Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, kingmaker?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

There’s always a first time. Never in the history of this site have we felt called upon to revisit a subject only a couple of weeks after writing about it – or him, or her – but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the charismatic 28-year-old who shook up the American political scene by beating a ten-term establishment Democrat, New York’s Joe Crowley, in a primary race for his House seat, has received so much media attention in the wake of her victory that we consider ourselves obliged to update our report on her.

Joe Crowley

As we noted, Ocasio-Cortez calls herself a Democratic-Socialist. Not too many years ago, she would have been considered too far left for a serious career in national politics. After Bernie Sanders, that’s no longer the case. Staggering percentages of millennial Americans tell pollsters that they prefer socialism or Communism to capitalism. It helps that the Soviet Union fell before they were born, and that they’re either uneducated about the reality of socialism or have been fed pro-socialist propaganda by their teachers. So it is that somebody like Ocasio-Cortez is being interviewed on national media – and getting cheers from studio audiences.

Tom Perez

She’s also getting cheers from Democratic Party officials. She hasn’t even been elected to the House yet, but on July 3 Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called her “the future of our party,” and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted a thumbs-up for the ambitious young woman.

Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t just been collecting endorsements, but handing them out. The Daily Beast reported that her support for Kerri Harris, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware, and Ayanna Pressley, who is running for Congress from Massachusetts, has caused donations for both campaigns to soar. The same goes for Kaniela Ing and Brent Welder, who are running for Congress from Hawaii and Kansas respectively.

Abdul El-Sayed

One of Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsements has gained particular attention. “Michigan is blessed to have Abdul El-Sayed as a candidate for Governor, and I am proud to support him,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on July 2. Who is El-Sayed? A former public-health director for the city of Detroit, he is a Muslim who, as a college student, was a vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Students Association. At a recent candidates’ forum, he refused to provide a direct answer to a query about sharia law – a perfectly reasonable question given his religious affiliation, and given the fact that courts in Michigan, which has America’s highest concentration of Muslims, is currently facing cases of female genital mutilation and honor killing.

Patrick Colbeck

When El-Sayed’s opponent in the governor’s race, Patrick Colbeck, replied to the question by speaking frankly and critically about sharia law, jihad, and the Muslim Brotherhood, El-Sayed went ballistic, accusing Republicans in general of racism and white supremacy. While Colbeck had made it clear that he was troubled by certain aspects of Islamic doctrine itself but had no personal animus against individual Muslims, a furious El-Sayed called Colbeck an Islamophobe, saying, “Now you may not hate Muslims, but I’ll tell you, Muslims definitely hate you!”

This, then, is a man whose political career Ocasio-Cortez is championing. Need we say more? Well, given the degree of attention she is receiving, and the amount of new information that is coming out about her by the day, we’ll probably find it necessary to revisit this rising socialist star yet again in the very near future.

Foreign Policy: a despicable whitewash

Jonathan A.C. Brown

Back in March, we spent several days examining Jonathan A. C. Brown, a convert to Islam who runs Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and teaches in Georgetown’s Department of Arab and Islamic Studies. In particular, we paid attention to a February lecture by Brown entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery,” in which he did a masterful job of whitewashing his adopted faith. His lecture professed to address the question: “Is there slavery in Islam?” The answer to this question is clear: Yes. But Brown served up one ridiculous qualifier after another.

What, after all, he wondered aloud, do we mean by slavery? The line between a slave and some paid employees, he suggested, is not a clear one. (Ridiculous.) In many ways, people are “slaves” to their spouses and others whom they love. (Also ridiculous.) Slaves in Muslim households have traditionally been treated much better than prisoners on American chain gangs. (Prove it.) Unlike antebellum slavery in the American South, Muslim slavery has never been “racialized.” (An outright lie.) During the days of the Ottoman Empire, many slaves were well-treated and widely respected. (Again, prove it. And even if true, so what?) Brown waxed philosophical: “What does ownership mean?” “[W]hat does freedom mean?” After his talk, Brown entertained questions from the audience, and in reply to one of them he stated quite clearly: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.”

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Deservedly, Brown’s lecture drew widespread attention and condemnation. But others have rushed to his defense. Enter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who, writing on March 16 under the aegis of the respected journal Foreign Policy (where she is an assistant editor), presented the reaction to Brown as an example of Islamophobia. The title of her piece was “The Making of Islamophobia Inc.,” and under the title was this summary: “A well-funded network is trying to strip the right to speak away from American Muslims and fanning the politics of fear.” Allen-Ebrahimian argued that while Brown’s work is largely “aimed at making Islamic thought more accessible to general audiences,” his “attempts to explain the faith have made him a hate figure for the American right.” In his February lecture, she claimed, Brown had “addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings.”

Robert Spencer

In response, according to Allen-Ebrahimian, right-wingers had come out in force, misrepresenting Brown’s arguments. Brown, she lamented, “is the victim of an increasingly empowered industry of Islamophobia that constricts the space for balanced and open dialogue, sidelining the very Muslims who are doing the most to promote peaceful, orthodox interpretations of Islam.” Allen-Ebrahimian compared these critics of Brown to “the McCarthyites of the 1950s.” Singling out one of those critics, the Islam expert Robert Spencer, Allen-Ebrahimian actually suggested that Spencer’s writings had inspired the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. She also cited such websites as the Daily Caller, Heat Street, and Breitbart, calling them part of “a self-reinforcing online ecosystem that churns out frenzied headlines and constructs alternate online biographies…in which normal American Muslims are painted as Muslim Brotherhood-linked, jihad-loving, rape-defending threats to the American way of life. Brown’s lecture lasted like chum in shark-infested waters.”

Fortunately, Allen-Ebrahimian’s reprehensible, mendacious screed wasn’t allowed to stand. Tune in tomorrow.

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.