How Israel Silences Dissent


From the New York Times op ed section.

On July 12, four days after the latest war in Gaza began, hundreds of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest the killing of civilians on both sides and call for an end to the siege of Gaza and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. They chanted, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Hamas had warned that it would fire a barrage of rockets at central Israel after 9 p.m., and it did.

But the injuries suffered in Tel Aviv that night stemmed not from rocket fire but from a premeditated assault by a group of extremist Israeli Jews. Chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to leftists,” they attacked protesters with clubs. Although several demonstrators were beaten and required medical attention, the police made no arrests.

The same thing happened at another antiwar protest in Haifa a week later; this time, the victims included the city’s deputy mayor, Suhail Assad, and his son. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no statement condemning the violence, even though he had previously stated his primary concern was the safety of Israeli citizens.

The vilification of the few Israelis who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine is not new. Similar acts of incitement occurred before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. But now they have multiplied, escalated and spread.

In July, the veteran Israeli actress Gila Almagor performed at Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater even though she had received threats that she would be murdered on stage. In an interview in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot a few days earlier, she had expressed feeling ashamed after a 16-year old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists.

In an interview during the Gaza war, the popular comedian Orna Banai said she felt terrible that Palestinian women and children were being killed — she was subsequently fired from her position as spokeswoman for an Israeli cruise ship operator. And Haaretz hired bodyguards for its columnist Gideon Levy after he wrote an article criticizing Israeli Air Force pilots.

The aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians is the latest manifestation of an us-versus-them mentality that has been simmering for decades. It is based on the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace. The Israeli peace camp — which remains obsessively focused on stopping settlement expansion and pursuing the ever-elusive two-state solution while ignoring Israel’s failure to separate religion and state and guarantee equal rights for Arab citizens — has been incapable of challenging this mentality.

Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right. Israel’s liberal, progressive forces remain weak in the face of a robust economy that profits from occupation while international inaction reinforces the status quo. In their attempt to juggle being both Jewish and democratic, most Israelis are choosing the former at the expense of the latter.

Israel has never, for example, genuinely addressed the fact that non-Jewish Arabs who generally identify as Palestinian account for about 20 percent of the population (this excludes the approximately three million Palestinians living under Israel’s control in East Jerusalem and the West Bank). Israel has also never clearly defined its borders, preferring to keep them vague and porous. Nor has it defined what it means to be “Israeli,” as distinct from being “Jewish,” leaving a vacuum that has been filled by nationalist and religious ideologues.

This has allowed the us-versus-them mentality to bleed into Israeli Jewish society. “Us” no longer refers to any Jewish citizen, and “them” to any Palestinian. Now, “us” means all those who defend the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion, including many Christian evangelicals and Republicans in America. And “them” means anyone who tries to challenge that status quo, whether a rabbi, a dissenting Israeli soldier or the president of the United States.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock. For most of Israel’s existence, the majority of Israelis have allowed the state, in the name of Jewish sovereignty and security, to violate Palestinians’ basic human rights — including access to water and the freedom of movement and assembly. The state has killed unarmed protesters and then failed to carry out investigations; it has allowed settlers and soldiers to act with impunity; and it has systematically discriminated against non-Jewish citizens. After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting “one of your own” isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies.

Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist and an expert on fascism, believes that “radical nationalism” and the “erosion of Enlightenment values” have reached new heights in Israel. “To grieve for the loss of life on both sides is already a subversive act, treason,” he told Haaretz. Mr. Sternhell has experienced Jewish extremist violence firsthand; in 2008, a settler planted a bomb in his home that wounded him.

Israelis increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family. Not only are they not willing to listen, they are trying to silence it before it can even be voiced. With a family like that, I would rather be considered one of “them.”

