New blood – and blood libels – at the Women’s March

Women’s March, 2017

There are two Women’s Marches. Or, rather, many. One – the most important one, and the one that got most of the media attention – was held in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, whose unexpected election to the presidency over someone who had been expected to become the nation’s first female president had been regarded by many of the marchers as an outrage. On the same day, over 400 other Women’s Marches took place in cities around the country – and more than 150 marches took place in 81 countries around the world. The number of participants was staggering – perhaps over five million in the U.S. alone.

Linda Sarsour

As it happens, moreover, the group that organized these events also goes by the name of Women’s March. Among its national co-chairs was Linda Sarsour, a previously obscure Palestinian-American activist who gave a high-profile speech at the Washington march that made her internationally famous and whom we’ve written about frequently on this site. Sarsour – a sometime director of the Arab American Association of New York who belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America and helped found Black Lives Matter – proved to be that most paradoxical of creatures: a self-declared feminist who supports jihad and sharia law and wears a hijab, a symbol of female subordination under Islam. She felt sorry for Saddam Hussein when he was captured by the U.S. and she won an “American Muslim of the Year” award from terrorist-linked CAIR. While smearing ex-Muslims and critics of Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sarsour has been chummy with Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Louis Farrakhan, one of America’s most prominent anti-Semites.

Tamika Mallory

Indeed, after Sarsour rocketed to fame, it became clear she, too, had – shall we say – problematic attitudes toward the Jewish people. She’s big on the BDS movement – the campaign to boycott Israel, divest in its companies, and impose sanctions on Israeli trade. She’s said that “nothing is creepier than Zionism.” And she wasn’t the only leader of the Women’s March whose attitudes toward Jews left something to be desired. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, the board was rife with Jew-haters. As this fact became well-known, it caused what the Washington Free Beacon described as a “year of turmoil” for the organization. The Women’s March experienced some bad PR after co-chair Tamika Mallory blamed Jews for the slave trade and said that Jews controlled all the world’s money. Like Sarsour, moreover, Mallory was friends with Farrakhan, whom she described as the “Greatest of All Time.” Another board member, Bob Bland, joined Mallory in defending Farrakhan on TV after one of the Nation of Islam leader’s occasional outbursts of passionate Jew-hatred.

Zahra Billou

In August, in an apparent effort to silence concern about antisemitism in the Women’s March hierarchy, Sarsour, Mallory, and Bland all stepped down from the organization’s board. But it doesn’t look as if this move will necessarily improve the image of the Women’s March. Of the 16 new individuals added to the group’s board, one, Zahra Billoo, who is executive director of the Bay Area chapter of CAIR, has called Israel a “terrorist state” and equated it to ISIS, while another, Palestinian-American activist Samia Assed, has questioned Israel’s right to exist. It seems as if the people who run the Women’s March just can’t keep Jew-haters out of their ranks. Somehow we wouldn’t be surprised if, in the fullness of time, it turns out that at least a few of the other 14 new board members have a distaste for the Hebrew folk as well.

Hating Israel

Some facts are plain. Israel is a tiny democratic country surrounded by entities whose people live in various degrees of unfreedom, under dictators, kings, emirs, and terrorist groups. Arabs in Israel are better off than their coreligionists in Israel’s Arab neighbors. While some of those nations are rich because of their oil resources, they make very little in the way of a positive contribution to modern civilization; many of them have sponsored terrorists who have committed acts of jihad in the Western world, and have funded madrasses and mosques that promote the poison of supremacist Islamic ideology in cities throughout the West. Meanwhile, little Israel has accomplished scientific and technological advances that rival the achievements of some of the world’s largest and richest lands.

Jeremy Corbyn

And yet Israel-hatred thrives. In Western Europe, a large cohort of the leftist elite, as exemplified by politicians like British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has aligned itself with European Muslims who share its contempt for Israel, to say nothing of its outright antisemitism.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Still, not all that long ago it would have been incredible to hear that Israel was actually losing support among American Jews. This, alas, is the sad case. Since 2010, according to a non-profit called the Brand Israel Group, support for Israel among Jewish college students in the United States has declined from 84% to 57%. That is a massive drop. As one commentator put it, these students “appear to be abandoning support for Israel in droves.” Viewed from one perspective, this alarming development is nothing short of a shock – how, only three-quarters of a century after the Holocaust, can young Jews, presumably brought up to be intensely aware of that massive atrocity in which many if not most of them lost family members, turn against the Jewish state that was founded in its wake?

