Monthly Archives: October 2008

VIDEO: CNN’s Rick Sanchez and going for the scared-Jewish vote.

In a follow-up to yesterday’s amusing yet scary interview with McCain spokesman Mike Goldfarb, CNN’s Rick Sanchez parried at length today with right-wing radio host Ben Ferguson about Obama pal and mysterious “anti-Semite” #2, Jeremiah Wright.

This is part of McCain strategy #273, painting Obama as a Jew-hater.

Sanchez asked, “Why is being against Israel’s policies being against Jews when in fact there there are Jews who live in Israel who are against Israel’s policies?” He went on to say, “The question is, isn’t it a huge deductive leap to think those people who think of…Israel and criticize their policies…are anti-Semites? It means they hate Jews!”

After showing Ferguson the equivalent of a papal dispensation for Wright, a statement from the Anti-Defamation League saying that they do “not consider Reverend Wright anti-Semitic,” Ferguson responded, “Those people [Obama's close friends] do not like Israel, and they have very bad things to say about Jewish people in general.”

Meanwhile, an entertaining new video from the National Jewish Democratic Council assures voters that Obama has “a perfect voting reord” on Israel.

VIDEO: “Obama hangs out with anti-Semites”

This video of McCain spokesperson Michael Goldfarb on CNN today is almost–but not quite– funny. CNN’s Rick Sanchez tries to pin Goldfarb on his accusation that Obama hangs out with anti-Semites. Goldfarb draws a blank. But, inexplicably, Sanchez “gives” Goldfarb his assertion that respected Columbia Middle East Studies professor Rashid Khalidi, compared yesterday by McCain to a neo-Nazi, is, in fact an anti-Semite. Huh? Based on what exactly? No one bothers to say because, apparently, as a Palestinian who asserts a right to self- determination, Khalidi’s anti-Semitism is self evident.

Hat tip to SAM for letting us know about Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ron Kampeas article tearing down the McCain assertion that Khalidi was ever a spokesperson for the PLO.

McCain palling around with Palestinian “Neo-Nazi”?

Because calling him a Communist isn’t working…

In the waning days of the presidential race, raising questions about Obama’s friendship with Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi, and Obama’s association with people who associated with people who associated with groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Not In My Name (now also a JVP chapter), has become the last hope for the McCain-Palin ticket.

The LA Times reports that the McCain campaign wants the video:

Sen. John McCain today compared the director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute to a “neo-Nazi” and called on the Los Angeles Times to release a video of a 2003 banquet at which Sen. Barack Obama talked about the professor, Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian American scholar and friend of Obama’s from Chicago.

“What if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet?” McCain asked in an interview with a Cuban radio station Wednesday morning. “I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.”

If Khalidi, a respected academic, is so evil, then why did John McCain give him hundreds of thousands of dollars in the nineties? Does that mean McCain is palling around with neo-Nazis?

Taboo-breaking books look at Israeli occupation and the Holocaust

A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity is a must-read new book featuring thought-provoking essays on a range of topics.

In “The ‘Arab Nazi’ and the ‘Nazi Jew’”, British sociologist Anne Karpf has written a nuanced exploration and condemnation of the ways in which the terms “The Holocaust” and “Nazis” have been nearly emptied of meaning through their political exploitation in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Glenn Greewald has written about the freewheeling use of these images on Fox News to condemn liberals.) While Karpf documents the myriad ways in which Jewish and Israeli leaders have invoked this imagery to characterize Arabs and Palestinians, Karpf also looks at how Arab and Muslim leaders have characterized Israelis as Nazis and Palestinians as Jews, wondering how this comports with a policy Holocaust denial.

While Karpf largely considers the issue of name-calling and explosive imagery, we should also ask if there is a place for a thoughtful historical, political and even personal consideration of the relationship between the dehumanization practiced by the National Socialists, and that which is practiced by the Israeli military? In this country, self appointed thought police like the Anti-Defamation League would say no.

Hajo Meyer, a Dutch physicist from Germany who survived 10 months in Auschwitz in 1944, has answered this question with a resounding YES in his absolutely captivating memoir: The End of Judaism. An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. With tremendous love for the Jewish tradition he knew as a child, Meyer’s morally challenging and well documented book is not the kind that makes hyperbolic charges of equivalency between the gas chambers and Israel’s occupation that we have come to expect from the fringes. Far from it.

