Lying about Israel: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

Today we’re continuing our look at Saree Makdisi, a nephew of slimy academic fake Edward Said and a vicious UCLA anti-Semite in his own right. Yesterday we glanced at a Los Angeles Times op-ed in which he served up a stunning defense of the unvarnished Jew-hatred of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. But Makdisi has actually been a fount of mischievous L.A. Times contributions. In another one of these propaganda tidbits, he complained about “attacks on academic freedom” and “the intimidation of students” on U.S. campuses.

Edward Said

Was he referring to the widespread harassment of Jewish students (and faculty!) by Muslims and their ideological allies? As the Honest Reporting website noted, “it is Jewish and pro-Israel (or even just neutral) students who are intimidated, delegitimized, harassed, excluded, discriminated against, held responsible for Israel’s actions, targeted with anti-Semitism, have had to hide from a violent anti-Israel mob and be extracted by the police, and been disrupted and shouted down and silenced to stop them speaking the truth to defend Israel against BDS lies.” But no, Makdisi wasn’t referring to any of this. He was referring to the fact that the torrents of anti-Semitic rhetoric churned out by himself and other academics in American universities were now being monitored and reported on by their critics. Never mind that Makdisi’s writings about Israel and the Palestinians are often riddled with lies, and that his critics quote him with meticulous accuracy.

Milan Chatterjee

The specific concern of Makdisi’s op-ed was a course at Berkeley that, as Honest Reporting put it, “distorts the history of the Jewish connection to Israel, denies Israel’s right to exist, and explores how Israel might be destroyed, no doubt making things feel even more uncomfortable and unsafe for Jewish and pro-Israel students.” Honest Reporting also quoted a student leader, Milan Chatterjee, who actually left UCLA because of the intense level of harassment he endured at the hands of Makdisi’s BDS thugs. But Makdisi expresses no concern for such kids – on the contrary, if they’re feeling discomfort it’s because they’ve been exposed to a truth. The real victims, those who are really being intimidated, according to Makdisi, are him and his fellow pro-Palestinian heroes. The Honest Reporting site had a cogent reply to this nonsense: “Tell that to the Jewish students at the UC Irvine who had to barricade themselves to escape a BDS mob trying to violently disrupt an event.”

Tamar Sternthal

In yet another oped, published in January 2016, Makdidi called for an academic boycott of Israel. Replying to it, Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA complained that the lies in his L.A. Times op-eds “would earn a failing mark on a high school paper.” As an example of his falsehoods, Sternthal cited Makdisi’s claim that “there is not a single high school in the Palestinian communities in the Negev desert in southern Israel.” Sternthal replied: “In fact, there are more than 40 high schools for Bedouin students in the Negev.” Another Makdisi lie: “Israeli universities systematically fail their Palestinian students.” On the contrary, wrote Sternthal, Israel’s Council for Higher Education runs an undergraduate scholarship program for 650 Arab students: “Why would Israel allocate millions of shekels just for Arab students simply to systematically flunk them out?” Lies, lies, lies. Somewhere up there, Makdisi’s deceit-ridden uncle Edward is smiling.

 

Chip off the old block: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

This week we’ve been hopping from one West Coast college campus to another, taking brief meetings with some of the Golden State’s more unsavory academic anti-Semites. Today and tomorrow we’ll be spending a bit more time with a particularly prominent member of that breed, namely Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor of English and Comparative Literature.

Edward Said

Makdisi just so happens to be a nephew of Edward Said – the late Columbia University superstar who came up with the idea of delegitimizing Western scholars of Arabic, Middle Eastern, or Asian culture by accusing them of “Orientalism.” Makdisi is a chip off the old block. As he explains on his own page at the UCLA website, he writes about “the crossroad of several different fields, including British Romanticism, imperial culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and criticism, and the cultures of urban modernity particularly the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces, including London, Beirut and Jerusalem.”

A “changed urban space”: a car bomb in Beirut

That last part is particularly interesting. Talk about euphemism: “the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces.” Such as the Muslim takeover of the East End, the violent expulsion of Jews and Christians from Beirut, and the concerted effort by Palestinian Muslims and their activist academic allies to deny that Jerusalem was, indeed, the ancient capital and holy city of the Jewish people.

