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Posts by Rania Khalek

Podcast: Max Blumenthal on Israel’s Gaza onslaught and rising fanaticism among Zionists in the US

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I spend the entire hour speaking with Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, about his visit to Gaza during Israel’s summertime assault, the out-of-control genocidal racism within Israel and the rising fanaticism of Zionist ideologues in the United States. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

As always, Kevin’s got the details:

At New York City’s Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera staged the opening performance of “The Death of Klinghoffer.” It is based on the story of Palestinian militants who hijacked a ship and demanded the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in 1985. Initially, their demands were not met so the Palestinians threw a 69-year-old American Jew in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard. They eventually managed to negotiate safe passage in return for the release of passengers aboard the ship.

The opera was received fairly well by critics, who acknowledged the nuanced portrayals of Jewish and Palestinian people. But that is exactly what infuriated right-wing Zionists with the Americans for Safe Israel, a far-right pro-settler organization that organized protests against the opera (which, by the way, was first staged in 1991).

Max Blumenthal, journalist and author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, joined “Unauthorized Disclosure” this week to talk about the fanatical protesters he encountered when he went to the Lincoln Center on the opening night, who seek to perpetuate the “spirit of the Holocaust” to maintain their status and preserve their occupation of Palestinians. He also shares his experiences in Israel and Gaza in the midst and aftermath of Israel’s summer assault, which killed over two thousand Palestinians and damaged infrastructure more severely than Israel’s two previous wars on Gaza.

Blumenthal describes how the Lincoln Center was surrounded by “fanatics,” who had been incited to a “near-riot frenzy” by the fact that this opera was being performed. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who is the money manager for George Pataki who once called writer Tony Kushner a “Kapo” or a Jewish concentration camp guard, footed the bill for the protest. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke against this opera.

“They were heckling people going in including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I saw David Remnick, the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker, and get screamed at by these demonstrators calling him a Nazi pig,” Blumenthal shares. He saw a 90-year-old woman being pushed around in her wheelchair by her African-American “caretaker.” He was recognized walking by a woman, who “tried to summon the worst insult she could” and wound up calling a “disgusting Jew.” She summoned a “geriatric mob” of people to surround him.

“These Zionist fanatics were hurling anti-Semitic insults at me,” Blumenthal states. He managed to get away.

Blumenthal noticed a “strange obsession with beheading.” They had signs imagining that journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by the Islamic State, had been beheaded at the Lincoln Center. “This was part of their phantasmagorical macabre imagery.”

“The most bizarre thing I saw, something I’ve never seen in my life, was yellow badges were distributed,” Blumenthal describes. “Jews living in Nazi-occupied areas in World War II were forced to wear these yellow badges that were shaped like Stars of David and read Juda or Jew on them so the could be racially classified and singled out for discrimination and ultimately extermination. You saw mostly older Jewish people voluntarily walking around with yellow badges that read ‘Never Again,’ singling themselves out on the streets of New York, suggesting that they were victims of a second Holocaust because of like an opera showing at the Lincoln Center.”

There was a lot of media coverage of the protests against the opera in the New York Times, the New Yorker and the New York Daily News. All the New York TV networks were there for the scene. However, the fact that Zionists were handing out yellow badges did not make news reports.

“It was like they went out of their way to avoid showing this sickening symbol that abuses and exploits the memory of the Holocaust. And it suggests that these [Jewish State in Israel in the Levant (JSIL)] fanatics are actually seeking to live the Holocaust in spirit in order to confirm their evanescent identity in a multicultural tolerant society that confers upon them unlimited privilege and entitlement.”

Blumenthal addresses the presence of mobs in Jerusalem, particularly organizing by a group called Lehava, “an anti-miscegenation group dedicated to the prevention of relationships between Jewish women and Arab men. Hundreds of people “besieged a wedding” to protest a Jewish woman marrying an Arab man near Jerusalem.

“I managed to talk to one of the people organizing with them in English,” Blumenthal recounts. “He was obviously a colonist whose parents were from the West, who is an Anglo colonist, and he said that we’re here to tell scum that they’re not wanted in this place. We’re here to fight scum and we’re doing it to make the Jews strong. Basically, that was his message until he was told to stop talking to me by the leadership, top cadres of the organization.”

