Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and the perils of the big tent

Patricia McAllister is a recently fired Los Angeles public school teacher who has gained attention by carrying signs at the L.A. Occupy Wall Street demonstrations blaming "Zionist Jews" for the world financial crisis. In two widely seen interviews she gave at those rallies, McAllister elaborated on her view that Jews are to blame for America's woes by going on to say that Jews should be expelled from the country. As a result of those statements, McAllister, who was not tenured, was fired by the L.A. school district and has since started a new career campaigning full-time for the deportation of American Jews.

Now McAllister, who is African American, has given another interview -- this one for a podcast hosted by someone with whom McAllister would seem unlikely to make common cause: David Duke, the longtime white supremacist leader and former head of the KKK and American Nazi Party respectively.  (Part one of McAllister's interview with Duke can be heard in the video embedded below.)

In the interview, McAllister reiterates her call for Jews to be expelled from the U.S.  She also touts her website, which is called, and is, of course, devoted to her bizarre, hateful beliefs. For example, on one of the website's pages headlined "The Jewish Problem", she outlines her oft-repeated allegation that crimes committed by "Zionist Jews" have led to their being expelled from 109 counties, starting with their being expelled from Carthage in 250, and ending with their being expelled from "Arab countries" in 1948. (McAllister apparently counts "Arab countries" as a single entity for her 109 figure. In light of the bigger issues she has, I'm not going to quibble with her math.)  That list is accompanied by a screed demanding that Jews be forbidden from serving in Congress, praising Ullyses S. Grant for expelling Jews from western Tennessee during the Civil War, and concluding with the following:

Are these Jews really God’s chosen people? Would God choose a people who was thrown out of 109 nations for forming cartels; price fixing; bid rigging; product bundling/tying; refusal to deal; group boycott; the practice of charging excessive, high, and illegal interest rates on loans; deceitful dealings in business; frequent bankruptcies, etc.?

This is why Jews are called "wandering Jews". America must rethink about its relationship with the Jewish people. America may have to become the 110th nation to have expelled the Jewish people. No, God would not choose these Jews. Jews have stolen the identity of God's truly chosen people.

The Jewish people have been wandering for so many years without a homeland, because of their deceitful, evil ways. [sic]

McAllister illustrates the page with the image below.

What does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street ?

My first reaction is "not much".  McAllister is a just an individual bigot who latched her hateful cause to the just ones of the Occupy Wall Street protesters without any encouragement on their part.  McAllister's views are not those of OWS.  Moreover, McAllister herself says (at about 2:30 of the below-embedded video) that she does not consider herself a member or even a supporter of OWS; that she merely used OWS as a forum to express her views. That the OWS protests target wrongdoing by banks gives those who, like McAllister and David Duke, identify the banks as representative of Jewish evil an opening to attach their bigoted views to legitimate ones, but that attachment is not reciprocated by the OWS movement as such.  For that reason, attempts by Fox News, Andrew Breitbart and others on the right to define OWS as essentially anti-Semitic based on the ravings of a few nuts should not be taken too seriously.  Such criticisms echo the red-baiting reactions of the right to the civil rights and anti-Vietnam-War movements which were labeled by some opponents as essentially violent or pro-communist.  Such charges, when repeated often enough, tended to effect the views even of conservatives who did not believe them literally. The charges created an impression. They made essentially good political movements seem, in the mind of many, threatening to peace and stability.  Similarly, the right now attempts to tar a broad-based populist movement with a brush provided by an indefensible fringe, first to sway the conservative true-believers who will swallow such stories whole, but secondly and more importantly, to create an image in the public mind of the OWS movement as a potential threat.

My second reaction is a bit more nuanced and more important for the future of OWS. The OWS movement, like any movement or party, will have to define itself as much by what is against as what it is for, as much by the people it excludes as those it welcomes. A leader of the L.A. occupiers stood by as Patricia McAllister told a local TV news reporter in a live TV interview that Zionist Jews should be expelled from the U.S. When the OWS leader (identified only as "PJ") was asked whether the movement welcomed such statements, she stated that, while OWS opposed "divisive" speech, it also opposed putting any limit on OWS participants expressing such "divisive" speech or even "hate speech".  She erroneously said that McAllister and others like her have a right to carry her hateful signs at Occupy Los Angeles under the First Amendment, confusing, of course, government censorship of speech with a political group's right to determine what messages it will promote.  (See below-embedded video at about 3:20.) By that same logic, OWS would have to welcome anti-OWS signs into its encampment.  When she was specifically asked for OWS's stand on McAllister's statements, the OWS leader was silent.  That silence was not good enough.

