Monday, October 31, 2016

Why did Omar Mateen murder 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida?

After Omar Mateen's murderous rampage on June 12, 2016, much of the discussion of Mateen's motives centered on speculation of whether he was a closeted gay man and whether his prime motive was hatred of gay people. Speakers at a vigil I went to in Ithaca in June argued that his murderous homophobia was caused by fundamentalist Christian homophobia, toxic masculinity, misogyny, and the American empire. One speaker even felt the need to mention Palestine as a target of the evil American empire. (How this had anything to do with Mateen's rampage was unclear to me, but the audience clapped nonetheless). None of the speakers asked whether his allegiance to ISIS might have been a reason for his rampage. In fact, ISIS wasn't even mentioned.

Evidence that came soon afterwards called into question this construction of events. On June 20, 2016, the FBI released the transcript of the first conversation that Mateen had with the 911 operator. At first, they redacted the murderer's mentions of ISIS, but after an uproar, they produced the complete transcript. Twice, he pledges his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State. This is the transcript, from the Wall Street Journal:
2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:
Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
Omar Mateen (OM)
OD:     Emergency 911, this is being recorded.
OM:     In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]
OD:     What?
OM:     Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.
OD:     What’s your name?
OM:     My name is I pledge of allegiance to to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.
OD:     OK, What’s your name?
OM:     I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.
OD:     Alright, where are you at?
OM:     In Orlando.
OD:     Where in Orlando?
[End of call.]
Today, the police released the audio of the conversations between Mateen and the 911 operator ( The Times reported:
Before he was killed by the police, Mr. Mateen declared his allegiance to the Islamic State and complained about American airstrikes in the Middle East. “What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there?” Mr. Mateen, 29, asked the negotiator in their first conversation. “You get what I’m saying?”
In an earlier article, he New York Times said:
The F.B.I.’s account of the emergency calls included no mention by Mr. Mateen of any hatred of gays or a desire to attack a gay nightclub in particular; the bureau has been investigating the attack as a possible anti-gay hate crime, but the material released on Monday offers nothing to back up that theory.
If the police and FBI investigations found no evidence that suggested that Mateen was a closeted gay man, or even that anti-gay animus motivated his choice of target, it seems to me that our narrative about his murders needs to change. He did not murder forty-nine people in Orlando because he hated gay people, or because of fundamentalist Christianity or the American army empire. He killed them because of his allegiance to the murderous Islamic State, which has also horribly murdered thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Syria.

Anti-Israel activist Miko Peled to speak in Ithaca, New York, on November 2 (Updated)

Miko Peled is a virulently anti-Israel activist. His Twitter slogan is "Make Israel Palestine Again." He accuses Israel of genocide against the Palestinians.

On Wednesday, November 2, he will be speaking in Ithaca, New York. His talk is sponsored by several groups that pride themselves on their devotion to peace: Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Citizens for Justice in Palestine, Episcopal Peace Fellowship's Palestine/Israel Network, Veterans for Peace, Ithaca Catholic Workers, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The Multicultural Resource Center is now also a sponsor of Peled's talk.

The advertising for Peled says this of him:
Miko Peled’s grandfather fought for Israel’s statehood and signed that country’s Declaration of Independence. His father was a noted General of the '67 War and Miko joined the Israeli Special Forces upon graduating high school but he quickly resigned. When his 13-year-old niece was killed in a suicide attack, Peled came to realize that “we are occupying another nation and that in order to save lives the right thing to do is to end the occupation and negotiate a just peace with our Palestinian partners. 
He is the author of The General’s Son and lectures widely (nearly 3 million hits on one of his youtube talks) advocating a non-violent solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and stressing that this is a one-sided conflict with Israel as the aggressor
Aside from being the son of an Israel general, what else distinguishes Miko Peled? Antisemitism.

See this recent Tweet from him:

(To see the Tweet in its original location, go to: Sleazy Thieves). This tweet aroused a fair amount of criticism against Peled. (See note below for how JVP reacted to him).

On September 16,  Peled spoke in Syracuse, New York, at a talk sponsored by the Syracuse Peace Council. This is how he tweeted about that appearance:

Link to the original tweet, where you can listen to his entire talk: Syracuse Peace Council.

After Peled's original tweet, and the criticism he received, he posted a reply on Facebook (archived version -

Peled doesn't think individual Jews fit the antisemitic stereotype of money lenders and petty thieves - but he's happy to accuse Israel of being a "sleazy petty thief." Israel receives military aid from the United States because of "pressure and lobbying" and "mafia blackmail" - see his use of the language of conspiracy theories.