“What I noticed when I went out with the few leftists willing to protest the war in a really forceful way in Tel Aviv,” Blumenthal adds, was the “sense of fear that the right had created among them. It was kind of a parallel to the fear that Israelis in the south had of Hamas terror tunnels.”

Following a left wing rally in Tel Aviv, organizers called out to everyone to disperse because right wingers were coming to hunt them. Blumenthal remained in the area and no right wingers came. However, the “fear factor was so high” that they believed they would be attacked.

Blumenthal spoke to people in Gaza who survived Israel’s assault. For example, he talks about how Israel unleashed its “full malevolent fury” on Rafah after one of its soldiers was “momentarily captured.” They killed about two hundred people and threatened to bomb the main hospital. Everyone had to evacuate and went to work at a tiny dental clinic in the center of town called the Kuwaiti Hospital, which only had twenty beds. This was where dead children were stored in ice cream coolers because there was nowhere to store the bodies.

“Chief doctor, Dr. Samir Homs, who I met, had to store body parts in meat lockers of nearby butchers. He was doing operations on the floor. He was doing amputations in dental chairs. And that was what Israel did to Rafah on August 1 and it was all under the command of someone named Commander Ofer Winter,” Blumenthal recalls.

Blumenthal mentions that Winter regarded the people of Gaza “not as enemy combatants or civilian enemies, which is bad enough,” but called them “blasphemers of God.” This religious fanatic led a top Israeli infantry division into Gaza during the summer. He embodies the “religious messianism that is overwhelming Israeli society and the genocidal approach to a Palestinian population that is ghettoized and unknown to most Israelis.”

When Blumenthal visited Gaza, he met many Palestinians who had never met someone who was Jewish.

There’s a deliberate conflation of European anti-Semitism, of classical anti-Semitism with Arab anti-Semitism and Palestinian anti-Semitism is an entirely different phenomenon. Palestinian anti-Semitism doesn’t require anti-Semitic textbooks or fanatical Islamist preachers to encourage. All it requires are Israeli combat jets and tanks and soldiers bearing the symbol of the Jewish State in Israel in the Levant on their uniforms to encourage it.”

You go to the Gaza Strip. It’s a literal walled-off ghetto, and the only people there who have met Jews are the older folks cause many of them used to work in Israel. And they don’t have the friendliest attitude either because the Jewish State, which claims to be acting in the name of all Jews in the world, is carpet bombing them but they do have a more tolerant attitude. Then you talk to the younger people who’ve never met a Jew, who didn’t confront them in a tank and they’re not the most philo-Semitic people. And I got to say that’s not their fault.

However, most of them that I met don’t really seem to be that sectarian. Many of the educated people have an understanding that there are other Jews in the world that have different attitudes. And some of them express a yearning to meet Israeli Jews on a neutral field, to meet Israeli Jews who aren’t pointing weapons at them. But that’s been rendered impossible by the militant sectarian leaders of JSIL and it’s really unfortunate.

Blumenthal traveled among the ruins of homes in places that were bombarded and saw Stars of David spray painted on walls or etched into furniture, where soldiers “marked their territory.” Effectively, they are “spreading hatred of Judaism.”

“They are abusing the symbol of the oldest monotheistic religion in the world and narrowing it down to the miserable seventy-year experience of an apartheid state. That is incredibly dangerous and it reflects the attitude that is inculcated in these young people in the Israeli education system, which is that the whole world is against them.”

Why do media value Israeli children’s lives more than those of Palestinian kids?

A young Palestinian man named Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi rammed his car into pedestrians exiting the Ammunition Hill light rail station in northern Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing three-month-old Haya Zissel Brown and injuring at least seven others.

Israeli officials instantly labeled the crash a terrorist attack, which US media outlets have parroted without question even though the intent of the driver remains unclear. Given that Israeli police shot and killed al-Shaludi immediately after he exited the vehicle, whether the crash was deliberate may never be certain.

His family insists it was an accident, telling reporters that al-Shaludi, 21 years old, suffered from mental illness as a result of being tortured in Israeli prison.

“We believe that he was shot and killed in cold blood and there was no attempt to question him, and hear his side of the story,” his cousin, Abed al-Shaludi, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Al-Shaludi had been jailed by Israel three times since September 2012 for allegedly hurling stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli settlers and their property in Silwan, his neighborhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli press is using this to cast al-Shaludi as a career criminal with a history of “anti-Jewish” violence.

