hundreds came out to learn more about how, in the face of an enemy that doesn’t stick to any rulebooks, America has disgracefully not held true to some of our rulebooks, such as the aforementioned freedom of speech, as well as certain protection, honors, and benefits due to our soldiers and veterans. The Chabad house was full inside, and another 500 people watched in the outdoor theater that had been set up to accommodate everyone. A full security detail helped ensure everyone’s safety, both at the event and on nearby roads. Flag bearers stood on the sides for a dramatic display of patriotism.
Dignitaries in attendance included Robert Spencer, Dr. Andrew Bostom, Charles Jacobs, NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind, David Wood, Ashraf Ramelah of Voice of the Copts, Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel, and many others. Among the organizers of the event were the eloquent activist Jeffrey Wiesenfeld (president of the Israel Independence Fund and former aide to Senator Alfonse D’Amato, Gov. George Pataki, and the late Mayor Ed Koch), and Dr. Paul Brody (vice-president of the Jewish Political Education Foundation and of the International Committee for the Land of Israel).
Wiesenfeld introduced Mr. Buckley–the father of Marine Lance Corporal Gregory Buckley Jr.–who tearfully recounted his close relationship with his exceptional son and the unwinnable situation his son was placed in. The Buckley family “always steps up to do the right thing,” as Greg Sr. did by helping out in NYC following 9/11, and as his son did in the war in Afghanistan. Though he grieves for his son constantly, he has not given up the good fight and remarked, “If we all stood up and did the right thing, the world would be a better place.”
Gregory Buckley Jr. joined the Marine Corps to defend our country but instead was planted, defenseless, amongst enemies to train them to fight. He called home and simply told his father, “Dad, I’m not in a good place. I shouldn’t be here. They don’t want us here.” Greg Sr. asks, “How does a 20-year-old boy know this and our government doesn’t?” Unfortunately, his son was proved correct. He was left on the base without weapons, 30 Americans to 30 Afghans, and was shot by a tea boy (slave) of the Chief of Afghan Police using his master’s AK-47. There still have been no apologies from the Afghan government, and the U.S. continues to train them in military tactics. Still, Buckley urges everyone to contact their elected officials to try and bring on change. Thanks to his efforts, marines are now allowed to carry arms at all times overseas, and he believe more changes can be effected with overwhelming support.
David Yerushalmi, Esq., of the American Freedom Law Center, has represented Pamela Geller in her free-speech battles around the country. He introduced Ms. Geller, who began by noting, “For one little Jew to speak to a men’s group on a Sunday morning . . . such a firestorm. This is indicative of the war on free speech.” She later called the uproar over the event a “sanction of the victim.” She comically reassured GNS that she does not blame them, since, “I’ve been canceled from the best places.”
She applauded Chabad for stepping up, also remarking that Chabad is always a target of jihadists. “Maybe it’s the goodness of Chabad.” She cited the gruesome attack in Mumbai, and that all the Muslims were released. After hearing Greg Buckley speak, no one could doubt Ms. Geller’s assertion that there is a “human cost to a fantastic delusion we are pursuing all over the world, in Afghanistan and America.” According to Ms. Geller, our country is supporting an Islamic supremacist revolution, as can be seen in Egypt, Libya, and now even Mali.
In our own country, we are fighting a “war of ideas in which the ‘enemedia’ can destroy anyone that speaks the truth. She compared the demonization of someone who speaks out against Islamic fanaticism to sharia law, in which someone loses their life for “offending Islam.” In describing the covert war to disarm the American people, Ms. Geller related how the Council on American-Islamic Relations is considered a “Muslim civil-rights group” while Atlas Shrugs is considered a “hate group” by our government.
Finally, Ms. Geller encouraged everyone to utilize their sphere of influence to spread knowledge. “Don’t burn the Koran. Read the Koran. You’ll see the jihadi doctrine. ‘Slay the unbelievers wherever you may find them.’ It’s not like the Bible. You are not allowed to question.” As Jews are being wiped out of Europe–a fact that would have made Hitler proud–our job is to speak out against hatred.
The Great Neck community can thank Rebbetzin Chani Geisinsky, Henry Schwartz, Dov Davidovics, Alan Steinberg, Drs. Bill and Farla Frumkin, Chabad’s Assistant Rabbi Osher Kravitsky, Cynthia Wiesenfeld, George Elashvili, Gershon Bitterman, Shimon Babaev, Ilya Aronovich, Michael Stern, Milt Mitzner, Hillel Milun, Steve Blumner, Joey Hecht, Sharon Noy, and Dr. Alan Mazurek for all their help. Phil Orenstein, Ann Schocket, Irene and Michael Alter, Ray Haimson, Richard Greenbaum, Robert Germino, and Bryan Korman also came out to lend support from outside the community. v