A gathering of Students for Justice in Palestine

From another perspective, of course, the hostility of so many young Jewish Americans toward Israel is no Asurprise at all. Like most other American college students, they have been fed a diet of ant-Israeli propaganda, both by their professors and by groups of their fellow students. They have learned to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a black-and-white affair, with the Israelis always being the bad guys and the Palestinians the victims. They have been taught to parrot the idea that Zionism is racism and to call Israel an apartheid state. Their campuses have been the sites of anti-Israeli events, rife with the vilest of propaganda that whitewashes Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah while depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as the most monstrous of men. A couple of generations ago, the Jewish group Hillel was very active – and very high-profile – at colleges around the U.S.; now one hardly ever hears mention of it, while the endless mischief-making of organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine is frequently the stuff of headlines. The pressure on some Jewish students must surely be considerable, but it is nonetheless scarcely short of tragic that so many of them should disavow their own people by rejecting the state founded in the cause of their preservation.

John Cusack, antisemite

John Cusack

Now 53, John Cusack has been a well-known film actor since he was a teenager. He’s starred in dozens of big pictures, including Grosse Point Blank, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Pushing Tin, High Fidelity, Runaway Jury, 1408, and The Butler.

But like many of the other actors we’ve discussed on this site, he’s also politically active. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he supported the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and backs him in the current presidential contest as well.

Philip Berrigan

He didn’t pick up the activist stuff in Hollywood; he was raised on it. His parents were political activists too; he has described himself as having grown up with Philip and Daniel Berrigan, the radical Roman Catholic clerics the latter of whom had the distinction of being the first priest on the FBI’s “most wanted” list and ended up behind bars. Cusack has spoken of them in such a way as to suggest that they were role models for him.

Cusack shares his views regularly on Twitter. He is not known, shall we say, for his subtlety of thought and expression. In 2017 he tweeted a photo of President Trump alongside the quote “YER DEAD – GET YERSELF BURIED.” When it caused something of a controversy, he took it down.

Then, a couple of months ago, he retweeted an image of a giant hand crushing a bunch of people; on the shirtsleeve from which the giant hand protruded was a Star of David. Accompanying this Der Stürmer-type image was the following quotation, which was attributed to Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Cusack supplemented the quotation with his own comment: “Follow the money.”

The point was clear: Jews run the world. Jews are all about money. Jews are crushing the rest of us. The tweet could hardly have been more stunningly antisemitic. Add to that the fact that the line he quoted about “find[ing] out who you are not allowed to criticize” was a statement not by Voltaire but by an American neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom.

Elad Nehorai

When he was widely denounced for this breathtakingly obscene tweet, Cusack doubled down. “You think Israel isn’t commuting [sic] atrocities against Palestinians?” he wrote. “What planet are you on?” Eventually, however, the criticism got to be too much. At first, bizarrely, and pusillanimously, Cusack blamed his retweet on a bot. “How,” wondered Jewish writer Elad Nehorai, “does a bot get you to write ‘follow the money’ after sharing an overtly anti-Semitic image?” Eventually Cusack owned up to having posted the retweet and issued a wimpy sort-of-apology that only served to prove that he really isn’t terribly sharp. That apology was so lame that he then issued another apology, which also was lame. The response from David Baddiel, a Jewish comedian in the UK, was succinct and right on the mark: “John Cusack says he didn’t at first realise that the image was anti-Semitic. My, it’s a troublesome old blind spot for progressives, isn’t it?”

Judy Bolton-Fasman at the Wailing Wall

Meanwhile, in a Boston Jewish publication, a woman named Judy Bolton-Fasman posted an open letter to Cusack. Confessing to having had a crush on him in the 1990s, she said that while she too was a critic of some Israeli actions, “it must be said that Israeli citizens have died in Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in malls and cafes just because they were Jews. There are frequent rocket attacks out of Gaza.” She asked him: “Have you been to Israel?….I’m not happy about walling off the West Bank where it divides neighborhoods and families. However, Israelis call it a security barrier with good reason. Even the most dovish Israeli will tell you the barrier has drastically reduced the number of terror attacks in Israel proper.” She added that she had “met incredible Israelis and Palestinians who are dedicated to achieving peace” and encouraged him to travel to Israel and meet them instead of just demonizing Jews. Good advice. But since the politics of a man like Cusack have less to do with the real world than with blind, stubborn ideological devotion, Ms. Bolton-Fasman is likely whistling in the wind.

