JCO, PC joke monster

Now 81 years old, Joyce Carol Oates has published 58 novels (or maybe even more by the time you read this), as well as scores of short stories, plays, poems, and essays. She has taught at Princeton for four decades and she has, presumably, a certain number of fans. She has certainly won a good many awards.

Joyce Carol Oates

But she also has more than her share of detractors. Critics have routinely pointed out that her prolificity is painfully evident in her work – that she seems so driven to churn out books that she doesn’t take the necessary time to craft her sentences, shape her plots, and develop her characters. When asked by an interviewer about Oates, a far more gifted author who was fourteen years her senior, Truman Capote, called her “a joke monster who ought to be beheaded in a public auditorium or in Shea [Stadium, the former home of the New York Mets] or in a field with hundreds of thousands. (Laughs.) She does all the graffiti in the men’s room and the women’s room and in every public toilet from here to California and back, stopping in Seattle on her way! (Laughs.) To me, she’s the most loathsome creature in America.”

Truman Capote

When Capote’s interviewer, Lawrence Grobel (from whose book, Conversations with Capote, these quotations are taken), asked Capote if he had ever met Oates, he replied that he had, “and to see her is to loathe her. To read her is to absolutely vomit.” Asked if she had “ever said or written anything about you to deserve such vituperation,” Capote said: “Yes, she’s written me a fan letter. She’s written me extreme fan letters. But that’s the kind of hoax she is. I bet there’s not a writer in America that’s ever had their name in print that she hasn’t written a fan letter to.” Capote’s words sound harsh, but other writers have testified to Oates’s brilliance at networking, brown-nosing, soft-soaping, and log-rolling – all of which may well explain why she has won so many prizes and been so amiably reviewed.

Peggy Noonan

Certainly she is no great writer. Even more certain is that she is simply not very intelligent. Like other successful mediocrities, she has cleaved long and loyally to the orthodox politically correct view on pretty much everything you can think of. We were reminded of this when we ran across an article the other day that reprinted a 2015 tweet by Oates: “All we hear of ISIS is puritanical & punitive; is there nothing celebratory & joyous? Or is query naive?” To which Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who is far smarter and better informed than Oates (and also a more engaging writer), succinctly replied: “They feel celebratory & joyous when they behead a hostage, kill a confessed Christian or slay concertgoers, so yes.”

Elizabeth Warren

We wondered if Oates’s inane ISIS tweet was a one-off or if her Twitter feed contained a number of equally boneheaded comments. The answer was (b). In a tweet from last May she asked: “Is Elizabeth Warren just too brilliant, too deserving of the Presidency? Compared to many/ most candidates, isn’t she just simply the most qualified? And if so, what can possibly go wrong?” This about a woman who pretended to be an American Indian so she would enjoy career advancement and who, after taking a test that showed she had a negligible amount of American Indian blood, foolishly crowed that she had been proven right. But of course Oates’s enthusiasm for Warren is understandable: they have both lived for a long time inside the same Ivy League bubble, they both share the same standard-issue Ivy League politics, and if Oates considers Warren brilliant it’s because Warren, while certainly no genius, is probably a few points higher on the I.Q. scale than Oates.

Toni Morrison

As much as she loves Warren, Oates – unsurprisingly – hates Trump, attributing his popularity to “racism, misogyny, fear of change, wish to believe simplistic explanations for highly complex issues; novelty of an ignorant, anti-intellectual person jeering at his superiors, as (possibly) many others would like to do but dare not.” She blames Trump for mass shootings – never mind that they happened under his predecessors, too. She also blames him for ICE policies that date back to Obama, if not to Bush junior. When her friend and colleague Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, died, Oates’s take was that “it is just plain heartbreaking that she didn’t outlive loathed racist T***p Dark Age & welcome a new era.” Also, she’s apparently bought into the idea that if Trump loses the 2020 election the nation will be overrun with “#T***pTerrorists to fight for him.” Similarly, in her take on the HBO series Chernobyl, she managed to link it to gun control in the U.S.: “4,000 persons died as a consequence of the notorious nuclear accident; but nearly 40,000 persons die yearly in US from gun violence alone.” Truman Capote was right: she’s a literary lightweight and a cynical operator, cleaving with consistent fatuity to PC views on everything under the sun. Which is surely a big part of the reason why this literary mediocrity has received the approval of so many of the guardians of the literary pantheon.

