Bill de Blasio: marching with a murderer

Oscar López Rivera

It was enjoyable to read New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s livid charge that the defection of sponsors from the Big Apple’s forthcoming Puerto Rican Day Parade – in response to her announcement that the parade would be honoring terrorist murderer Oscar López Rivera – had been “orchestrated” by those “ultra right-wing” types who want Puerto Rico to be a state, not a separate country. (Lopez’s cause, as we’ve previously noted, was and is Puerto Rican independence, Castro style.) Never mind that, as the New York Post pointed out, that “ultra right-wing” fringe of statehood supporters consists of about 70 percent of the island’s population. (Coincidentally, voters in Puerto Rico will have their next chance to vote on their island’s status on June 11, the same day their cousins in New York are marching down Fifth Avenue.) Mark-Viverito continued to insist that López is a “freedom fighter” and former “prisoner of war” and maintained her refusal to say anything sympathetic for those killed and wounded in acts of FALN terrorism.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

Unsurprisingly, Mayor Bill de Blasio – the kind of far-left politician who is reflexively sympathetic to terrorists like López – still plans to march with the murderer.

Yet as Caroll Alvarado wrote in the Post, also on May 27, many Puerto Ricans in New York have decided to give the mayor the bird and join Jet Blue, Goya, and Univision in boycotting the parade. “I’m as Puerto Rican as it gets, but I can’t support the parade this year,” Angi Silva told Alvarado. “We should be focusing on helping our island, not honoring a criminal.” Jaida Selvenajnole agreed, noting that López “went to jail for a reason.” And Zoraida Vega, calling López a “criminal,” said: “He was in jail for 35 years. Why are we honoring him?…The mayor shouldn’t be going. It doesn’t look right.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

For Mark-Viverito aide Luis Miranda – who happens to be the father of Broadway darling Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) – these critics of López are nothing but a bunch of “Trump/right-winger Latinos.” The New York Times,  in a May 29 story about the controversy, managed to find Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans living in New York) on both sides of the issue.

Budet and his banner

Among those in the pro-López camp was Smokey Escobar, age 62, who provided this cryptic comment: “Why not? He earned it, in his way.” Then there was Ricardo Gabriel, whom the paper identified as a 36-year-old “doctoral candidate writing about Puerto Rican activists at the City University of New York.” Gabriel was described as seeing “a silver lining” in the decision of all those corporate sponsors to back out: “The parade has been dominated by corporate sponsors, and I felt like it wasn’t authentic anymore,” he said. “But now, with Goya and others pulling out, I think this is a step in the right direction.” In other words, better a murderer than a corporation. Terrorism may be bad, but capitalism is worse. (Apparently all those years of grad school have really paid off for Mr. Gabriel.) The Times also ran a picture of Puerto Rican artist Osvaldo Budet “hanging a banner in support of Oscar López Rivera at El Puente community center in Brooklyn,” an institution that (to judge by its website) has close and complicated ties to the New York City Board of Education, among other municipal agencies. We wondered how much New York taxpayer money goes every year to this organization that stands with a man who was responsible for the cold-blooded murder of New York taxpayers.

Honoring a murderer in New York

The aftermath of the Fraunces Tavern bombing

Three facts. First, the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN) was a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group that was dedicated to Puerto Rican independence and that, between 1974 and 1983, killed several people in over a hundred bomb attacks within the United States. The most famous of these actions was a 1975 bombing that took four lives at the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

Oscar López Rivera

Second, Oscar López Rivera was an FALN leader who was arrested in 1980, sentenced to 55 years in federal prison in 1981, and released on May 17 as the result of a commutation order issued by Barack Obama three days before the end of his presidency. President Clinton had offered to release him as far back as 1999 on the condition that he renounce violence – but López Rivera refused. Obama placed no such condition on him.

Third, the organizers of New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade announced in early May that the parade, set to take place on June 11, would honor López Rivera as a “National Freedom Hero.”

Joseph Connor

Joseph Connor, the son of one of the four people killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing, Frank Connor, responded to the news with a furious op-ed in the New York Post. “The idea is truly sickening,” he wrote. Reminding readers that New York City had been the setting for the “most horrific” of all of FALN’s bombings, he asked: “Why would anyone in New York salute this man — particularly in the midst of our nation’s war on terrorists?”

Melissa Mark-Viverito

Even more appalling, the announcement of this twisted tribute to López Rivera had been made by a public official, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, at “the very site of the most horrific terror attack in our nation’s history,” namely the 9/11 assault on the Twin Towers. Coincidentally, Frank Connor’s godson, Steve Schlag, was one of the over 3000 victims of that assault. And that wasn’t the only grim coincidence: the Twin Towers, Joseph Connor noted, was the location of a 1977 threat by FALN that “prompted an evacuation” of both towers.