Pfleger’s friends

Michael Pfleger

On June 22, readers of the Chicago Sun-Times were treated to a report by columnist Michael Sneed about “activist priest” Father Michael Pfleger, a well-known figure in the Windy City. In May, at his invitation, Louis Farrakan had preached from Pfleger’s pulpit at St. Sabina Church. Unsurprisingly, the appearance had not gone down well with some members of the Jewish community, and now, as a result, wrote Sneed, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), sponsor of a planned “concert for peace” at the church by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, had canceled the event – or maybe just postponed it; the CSO Association’s president, Jeff Alexander, said he wanted to “give things time to settle down, give everyone some space, and try to do it next season after everything gets resolved.” It wasn’t clear exactly what any of that might mean. In any event, Pfleger was not happy. The concert, he said, had been intended “to draw people together.” It was meant to be “a celebration of love and unity and peace” by “people from ZIP codes all over the city.” At a time when America is “a divided nation,” said the priest, he had wanted to do something to “unif[y] the human family.” One sermon by Farrakhan, he lamented, and “44 years of my ministry was put aside.”

Louis Farrakhan

Pfleger spoke as if his invitation to Farrakhan had been a one-off. And Sneed, for whatever reason, chose not to provide his readers with information that might have helped them to recognize that picture of the situation as disingenuous. In fact, as we noted here in April 2017, Pfleger and Farrakhan – who has called Judaism a “gutter religion,” urged his supporters to murder white people, and told Jews that “when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever” – are old pals. Pfleger himself has described them as “very close friends,” referred to Farrakhan as his “Brother,” and praised Farrakhan for “his Prophetic and courageous Voice.” They’ve dined at each other’s homes “many, many times.” When he allowed Farrakhan to preach from his pulpit in May, it wasn’t the first time; it was at least the fourth.

Jeremiah Wright

Pfleger’s affection for Farrakhan isn’t some fluke. He’s also chummy with Jeremiah Wright, the Obamas’ notorious former minister who accused white scientists of creating HIV to kill blacks and summed up 9/11 by saying that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” He’s buddy-buddy with Al Sharpton. Shortly after 9/11, he let Harry Belafonte take to his pulpit at St. Sabina to blame the terrorist attack on the U.S. itself. On one of the anniversaries of 9/11, the preacher at St. Sabina was an imam named Kareen Irfan, who has defended and befriended terrorists. Never had Pfleger expressed regret for his association with any of these people. Once, when challenged on TV about his friendships with Farrakhan and Wright, Pfleger didn’t get defensive but went on the attack: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back while you tear down Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright. How dare you. How dare you. How dare you seek to reduce Jeremiah Wright, who’s one of the greatest Biblical scholars this nation has, to a 30-second sound bite and try to demonize him and trivialize him. You cannot do that.”

Yo-Yo Ma

Given all this, it’s rather puzzling that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma agreed to the “concert for peace” in the first place. Or is it? The very fact that Alexander spoke of “giv[ing] things time to settle down” suggests that the CSO was less concerned about being associated with a despicable piece of work like Pfleger than about the bad publicity. Alexander’s remarks to the contrary, there’s no way to “resolve” this ugly situation and make everything nice; if one thing’s clear from Pfleger’s vile history, he’s one leopard who’s not about to change his spots.

Shame on Cambridge!

Guy Burgess

What is it about Oxford and Cambridge? England’s two great universities have had their moments of glory, but they have also played an outsized part in the history of useful stoogery. In 1933, just a week after Hitler became chancellor of Germany, the members of the Oxford Union proclaimed, by a vote of 275 to 153, that they would “under no circumstances fight for…King and country.” During the next few years, five Cambridge students – Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross – were recruited as Soviet spies, and over the succeeding two decades or so they passed a remarkable amount of sensitive information to their KGB handlers.

Mahathir bin Mohamad

Both the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union routinely invite famous figures from around the world to address them. Sometimes the guests are showbiz figures; sometimes they’re controversial leaders. In January, the Oxford Union welcomed Mahathir bin Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia. As Douglas Murray pointed out at the website of the Spectator, Mohamad, age 93, “is an exceptionally happy and virulent anti-Semite.”