Catching up with tyranny-loving Karl Vick

Karl Vick

Where to start with longtime Time magazine fixture Karl Vick?

With his breathtaking enthusiasm for Cuba’s Castro regime? As we noted in August 2015, this is a guy who, in describing the political system on that island, prefers to say “security state” rather than “police state” or “dictatorship” or “totalitarian prison.” Of all the idiots who find Cuba’s crumbling buildings and deteriorated infrastructure appealingly exotic, he’s one of the most high-profile and outspoken, celebrating the old cars and lousy plumbing in one of the stupidest cover stories ever to be run by a major newsmagazine. When he gushed in a radio interview over Havana’s “decaying glory,” his interviewer asked how decay could be glorious, and Vick, bubblehead that he is, fumfered around, finally answering the question with a synonym: “faded grandeur.”

Moderate?

Or should we focus on Vick’s consistently starry-eyed take on all things Islamic – his thumbs-up for the “Arab Spring,” his insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are moderate – and his equally consistent hostility toward Israel? For a 2010 cover story arguing that Israel is anti-peace, he won a “Dishonest Reporting Award” from Honest Reporting (HR) and was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for echoing the stereotype that Jews are preoccupied with money. In later articles, Vick stuck to his guns, absurdly depicting Palestinians (in HR’s words) as “Gandhian acolytes” and describing Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel as only “[n]ominal.”

Donald Trump: the truth hurts

In short, he’s a fool. And nothing has changed. For now, just one example. Last December, after Donald Trump’s election but before the inauguration, he warned that the president-elect was “making terrorist attacks more likely.” How? By taking a “them-against-us” approach. You’ve likely heard this argument before: when we’re honest about the nature of the jihadist enemy, we alienate “moderate Muslims,” perhaps even turning some of them into mass murderers. Vick quoted a Darmouth professor and former State Department grind who warned that ISIS was “now in a much better position to make the case that the West really is determined to destroy Islam.” Vick praised George W. Bush for having said, less than a week after 9/11, that “Islam is peace.”

ISIS, Trump: two sides of the same coin?

Does Vick think this is true? He doesn’t say. His argument is that, true or not, if you’re a president you’d better say such things. One is reminded of the familiar joke: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say otherwise, we’ll kill you. In a classic example of moral equivalency, Vick essentially cast Trump and ISIS as two sides of the same coin, both determined to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. Vick served up what should by now be a long-discredited canard that jihadist “extremism” is driven by “feelings of aggrievement.” No, it’s driven by a determination to conquer that is rooted in Islamic texts.

After the terrorist attack on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin, December 19, 2016

Vick slammed Trump for reacting to last December’s terrorist attack in Berlin – the one that involved a truck and took 12 lives – by making the purely factual statement that “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.” In Vick’s view, apparently, if we want peace with Islam, we’ve got to keep mum about what is being done to Christians in the Middle East in the name of Allah. The one “glimmer of hope” (to use Vick’s own words) in the article was that “Trump may be educable.” In other words, he may yet learn from the MSM and Foggy Bottom hacks to tell supposedly strategic untruths.

Punker turned ISIS recruiter. Cool!

Useful stooges come in a wide range of varieties, but the kind that starts out as a British punk rocker – a female one, no less – and ends up as an ISIS recruiter is a special breed.

Sally Jones

Her name – her birth name, anyway – is Sally Jones. She’s from Chatham, Kent, and used to be a guitarist in an all-girl band called Krunch. But then she went to Syria with her son, Joe “JoJo” Dixon, to marry an ISIS fighter (and computer hacker) named Junaid Hussain. The heart, after all, wants what it wants.

After marrying Hussain, Sally came to be known, to her new comrades anyway, as Umm Hussain al-Britani. We’ve seen her also identified as Sakinah Hussein. And while he was still alive, the two of them were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Terror.” She was a big recruiter in Raqqa, and was involved in a couple of plots to kill Americans.

Too bad Brad and Angelina have split up – it sounds like a great idea for a movie project.

Sally in 2004

But then, in 2015, Sally’s hubby was taken out by a U.S. drone. Did that bring Sally down? No way. After cursing America (“the greatest enemy of Allah”) for killing her man, Sally, according to a September 2016 report in the New York Post, was named head of the female wing of something called the Anwar al-Awlaki battalion. Known by the monicker “The White Widow” (great title for a sequel, no?), she led “a secret army of female jihadis hellbent on launching a bloody wave of suicide attacks in the West – with their kids in tow.” Sally, noted the Post, “pledged to destroy” her native land “with the help of her deadly new brigade of femme fatales.” Part of Sally’s value to ISIS, apparently, was that her reputation as a former punk rocker helped them bring Western females into the ISIS fold.

