Deepa Kumar: hating Israel, loving Hamas

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Deepa Kumar

We’re on day three of our excursion into the career of Deepa Kumar – who, by the way, holds a B.A. from Bangalore University in India and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and who teaches about media and the Middle East at Rutgers. We’ve seen how Kumar, after 9/11, was one of the louder voices decrying the West’s supposed Islamophobia. She doesn’t exactly whitewashing terrorism, but she rushes past it as quickly as possible in order to rail (a) that all this voice is a reaction to Western imperialism and oppression and (b) that the Western media and leaders have responded to it with a hysteria that has only intensified the general public’s irrational anti-Muslim bigotry.

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Hamas: a victim of bad PR?

We’ve already looked at a couple of pieces she wrote in 2006. Three years later came her essay “Behind the Myths about Hamas.” While containing a bit of mild criticism, it was essentially a love letter to that organization, which Kumar praised for rejecting the Oslo peace process and for “holding on to a vision of liberating all of historic Palestine.” She also defended Hamas from the charge of Jew-hatred, noting that “in 1990, it published a document stating that its struggle was against Zionists and Zionism, and not Jews and Judaism.” (Never mind the endless stream of anti-Semitic propaganda that Hamas has spewed out for decades, and the poisonous lies about Jews with which they fill their children’s heads from infancy onward.) Her main problem with Hamas: it’s insufficiently socialist, insufficiently concerned about the working class.

A gathering of Tea Party “lunatics in Lansing, April 2009

Then there was her 2010 essay, “Green Scare: The Making of the New Muslim Enemy,” in which she depicted 9/11 not as marking the start of a new phase of jihadist conquest but as laying “the basis for the emergence of a vicious form of Islamophobia that facilitated the U.S. goals of empire building in the 21st century.” Here as elsewhere, Kumar all but ignored jihad violence while focusing on the imperialist designs supposedly underlying the Western response to these acts. She also pushed the idea (popular among professors of her ilk) that there’s been a huge anti-Muslim “backlash” in the West, part of it taking the form of official probes of Muslims who are “charged with planning or being involved in terrorist activity.” (These authorities, Kumar proposed, should instead be policing “Tea Party lunatics.”) Her term “Green Scare” (green being the color of Islam) alludes, of course, to the post-World War II Red Scare, and in fact there’s a legitimate parallel: in the 1950s, there actually were Communists, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, who labored for world domination, just as today there are Muslims, both in the West and in the Islamic world, who seek to bring the whole of humanity into the House of God. But to Kumar, the Green Scare is, and the Red Scare was, utterly unfounded – products of pure paranoia and prejudice.

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Nidal Malik Hasan

What about such acts of terrorism as Major Nidal Hasan’s murder of 13 people at Fort Hood? Well, despite mountains of evidence that it was a jihadist act, Kumar insisted it was a reaction to racist harassment and overwork. Quoting media reports on a series of arrests of would-be “homegrown terrorists,” Kumar wrung her hands not over the terrorist plans themselves but over the media attention, which, she lamented, was laying the “groundwork…for the new ‘Green Scare.’” Her point, in sum: the problem isn’t Islamic terrorism but concern about it. Even President Obama’s constant readiness to praise Islam wasn’t good enough for Kumar: while he dropped some of Bush’s “worst Islamophobic rhetoric,” he “continued the project of imperial domination” – and exploited the public’s Islamophobia to pursue his imperial goals.

More tomorrow.

Weisbrot’s friends

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Mark Weisbrot

We’ve devoted this week to Mark Weisbrot, who for years has served as an economic advisor to and ardent defender of the most notorious, incompetent, and corrupt regimes in South America. Since he’s the founder and grand poobah of something called the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), it’s not unreasonable to ask a few questions. For example: who, exactly, is providing the funds to pay Weisbrot’s salary and keep his “center” afloat? And who are the other powerhouses who make up this “center,” which represents itself as a hotbed of serious economic analysis?

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Walden Bello

Well, as it turns out, most of CEPR’s staffers and directors have more of a background in organized left-wing activism on issues like global warming and women’s rights than in economics. No fewer than three members of CEPR’s small staff (John Schmitt, Deborah James, and Alexander Main) used to work for the “Information Office” of the Venezuelan government – which isn’t exactly famous for its world-class economic acumen. As for CEPR’s “board of directors,” it includes Filipino congressman Walden Bello, a critic of capitalism and globalization who’s written such books as Capitalism’s Last Stand?: Deglobalization in the Age of Austerity (2013). In a piece on free trade, Bello put the word “free” in scare quotes. In November 2010, Bello called Néstor Kirchner “remarkable,” “an exemplary figure in the Global South when it came to dealing with international financial institutions.” Pronounced Bello: “Along with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Lula of Brazil, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Kirchner was one of several remarkable leaders that the crisis of neoliberalism produced in Latin America.”

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Danny Glover

Also on the CEPR’s board is Julian Bond, an activist and former NAACP head who’s compared the Tea Party to the Taliban. Neither Bello nor Bond is a trained economist. The most familiar name on the list is Danny Glover – yes, that Danny Glover, of Lethal Weapon fame, whose love for Hugo Chávez, for Fidel Castro, and for Communism generally we’ve already discussed on this site. Needless to say, Glover isn’t an economist either.

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Dan Beeton

Then there’s CEPR’s International Communications Director, Dan Beeton. In August 2014, he wrote a paean to Cristina Kirchner’s newly appointed Minister of the Economy that read less like the work of a sober economist than of an overly gushing publicist. Excerpt: “Alex Kicillof, the telegenic economy minister famous for his Elvis-style sideburns, has emerged on the international stage as a heroic figure championing the Argentine people. Kicillof is perhaps reminiscent of another bold, young economy minister in a different South American country: Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, whose public sparring with the World Bank in 2005 helped to launch his political career.”

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Robert Naiman

Finally, check out CEPR staffer Robert Naiman, who, after Néstor Kirchner’s death, eulogized him at the Daily Kos website for “defying Washington and the International Monetary Fund.” Naiman also recommended Oliver Stone’s documentary South of the Border, which represented Kirchner as a hero – and which, as we’ve seen, was written by Weisbrot. Who’s Naiman? In addition to his work at CEPR and his writing for sites like Daily Kos and the Huffington Post, he’s served as Policy Director for a website called “Just Foreign Policy,” and as head of the board of the “progressive” news website Truthout, as a member of the steering committee of Gaza’s Ark (which is all about repeatedly violating Israel’s sea blockade of the Palestinian territories).

Back to Weisbrot tomorrow for a wind-up.