Abraham Foxman

Indeed, Mohamad has said that the word “antisemitic” is “an invented term to prevent criticizing Jews for doing wrong.” Back in 1970, he wrote: “The Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” In 2010, as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League noted at the time, Mohamad “accus[ed] the ‘Jewish lobby’ of preventing the U.S. from ending the war in Afghanistan.”

“I am glad to be labeled antisemitic,” Mohamad stated in 2012. “How can I be otherwise, when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness towards not just their enemies but even towards their allies should any try to stop the senseless killing of their Palestinian enemies?”

Cambridge University

The Oxford Union event came and went without making major headlines. But on June 16, it was the Cambridge Union’s turn to host Mohamad. First Mohamad spoke for about twenty minutes. This was followed by an exchange with one of the student hosts, who deserves credit for challenging Mohamad. Right off the bat, he asked him about same-sex marriage, to which Mohamad, unsurprisingly, expressed opposition. Then the student queried Mohamed about his government’s past incarceration of people without trial.

Then came a question about Israel. Why did Mohamad ban Israeli athletes from an international swim meet in his country? Mohamad replied that Israel failed to show “respect” for other people. The Jewish state, he charged, had “stolen other people’s land, killed a lot of people, broken international laws, and done all kinds of things that have never been done by other countries.”

Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia

The interviewer did not let up. “Going beyond Israel,” he went on, “you’ve said some pretty hateful things about Jewish people in general.” He cited remarks Mohamad had made to the effect that the scale of the Holocaust had been “overstated” and that “Jewish people control the world by proxy.” Did Mohamad, the young man asked, still stand by those statements? Mohamad’s answer was, in effect, yes.

After a brief detour into the subject of Sudan, the interviewer returned to the subject of Jews. Was it fair, he asked, to blame all Jews for “the alleged crimes of the Israeli state”? Yes, said Mohamad, unless they explicitly distanced themselves from Israel’s actions. Confronted with his description of Jews as “hook-nosed,” Mohamed refused to apologize, explaining that it was natural to generalize about races and that only Jews seemed to resent this fact. On the positive side, Mohamad was willing to acknowledge that “not all Jews are bad” and even professed that he had “Jewish friends in Britain.” Lucky them!

Mohamad at Cambridge

Mohamad then took questions from the audience. Several topics were covered. Finally one of the audience members brought the conversation, once again, back to Jews, suggesting that Mohamad’s generalizations about Jews were unfair. Mohamad again defended his right to generalize. When the interviewer pushed him on this, Mohamad, at about forty-six minutes into the Cambridge Union’s YouTube of the event, came out with the statement that made the news. “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends,” he said. “They are not like the other Jews. That’s why they are my friends.”

And the reason this statement made the news is that the audience – or at least a sizable portion of it – laughed. Actually laughed. It did not sound like derisive laughter. It sounded like appreciative laughter.

Jeremy Corbyn

Now, imagine if the interviewee had been, say, Donald Trump, and he has said something similar about blacks: “I have some black friends. They’re not like other blacks. That’s why they’re my friends.” Would the Cambridge audience have laughed? Surely not. They would have booed, hissed, walked out en masse. But in response to Mohamad’s ugly comment about Jews, they laughed, and proceeded calmly to the next question.

Alas, it is not really all that surprising to encounter such behavior on the part of privileged young people in the Britain of 2019. This is a time and place, after all, where the head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, is, like Mahathir bin Mohamad, an outspoken anti-Semite, and where the Jew-hatred of Muslims is routinely granted a pass.

Ilhan’s friends

Ilhan Omar

On April 30, outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., a group of protesters consisting largely of black women held a rally based on a false premise: that Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing Muslim Democrat who was elected to Congress last November from a district that includes Minneapolis and some of its suburbs, is the victim of racism and sexism on the part of President Trump, most of right-wing America, and even a few members of her own party. In fact, as we discussed on Tuesday, Omar is a virulent anti-Semite who, ever since her election, has been digging herself a deeper and deeper hole by saying in public what she thinks about Jews. Other prominent Muslims who have also been inculcated with hatred of the Jews do a better job of hiding their bigotry; in a perverse way, perhaps Omar deserves a degree of credit for being incapable of dissembling on the subject. In any event, she is no victim; a refugee from Somalia, she found refuge in America, a country that she routinely disses almost as viciously as she disses Jews, and managed to become one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, a status that has made her an instant star on the left. Of course the topsy-turvy notion of the Jew-baiting Omar as a victim is typical of our time, when a violent group like Antifa can be described in the mainstream media as peaceful and anti-fascist and when every act of jihadist terror brings another round of media hand-wringing over the possibility of anti-Muslim backlash by evil “Islamophobes.”