No, forget it, this is starting to sound too improbable for a movie. At this point in a pitch meeting, surely the Warners execs would already have tossed us out.

Sally, back when she was torturing people with music

Anyway, the idea was that Sally and her brigade of female jihadis – who, like Sally, were “mainly war widows” – planned to “use the fact they are female to slip under the radar before launching their bloody attacks.” The Post noted that the women might “even bring their children on their merciless missions in an attempt to foil the security services.”

In addition to leading that gang of war widows, Sally also kept busy providing her fellow terrorists with training “in combat and strategies” for suicide missions that were to be carried out in the West.

Thus did Jones become “the world’s most wanted woman.”

A recent picture

But that was last September. In July of this year, the Post had a new story about Sally. It would appear that she’s been through some kind of crisis. Or change of heart. Or something. In any case, she’s been doing a lot of crying. She “desperately wants to return home to the UK,” reported the Post, but can’t because leaders of the terror group won’t let her go.” One of Sally’s colleagues, a woman identified as Aisha, told Sky News that Sally “was crying and wants to get back to Britain.”

It wasn’t clear, however, whether Sally wanted to take her son back to the UK with her. Now 12 years old, “JoJo” is now 12, described by the Post as “a child fighter who is believed to carry out executions.” A few years ago, we would have doubted his ability to adapt to an ordinary school in the UK, but nowadays we suspect he’d find a whole bunch of classmates eager to hear about, learn from, and be inspired by his experiences.

Celebrating Africa, demonizing Israel: Chika Okeke-Aguru

Chika Okeke-Agulu

We’ve been looking at a recent New York Times article by Chika Okeke-Aguru, a professor of African Art at Princeton who fretted over the fact that rich Sotheby’s customers were snapping up artworks from the Dark Continent that should, in his view, remain publicly owned parts of Africa’s own cultural heritage.

Noting that most Africans have little access to the work of artists from their own continent – and that Lagos, for example, doesn’t have a single museum that exhibits a famous Nigerian artist – Okeke-Aguru whined: “This is no small problem.”

To which we asked yesterday, and will ask again now: compared to what?

GDP per capita, 2015

Compared to the fact that most of the 55 countries in Africa are considered “Not Free” by Freedom House, that most of the others are considered “Partly Free,” and that only ten – Senegal, Ghana, Benin, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia, Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritius, and Cape Verde – are considered “Free”? Compared to the fact that in a world map of countries that have been colored according to gross domestic product, on which GDPs below $5000 are bright yellow and richer countries are marked in ever-darkening shades of olive, almost the entirety of Africa shines out like the sun?

A neighborhood in Lagos

Nigeria, the country in which the aforementioned city, Lagos, Africa’s largest, is located, is actually one of the continent’s richest nations, with a per capita GDP of $2,640. Africa also jumps out on a map showing worldwide life expectancies, with most countries having an average age at death between forty or and sixty, while the corresponding ages in virtually the whole rest of the world range between seventy and ninety.

The University of Cape Town, considered the best university in Africa by the London Times, comes in at #148 in the world on the Times’s 2017 list

Want more? Look at the corruption statistics. The rape statistics. Gay rights? Forget about it. And how about the prevalence of primitive practices unheard of elsewhere on the planet – such as the murder of women suspected of witchcraft and the amputation of limbs from albino children by superstitious illiterates who think they bring good luck? How about the lack of a single decent university anywhere on the continent, with the exception of a few institutions in the Republic of South Africa?

This 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare also raked in the big bucks at Sothebys

Honestly, compared to all this, how important is it that a sculpture made of old bottle caps won’t be readily available for in-person scrutiny by the artist’s fellow Ghanaians? Yes, yes, as Okeke-Agulu puts it, “art is an important resource with which societies imagine their world.” And so on – blah, blah, blah. Any longtime reader of the New Your Times could quickly develop that point into a paragraph not so very different from the one in Okeke-Agulu’s actual article.

One wonders: if it’s so important that Africans be intimately familiar with their own continent’s artworks, why is Okeke-Agulu wasting his vast knowledge of the subject on the student body of Princeton University? Why isn’t he on the faculty of the University of Ghana, or the University of Ibadan, or the University of Nairobi?