So it is, wrote Joseph Connor, that “the city in which our father was born, raised, worked and was murdered — a city bloodied by the most savage of all terrorist attacks on 9/11 — will play host to honoring” a terrorist with the blood of New Yorkers on his hands.

Fraunces Tavern

As Connor pointed out, López Rivera’s terrorism never had the slightest thing to do with freedom. Puerto Ricans have frequently had the opportunity to vote on the status of their island – independence, statehood, or a continuation of its unique commonwealth status? “Never more than 5 percent of them have ever voted for independence from America,” wrote Connor, “and in 2012 fully 60 percent voted for statehood.”

No, what López Rivera was fighting for was not freedom but “subjugation in a Cuba-like state.” After all, another notorious FALN member, William Morales, “has been a guest of Cuba for over 30 years.” New Yorkers, maintained Connor, “should be fuming. The NYPD and FDNY should refuse to participate.”

As of this writing, there’s no news about the NYPD or FDNY pulling out of the parade. But on May 16, it was reported that Goya Foods, America’s “oldest and best-known Hispanic food company,” had withdrawn support from the parade because of the tribute to López Rivera. But Univision, Telemundo, SBS, JetBlue, Coca-Cola, AT&T, McDonald’s, and the New York Yankees all stayed on as sponsors.

As the date of the parade approaches, we’ll keep an eye on developments.  

Rasmea Odeh, terrorist and feminist

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Linda Sansour

Recently we looked at Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the January 21 Women’s March. Less than two months later, on March 8, another mass women’s event was held: the so-called Day Without a Woman, which, according to its official website, sought to recognize “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system – while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”

Why another large-scale action so soon after the first? Well, they were meant to be two very different kinds of actions – the first, a march; the second, a sort of “general strike,” an “international day of struggle.” The website for A Day Without A Woman called on women to “take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor,” to “[a]void shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses),” and to “[w]ear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman.” The organizers also declared their solidarity with “the ‘Bodega strike’ lead [sic] by Yemeni immigrant store owners in New York City and the Day Without Immigrants across the U.S.”

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Rasmea Yousef Odeh

Now, about those organizers. As we’ve discussed on this site, one of the four top names behind the Women’s March on January 21, Linda Sarsour, is a fierce supporter of sharia law. As it happens, one of the organizers of A Day Without A Woman is Rasmea Yousef Odeh, who does Sarsour one better: not only is she a sharia enthusiast – she’s a convicted terrorist.

Here’s the story. Back in 1969, Odeh, then a university student, was involved in the bombing of a crowded Jerusalem supermarket. Two students from Hebrew University, Leon Kanner (21) and Eddie Joffe (22), were killed; nine others were wounded. A second bomb at the same site was defused. Four days later, a bomb went off at the British Consulate. Odeh was involved in that bombing, too.

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The Jerusalem supermarket after the bombing, 1969

Odeh’s guilt was beyond doubt. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which the U.S. State Department considers a terrorist organization and which took “credit” for both bombings. Explosives and bomb-making materials were found in her home. Odeh was sentenced to life in 1970 but after ten years in prison was released, along with several dozen other terrorists, in an exchange for an IDF soldier held captive by the PFLP.

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The graves of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner

In the mid 1990s, she moved to the U.S., where she eventually became a citizen. She was involved in activism on behalf of Palestinian women in Israeli jails and became associate director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network. Four years ago, it was discovered that she had failed to reveal her criminal background when submitting her immigration application. She was convicted of immigration fraud in November 2014, stripped of her U.S. citizenship, and spent a year and a half in prison. In February 2016, however, an appeals court vacated her conviction; last December, she was granted a new trial, which began in January.

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Angela Davis and friend

“All right,” you may say, “Odeh may be a terrorist. But that doesn’t mean the event was illegitimate. After all, she’s not the only organizer.” Alas, one of the other organizers was Angela Davis, the longtime Communist and Black Panther who was once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. (We wrote about her last year, here and here.) Another was Tithi Bhattacharya, who, as Kyle Smith noted in the New York Post, “praised Maoism in an essay for the International Socialist Review.” These are the people who are presenting themselves as the voices of ordinary American women.