But back to the rally. One banner described it as “Black Women in Defense of Ilhan Omar.” Another banner read “Black Women in Defense of Progressive Women in Congress.” Those progressive women, of course, include not only Omar but her fellow Muslim, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Only on the American left in the second decade of the twenty-first century can devout Muslims, one of whom wears a symbol of female subservience, be hailed as “progressive.” The other high-profile progressive Congresswoman, of course, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former New York bartender who hates capitalism, hates ICE, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, sent the Senate a “green new deal” that was so wacky that absolutely nobody voted for it, and posted a video on social media in which she reported on her baffled encounter, in her new Washington, D.C., home, with a gizmo in her kitchen sink that made a scary sound when you flipped a switch. (She had never seen or heard of a garbage disposal before.) Also, although not a Muslim, she hates Israel almost as much as Omar and Tlaib do.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Anyway, the rally. One speaker described it as a gathering of “professors and labor leaders and artists and organizers.” Plus a whole lot of members of Black Lives Matter. The goal, explained one woman, was to “defend the right of black women to speak about and act upon what happens to black women in this country.” In particular, the idea was to stand up to Trump and the GOP, who had “put a hit out on Ilhan Omar,” who was described as a victim of “white supremacist violence” and of “racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, vitriol” on the part of white nationalists. But the protesters were also there to fight “Islamophobia” and to express solidarity with “trans people,” “black and brown people in the sex trades,” prisoners, migrants, and “our sisters and brothers in Palestine.” Attendees were told that the current crisis in Venezuela is the result of American foreign policy. They were also fed the revisionist version of Angela Davis’s criminal history, in which this felon is magically transformed into a victim. These were people for whom reciting chants like “let my people go” and “we aren’t going anywhere” and “hands off Ilhan” and listing the same dozen or so identity groups over and over again seemed to be a substitute for actual thought. America itself, of course, was depicted as an Evil Empire, a dystopia in which every problem ailing black women is the fault of racism and misogyny on the part of white people who are still, if only symbolically, “lynching” and “whipping” them. You would never have guessed that there exists any such thing as jihadist terror or black-on-black violence. All in all, a staggering display of ignorance, rage, willful refusal to face up to uncomfortable facts, and a claustrophobic, counterproductive fixation on group-identity labels.

Angela and Ilhan: birds of a feather

Angela Davis in her youth

In June 2016, as we reported here at the time, Angela Davis was celebrated by a feminist art center at the Brooklyn Museum for being “first in her field.” What field would that be? Diehard Communism? As a young woman she joined the American Communist Party and studied at Humboldt University in what was then the Soviet puppet state of East Germany, and has remained a devotee of Marx and Engels ever since. Or is her field domestic terrorism? In the incident that made her famous, she bought a bunch of guns that were used several days later by some pals of hers who invaded a courtroom, took the judge, prosecutor, and three jurors hostage, and ended up in a shootout with cops in which the judge was killed, the prosecutor paralyzed for life, and one of the jurors injured – the perpetrators’ goal having been to compel the release of Angela’s then husband, a Black Panther, Communist, and armed robber named George Jackson, from Soledad State Prison.

Arrested for her role in this atrocity, Davis, despite massive evidence against her, was acquitted by a jury that was plainly swayed by dishonest propaganda that painted her as a victim of racial prejudice.

Angela and Fidel

Thus began her career as a public figure – specifically, as a full-time critic of democratic capitalism, booster of Communism, and outspoken anti-Semite. She palled around with Fidel Castro in Cuba and accepted the Lenin Peace Prize in Moscow. She publicly supported the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. Twice in the 1980s, she ran for Vice President of the United States on the Communist Party line. Meanwhile she pursued an academic career, and the American university having undergone a political sea change in the 1960s and 70s, her hard-line Communist credentials only helped her advance: from San Francisco State, where she taught Ethnic Studies, she proceeded to UC Santa Cruz, where she taught in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments and was appointed to the UC Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies. The website of Santa Cruz, where is now listed as a “Distinguished Professor Emerita,” provides a sugarcoated version of her criminal past and calls her “a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.” Nor has her fanatical Communism kept her from being a darling of the American left, which has promoted her tirelessly as a heroine of rights for women and black people.