Yes, there are groups that lobby Congress and the President in support of aid for Israel (for example, AIPAC). These people do not belong to any "mafia" - we call them American citizens, who are free to lobby their government. J Street (whose politics I favor over AIPAC's) also lobbies the US government in support of a two-state solution. They give money to congressional and senate candidates with whom they agree. Again, this is part of the American democratic process. Neither group is a "mafia," and both act openly to push the policies they think the US should adopt.

Then Peled applies a purity test to Jews: "It is shameful and sleazy and underhanded and places a stain on all Jewish people unless they stand in clear opposition to the state of Israel and its sleazy politics." For him, "opposition" isn't merely criticism of the policies of the government of Israel, but opposition to Israel's existence as a state. And Jews who don't agree with Peled have a "stain" upon them unless we join his battle against Israel's existence.

It's interesting that he only singles out Jews who don't agree with him. What about people of other religion or nationalities? Do Americans who don't agree with him "place a stain" upon all Americans? What about evangelical Christians who support Israel, often from a more right-wing perspective than most American Jews?

Why are peace groups in Ithaca sponsoring a talk by a man like Miko Peled? What do they think of the language he uses to attack those who don't agree with him? Do they agree that Jews who don't oppose Israel "place a stain on all Jewish people"?

For shame.


William Jacobson, a professor of law at Cornell, has also just posted an entry to his blog about the event: He has more examples of Peled's anti-Israel and anti-Jewish remarks.


Note on JVP's original response to Peled's tweet:

After the publication of this tweet, Peled's talk to pro-Palestinians groups at Princeton and San Diego State University were cancelled. The head of Jewish Voice for Peace, Rebecca Vilkomerson "lauded this move," saying that "Princeton group did right thing cancelling @mikopeled talk b/c of tweets-no place 4 antisemitism in our movement." She quickly backpedaled, however, and Vilkomerson then said that she had "overreached" and "clearly made a mistake."

For more on JVP, see the linked article by David Schraub, a lawyer and PhD student at UC Berkeley, explaining the untenable position that JVP has placed itself in. As he says,
The problem is that their politics about anti-Semitism are predicated on the notion that "anti-Semitism" is, in nearly all cases, a hysterical charged lobbed in bad faith by evil Zionists wanted to suppress criticism of Israel. But, having spent years hammering this message home, they're somehow surprised to discover that when they call something anti-Semitic, they're subjected to the same treatment -- dismissed as "Zionists in the closet" (Peled's allies) or "turning priorities to suit Jewish interests" (Weir's backers). They want special dispensation as the "good Jews", and they don't get it. Instead, their "allies" treat them exactly the same as they treat every other Jew (and indeed, exactly as JVP says Jews -- other Jews, anyway -- should be treated) -- with derision, disdain, and dismissal anytime JVP tries to use its Jewish standing to challenge rather than validate their position.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ethnic fundamentalism in the United States

From The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz, pages 273-274.
Nazism offered all ethnic Germans, whether or not they joined the party, a comprehensive system of meaning that was transmitted through powerful symbols and renewed in communal celebrations. It told them how to differentiate between friend and enemy, true believer and heretic, non-Jew and Jew. In offering the faithful a vision of sanctified life in the Volk, it resembled a religion. Its condemnation of egoism and celebration of self-denial had much in common with ethical postulates elsewhere. But in contrast to the optimistic language of international covenants guaranteeing universal rights to all people, Nazi public culture was constructed on the mantra: "Not every being with a human face is human." 
Until late in the twentieth century, Nazism appeared to have been a retrograde political faith that lacked the potential to outlive its founder. While the idiosyncratic racial fantasies of Nazism seem as outdated as the goose-step, the ideology that drove it was the first example of a new and ominous kind of doctrine that based the civil right of citizens, including the right to live, on ethnic identity as determined by the state. Hitler founded a consensual dictatorship that was "neither right nor left" on the political spectrum but occupied an entirely different political terrain. Like other fundamentalisms, it began with a powerful leader and drew on populist rage against corrupt elites who had betrayed the "common man."
 On the basis of a shabby doctrine of racial struggle, Nazi functionaries and academics innovated a political strategy that did not perish with the F├╝hrer. In the second half of the twentieth century, the outbreak of ethnic strife and the emergence of populist regionalism during the breakup of colonial empires and the collapse of Soviet power made it clear that Nazism had not been a final atavistic outcropping of tribalism but a harbinger of ethnic fundamentalism, a creed that gathers force when modernizing societies are convulsed by dislocations which threaten conventional systems of meaning. The potential for racial hatred lurks whenever political leaders appeal to the exalted virtue of their own ethnic community. Against a growing commitment to universal human rights, ethnic fundamentalists broadcast alarms about ethnic danger. Evil presents itself as unalloyed ethnic good. Reforging bonds that may be religious, cultural, racial, or linguistic, ethnic fundamentalism merges politics and religion within a crusade to defend values and authentic traditions that appear to be endangered.
Donald Trump, it seems to me, is an example of the powerful leader appealing to populist rage, which he is exploiting to try to become president. His movement, if it can be called a movement, is a kind of ethnic fundamentalism, where the ethnos or Volk is identified by him as white people who don't belong to urban elites, people who are not black or Hispanic, Asian, or Jewish. There have certainly been white supremacist political movements in the past in the US, but I think that what we have today in the US is something new. It has definite fascist and antisemitic features: the accusation that Clinton is conspiring with international bankers against Trump, for example and attacks upon the lying media, which again can be an antisemitic trope. At the moment it appears that Trump is on his way to losing the election, but I don't think that the fascist tendencies he has introduced into American politics will go away, including the introduction of political antisemitism into the public discourse,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trump - the "international bankers" are conspiring against him