Fronting for the DPRK: The Kaufman Music Center

The Ureuk Symphony Orchestra

Last October, we wrote about the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble that had performed before an enthusiastic crowd at the Kaufman Music Center, a major New York City concert venue, on September 22. Five days after the concert, the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell of an article which revealed that the event, billed as a “Peace Korea Concert,” had in fact been pure North Korean propaganda. In addition to standard items from the classical repertoire, the evening’s program had included North Korean works celebrating the Kim dynasty, praising Kim Jong-un, and calling for the absorption of South Korea into North Korea.

That’s Christopher Joonmoo Lee in the middle

Since the words were all in Korean, of course, many audience members didn’t really know what they were listening to. There were exceptions, though: among those in attendance were several North Korean diplomats, including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. The orchestra conductor, Christopher Joonmoo Lee, also understood every word. For, as it turned out, Lee, whose Korean name is Ri Jun Mu, isn’t just any musician: he’s a crony and operative of the Pyongyang regime. He spends a lot of time in North Korea and appears regularly on North Korean TV. As if all this weren’t explosive enough, the Journal pointed out that the orchestra had been performing at the Kaufman Music Center several times a year for over a decade – and in the city that may be the hub of the international news media, no reporter, apparently, had ever put it all together.

The Journal‘s revelations came as a surprise not only to most of the people who’d attended its September 22 concert but also to some of the musicians in the orchestra. The piece was, in fact, so devastating that we assumed – or, at least, hoped – that it would bring an end to this chapter in the history of North Korean propaganda. Nope! On February 4, an article in the New York Post brought the news that the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra was coming back to the Kaufman Music Center on that very day. This time around, the concert was entitled “February Spring” – a phrase used in North Korea to refer to Kim Jong-il’s birthday on February 16. The program, as always, would mix classical chestnuts with “North Korean cult songs praising the regime and its dictators, presented innocently as simply ‘Korean folk tunes,’ ‘music from a North Korean composer,’ etc.”

Lee surrounded by friends and fans

As the Post observed, what mattered here was not “that some unsuspecting Upper West Side 1-percenters are listening to militaristic songs,” but that “back in North Korea the concerts are touted as a triumph in the land of the ‘American bastards.’ It’s cultural warfare at its finest.” Indeed. The Post also added several details that were new to us. For one thing, the Ureuk concerts are underwritten by the Korean American National Coordinating Council, “a fanatically pro-Pyongyang front group once reportedly investigated by the US government for tax evasion and for serving as agents of North Korea.” For another, Lee, the orchestra conductor, is “a KANCC board member and a zealous supporter of the North Korean dictatorship.” He’s taken part in the “April Spring Friendship Art Festival,” an annual event in Pyongyang, and has written a poem celebrating the idea that North Korean nuclear bombs “could be the ‘death rattle’ of the ‘big-nosed’ Americans.” This from the man who wields the baton at “Peace Concerts”!

No, it’s no surprise that fanatical North Korean loyalists are doing their best to spread the Kim regime’s propaganda in the evil West. But why is the Kaufman Music Center providing them with a hall? Why didn’t the Wall Street Journal exposé put an end to this outrage once and for all? Why are people buying tickets to these things? Are Manhattanites that starved for classical music offerings?

Joseph Massad: betraying gays

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Joseph Massad

We’ve been discussing Joseph Massad, yet another Columbia University professor whose “teaching” consists largely of spreading Jew-hatred, spouting contempt for the West, and whitewashing the history of Islam. In these regards, he’s of a piece with his colleagues Hamid Dabashi and Gil Anidjar, whose careers we’ve already looked at. But Massad has one attribute that makes him stand out amidst his fellow propagandists in Columbia’s Middle Eastern Studies department: he’s gay. Now, you might think that as a gay man he would appreciate the freedom that gay people enjoy in the Western world and would look upon Islamic culture, with its harsh treatment of gay people, more critically than men like Dabashi and Anidjar.

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James Kirchick

Nope. Massad first laid it all out in a 2002 article, “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World,” and then elaborated on it in a 2007 book, Desiring Arabs. Now try to follow this: as Massad sees it, homosexuality exists in all cultures, but gay identity is a Western construct, and campaigns for gay rights in Islamic countries are therefore acts of colonialism. As James Kirchick put it in 2007, Massad views “the case for gay rights in the Middle East [as] an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West.” The efforts of those gay activists (whom Massad dubs the “Gay International”) to bring gay rights to the Muslim world are, in his view, not benign but malignant – just one more aspect of the American and Israeli effort to crush Muslim culture, Muslim values, and Muslim morality. “Massad’s intellectual project,” comments Kirckick, “is a not-so-tacit apology for the oppression of people who identify openly as homosexual. In so doing, he sides with Islamist regimes over Islamic liberals.”