She stood with Fidel. She stood with Brezhnev. Now she stands with Ilhan.

Which brings us to her latest activities. On April 30, Davis joined “scores of other black women” at a Capitol Hill rally in support of Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing, Somali-born freshman Congresswoman from Minnesota. As the website of the left-wing TV/radio program Democracy Now put it, Omar had “been at the center of numerous right-wing attacks since taking office.” Translation: since her election in November, Omar had made a series of chillingly anti-Semitic comments, and a great many decent-minded people had had the audacity to take offense. There had been an effort to pass a resolution condemning her, but members of her own party had circled the wagons and rewritten the resolution so that it made no explicit mention of Omar and was at least as much a statement about “Islamophobia” as about anti-Semitism. Speaking to Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, Davis maintained that Omar had been “targeted because she is an immigrant, because she is Muslim, because she is a courageous, bold black woman who speaks out in defense of Palestinians.” She added: “I am extremely proud that finally we’ve elected someone to Congress who speaks out in such a powerful way on behalf of black women, on behalf of Palestinians, on behalf of all people who are oppressed.” Birds of a feather flock together.

Angela (gray hair) seated behind Ilhan at the big rally

Davis’s support for Omar made headlines. The Huffington Post, describing Davis as a “civil rights icon,” whitewashed the comments that had gotten Omar in trouble and took Omar’s word for it that she had received a mountain of death threats. At The Nation, one Rebecca Pierce celebrated Davis and her confreres for creating “a force field of support” around Omar “in the face of Islamophobic incitement from the Trump White House.” UPI bought the death-threats claim too, running a piece under the headline “Activists rally in support of Rep. Ilhan Omar after death threats.”

As for the rally itself…well, stay tuned. We’ll get to that on Thursday.

To Israel, with hate

Netta

Every year, the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual marathon of mostly horrible songs from countries all over Europe, plus Israel and Australia, is held in the homeland of the previous year’s winner. Last year, the winner was Netta, a spunky, offbeat chanteuse from Israel who came out on top with an absolutely abominable tune called “Toy.” So this year the show is being broadcast from Tel Aviv. The first semifinal was on Tuesday; the second is tonight; the finals are on Saturday.

Julie Christie

Cue the protests! As we noted in February, the BDS crowd was quick to protest the plans to hold Eurovision in Israel. In Britain, fifty-odd people who described themselves as laboring in the “creative industries” wrote a letter to the Guardian urging Eurovision officials to relocate the show to some other country and expressing concern about Israel’s “crimes against…freedom.” Among these people who cherish freedom so deeply were directors Ken Loach and Roy Battersby, both former members of the Workers Revolutionary Party; actress Maxine Peake, a former Communist Party member and winner of a 2014 award for an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism; stand-up comedian Alexei Sayle, also a former Communist Party member; actresses Julie Christie and Miriam Margolyes, both of whom are pro-Palestinian activists; playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play Seven Jewish Children has been described as “anti-Jewish agitprop” that seeks “to demonize the Jewish people”; and musician Roger Waters, whose deeply sick obsession with Jews we’ve written about a number of times on this site.

Hatari

Fortunately, the protests were unsuccessful. On Tuesday, the first semifinal went off without incident, but not without controversy. Among the performers was Hatari, a self-described BDSM band from Iceland whose entry is a hideous three-minute stretch of noise entitled “Hate Will Prevail” that expresses the band’s disapproval of the rise of populism in Europe. Note, by the way, that BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, and should not be confused with BDS, the anti-Israeli movement that calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions; in this case, however, BDSM and BDS went hand in hand. For Hatari is not only into sexual kinks but also into the delegitimization of the Jewish state, the overthrow of capitalism, and the introduction of Communism. For we all know how tolerant Communism is of sexual deviance.