Well, part of the reason is that Okeke-Agule doesn’t spend all his time teaching courses in African art. He also puts a lot of effort into an activity for which an Ivy League campus is the perfect setting: anti-Israeli activism. He calls Israel an apartheid state and a practitioner of ethnic cleansing. He supports academic boycotts of Israel. He has agitated on behalf of Palestinian terrorists who are currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons.

Benjamin Netanyahu

According to the Canary Mission website, he “tweets articles from Mint Press News, a ‘super anti-Israel’ website that frequently compares Israel to ISIS.” In a 2014 article, he “minimized the terrorist actions of Hamas” and criticized Israel for responding to those actions by destroying the terrorists’ “attack tunnels.” He has smeared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a racist and participated in a campaign to get Princeton to divest from companies with Israeli ties.

Okeke-Aguru (second right) at a Princeton ceremony where he won an award

It is interesting – though hardly surprising, in these twisted times – that a professor who teaches about African art at Princeton would appear to have little or nothing to say about the drastic poverty, severe lack of freedom, abominable human-rights records, primitive quality of education, rudimentary sanitation, massive corruption, and savage cultural practices that still reign in most of Africa, but is able to sheds crocodile tears over the purchase by rich white Americans of a few Ghanaian art works made of bottle caps. Add to that the fact that this Africa-centric fool, while blithely ignoring the multitudinous ways in which Africa is a holy mess, finds it useful to contribute to the demonization of the State of Israel – a world-class model of individual liberty, cutting-edge scientific and technological progress, and so on – in short, a land that’s far more advanced, in any way you can think of, than any of the 55 nations on the African continent.

The Rutgers prof who considers the US worse than ISIS

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Deepa Kumar

Then came the tweet.

On March 26, 2015, Deepa Kumar – a Rutgers professor of media and Middle Eastern Studies whose career we’ve been tracing this week – tweeted the following: “Yes ISIS is brutal, but US is more so, 1.3 million killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan #NoToWar.”

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In previous years, she’d already taken to social media to swipe at her class enemies. In one Facebook post, she encouraged her friends to use the word douchebag “to describe rich, white entitled males and their misogynistic, racist behavior!” In another post, she smeared Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim whose campaign for the rights of Muslim women has made her a terrorist target and obliged her to have round-the-clock bodyguards. To many people, Hirsi Ali is a heroine; to Kumar, however, she is nothing more or less than an “islamophobe [sic] and native informant” – the latter apparently meaning that by shedding a light on Islamic misogyny she’s ratted on her own.

But these Facebook rants hadn’t sparked worldwide attention. Nor had Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire – the 2012 book in which she spun her views on the topic into book length, and which received glowing reviews in such venues as the International Socialist Review, the Egyptian news site Al-Akhbar, and the website of the Florida branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

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Max Abrams

But the ISIS tweet was another matter. Suddenly Kumar, whose years of defending terrorists and demonizing Islamophobia in academic journals and left-wing rags had taken place entirely under the radar of the general public, was making international headlines. The Daily Mail rounded up a few outraged responses. Max Abrams, a professor of political science at Northeastern University, expressed sympathy for Kumar’s students: “Only a complete ideologue could claim the United States is more brutal than Islamic State.” Well, as we’ve seen, Abrams was certainly right there: there are few ideologues more complete than Deepa Kumar. As Abrams noted, the U.S., unlike ISIS, “isn’t in the habit of rounding up thousands of young girls to have them raped dozens of times…or throwing homosexuals off rooftops.”

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Marion Smith

Meanwhile, Marion Smith of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation responded to some of Kumar’s positive tweets about Marxism, saying that no professor should be teaching young people to admire the “deadly ideology” that had taken the lives of tens of millions in China, Russia, and elsewhere. It was also noted that the previous year, Kumar had helped lead a successful movement to keep former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking at Rutgers.

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Sebastian Gorka

Perhaps the most withering response to Kumar’s tweet came from Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism expert and professor at Marine Corps University whose parents had fled from Communism in Hungary – in other words, a man with no fatuous illusions about either Communism or Islam. Commenting in a TV interview, Gorka deplored Kumar’s comparison of “ISIS, which is crucifying people; which is killing children who aren’t fasting during Ramadan; that has used detonation cord to decapitate their prisoners,” with the U.S., “a nation that saved Europe twice in the last hundred years, and even in the 1990s saved the Muslims of Bosnia.”