Trump is getting closer and closer to openly blaming Jews for the implosion of his campaign. He just gave a speech to supporters in Florida, which Charles Johnson summarizes this way:
This is an amazingly bizarre speech even for Donald Trump, ranting about conspiracies by the media and international bankers, saying the sexual abuse allegations against him are a “coordinated effort” between the Clintons and the media to deflect attention from Wikileaks, mocking the women who came forward, and threatening lawsuits against everyone like Chuck C. Johnson.

Michelle Obama on Donald Trump

Michelle Obama just gave a very powerful speech expressing what many people feel about Donald Trump and his insulting and predatory remarks about women.
"The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign has said things about women that are so shocking. So demeaning," she said. "I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that." 
"It would be dishonest and disingenuous for me to move on to the next thing like this was just a bad dream," she said. "This is not something we can ignore. It's not something we can sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn't locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predator behavior." 
"I feel it so personally. And I'm sure that many of you do too. Particularly the women,” she said. "The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business. Some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares just a little too long, you feel uncomfortable in your own skin."
Amen, sister. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

How long, O Lord, how long?

I cannot wait for this election to be over.

I'm sick of people who call themselves "progressives" but continually attack Hillary Clinton using right-wing Republican talking points, blaming her, of all people, for her husband's cheating on her, and pretending that if she became president she would be just as bad as Trump. What a load of BS. How is this "progressive"? They babble about "neoliberalism" and are angry at her for being pro-Israel.

Don't any of them remember the 2000 election, and how a bunch of misguided progressives voted for Ralph Nader, thus aiding Bush in being elected president? (They weren't entirely to blame, but they certainly didn't help). They thought that Al Gore just wasn't pure enough for them. And they're doing the same thing to Hillary, but this time with a generous dollop of sexism.

Donald Trump is a misogynist (as we were reminded today), a man who grabs women "in the pussy," a vicious racist (just today he asserted again that the five young black men who were acquitted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989 were guilty), an antisemite (despite the fact that his son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter converted to Judaism), a hater of Mexicans (remember his remark about Mexican "rapists" and his attacks on the judge who is handling one of the cases against him).

Why on earth would "progressives" tear down Hillary Clinton if it means making it easier for Trump to be elected?

Trump fan sends a seizure-inducing video to a journalist with epilepsy

The big news about Donald Trump tonight is the video from over ten years ago that reveals that he is a serial sexual predator and a vile hater of women (which we already knew). This is another article about Trump - not the man himself, but about his followers - How Donald Trump Supporters Attack Journalists.

Kurt Eichenwald is a writer for Newsweek who has been relentlessly filing stories about Trump's twisted business dealings. In response, Trump's neo-Nazi fans have been harassing him, sending him death threats, and calling him a "kike" a "fag" and a "pedo." Trump fans have even gone after one of his sons online.