Rather, he poignantly describes the many years, prior to the mass murder of some 6 million Jews and 5 million others, of his own family’s experiences of dehumanization and humiliation at the hands of other Germans. He is fearless about making the connection to the callousness he sees displayed by many Israeli soldiers in the territories:

We are all too familiar with photographs of Germans in their immaculate uniforms making fun of destitute and frightened Jews. Jews in Germany could count on such humiliation at the hands of the authorities and their fellow citizens. The intimidation and harassment at Israeli checkpoints is not much different from what I experienced in my youth. I will never forget what I went through in this regard, even though it is no longer particularly painful. What I do find painful, however, is the knowledge that the Jews, who are my own people, are involved in similar humiliation of Palestinians.

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The Forward has no sense of irony.

The Forward recently editorialized on the ill-conceived efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an association of Muslim nations in the United Nations, to call “for a ban on published material that defames or promotes disrespect for religion.” As the Forward points out, “The measure purports to defend all religions, but the only one cited by name is Islam.”

The Forward rightly condemns this effort which enables the silencing of critics of human rights violations done in the name of Islam. But they do so- amazingly- without once acknowledging the extent to which across the board anti-Islamic demonization has reached toxic levels and near total acceptance in the American political discourse. Clearly, leadership on this is badly needed, but passing such a resolution in the UN General Assembly, especially one pushed by countries with terrible human rights records, is not the answer:

Supporters of this initiative tout it as a defense of religious freedom. What it entails, however, is actually the opposite of freedom as understood in the West. It does not seek to defend the rights of individuals to believe and practice as they choose. Rather, it safeguards a faith community’s right to avoid insult or criticism by limiting other people’s’ rights of free expression. It is, in fact, a direct assault on a fundamental Western value, in defense of a different value: namely, protecting an existing doctrine from free inquiry and debate — the sort of thing that the West long ago rejected.

The Forward goes on, without the slightest sense of irony:

Sponsors say their overall goal is to ban speech that mocks or criticizes Islam. It is meant to counter what many Muslims see as a wave of anti-Islamic prejudice in the West in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But clear-eyed Westerners see something more subtle and sinister. In the first instance, it is an effort to suppress criticism of Islam, making it more difficult for Western societies to conduct public debate on the challenges posed by radical, fundamentalist Islam. In that sense, it is a counter-thrust against those who call for an Islamic soul-searching or reformation, and those who demand that Islam confront its violent radicals.

Indeed. Here is a terrific object lesson on the evils of religious extremism, of all kinds.

While Israel is not a theocracy per se, but rather an ethnic-preferential state with some theocratic elements, it is precisely this same form of cloaking human rights violations in some kind of sacred veil that makes, to quote the Forward, “free inquiry and debate” as well as “soul-searching or reformation” about Israeli human rights violations nearly impossible in this country.

Neither Muslim states nor the Jewish state are above being held accountable for violating fundamental human rights standards.

Jewish solidarity group urges Canadian gov’t to reverse decision to boycott Durban Review Conference

We wrote earlier about some of the controversy over the upcoming follow-up to the UN conference on racism, otherwise known as Durban II. Canada, the US and Israel have said they will likely boycott the event in Switzerland this Spring.

Earlier today, Canada’s Independent Jewish Voices’ Coordinator Diana Ralph spoke at the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference (Durban II) to advocate for Canadian participation:

“Unfortunately, there has a systematic attempt to portray Durban I was an ‘anti-Semitic hate-fest’,” Ralph pointed out. “This stems from the fact that at Durban some NGO participants and governments challenged Israel’s racist policies. Instead of addressing the substance of these charges, the government of Israel and those who back it unconditionally chose to brand those who levelled criticism of Israel at Durban as ‘anti-Semitic’,” she noted.