A Cop Killing And A Beheading: How Fox News Picks And Chooses Its “Terrorism” Targets


Interesting reading that highlights the selective nature of FoxNews from the folks at Media Matters for America

Alton Nolen

Alton Nolen

Fox News is increasingly fixating on the gruesome workplace beheading last week in Moore, Oklahoma by a recent Muslim convert, suspect Alton Nolen. Perhaps sensing a way to once again fan its patented flames ofIslamophobia while simultaneously blaming President Obama for being indifferent to the threat of terrorism, Fox is treating the murder as a national story with sweeping political implications.

Sounding the jihadist alarms, Fox News and the right-wing media are eager to label the ghastly crime an act of Islamic terror. Law enforcement officials, however, aren’t in the same rush, noting that the attack came immediately after Nolen was fired and stating that they’ve yet to find a link to terrorism. While that story continues to play out, it’s worth noting that an actual act of political terror remains in the news. It’s just not a priority for Fox.

Eric Frein

Eric Frein

On the night of September 16, 31-year-old marksman Eric Frein was allegedly laying in wait outside the Blooming Grove police barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania, preparing to assassinate state troopers. Shortly before 11 p.m., Bryon Dickson was shot and killed as he walked towards his patrol car. Moments later, as he approached the barracks to begin his overnight shift, trooper Alex Douglass was shot and seriously wounded by a bullet fired from a .308-caliber rifle.

Described as a  “survivalist,” Frein disappeared into the Poconos Mountains woods where he’s been hiding ever since, eluding law enforcement and its massive manhunt, which includes hundreds of law enforcement officers with assistance from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Considered “extremely dangerous” and possibly armed with an AK-47, officials were forced to close local schools in fear Frein might attack again. Lots of businesses in the area were ordered to stay dark, and some U.S. mail deliveries were suspended out of fear postmen might be exposed as possible targets for the shooter.

And what was the possible motivation for the killing spree?

“He made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and to commit mass acts of murder,” state police commissioner Frank Noonan warned the public at the time. Another official noted the shooter has a “longstanding grudge against law enforcement and government in general” dating back to at least 2006.

A friend was even more explicit.  “He was obviously a big critic of the federal government,” a friend name Jack told CNN. (The friend did not give his last name.) “No indications of really any malice towards law enforcement in particular. Most of his aggression was (toward) the federal government.”

Sounds like homegrown, anti-government terrorism, right?

“We have a well-trained sniper who hates authority, hates society, hates government, and hates cops enough to plug them from ambush. He’s so lethal, so locked and loaded, that communities in the Pocono Mountains feel terrorized,” wrote Philadelphia columnist Dick Poleman. “He kept camouflage face paint in his bedroom. He toted the AK-47 on social media. He collected, according to the criminal complaint, “various information concerning foreign embassies.””

But turn on Fox News and you don’t hear much about Eric Frein from the channel’s high-profile hosts. You don’t hear much about the anti-government zealot who murdered a cop, while trying to assassinate two. And you don’t hear evening hosts diving into Frein’s background trying to figure out what sparked his murderous streak.

There’s simply no interest.

In two weeks since the shooting, the Fox programs monitored by Nexis have mentioned Frein’s name in just six reports, and most of those were simply news updates that consisted of one or two sentences. Only one segment, which aired on On The Record With Greta Van Susteren, featured an extended conversation about the killing and the subsequent manhunt. In none of the six Fox reports however, were Frein’s vocal anti-government leanings mentioned, nor was there any suggestion Frein was a domestic terrorist.

Hosts Neil Cavuto, Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity have all ignored the shocking cop-killer story. In general, Fox has provided almost no commentary, no context, and certainly no collective blame for the execution.

By contrast, in the days since the Oklahoma killing, Fox programs monitored by Nexis have flooded the zone with coverage of the beheading, totaling hours and hours of coverage.  Most of Fox’s reports offered extended, overheated commentary, and most of them dwelled on the fact the killing may have been an act of terror.