But the dust-up ended soon enough; and Kumar remains at Rutgers, where she continues to indoctrinate students some of whose parents are paying upwards of $40,000 for the privilege.  

Hating Israel: Ben Norton

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Ben Norton

Yesterday we started acquainting ourselves with the work of Babyface Ben Norton, whose career as a pundit started three years ago but who’s already compiled a copious oeuvre. Much of it, as we’ve seen, consists of savage criticism of the U.S. and enthusiastic cheerleading for socialism.

Even more intense than Norton’s hatred for America is his animus toward Israel. In his articles for Salon and other outlets, young Ben has routinely repeated familiar anti-Israeli canards, echoed the propaganda of such vile groups as CODEPINK and Adalah and Jewish Voice for Peace, given ample and super-friendly coverage to the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, accused Israel of war crimes (while ignoring Palestinian atrocities), described Israeli teenagers as “violently racist,” promoted the idea that Israeli Muslims live under an apartheid system, and accused Israel of torturing and raping Palestinian children.  

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Steven Van Zandt performs live on stage during the second day of Hard Rock Calling at Hyde Park on July 14, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
Steven Van Zandt

This past March, he gave Bernie Sanders a thumbs-up for heeding a call by Max Blumenthal and Roger Waters to skip the pro-Israel AIPAC conference. When Steven Van Zandt, the Springsteen guitarist and Sopranos actor, criticized supporters of the BDS movement as “politically ignorant obnoxious idiots,” noting that “Israel is one of our two friends in the Middle East,” Norton strung together the nastiest anti-Van Zandt tweets he could find into an article for Salon.

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Paris, the night of the November 2015 terrorist attacks

As much as he despises Israel, Norton loves Islam – and is quick to skewer any critic of it as a bigot and racist. He routinely cites the ridiculous “hate crime” statistics put out by the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim Brotherhood front group that he invariably identifies as a “civil rights organization.” While “reporting” on allegedly far-right and neo-Nazi violence against Muslims in Europe, Norton has steadfastly ignored the far more prevalent problems of jihadist terrorism and other acts of Islamic brutality on that continent.

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Norton appearing on Al Jazeera

The only exceptions to this habit of silence about European jihad have been articles like “Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Have Tripled in the U.S. since the Paris Attacks,” which mention acts of jihad only to focus on the supposed anti-Muslim backlash, and (even worse) articles like “After Paris, let’s stop blaming Muslims and take a hard look at ourselves,” in which he sought to shift attention from anti-Western jihad to the killing of fellow Muslims by ISIS, the Saudis, and others. (In the latter article, while neglecting to say a word in sympathy with the victims and their loved ones, Norton fretted that too much preoccupation with the Paris massacre would only benefit right-wingers like Marine Le Pen.) 

Similarly, while keeping mum about the terrorist attacks in such U.S. locations as Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, Nelson managed, back in May, to find a case of a white American woman who had purportedly assaulted a hijab-clad woman outside a Washington, D.C., coffee shop. Norton got a whole Salon article out of this incident.

Still more tomorrow. 

Celebrating terrorism: Max Blumenthal

max
Max Blumenthal

Last June, we examined some of the sleazy shenanigans of one Max Blumenthal. Following in the slime trail of his dad, Sid Blumenthal, the longtime Clinton operator, bagman, lackey, factotum, spinmeister, and all-around inside-the-Beltway creep, young Max (he’s 38) has for some time now been pursuing his own career as an amoral political hack and hanger-on, gaining a reputation as —among other things — a shameless apologist for Vladimir Putin and a fierce critic of Israel.

Then again, the word critic isn’t quite strong enough to describe what young Max is up to when it comes to Israel.

As the Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in January: “A writer should avoid hyperbole. But when it comes to Max Blumenthal…it’s hard to avoid superlatives. Max is quite simply one of the most biased, anti-Semitic, terrorist-defending, Israel-has-no-right-to-exist haters out there.”

