We Jews just finished praying to the Almighty to forgive us our multiple sins over the prior year. Among the long list of averot (transgressions) that we recite multiple times over the course of Yom Kippur services, a full two-thirds are transgressions of the mouth, of speech, of lies we’ve told, of gossip we’ve spread, of our deceit and deceptions committed against friends, family, co-workers and community.
Aren’t we here in the United States free to commit these transgressions and then required by Jewish law to ask forgiveness? Should any of us be on trial for these sins rather than spending time in synagogue praying and repenting?
This is a pertinent question because a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is sitting in jail.
According to reports, “Nakoula was charged … with eight probation violations, including lying to law enforcement officers when they first detained him for questioning, and using aliases, which assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said was ‘part of a lengthy pattern of deception.’ ”
Nakoula isn’t incarcerated and awaiting trial because of violating his probation or because of some “lengthy pattern of deception,” however. Nakoula is in jail because he’s the 55-year-old Coptic Christian who allegedly produced a movie critical of Mohammad entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” a clip of which was uploaded to YouTube in July, but which is supposed to have caused riots across the Middle East on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Were authorities interested in Nakoula before the 9/11 attacks on our embassy in Cairo and the murder in Benghazi of our ambassador to Libya? No.
Did the U.S. government say anything whatsoever about what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls this “disgusting movie” before the September wave of Middle East murder and violence? No.
Did the Obama administration press YouTube to remove the supposedly offending clip before the outbreak of “spontaneous” violence? Again, no.
Instead, Nakoula is in jail because he’s a convenient scapegoat for the Obama administration. The executive branch spent two weeks blaming a perfectly legal movie and stomping all over the First Amendment because, as former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell explained in an extraordinary speech recently, “[the administration] can’t dare say it’s a terrorist attack.” Instead, Caddell calls what the Obama administration said about Libya and Egypt in the first week afterward “nine days of lies.”
Caddell can make such a statement because the evidence proves him correct. Just look at the facts. The Libyan president explained on American national television that what happened in Benghazi was a preplanned terrorist attack on the same day and at practically the same time as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was on another U.S. television station blaming the movie and saying that the best information available to the Americans was that it was a spontaneous riot.
Caddell is right that the Obama administration spent more than a week propagating a lie because even Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi says so. Morsi has admitted that the riots at the U.S. embassy were held on the anniversary of 9/11 on purpose. Morsi has been upfront that his own movement, the Muslin Brotherhood, wants more than anything to free the man responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, a man known as the blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman. Morsi has admitted that protesting the sheikh’s incarceration was the real reason behind the protests. Caddell also points out that as soon as President Obama picked up the phone to yell at Morsi about the riots and Morsi decided to listen to Obama, the riots magically ceased. So much for unplanned outrage at Nakoula’s movie.
By the way, Caddell was even tougher on the current mainstream media not for media bias but for “specifically decid[ing] that you will not tell the American people information they have a right to know” regarding the lack of questions about what the White House knew and when they knew it. And Caddell isn’t a fan of Republicans either, which he dubs “the stupid party.”
We Jews just finished repenting for the past year’s transgressions. And given that so many of our enumerated sins are ones of speech, we should be especially mindful of defending our constitutional right to free speech and protecting that right for everyone else. There is more than a little evidence that this right, which we are guaranteed by our founding document, is under assault and that a man who has done nothing to cause a torrent of anti-American terror is being blamed for it.
The prosecution of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a baseless attack on basic rights that belong to us all. The current administration shouldn’t be allowed to get away with such an abuse of power.
(Abby W. Schachter, a Pittsburgh-based political columnist, blogs at abbyschachter.com and you can follow her on Twitter/abbyschachter.)