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Two of the 52 men arrested on the Nile party boat

Nor is Massad’s position purely theoretical. In 2011, when Egyptian police arrested 52 gay men on a party boat on the Nile and then proceeded to torture and shame them, parading them in public and showing them on television, Massad sided with the authorities, dismissing the 52 men as “westernized” persons who got what they had coming to them because of their fraternization with gay Western tourists. For Massad, the 52 men, being Egyptian, couldn’t really be gay, even though many of them explicitly said they were; in Massad’s lexicon, they were “gay-identified” – meaning that they identified not with their own culture, and with the categories that are a natural part of that culture, but with the colonialist Western enemy.

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Tom Lantos

Massad also condemned the U.S. congressmen Barney Frank and Tom Lantos, who threatened to stop U.S. aid to Egypt unless the 52 men were set free. Massad defended his position in the following way: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”

One of the 52 men described their arrest as “our Stonewall,” a reference to the 1969 riot in New York’s Greenwich Village that is generally viewed as marking the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. But Massad rejected this claim, saying that while the Stonewall rioters saw themselves as gay, the 52 Egyptian men did “not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny.” As Kirchick observed, “Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced.” Massad further maintains that very few Arabs who have sex with other men think of themselves as “gay” or support the idea of gay rights.

massadbokIndeed, as Kirchick underscores, all 418 pages of Desiring Arabs are predicated on this claim. But Massad offers no evidence to support it; he doesn’t take into account that to openly identify as gay or engage in gay activism in much of the Arab world would be to risk instant death; and he ignores evidence such as that presented in a 2002 article by Yossi Klein Halevi, who had interviewed a number of young Palestinian men who lived in Tel Aviv. All of the men engaged in same-sex activity, all identified as gay, and all had fled from Gaza or the West Bank, where they stood a very good chance of being imprisoned or murdered by their own families or friends, in order to be able to live in the safety of Israel.

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Martin Kramer

If you think a man who holds such repulsive positions should not be on the faculty of Columbia in the first place, the fact is that he has come close to getting fired. Accused in 2004 of harassing pro-Israel students, he was exonerated by a faculty committee, although its “findings” were widely viewed as a whitewash. When he was up for tenure in 2009, a battle ensued. Fellow Middle East scholar Martin Kramer wrote that “Massad does Columbia no credit”; after Columbia President Lee Bollinger signed off on Massad’s tenure, the New York Daily News called on the university’s trustees to block tenure. Jacob Gershman wrote in the New York Post that “Columbia’s trustees must decide: Do they attempt to clean up after Bollinger and stop this absurdity—or do they confer academic legitimacy on Massad’s ideas and agenda? Hesitant to insert themselves in an academic matter, the trustees would be wise to consider the consequences of silence.”

Lies, bullying, and Jew-bashing: Hamid Dabashi

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Hamid Dabashi

In 2004, a Boston-based group called the David Project produced a 40-minute video, Columbia Unbecoming, in which fourteen Columbia University students and recent graduates recounted classroom encounters with anti-Israel “bias and intimidation” on the part of various faculty members in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). Among the three professors who were considered most guilty of this offense was Hamid Dabashi, whom we met yesterday and who, as Israeli-British historian Ephraim Karsh later reported in Commentary, “was accused of, among other things, canceling classes to attend, and to permit his students to attend, a pro-Palestinian rally on campus that featured a call for Israel’s destruction.” In Dabashi’s view, wrote Karsh, “Israel not only has no legitimate place but can hardly be said to exist, except as an unnamed Dark Force.”

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Ephraim Karsh

In 2002, a Columbia University student named Aharon wrote an op-ed critical of Dabashi in the New York Post. Three years later, Dabashi claimed in a radio interview that he’d “stopped speaking publicly” after Aharon’s Post piece “because of a rash of threatening phone calls” that he had received from readers of it. During the radio interview, Dabashi played a recording of one of the phone calls, in which the caller said the following: “Mr. Dabashi, I read about you in today’s New York Post. You stinking terrorist Muslim pig. I hope the CIA is studying you so it can kick you out of this country back to some filthy Arab country where you belong, you terrorist bastard.” Aharon pointed out that three years earlier, in an article for the Times Higher Education Supplement, Dabashi had cited the exact same phone message. “This double use of the same call, years apart,” wrote Aharon,

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Edward Said

spurs several thoughts:

  1. It confirms my doubts about the onslaught of threatening calls he supposedly received due to my critique. The call he received is indeed vile and inexcusable, but it is not a threat. (Meaning, law enforcement would not find it actionable.)
  2. The recycling of this call years apart confirms how few calls he received – or why else would Dabashi keep coming back to the same old one?
  3. Dabashi falsely presented a call from 2002 as though it happened in 2005.
  4. His claim in the March 6, 2005, radio interview that he “has stopped speaking publicly” because of threatening phone calls is untrue. [Aharon proceeded to list several occasions since 2002 on which Dabashi had, indeed, given speeches in public.]
  5. Dabashi’s inability to get the facts of his own life correctly emulates his mentor, Edward Said, who famously lied about his childhood, as Justus Weiner so remarkably exposed in a September 1999 article, “’My Beautiful Old House’ and Other Fabrications of Edward Said.”