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David Mikics

David Mikics, writing in the Tablet in March of last year, summed Max up as follows: “Max Blumenthal’s stock in trade is anti-Zionist polemic dripping with cartoon-like, racially weighted depictions of Israeli Jews. What distinguishes him from many other anti-Zionist writers is not his political views, but the obsessive nature of his work, which seems animated not by moral passion or analysis but by hate.” In 2013, Max published the book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which, in the words of J.J. Goldman in the Forward, seeks to “show the suffering and unbroken spirit of the Palestinians and the callous cruelty of the Israelis.” Eric Alterman of The Nation, who is anything but an apologist for Israel, wrote in his review: “It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

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Rabbi Schmuley Boteach

Max, noted Boteach in March, “is known for creating the hashtag #JSIL—the Jewish State in the Levant—a play on the acronym ISIL, aka ISIS. In Max’s twisted mind, the democratic State of Israel is on par with ISIS.” Throughout his writings about Israel, indeed, Max repeatedly likens the Jewish state to the terrorists who seek to destroy it. And, naturally, to Nazi Germany.

hillaryemailsMax’s anti-Israel writings gained a special kind of attention recently when some of the e-mails dating back to Hillary Clinton’s Foggy Bottom days began to be published, and it turned out that Sid was sending excerpts from his son’s poisonous screeds to the Secretary of State – who responded by praising Max’s work. In March, Boteach’s pro-Israel organization, the World Values Network, bought a full-page ad in The New York Times urging Hillary to cut her ties to both Sid and Max. The ad included several anti-Israel quotations by both father and son. Hillary appears to have ignored Boteach’s plea.

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Father and son

Then, in April, the Telegraph published a recording in which Max, speaking at a March event at the London School of Economics, celebrated a 2014 massacre of Israeli soldiers by Hamas commandos who entered an IDF base in Israel through a series of underground tunnel from the Gaza Strip. At the base, these terrorists killed “every soldier they encounter[ed].” Since they wore video cameras on their helmets during the entire operation, moreover, they were able to provide young Palestinians with a visual record of their triumph. For Max, this was a beautiful thing: after being “humiliated” repeatedly by the IDF, those youths had a chance to see their side win a glorious victory over “the occupier” and to recover their own “dignity” by becoming terrorists themselves.

The “peace troubadour”: a follow-up

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James Twyman, the “peace troubadour”

Back in January, we reported on a self-styled “peace troubadour” named James Twyman. We’d never heard of him before, but according to his website he’s quite the accomplished chap, having made a bunch of movies, written a bunch of books, issued a bunch of music CDs, and founded something called “The Beloved Community,” a supposed worldwide “network of spiritual peace ministers” whose website reads like a parody of New Age twaddle. (“The Beloved Community has no rivals, because it is non-competitive….The Beloved Community knows no boundaries, for nationalisms are unloving.”)

As noted, we’d never heard of this guitar-toting Oregonian hippie  – not until he announced his plans to bring his “message of peace” to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria. He would fly to Europe on January 20, then make his way to Tel Aviv, and from there head for the Syrian border. In Syria, he would share his message and his music in person with the members of ISIS who are busy causing mayhem in parts of that country.

Twyman’s announcement was a stroke of PR genius: he made headlines around the world. We promised at the time that we’d stay tuned and find out what, if anything, happened as a result of his big plans.

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The picture accompanying Twyman’s February 1 tweet

Well, we looked into it. Here’s what we’ve been able to find. On February 1, Twyman tweeted as follows: “World Synchronized Meditation on Syrian border HUGE success. Fighting stopped right in front of us. MIRACLE.”

The tweet was accompanied by a picture. Here it is. Make of it what you will. Curiously, this was the only tweet Twyman sent out about this “HUGE success” and “MIRACLE.”

The next day, an item bearing the byline of Eileen Fleming was posted at the website of something calling itself the Arab Daily News. It stated (all caps in the original) that on the previous day “JAMES TWYMAN AND THE ABRAHAMIC REUNION UNITED MILLIONS OF ‘INSTRUMENTS OF PEACE’ WHO MEDITATED WORLD-WIDE WHILE OVER 100 HAD ‘BOOTS ON THE GROUND’ METERS AWAY FROM ISIS, NUSRA FRONT AND HIZBALLAH CONTROLLED TERRITORY ON THE GOLAN HEIGHTS BORDER OF SOUTHERN SYRIA AS THE VISIBLE WITNESS OF THE LARGEST SYNCHRONIZED PEACE VIGIL IN HISTORY.” Enthused though she obviously was about the event, Fleming didn’t mention the “MIRACLE” Twyman referred to, namely the claim that “Fighting stopped right in front  of us.”