According to his mother, al-Shaludi’s metal health began to deteriorate after a three-week-long interrogation at the hands of the Shin Bet (Israel’s secret police) in the Jerusalem Russian Compound jail, a notorious site of abuse and torture of Palestinians.

This context has of course been missing or buried in most US media accounts, of which there are many. Israel and Palestine-related news is currently saturated with headlines about a Palestinian man killing an Israeli baby.

Meanwhile, these same outlets have either whitewashed or completely ignored the ongoing abuse and killings of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and settlers.

Gaza children still dying

The same day that al-Shaludi killed an Israeli infant with his car, an unexploded Israeli bomb took the life of four-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jrad in Beit Hanoun, a city in northern Gaza that was decimated by Israel’s merciless summertime bombing campaign, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 500 children.

According to the Ma’an News Agency, Jrad is the tenth person killed by unexploded Israeli munitions, most of which have yet to be cleared because the Israeli-imposed, Egypt-enforced blockade hampers access to the robotic and protective equipment needed to neutralize the leftover ordnance.

Unlike the tragic death of three-month-old Haya Zissel Brown, Muhammad Jrad’s killing elicited only silence from the American press corps, as did that of another Palestinian child run over by an Israeli settler earlier this week.

Children run down

On Sunday, a man reportedly from the Jewish-only settlement of Yitzhar ran over Palestinian schoolchildren as they made their way towards their mothers after exiting a school bus in the West Bank town of Sinjil.

Five-year-old Inas Khalil died of her wounds shortly thereafter and another girl, also hit, was left in critical condition.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Podcast: Guantanamo Prisoner’s Attorney on Importance of Public Seeing Videos of His Forced-Feedings

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gosztola and I speak with Cori Crider of Reprieve about the ongoing torture of her client, Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab. During the discussion portion, we chat about the outrageous police violence and brave activism we witnessed in St. Louis during Ferguson October. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More details from Kevin:

Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab has been pursuing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s administration to force the government stop using force-feeding to punish him while he is on hunger strike and protesting against his continued indefinite detention, even though he has been cleared for release.

There were legal proceedings in recent weeks, where a federal judge heard testimony about his treatment. The lawyers filed a “post-trial brief” on October 17, which argued that Dhiab has suffered an “unacceptable and unconstitutional degree of cruelty and incompetence” by authorities who have “sought to suppress” Dhiab’s “peaceful protest by causing him gratuitous pain.”

Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered that videos of Dhiab’s force-feedings and forcible removal from his cell for those sessions be released to media organizations for the public to see. But the government requested a 30-day delay to prepare and file an appeal and have, as of now, managed to stall the disclosure of videos to the press.

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast the guest is Cori Crider, a director for Reprieve and a counsel representing Dhiab. She describes the kind of treatment Dhiab has suffered in Guantanamo and why he decided to bring a lawsuit against the United States government. She highlights the significance of 32 videos of Dhiab’s force-feeding and forced removal from his cell, which a federal judge has ordered be released (although the government is appealing). She also discusses the critical role she plays as an attorney who can publicly advocate for Dhiab while he remains in indefinite detention.

During the discussion portion, Gosztola and Khalek debrief and reflect on “Ferguson October,” since they were both there in St. Louis last weekend to cover the “weekend of resistance.” Then, the show highlights plans by the Obama administration to build a new rebel force for battle in Syria, a bill that passed in Pennsylvania which will make it possible for inmates and former offenders to be silenced if they want to engage in speech and a report that only 4% of US drone strike victims in Pakistan have been al Qaeda.

St. Louis police pressured me “to snitch on my friends,” says Palestinian-American protester

A Palestinian-American activist says police in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, put pressure on him to inform on others taking part in protests against violence by that force earlier this week.

Bassem Masri, a 27-year-old self-described “pissed off citizen” from St. Louis, was arrested on Monday with around a dozen other demonstrators, including the hip-hop artist Tef Poe, while protesting at an area Walmart.

It was the third Walmart store that protesters shut down that evening in a series of actions demanding justice for Black lives cut short by police violence.

Walmart was targeted to bring attention to the police killing of John Crawford III, a 22-year-old Black man shot dead in August by a white police officer in an Ohio Walmart while talking on his cell phone and holding a toy gun. In September a grand jury decided against indicting the officers involved.