“As Jews, we assert that it is entirely legitimate, not anti-Semitic, to criticize Israeli policies that discriminate against Palestinians – not to mention occupying, torturing, assassinating, and collectively punishing them. Those who have been so critical of the Review appear intent upon discrediting criticism of racist Israeli policies and practices – and to prevent the governments of the US, Canada, and EU countries from being pressured to redress historic and ongoing racist practices,” Ralph continued.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting on Islamophobia: tip toes to the edge but won’t jump in

FAIR\'s Smearcasters report now available

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has done us all a service by publishing this important downloadable report, Smearcasters: How Islamophobes spread fear, bigotry and misinformation. It is filled with a familiar right-wing cast of characters like self-styled “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson, inveterate Muslim-basher Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz “the Islamophobia movement’s premier promoter”, and Fox talking heads Sean Hannity and BIll O’Reilly.

So what’s wrong with the report? While FAIR documents numerous examples of false reporting, hyperbole, McCarthyite innuendo and pure hate promulgated by these people, they seem to self-censor and deliberately avoid the obvious: the central role played by US-based Likudnik groups in funding and promoting much of this anti-Muslim hysteria.

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Professor denied tenure: may sue Ithaca College

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency says Margo Ramlal-Nankoe, an assistant sociology professor at New York’s Ithaca College, has hired Norman Finkelstein’s lawyer Lynne Bernabei after getting turned down for tenure, twice. The school says they made the decision based on her scholarship and “uneven teaching.”

Ramlal-Nankoe has taught at Ithaca since 1997 and was eligible for tenure in 2006. She is active in Students for a Just Peace, which advocates for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. She vehemently denies that she is “anti-Israel.”

Chronicle of Higher Education adds:

Ms. Ramlal-Nankoe, who is from India and grew up in the Caribbean, teaches courses on women in the third world and on global race and ethnic relations, and has been a faculty adviser for a group called Students for a Just Peace, which opposes the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

She does not consider herself either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, her lawyer, Lynne Bernabei, said, “but many of the countries and societies she writes about are supportive of something other than Israeli policy, so she is tagged with that.”

Ms. Bernabei’s Washington, D.C., law firm, Bernabei & Wachtel, sent a letter this month to Ithaca’s president and the chairman of its Board of Trustees, saying that both of Ms. Ramlal-Nankoe’s tenure reviews were influenced by “blatant political lobbying against her based on her teachings on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Specifically, the letter says that Ms. Ramlal-Nankoe was not deemed friendly to Israel by Howard Erlich, who retired in May after 20 years as dean of Ithaca’s School of Humanities and Sciences. Mr. Erlich and Ms. Ramlal-Nankoe clashed, the letter says, because he considered the student group she advised and some speakers she invited to campus to be “anti-Israel.”

The letter asks the college to grant Ms. Ramlal-Nankoe tenure or face a legal battle.

Hat tip to SAM.

Only Tina Fey and SNL call out the pandering? You’ll never believe the one place McCain is leading.

This presidential campaign seems to be so far beyond any hope for authentic discussion about the peace process and the disastrous 8 years of BushCo, that we are now simply reduced to pointing out cases of bald-faced pandering. While both presidential candidates have assiduously sought to avoid the topic of Israel and Palestine–Obama’s in particular disastrous AIPAC flip flop on sharing Jerusalem aside–the VPs did have a chance last Friday to nearly come to blows over who loves Israel more. (This kind of “love”– unconditional support for settlement expansion and militarism, the ultimate barriers to peace, is the original love that dare not speak its name. It’s the kind of love to nowhere that Israeli friends would respond to with a “thanks, but no thanks.”)

There is no small irony that the discourse here becomes increasingly jingoistic, kind of like a Palin rally, just as Israel’s outgoing prime minister Olmert “declared that Israel must give up control of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and virtually the entire West Bank if it hopes to achieve peace with its neighbors.”


As many commentators have pointed out, leave it to the comedy shows to say what no one else will. In case you’re one of the 3 people who haven’t yet seen Tina Fey’s most recent Oct 4 Sarah Palin imitation, SNL did call out Palin, though not Biden, for superficial pandering.

Forward to 2:48 on embedded video:
Latifah/Ifill: Governor Pailin? What is your position on health care regulation?
Fey/Palin: I’m going to ignore that question and instead talk about Israel.
I love Israel so much, bless its heart.
There’s a special place for Israel in heaven.
And I know some people are going to say that I’m only saying that to pander to Florida voters, but from a very young age, my two greatest loves were always Jews and Cuban food. (blows a kiss)