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Eileen Fleming

What’s the Arab Daily News? As the website itself explains, it’s a site that runs items sent in by “freelance writers,” with each item being “the responsibility of the writer.” And who’s Eileen Fleming? Identified elsewhere as the site’s “Senior Non-Arab Correspondent,” she’s an American who, she says, was transformed by 9/11 into “a spiritually driven political peace activist.” A quick look through her archive at the Arab Daily News website suggests that, like Twyman himself, she’s a New Age nutbag and Useful Stooge of the first water. (We’ll get around to her another day.) 

Fleming’s was the only online report about Twyman’s big day until February 24, when the website of something called the United Religions Initiative (URI) ran an article headlined “Abrahamic Pulse Global Prayer for Syria.” It stated that on February 1,

the Abrahamic Reunion C[ooperation] C[ircle] joined by peace musician James Twyman, hosted the ‘Great Abrahamic Pulse’, a global prayer for the peace of Syria. 80 people made a multi-faith journey to the Golan Heights, gathering on the Syria border: Israelis from Jerusalem, the Galilee, and the Golan; Palestinians from Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, East Jerusalem and Jericho, joined by an international group of spiritual peace seekers.

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Another photo of the event, this one from the URI website

The article proceed to recount a group lunch at a restaurant “in the Druze village of Mas’adeh,”

followed by a trek southward “to the view point overlooking Quneitra, an abandoned town on the Israel-Syria border” that “is held by the Syrian army,” while “nearby villages are held by rebel groups, including ISIS.” From there, Twyman & co. “drove up to Mount Bental, to hold the Abrahamic Pulse global synchronized meditation event.” There they reportedly saw “a full rainbow around the sun.” Then Twyman and someone named Eliyahu McLean “gathered the diverse crowd into a circle,” and several leaders from various religious backgrounds led prayers.

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The cover of one of Twyman’s books

Like Fleming’s report, the URI piece said nothing in support of Twyman’s assertion that “Fighting stopped right in front  of us.”

It’s fair to say, then, that there’s a lot of hype going on here. First of all, Twyman, in his initial sales pitch, strongly implied that he’d be front and center at this event, with everyone else playing supporting roles; in the end, he seems to have been one of several idiots who played equally important roles in this idiocy.

But never mind that. The main thing is that he didn’t hook up with members of ISIS. He doesn’t even appear to have sought to hook up with members of ISIS. He went to the northeastern part of the Golan Heights, which is occupied by Israel. No, of course it isn’t the safest place in the world, but it’s not an active war zone, either. To be sure, it’s not far from a war zone: just over the Syrian border, a civil war is raging, with government troops fighting rebel forces just miles from the spot where Twyman and his buddies held their event. But between them and Twyman was the mighty IDF and the entire Israeli defense cordon.

In any event, ISIS isn’t operating anywhere near this area. Yes, in recent weeks some ISIS-linked groups have been identified as being active on Syrian territory just across the border from the southern Golan Heights. But that’s several dozen kilometers from where Twyman and his friends held their prayer circle. If there was, indeed, fighting underway near Twyman’s event, and he somehow made it stop, we’d be delighted to see the details. His failure to provide any seems, shall we say, conclusive. 

Robert Malley: “no tyrant too awful to shun”

We’ve seen how President Obama’s new point man on ISIS, Robert Malley, is the son of a viciously anti-Semitic, anti-American friend of Yasir Arafat and is himself a guy who, early in his career, made his name defaming Israel in print while ardently defending Arafat and other terrorists.

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Robert Malley

But Malley was just warming up. After Hamas took power in Gaza, he wrote an op-ed in which he defended the terrorist organization and encouraged Western governments to provide it with financial aid. In other articles, he defended Hezbollah and defended Syria’s ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, and al Qaeda in Iraq. In still other opinion pieces, he called for the U.S. to engage with Syria, to engage with Hamas, and to engage with the radical Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army in Iraq. All in all, it was a remarkable body of work – adding up to one long, mendacious justification for Islamic terror and tyranny.