Tuesday night’s semifinal

Anyway, before going to Tel Aviv, the members of Hatari felt compelled to make a statement about the idea of holding Eurovision in Israel. They called it a whitewash. “Eurovision is, of course, a beautiful thing in that it is based on ideas of peace and unity,” band member Tryggvi Haraldsson told the Guardian, “and this year it’s held in a country that’s marred by conflict and disunity….Letting the narrative of the fluffy, peace-loving pop contest go on unchallenged in this context in our view is extremely political. Everyone who takes part in this is taking part in a political statement whether they are aware of it or not.” As a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, the members of Hatari went to Hebron, on the West Bank, and spoke out against what they called “apartheid in action.”

All of which raises one big question: if Hatari hates Israel so much, why didn’t it boycott Eurovision? Why is it in Tel Aviv now? It’s a question Palestinians and BDS campaigners have asked. Haraldsson’s answer: if Hatari hadn’t traveled to Israel, it would have missed out on “an opportunity for a critical discussion.” But has Hatari actually sought to engage anyone in Israel in critical discussion? Not that we know of. Besides, Haraldsson added, if Hatari had refused to go to Israel, Iceland would’ve sent somebody else. It’s not exactly the world’s most principled-sounding position, but, hey, it’s a mistake to look to Israel-haters for principle. Finally, asked by the Guardian what’s next for the group, Haraldsson said they wanted to perform “in countries where there currently is not an illegal occupation taking place.” Why not try one of Israel’s neighbors, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, or the United Arab Emirates? Or why not set something up in Hebron or Gaza? Since you care so much about them, we’re sure their response to your act will be, um, explosive.

Oh, by the way: on Tuesday, international voters sent Hatari on to the final. So it’ll be performing again and may actually go home with the gold. Tune in on Saturday, if you have a high threshold of tolerance for bad music.

Churchill as anti-Semite?

John Broich

“Allied leaders were anti-Nazi, but not anti-racist. We’re now paying the price for their failure.” That was the headline on an April 29 Washington Post op-ed by John Broich, an associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University. His beef with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt was that, yes, they led the Western Allies to victory in World War II, but while they both delivered memorable wartime speeches in which they eloquently adduced the enemy’s evil, they “rarely attacked the core tenet of Nazism: the belief in a master race.” By way of defending this assertion, Broich explained that in a recent class on World War II,

I had my students pore through the speeches and letters of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the years around the war’s start in 1939, searching for his basis for opposing the Nazis. They found Churchill wanted to stand up to the Nazis’ expansionism, fight their anti-democracy posture and resist what he called (but largely left undefined) their anti-Christianity. What he did not do, however, was call for the destruction of the essence of Nazism: race supremacy.

FDR, too, according to Broich, “either failed to comprehend the basic nature of German fascism or chose not to rally Americans to oppose Nazism as Nazism. In his prewar correspondence, he made no secret of his dislike of Hitler and his belligerent regime, but like Churchill, he never framed his opposition to Germany as a rejection of race hierarchy or race nationalism.” Broich then went a step further, citing America’s racial segregation laws and FDR’s placement of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II as evidence that when it came to racism set in system, Roosevelt’s America and Churchill’s Britain were scarcely better than Hitler’s Germany. Which, of course, is an obscene view to teach to college students or to preach to newspaper readers.

Let’s be clear: Jim Crow and Manzanar were deplorable. But even to hint at moral equivalence between the Western Allies and the Nazis is insipid.

Winston Churchill

After reading Broich’s article, we turned to Andrew Roberts’s recent bestseller Churchill: Walking with Destiny. The book’s first reference to Hitler appears on page 95, in a passage about Churchill’s attitude toward Jews. Churchill, Roberts tells us, was a “philosemite” – an active admirer of the Jewish people. In 1904, he denounced a bill that would have restricted immigration by Russian Jews because, in his own words, it sought “to appeal…to racial prejudice against Jews.”

Churchill’s philosemitism was not just a public stance but a private conviction: Roberts lists several Jewish causes to which Churchill generously contributed (and this at a time when he and his wife, Clementine, were having trouble making ends meet). It was, Roberts writes, Churchill’s deep respect for Jews that enabled him, in the 1930s, “to spot very clearly and early on what kind of a man Adolf Hitler was.” In other words, Churchill, far from being unaware of or indifferent to Hitler’s antisemitism, recognized his evil earlier than others did precisely because it expressed itself as Jew-hatred.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Broich’s charge against Churchill, then, is a calumny. As for FDR, it’s absolutely true that he was the president who rounded up Japanese-Americans, turned away Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and chose not to bomb the railroad line to Auschwitz. Yet while FDR was a Democrat and a so-called progressive, Broich made a point of linking his racist views and policies to the present-day American right, rather than to today’s left, whose obsession with group identity, fondness for segregation (e.g. gay-only and black-only dormitories), and mounting antisemitism (as reflected in the recent Nazi-style New York Times cartoon showing Donald Trump as a blind Jew and Benjamin Netanyahu as his guide dog) is very much in the “progressive” tradition.