 Eichenwald also has epilepsy, and one of Trump's fans posted a tweet addressed to him containing a video link that was designed to hurt Eichenwald.
Throughout my adulthood, I have never made a secret of the fact that I have epilepsy. It’s better controlled now than it has been during other parts of my life, but not completely—my neurologist tells me I have intractable epilepsy, meaning treatment will never bring the condition fully under control. I know how people—particularly children—with seizures suffer when uninformed idiots suggest they should impose limits of their lives or quell their aspirations. 
So when Fox News blowhard and college dropout Sean Hannity practically drooled in delight this election season as he falsely proclaimed that Hillary Clinton suffered from seizures based on her acting goofy in a short video clip, it infuriated me. I knew how his message would be heard—people with seizures look ridiculous, they should be afraid of others laughing at them, they should listen to the voices telling them they can’t do what they want (even be president). And so I raged at Hannity in the pages of Newsweek, on cable television news shows and on Twitter. 
A couple of weeks later, after my article about how Trump’s business interests would create a conflict of unprecedented proportions, I received a tweet from someone with the twitter handle “Mike's Deplorable AF.” Like many Trump supporters, he has chosen to identify himself as deplorable to mock the label once used by Clinton to describe the racists, neo-Nazis, homophobes and like who have crawled out of the sewer to cheer for the Republican nominee. Mike, however, is indeed deplorable. 
In his tweet, which has since been deleted, Mike made mention of my seizures and included a small video. It contained images of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol. I was carrying my iPad, looking at the still image on the video and, without thinking, touched the PLAY button. 
The video was some sort of strobe light, with flashing circles and images of Pepe flying toward the screen. It’s what’s called epileptogenic—something that triggers seizures. Fortunately, since I was standing, I simply dropped my iPad to the ground the second I realized what Mike had done. It landed face down on the bathroom floor.
This is very sinister. This goes beyond threats with words to an attempt to harm a person physically. I hope that Eichenwald has contacted the police about this.

And this action fits perfectly with Trump's verbal attacks on people with disabilities (think of how he mocked the New York Times reporter, Serge F. Kovalevskil, who has arthrogryposis, "which limits the functioning of his joints"), and his obsession with being and appearing to be strong and not weak. I keep thinking of the Nazis and how they attacked people with disabilities because they weakened the "racial stock" of Germany. Trump appears to have the same attitude. (To differentiate him from the Nazis, he has of course not suggested that people with disabilities be executed).

I'm also reminded of when I was a child in the 1960s, before the era of mainstreaming. In my elementary school there were a couple of classrooms for children who would now be called developmentally delayed, whom the school called retarded, and whom we, the other children, called retards. They were mercilessly mocked whenever they appeared in the hallways. There was no sense that they were just children, like us - no, they were despised. A girl in one of my classes who had a stutter was made fun of constantly and kept out of the circle of the "popular" girls. Even when I went to high school mockery of people with disabilities continued. In my "alternative" high school, one of the students wore very thick glasses and had a lot of trouble seeing. I remember him sitting at a table and being mocked by my classmates - even at the "cool" alternative school. It was disgusting. It seems that Trump wants to haul us back to the time when it was funny to call people "retards" and okay to bully and harass people with disabilities.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

"I hadn't been called a kike since fourth grade. Donald Trump changed all that" - Bradley Burston

Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz on the antisemitism that Donald Trump has permitted to enter into the public realm in the US, for the first time since the late 1940s. He writes, I hadn't been called a kike since fourth grade. Donald Trump changed all that.
“What Trump has brought to the surface is, in many ways, the first blatant anti-Semitic experience for the vast majority of American millennials,” Ohio State sophomore Zach Reizes, 19, told Politico Magazine.  
The quote is from an extraordinary report this week by Politico's Ben Wofford. In an allusion to the large numbers of Jewish organizations who have refrained from challenging Trump on the anti-Semitism issue, Wofford notes that among Jews the pro-Trump outrages of the alt-right have "heightened a divide between young and old, left and right: Progressive young Jews learning to form the words 'anti-Semitism,' often for the first time — even while they take umbrage at their right-leaning scolds who, now into October, have kept up a deafening silence on the topic of Trump." 
Through it all, Jew-hating Trump supporters have reserved some of the most toxic of their venom for staunch Republicans and conservatives who happen to be Jewish. They've even coined an obscenity just for them: Kikeservatives. As in this headline on the Infostormer website: "Kikeservative [Susan] Goldberg Defends Kikeservative [Jonah] Goldberg From Patriotic Jew Exposers.".... (I don't recommend clicking on the link).
Trump helped throw the holding tanks of anti-Semitism wide open in July, when he gave national exposure to, and then proceeded to defend, a white supremacist-designed meme in which Hillary Clinton appears flanked by a red six-pointed star on a background of a pile of hundred-dollar bills....
Donald Trump may be the grandfather to a Jewish baby. But if that baby grows up in a nation ruled by Trump, one day he may be the one Jew at that dinner table to ask why his grandfather helped make anti-Semitism American again.