Makdisi is himself one of those mendacious souls who deny flat-out that Jews have any historical connection whatsoever to Judea and Samaria. A leader of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, he calls Israel an “apartheid state,” accuses it of deliberately trying to stunt the grown of children in Gaza, and has promoted as authentic those staged “Pallywood” videos in which Palestinians pretend to be abused or killed by Israelis. On his Twitter feed, he alternates between defending Muslims – terrorists included – and demonizing Jews, Israel, and America.

Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester bombing

After the terrorist attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, he banged out several tweets implying that the murders of those girls were motivated by – and presumably even justified by – American and British actions in the Middle East. Two examples:

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

They” hate “our” values, eh? (a) what values? (b) connect the dots between violent foreign policy & domestic blowback.

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

Car bombs in Baghdad and Kabul and yet more US indiscriminate murder of civilians in Yemen, Syria, Iraq. Connect the dots to Manchester.

He also writes regularly for several anti-Semitic websites, and has also had a number of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, all of them about Israel and the Palestinians. In them, he’s called on Americans to boycott Israeli schools, accused Israel of a “policy of erasure,” and denied that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

Helen Thomas

Some of his L.A. Times op-eds deserve special attention. In one of them, published in 2010, he defended notorious remarks that had recently been made in an interview by the Lebanese-American White House reporter Helen Thomas. The Israeli Jews, Thomas said, should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas added: “Remember these people [Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land. It’s not Poland, it’s not Germany.” When asked by her interviewer what the Jews in Israel should do, she said: “They should go home. Poland. Germany….. And America. And everywhere else.” Makdisi, being as slick a customer as his uncle, defended Thomas in a cagey way, with sentences like this: “One does not have to agree with Thomas to note that her remark spoke to the ugly history of colonialism, racism, usurpation and denial that are at the heart of the question of Palestine.” No, her remarks spoke to the bigotry of a nasty old woman who refuses to accept that there have always been Jews in the Levant, and that Israel, not Poland or Germany, is indeed their ancestral home.

More tomorrow.

I.F. Stone, journalist hero – and KGB spy

I. F. Stone

On this site we’ve discussed Oliver Stone and Sharon Stone, but one Stone we haven’t yet gotten around to is the journalist I.F. Stone (1907-89). Which is odd, because this particular Stone could very well have been the mascot of this website, a dubious honor we awarded at the outset to Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow correspondent who systematically whitewashed Stalin’s crimes and sang his praises in America’s newspaper of record.

It is no exaggeration to say that Stone was revered. In 1999, New York University’s journalism department named his newsletter, I.F. Stone’s Weekly, which he published from 1953 to 1971, the second most important American journalistic periodical of the twentieth century. In 2008, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University began awarding the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.

Independence: that was the word they invariably used when describing Stone. That, and words like “rectitude” and “probity.” His New York Times obituary began as follows: “I. F. Stone, the independent, radical pamphleteer of American journalism….” It went on to call him a “maverick” and praise his “integrity.” The London Times entitled its obituary “I.F. Stone: Spirit of America’s Independent Journalism”; the headline in the Los Angeles Times obit called him “The Conscience of Investigative Journalism.” A posthumous editorial in the Boston Globe began with this statement: “For thousands of American journalists, I.F. Stone represented an ideal.”

In fact, he was a KGB spy.

A brief bio: the son of Russian immigrants (his birth name was Isidor Feinstein), Stone quit college to become a journalist. He served for a time as editor of the New York Post, then worked as a staffer and/or contributor to The Nation, New Republic, PM, and other left-wing political journals before starting his own weekly. Throughout his long career, he was known for his strong leftist leanings.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, he was an ardent supporter of the newly born State of Israel, but later became one of its fiercest critics and an outspoken champion of the Palestinian cause. He was also a vocal opponent of the Korean War and Vietnam War. Nobody who read his work could mistake him for anything but a far leftist with (usually) an obvious soft spot for the Soviet Union.

John Earl Haynes

All along, a few canny observers suspected that Stone was working for the Kremlin. In 1992, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union, credible-sounding reports began circulating to the effect that Stone had been a KGB man. John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev finally coughed up the goods in their 2009 book Spies, about KGB operatives in America. Stone, it turned out, had been on the Kremlin’s payroll as a full-fledged spy beginning in 1936 and ending perhaps in 1938, perhaps several years later. (On this question the records have yet to yield a definitive answer.) “Stone assisted Soviet intelligence on a number of tasks,” wrote Haynes and his co-authors, “ranging from doing some talent spotting acting as a courier by relaying information to other agents, and providing private journalistic tidbits and data the KGB found interesting.”