The Occupy Wall Street movement defines itself as radically democratic and egalitarian.  They claim to reject hierarchy and welcome everyone who would participate as an equal. While these conceits reflect intentions that are undoubtedly good, they fall short as strategy in that they will inevitably lead to situations where participants promote ideas which are contrary to the core values of the majority.  In a different way, that's what happened to the Tea Party when their populist message of opposition to both government and big business, was co-opted by opportunistic big business interests. Those interests employed astroturf specialists who have made an art of such political body-snatching.  So we have very recently seen a populist mass-movement taken over by elements of one of the very so-called "elites" it initially intended to oppose.  The Tea Party differed with OWS in that it started with certain right wing biases which helped doom it, primarily a misguided focus on opposition to government, organized labor and progressive organizations, the only forces which have the potential to counter the banking and business "elites" which were among the initial Tea Party targets.  OWS is not hobbled by that ideological bias, but is hobbled by a naive reliance on a sort of Wikipedia approach to creating doctrine.  Whereas Wikipedia has built up internal mechanisms to work against those who would hijack it to lie, slander or proselytize, OWS has sometimes failed to similarly police its own message. As someone who uses Wikipedia only with a steady stream of grains of salt, I find singularly implausible the idea that a populist political movement could coherently operate in such a manner and not end up with Patricia McAllister, David Duke and their ilk attached to it.  When that happens, OWS must choose whether they will firmly reject bigots, or allow them into their tents.  That choice needs to be made both collectively by the group and individually by its members.  If OWS or its members allow the likes of David Duke and Patricia McAllister to latch onto it, they can count me and the vast majority of its supporters out.

In the meantime, let me state in unequivocal terms that I support Occupy Wall Street's expression of popular discontent with the corrupting influence of the finance industry on our economic and political systems.  It seems an unavoidable if inconvenient truth that the current crop of capitalists endanger not only the public welfare but the future of capitalism itself. In fact, much of what is currently considered capitalism no longer seems to be strictly that, having moved into a form characterized more by speculation than investment and without the capacity to absorb the risks it creates without government assistance.  I hope that the public outcry which is the OWS movement helps spur our political leaders to use a strong hand to restore financial regulations which corrupt politicians have stripped away.  I hope it gives our leaders the courage to resist proposals that put more of the tax burden on workers even as government services they depend on are slashed.  Patricia McAllister, David Duke, Fox News, Andrew Breitbart, etc.: I am a Zionist Jew and I am very worried about where this country is heading.  I strongly praise those who risk arrest and beating, who stay in tent encampments at great personal discomfort and who work hard to keep the flame of hope alive in the many for whom it is danger of being extinguished.  Stop interfering in their good work.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Raed Salah loses appeal of U.K. deportation order

Raed Salah, a leader of the organization Islamic Movement in Israel, has lost his appeal of an order that he be deported from the U.K.  The appellate ruling confirms the finding that Salah has worked to promote bigotry.

According to the CST:

"The tribunal considered five pieces of evidence against Salah: a poem he had authored which we argued could incite hatred of Jews, but which Salah argued was not antisemitic; a speech in which he made a ‘blood libel’ slur against Jews, but which Salah claimed was not about Jews; Salah’s inflammatory claims that Israel intends to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque; the outstanding charges he currently faces in Israel for incitement to violence and to antisemitism; and Salah’s conviction for funding organisations linked to Hamas.

"When these allegations were first aired, Salah denied having written the poem; denied making the blood libel comment; denied facing any charges in Israel; and denied any links to Hamas. Only after CST provided evidence to the contrary, did Salah admit to having written the poem and making the blood libel comment, and argued instead that CST’s interpretation of those texts was wrong. He also admitted his conviction for funding organisations linked to Hamas, but claimed this was for “charitable and humanitarian purposes.”"