Cavuto, O’Reilly, Hannity, and Megyn Kelly have all hosted extensive coverage of the killing, with Kelly and Hannity devoting nearly their entire September 26 and September 29 programs to the Oklahoma story (“Terror In The Heartland“), allowing guests to make all kinds of unproven connections between the crime and to Islam and, of course, to politicize the tragic killing.

In other words, on Fox News a Muslim who killed a co-worker in Oklahoma and who remains in police custody represents a much bigger story than a suspected anti-government assassin who killed a cop and remains on the run, eluding hundreds of law enforcement officials while terrorizing a Pennsylvania community.

Note that one of the renewed right-wing talking point this week has been how Obama refuses to acknowledge the looming threat of Islamic terrorism. (His FBI is being “politically correct.”) Of course, a similar charge could be made of Fox News and its purposefully blind spot to homegrown, gun-toting, anti-government terrorists. It’s a deadly topic that the right-wing media refuse to grapple with.

As CNN’s Peter Bergen noted earlier this year, since 9/11, “extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology.”

If the Pennsylvania ambush was politically motivated, it represented just the latest sad chapter in a long string of recent extremist acts of violence in America. From neo-Nazi killers, to a string of women’s health clinicbombings and assaults, as well as bloody assaults on law enforcement from anti-government insurrectionists, acts of right-wing extreme violence continue to terrorize victims in the U.S.

Just this spring in Las Vegas, a premeditated gun rampage unfolded when Jerad Miller and his wife Amada executed two policemen who were on their lunch break. The killers, who months earlier traveled to Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch to join the militia protests against the federal government, reportedly covered the slain officers with cloth that featured the “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flag, which has recently been adopted as a symbol of the tea party movement.

That ambush came just two days after Dennis Marx, member of the “sovereign citizen” anti-government movement, tried to lay siege to a courthouse outside of Atlanta. Sovereign citizens are militia-like radicals who don’t believe the federal government has the power and legitimacy to enforce the law. The FBI has called the movement “a growing domestic terror threat to law enforcement.”

As mentioned, Greta Van Susteren was the only evening Fox host who addressed the Pennsylvania cop-killing story in any detail. But even she whitewashed the story, omitting any mention of Frein’s anti-government bias and his clear embrace of terrorism. Right after the Frein segment ended on her September 22 program, Van Susteren urged viewers to stay tuned for a report about the “nightmare” looming from the threat of jihadist fighters inside the United States.

Note to Greta: Eric Frein represents another type of “nightmare” terror that looms in America. Fox News should stop ignoring that threat.

You probably should see this if you haven’t already


Even people with supposed intelligence are not able to get around their prejudices despite the attempt of a prominent academic to lead them out of it.

Muslims STOP apologizing for the sins of people who call themselves Muslim


muslim-americans-2Stop it now!!  No other group, nation, tribe, religion has borne the burden of the infamy of a small fraction of its associates like Muslims.  No group of people has had to explain the actions of people they don’t know except tangentially as Muslims have had to do and despite their explanations and protestations not have their exposition accepted.

Juan Cole asks, Must Muslim Americans condemn ISIL; see where he takes you to arrive at an answer

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for. It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East? They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them. Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition. My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi). Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the US before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim. Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States. The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor. Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves. As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn. Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the US back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do.

When Turkey’s Jews were asked to condemn the atrocities of Israel in Gaza their response was

No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.

“In the same way the people of Turkey cannot be held responsible for the barbarity of what the Islamic State [of Iraq and Levent, ISIL] does because a number of Turks are among its fighters, the Jewish community of Turkey cannot be held responsible for what the state of Israel does. It is racism to hold a whole people responsible for the actions of a state and we wish to declare that we are opposed to this.

American Muslims  should be equally assertive in saying they are not responsible for nor do they need to explain the actions of people who are in faraway places of the world.  Even though Muslims do try to explain an Islamic position it has never been good enough to get people to accept what are in some cases detailed and pointed explanations of their positions so STOP it!  Stop it now!