In other words, this widely venerated pillar of integrity and personification of independence was in fact a secret Kremlin operative. Spies established this fact beyond question in 2009. It is interesting to note that this information has not made much of a dent in Stone’s reputation among true believers on the left. Harvard did not change the name of its medal for journalistic independence, and none of the people who have won the award since 2009 have declined to accept it.

Then again, many of those winners – including Putin apologist Robert Parry, socialist radio host Amy Goodman, and Nation editor and publisher Victor Navasky – are precisely the sort of “journalists” who wouldn’t much mind having their name associated with that of a Soviet spy. Which is precisely why we’re here at this website, writing about these unpleasant people and their unpleasant antics day after day.  

Kuba with a K

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, left, poses with the models who participated in the presentation of his "cruise" line for fashion house Chanel, at the Paseo del Prado street in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. With the heart of the Cuban capital effectively privatized by an international corporation under the watchful eye of the Cuban state, the premiere of Chanel 2016/2017 "cruise" line offered a startling sight in a country officially dedicated to social equality and the rejection of material wealth. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Karl Lagerfeld in Havana with some of his models

As more and more clueless and uncaring characters have made their way to Cuba during recent months, we’ve been following them there. Recently we took note of the Chanel fashion show that Karl Lagerfeld brought to Havana, spreading a thick layer of Seventh Avenue glitz over that crumbling city’s decades of Stalinist grit and grime. We’d be remiss if we didn’t add to the list the family whose name has become synonymous with the utter indifference of privileged Western celebrities to political and economic systems that have denied other people the rights and opportunities that have made them (i.e., the celebrities) rich and famous. We’re talking, of course, about that awful, ubiquitous clan whose name begins with a K and who, in early May, took their reality show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, to the island prison as part of their endless effort to stay in the spotlight and cultivate world-class photo ops. 

kardashiancuba
Kim Kardashian, husband Kanye West, and their child North West in Havana

“Both the Karl Lagerfeld Chanel fashion show and Kardashian trip to Cuba for their TV show is emblematic of celebrity culture at its worst,” Cuba-born Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told the Los Angeles Times. “I know it might be a high bar to ask famous folks to draw attention to human rights abuses by the Castro regime, but playing a role in making Cuba a fun, no-worries destination is nothing but a cruel trick on the Cuban people. The Kardashians are taking lots of selfies in Havana, but are they taking stock of the reality on the streets they walk on?”

khloe-kardashian-blasted-by-social-media-users-for-posing-under-fidel-castro-sign-in-cubaIf you believe the gossip corner of the New York Post, Page Six, the Kardashians were “freaking out they [couldn’t] post on Snapchat in Cuba.” Even better, they didn’t managed to scare up the kind of attention there that they’re accustomed to. “Finally,” observed CNN’s Emily Smith, “there’s a place where no one cares about the Kardashians.” But this doesn’t mean that their slumming didn’t make headlines back home. In a welcome departure from the usual stateside indifference to such hijinks – at least according to Refinery29 (“the fastest growing independent fashion and style website in the United States”) – a photo posted by Khloé K. on Instagram, which put on display “the Kardashians’ apparent lack of knowledge (or disregard for) the country’s fraught political and social history,” made many social-network mavens “livid.” The picture (above) shows Khloé standing in front of a wall on which is written Fidel, the name of the never-elected monster who led the Cuban “Revolution” and served as “president” of that totalitarian empire for nearly half a century until, in 2008, he yielded power, nominally or not, to his brother, Raúl.

Kardashians-in-Cuba
A couple of the K. ladies in Havana

The picture, reported Refinery 29, “garnered comments on Instagram accusing the Kardashian[s] of disrespect and ignorance,” with some followers comparing the picture “to a tacit endorsement of Hitler.” Charged one commenter: “Might as well stand in front of a picture of hitler [sic] with emoji hearts in your eyes! I’m Cuban and this is fucking disrespectful.” Many social-network fans noted that the snap was particularly bemusing given the fact that Khloé “has spoken up about the Armenian genocide.” But the surprising thing, needless to say, isn’t that these PR whores are insensitive about Cuban Communism; it’s that one of them has even heard of the Armenian genocide.