Among those who testified on behalf of Salah was Ilan Pappe, the expatriate Israeli academic, who told the tribunal while under oath that the following statement, which Salah made to a large meeting in Jerusalem on February 16, 2007, did not evidence bigotry against Jews.

"“We have never allowed ourselves, and listen well, we have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread for the breaking of the fast during the blessed month of Ramadan with the blood of the children. And if someone wants a wider explanation, you should ask what used to happen to some of the children of Europe, whose blood would be mixed in the dough of the holy bread. God Almighty, is this religion? Is this what God wants? God will confront you for what you are doing.”"

According to the tribunal's ruling,  Professor Pappe defended Salah's speech by calling it "incoherent and emotive", i.e. that the blood libel was being invoked in an impressionistic manner, not a literal one.  Pappe went on, however, to contradict this defense to argue that Salah did not invoke the blood libel in this or any other speech.  Pappe rationalized the inconsistent argument by testifying that Salah's claim that the blood of European children had been used to bake an unnamed holy bread was not targeted at Jews, but at Israeli officials.  According to the tribunal, Pappe claimed that Salah's speech "did not amount to the blood libel because he did not refer to Jewish bread; the message of the address was not anti-Semitic nor even anti-Zionist, but directed to the violation of Muslim rights in Jerusalem."

For understandable reasons, the tribunal did not find Pappe's arguments persuasive.  For one thing, Salah had previously defended himself against the blood libel charge by falsely claiming that he had not made the statement he now defends.  In fact, Salah initially had his attorney Raza Husain argue that he not only didn't make the statement, but that he found its anti-Semitic content offensive. (Read here.) After Salah's attorney made that argument, it was repeated by other Salah supporters who believed and ardently repeated his denial even in the light of considerable evidence that it was a lie.  Now that Salah's deception has been uncovered, the same supporters who allowed themselves to be used by Salah as a sounding board for his lies, now argue that there was no blood libel in the speech they had previously worked to help him conceal.  

Ultimately, however, the plain language of Salah's speech was too clear to be concealed by the deliberate obfuscations of Salah supporters such as Professor Pappe. In fact, Pappe's risible defense that Salah's speech meant to say that Israeli government officials, not Jews per se, used the blood of European children to bake an unnamed holy bread may have done more harm than good.  Lord knows that it has harmed Pappe's reputation.

The tribunal also found that Salah falsely claimed in that same February 2007 speech that Israel was about to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque to rebuild the Temple, and that he did so with a reasonable expectation that such a charge would elicit a violent reaction.  In fact, as Salah's attorneys were forced to admit, he called upon his audience in that speech to a mass meeting in Jerusalem to become "shahids", i.e. to martyr themselves. In other words, Salah manufactured a charge that Israel was about to commit a gross atrocity in order to encourage his audience to take up arms and become suicide bombers to prevent it from happening.

The tribunal also ruled that Salah's claim that his extensive fundraising for the terrorist organization Hamas could not reasonably be considered to be exclusively for charitable uses, as Salah and his defenders had claimed. 

The CST blog has more coverage here.  The tribunal's ruling is available in pdf here.

Inconsistent, offensive defenses by Salah's U.S. supporters

While Ilan Pappe forever tarred himself as an apologist for the blood libel with his testimony at Salah's appellate hearing, he was not alone in defending Salah in inconsistent and offensive ways.  In July, I reported here that Philip Weiss had published on his blog Mondoweiss a grossly offensive column, headlined "The Real Preachers of Hate: Britain Arrests Respected Palestinian Leader", which invoked David Duke's term "Jewish supremacism" to defend Salah.   

"Written by free-lance journalist Jonathan Cook, the column not only fails to mention Salah's extensive history of anti-Jewish hate speech, it turns the facts on their head in a manner reminiscent of U.S. neo-Nazi leader David Duke.  Cook writes that the Israeli public "loathes" Salah not because of his bigotry and incitements of violence, but because his Islamic faith is "incompatible with the state ideology of Jewish supremacism".  The phrase "Jewish supremacism" was coined by David Duke to counter his being labeled a white supremacist.  Duke came up with the term in writing (with editorial assistance from David Irving) a book called "My Awakening", which described Duke's "Aryan vision for America".  (Read here.)"