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Martin Peretz

And it culminated, in 2007, in a job as foreign-policy advisor to a presidential hopeful – Barack Obama. In January 2008, one Obama supporter, New Republic publisher Martin Peretz, felt obliged to address what he described as “spooky rumors that a man named Robert Malley is one of Obama’s advisers, specifically his Middle East adviser.” Peretz noted that “Malley, who has written several deceitful articles in The New York Review of Books, is a rabid hater of Israel. No question about it.” But Peretz insisted that “Malley is not and has never been a Middle East adviser to Barack Obama. Obama’s Middle East adviser is Dan Shapiro.” (We suspect that Peretz was not being duplicitous here, but was, rather, misinformed – presumably by someone in the Obama campaign.)

arafatIn any event, Malley’s job on the Obama team didn’t last long. In May 2008, when Malley admitted to a reporter that he’d had regular contact with Hamas, the Obama campaign, fearful of the wrath of Jewish and other pro-Israel voters, fired him. That the dismissal was pragmatic and not principled was made clear on the day after the 2008 elections, when it was reported that Obama had sent Malley weeks earlier to Egypt and Syria to tell leaders of those countries about the candidate’s Mideast views.

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Working on the Iran nuke agreement in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 2015: US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Malley, EU Political Director Helga Schmid

Malley was back on the team. But pro-Israel folks in the U.S. still distrusted him enough that when he was named senior advisor in 2012, Obama felt obliged to promise that Malley wouldn’t be involved in Israeli-Palestinian issues. But that promise faded soon enough: two years later, Malley was promoted to a top job at the NSC; in March 2015, he was put in charge of the NSC’s entire Middle East policy – Israel, of course, included.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus

And now he’s Senior Advisor to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria. An Israeli blogger reported the news under the headline: “This is not the Onion: Obama appoints Hamas-loving Rob Malley his adviser on ISIS.” Lori Lowenthal Marcus, writing in the Jewish Press, didn’t mince words: “Malley is the kind of new-age negotiator who thinks there is no tyrant too awful to shun – unless, of course, you are talking about Israel – and is always eager to play up the ‘positive’ aspects of genocidal terrorist regimes as the justification for allowing them right there in the tent, seated next to you.” If U.S. policy on ISIS wasn’t already in the hands of useful stooges, it’s certainly in the hands of one now.

A putrid pedigree: Robert Malley

While in Paris with President Obama for the recent climate summit, White House press secretary Josh Earnest slipped a small detail into a briefing: the President, he said, had promoted Robert Malley, the National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, to the position of Senior Advisor to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria.

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Robert Malley

Who is Robert Malley? Born in 1963, he’s the son of two fiercely anti-Western, anti-democratic radicals. His mother, American-born Barbara Silverstein Malley, worked for the Algerian FLN’s delegation to the UN. His father, Simon Malley, was an Egyptian Jew, a leader of the Egyptian Communist Party, a friend and confidante of Yasir Arafat, a supporter of various terrorist groups (Algeria’s FLN) and dictators (Nasser, Nkrumah, Touré, Castro), and a rabid enemy of Israel. The family lived in France from 1969 to 1980, at which time Malley’s dad, who was suspected of engaging in clandestine pro-Soviet activities, was ordered to leave the country by then President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

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Simon Malley

French Interior Minister Christian Bonnet described some of the elder Malley’s articles as “genuine appeals to murder foreign chiefs of state.” Simon Malley published a magazine, Afrique-Asie, that “supported the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the Cuban intervention in Angola and Ethiopia, the seizure of American hostages in Iran, the Algerian-backed guerrilla war in southern Morocco, and the Arab opposition to Israel and the Camp David agreements.” The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has offered the following summing-up: “The world in which Robert Malley grew up was one in which Yasir Arafat, Fidel Castro, Leonid Brezhnev and Todor Zhivkov were heroes, any American leader – even Jimmy Carter! – was villainous, and Israeli leaders were veritable demons.”

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Malley (in glasses) at Camp David with Clinton, Arafat, and a Palestinian negotiator

Having been marinated in his parents’ extremist views, Robert Malley went to Yale, then Oxford. He attended Harvard Law at the same time as Obama. He then worked in the Clinton administration. Later – often in collaboration with former Arafat lackey Hussein Agha – he wrote a long series of flagrantly dishonest articles about the Middle East. In two 2001 op-eds, he blamed the failure of the previous year’s Camp David summit, in which he had played a key role, on Israel, not the Palestinians. This was a total lie – thoroughly rejected by other summit participants, including Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak – but his privileged position gave that lie legitimacy, and pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli activists were quick to parrot it, giving it a currency that it still enjoys. In later articles Malley heaped praise on Arafat while arguing that Israel was ultimately responsible for Palestinian terror.

But all that was mere prelude. We’ll get around to the really dark stuff tomorrow.