Muhammed Najati Sidqi

Compounding the duplicity and offensiveness of Broich’s op-ed was his attempt to draw a moral contrast between, on the one hand, Churchill and FDR and, on the other hand, one Muhammad Najati Sidqi, “a Palestinian leftist activist” whom Broich praised for recognizing Hitler early on as a racial supremacist. In fact Sidqi wasn’t just a “leftist” – he was, though Broich omits to mention this fact, an out-and-out Communist – a devotee of a totalitarian ideology every bit as evil as Nazism. Sidqi studied in Moscow at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (Ho Chi Minh’s and Deng Xiaoping’s alma mater), was a regular contributor to the Communist newspaper Mundo Obrero, and is today memorialized by the Najati Sidqi Competition, a literary prize awarded by the Palestinian Minister of Culture.

This is the man whom Broich held up as morally superior to Winston Churchill and FDR.

Interestingly, it was not until the end of his op-ed that Broich mentioned, parenthetically, our other wartime enemy, the Japanese Empire whose subjects, like Hitler’s, were guided largely by a conviction of their own racial superiority. Given that the orthodox view in today’s humanities departments is that all whites are racists and that non-whites can’t be racists, Broich deserves a thumbs-up for even daring to mention Japanese racism, however fleetingly. But what a low bar to have to clear!

Horrible Hamid

Hamid Dabashi

How vile an apologist for tyranny is he? So vile that in February 2017, we spent a full five days on him. We’ve discussed a good many professors of Islam or Arabic or Middle East Studies who have incredibly ugly things to say about Israel and Jews, but even in that crowd Hamid Dabashi stands out. A protégé of Edward Said and a longtime Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Said’s own longtime academic home, Columbia University, Dabashi was named by fourteen Columbia students and recent graduates in a 2004 video as one of the three most anti-Semitic professors they’d had. In a 2005 article, he wrote that Jews possess “a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep” and that “a systemic mendacity…has penetrated the deepest corners of what these people have to call their ‘soul.’”

Afar Nafisi

In 2006, he savaged Azar Nafisi’s widely praised book Reading Lolita in Tehran, about literature classes that she taught secretly to women in post-revolutionary Iran, calling her a postcolonialist tool and likening her to Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier notorious for mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. In 2007, when the Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was asked to speak at Columbia, many observers criticized the university’s president, Lee Bollinger, for issuing the invitation, but what outraged Dabashi was Bollinger’s introduction, in which he called Ahmadinejad “a petty and cruel dictator.” Bollinger, wrote Dabashi, was a “white racist supremacist.” In 2011, he accused ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq of having “demonized their own cultures and societies” “to advance their careers” and “justify US carnage.”

Lee Bollinger

You’d think that at some point Dabashi’s job at Columbia would have been in danger. Nope. Complaints have been made over the years, but Dabashi has never even been rebuked, let alone disciplined, by any of the higher-ups at Columbia. Far from being a pariah in the academic community, in 2015 it was reported that Dabashi, after giving a series of talks in Germany in which he smeared Israel and minimized the Holocaust, was now “the darling of German academe.”

And we’re here to report that he’s still at it. On March 30, he took to Twitter to react to the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel had captured in the 1967 Six Day War and formally annexed in 1981. “What’s the difference between ISIS and ISRAEL?” Dabashi asked in his tweet. The answer: neither has a claim to the Golan Heights. “All of Syria belong to all Syrian people, not an inch it either to ISIS or to ISRAEL.” He also wrote that if ISIS doesn’t enjoy U.S. support, it’s because “ISIS does not have a platoon of clean shaven and well coiffured columnists at the New York Times propagating the cause of the terrorist outfit as the Zionists columnists do on a regular basis.” Unusually for Dabashi, he later deleted the tweets. It’s hard to imagine why, because they were hardly any more offensive than many of his other public statements about Israel.