That Mondoweiss column not only used the neo-Nazi term "Jewish supremacism" to describe opposition to Salah, it actually repeated Salah's false, incendiary charge that Israel is preparing al-Aqsa to rebuild the Temple.  Here's Mondoweiss:

"Most in Israel’s Jewish majority would not have been aware of Sheikh Salah’s supposed reputation as a Jew hater either, despite their hyper-vigilance for anything resembling anti-Semitism. True, he is generally loathed by Israeli Jews, but chiefly because they regard his brand of Islamic dogma as incompatible with the state ideology of Jewish supremacism. (Israelis) fear (Salah) as the leader of a local Islam that refuses to be tamed. Those Israelis who conclude that this qualifies him as an anti-Semite do so only because they class all pious Muslims in the same category. Israeli officials detest Sheikh Salah as well, but again not for any alleged racism. His long-running campaign to prevent what he regards as an attempted Israeli takeover of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound – part of a wider “Judaisation” programme in the occupied areas of the city – has made him a thorn in their side."

Here are a series of quotes from Raed Salah by which his views may be reasonable judged:

“You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques,
Slaughterers of pregnant women and babies.
Robbers and germs in all times,
The Creator sentenced you to be loser monkeys,
Victory belongs to Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates"

"We have never allowed ourselves to knead [the dough for] the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children's blood. Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the [Jewish] holy bread . . . Great God, is this a religion?  Is this what God would want? God will deal with you yet for what you are doing."
[Speech at the February 16, 2007 protest in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz. Source.]

On 9/11:

“(T)he manifests of the two airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines, whose planes crashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, included not a single Arab…. Yet three days later the FBI released the names of 19 Arab passengers, claiming that they were the hijackers of the four planes.”

“A suitable way was found to warn the 4,000 Jews who work every day at the Twin Towers to be absent from their work on September 11, 2001, and this is really what happened! Were 4,000 Jewish clerks absent [from their jobs] by chance, or was there another reason? At the same time, no such warning reached the 2,000 Muslims who worked every day in the Twin Towers, and therefore there were hundreds of Muslim victims.”

“Is it true that the American administration arrested five Israelis with European citizenship on suspicion of involvement in the incident[?] They worked for a Jew in a moving company, with forged visas, and were severely tortured during their interrogation so that they would give details about the incident…”

Interviewer: What is your opinion of homosexuality?
Salah: It is a crime. A great crime. Such phenomena signal the start of the collapse of every society. Those who believe in Allah know that behavior of that kind brings his wrath and is liable to cause the worst things to happen. There is no solution for this, unless the individual’s faith is strengthened.

Interviewer: What is your opinion of the legislation now being discussed in the Knesset, which would grant Muslim women rights similar to those of Jewish women in matters of personal status?
Salah: That bill is tantamount to a war on Islam. It is an attempt to dictate different, foreign values that are neither Muslim nor Palestinian values.

Interviewer: What do you think of murder to save the family honor?

Salah: "There is no such concept and we do not recognize this concept. There is no such thing as `losing the family honor' or of committing murder `for the sake of family honor.' These are contradictions. We have the family and the family has its honor, which has to be preserved. We have to ask those who talk about murder for the sake of the family honor - mainly feminist organizations - what they did to prevent the murder of family honor itself. Unfortunately, nothing at all has been done in this regard. On the contrary: Some of the people who invented this concept are encouraging anarchy in the society, because they don't know how to handle the matter.

"All those who claim that women have the right to do with their bodies as they please are implanting anarchy in the society. If we say that a woman's body is hers and that no one may harm it, that is correct. But the danger is that some people interpret this to mean that a woman can do whatever she likes with her body, without taking into consideration the Islamic and Arab values. As such, they are helping put the woman to death while she is still alive."

The Al-Buraq Wall [the Islamic name for the Western Wall] is not the western wall of the Temple. Unfortunately, Jewish extremists, in the name of religion, are exploiting feelings of Jews on this subject and trying to sell them lies.

[Haaretz; Interview conducted by Jalal Bana; 10/24/2001 Primary Source;  Secondary Source ]

As I wrote in July: "According to Mondoweiss, opposition to Salah's hateful views reflects Jewish disdain for the rest of humanity.  They've learned their lesson well.  That's exactly what David Duke says about opposition to his 'Aryan vision for America'."


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