But all this is just prologue to Dabashi’s more egregious offenses. More tomorrow.

“La gringa terrorista”

TOMA DE LA EMBAJADA DE JAPON
MRTA guerrillas in the Japanese embassy in Lima

Yesterday we covered the early years of Lori Berenson, who dropped out of MIT to become a terrorist in Peru (after brief stints as a budding revolutionary in Nicaragua and El Salvador). In December 1996, after she and other members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) were arrested, tried, convicted, and locked away, several of their MRTA confederates occupied the residence of the Japanese ambassador to Peru, took hostages, and demanded that Berenson and the other MRTA prisoners be released in exchange for them; instead of negotiation, however, the Peruvian government sent in special forces, who succeeded in killing all the hostage-takers.

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Rhoda and Mark Berenson campaigning for Lori’s release

Meanwhile Berenson’s parents were trying other approaches to springing her from the Peruvian cárcel. In fact, they quit their jobs to devote their lives full-time to this effort. They hired a filmmaker to produce a documentary about Lori. Rhoda Berenson, Lori’s mother, wrote a book entitled Lori: My Daughter, Wrongfully Imprisoned in Peru. (Noam Chomsky wrote the foreword, Ramsey Clark the afterword.) In 2000, the New York Observer profiled Rhoda, describing her as having been “a real New York classic: a physics teacher who took dance lessons at Martha Graham, who had a subscription to the Joyce Theater, who cooked, graded papers and danced under the stars at Lincoln Center with her husband, Mark, a retired statistician who taught at Baruch College.” Now, however, her life was totally different: she and her husband were taking turns flying to Peru every other week to visit Lori and discuss their expensive legal efforts to free her.

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Rod Dreher

Also in 2000, both parents went on Oprah, where, as Rod Dreher wrote in the New York Post, they “made an impassioned case for America’s support for their daughter.” Their case, alas, was based entirely on lies. When Oprah asked why Lori had been in Peru in the first place, Rhoda Berenson said, “She was there to help the poor.” The little detail of her involvement in the plotting of large-scale terrorist acts was neatly dropped down the memory hole. As Dreher noted, the two major Peruvian terrorist groups, MRTA and Shining Path, had between them “killed an estimated 35,000 Peruvians – many of them dirt-poor peasants and native people” in the previous twenty years. While admitting that Peru under Fujimori was “no model of human rights,” Dreher pointed out that secret courts of the kind that had tried Berenson had become necessary “after left-wing terrorists began assassinating judges who imprisoned their comrades.”

LORI BERENSON, SE DEFENDIO ANTE LA SALA PENAL NACIONAL TRAS EL PEDIDO DE LA PROCURADURIA PARA QUE REGRESE AL PENAL SANTA MONICA POR NOHABER CUMPLIDO CON EL TERCIO DE SU CONDENA DE 20 AÑOS, EXPRESO LA EMERRETISTA
Lori Berenson in court

For her part, Lori made the following assertions in a 1998 statement to international human-rights organizations: “I have never been a member of the MRTA; I have never participated in the planning of a violent act, neither with the MRTA nor anybody else; neither have I ever promoted violence, and, what is more, I do not believe in violence and it would not be possible for me to participate in violence….. I am completely innocent of the horrendous charges made against me.”

All these claims would later prove to be lies. But they worked. International complaints about Berenson’s secret trial led Peruvian authorities to order a new trial by a civilian court. That event has been described as “the Peruvian equivalent of the O.J. Simpson trial, broadcast on television every day from the end of March to June this year. For Peruvian justice, it was a giant step forward: an open terrorism trial with cross-examination of witnesses.” In her closing statement to the court, Berenson said: “I am innocent of all charges against me….I have been called a terrorist, a term that has been used and abused in Peruvian society for far too many years, mostly because of the psychological impact of a concept that brings to mind indiscriminate violence designed to terrorize; irrational destructive violence; deadly, senseless terror. I am not a terrorist, and as I stated in this courtroom before, I condemn terrorism, I always have.”

We’ll finish up Lori’s story tomorrow.