Povman gathers experts at terrorism roundtable

By Daniel Massey

Feeling Queens residents needed a vocabulary to be able to discuss the recent terrorist attacks, Councilman Morton Povman (D-Forest Hills) hosted a discussion forum led by a panel of academics and religious leaders last Thursday evening at the JFK Regular Democratic Club in Flushing.

For more than two hours, five speakers lectured the 40 audience members on topics ranging from Islamic fundamentalism to the evolution of terrorism.

“Most people don’t know what is going on,” Povman said, explaining why he organized the event. “We’ve been unmindful of the rest of the world, but now we’re finding out a lot of things are going on in the rest of the world.”

Dr. Sandra Alfonsi, a St. John’s University faculty member, told the crowd that Islam “embodies a quest for righteousness” that should not be overlooked in the aftermath of the attack. She said one billion Muslims use the Koran “as we use the Torah and the New Testament.”     

Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills said recent events should not be viewed as a product of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. “We have to be very careful,” he said. “We can’t make it a Jewish issue or an Israeli issue. We have to support the president.”

Dr. Hratch Zadonian, a political science professor at Queens College, offered a historical perspective on terrorism. “How did we get here?” he asked. He noted that the main expansion of terrorism occurred in the 1960s when it “became customary to get attention by engaging in acts of terror.”

He said terror became a “weapon of rebels and idealistic kids,” earning a “certain amount of acceptance.”

Povman’s administrative assistant, Harold Baron, who witnessed the Sept. 11 destruction from his office at 1 Liberty Plaza, spoke of the financial impact of the terrorist attacks.

“Wall Street can handle good news, it can handle bad news, but not uncertainty and doubt,” he said. “The biggest institutions are selling because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Rabbi Manny Behar, the executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, also spoke of the potential economic fallout from the disaster. He said one of the borough’s largest employers, the airline industry, stands to lose 100,000 jobs nationwide and that a “ripple effect” could affect hotels, restaurants and catering businesses.

The rabbi urged residents to do their part to help those “secondary victims” of the attacks who may be out of work and unable to meet basic financial needs.

Since part of the strategy of terrorists is to disrupt life, he asked Queens residents to do their best to return to life as it was before the attacks.

“Life goes on,” he said. “Life has to go on.”

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

More from Around New York