Every protester arrested at Walmart was released a few hours later, except for Masri, who was held until Tuesday night and charged with third degree assault for allegedly spitting at an officer at a protest last week. Masri has denied the charge.

“Extortion”

Masri told The Electronic Intifada that during his jail stay, St. Louis City police pressured the Palestinian-American to become a collaborator against his fellow protesters in exchange for leniency.

After being held overnight at the Richmond Heights police station, police transferred Masri to the St. Louis Justice Center on Tuesday morning. It was there, he says, that they tried to recruit him as a collaborator.

According to Masri, he was taken into an interrogation room and told to give an official statement about spitting at the officer.

“I just remained silent,” he recounted. “Then they said that there was a video of me doing it, so I asked to see my lawyer. But they didn’t even let me contact my lawyer. So I said, ‘What are y’all really bringing me in here for? You got me here for a reason. So come out with it.’”

It was then that the officers told Masri that the third degree assault charge would be taken under advisement, or put on hold, in exchange for information about protesters.

“They wanted me to put names to faces on protesters and to let them know where we be going,” recalled Masri. “It’s like extortion. I have to snitch on my friends. If I don’t snitch on my friends, they’ll re-arrest me on the [third degree assault] charge.”

Masri refused their offer and demanded he be taken back to his cell.

Read the rest at The Electronic Intifada

Podcast: ‘Ferguson October’ & How Community Continues to Stand Up to Police Aggression

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with Montague Simmons, the chair of the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) and founder of Hands Up United, about the latest developments in Ferguson, Missouri, where police continue to harass and arrests protesters and journalists in the aftermath of the execution of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More from Kevin’s blog:

Police action against protestors in Ferguson escalated again this past week. According to those who continue to organize for justice in the aftermath of Mike Brown being gunned down by a Ferguson police officer, the police are now engaging in a process similar to hostage-taking, where they arrest people and agree to release those individuals if protests are stopped. It seemed police arrested 13 people, including a CNN freelancer, to discourage people from protesting.

Also, it was reported on October 3 that the St. Louis County Police are once more in charge of policing protests. The handover of control comes a week ahead of an upcoming weekend of resistance, “Ferguson October,” that will take place October 10-13. St. Louis County police will be in charge of handling arrests and communicating to news media about events on the ground.

And, on Saturday night, people interrupted the St. Louis Symphony in the middle of Brahms Requiem to unfurled banners from the balcony while singing a “Requiem for Mike Brown.”

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast the guest is Montague Simmons, the chair of the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) and founder of Hands Up United. He provides an update on recent aggressive action by police against protestors in Ferguson. He talks about helping community residents feel they will be secure when they participate in actions and how “jail support” is being handled. Simmons also shares a preview of what to expect with “Ferguson October.”

During the discussion portion, Gosztola and Khalek talk a bit about Ebola (they don’t have it). Then, the war in Syria and Iraq is highlighted, particularly how Obama has abandoned the “near-certainty” standard, which was developed to prevent civilian casualties in the administration’s covert drone war. We talk NSA spying and how the government has its own definition of “collection” that does not mean what you might think. And the show wraps with Khalek reflecting on a hashtag she and journalist Max Blumenthal started, which garnered quite a bit of attention: #JSIL.

Podcast: Obama the ‘Reluctant Warrior’ & Other Myths in Media Coverage of War in Iraq & Syria

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with Peter Hart, the activism director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), about the corporate pro-war media’s shameful portrayal of Obama’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

Kevin has the details:

US news media were excited this past week. US-led military forces began to launch air strikes in Syria, which is what they had been anxiously waiting to see happen for weeks.

But with that eagerness to get on with another US war, there have been a set of myths. One fundamental myth involves President Barack Obama being cast as the “Reluctant Warrior.” He did not choose this war. The war chose him. How could Obama shirk from his duty to defend the “homeland”?

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast the guest is Peter Hart, the activism director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Hart discusses these myths in media coverage of the escalated war in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. He talks about Obama being treated as a “Reluctant Warrior” and the effect that has on news reports. He also addresses the fear mongering that has been ongoing and the absence of antiwar voices on television.

The discussion segment highlights Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation and how Holder presided over a Justice Department that is still investigating antiwar activists. Then, an Alabama judge suspending the First Amendment for a newspaper for a little over a week is highlighted. And, finally, the show covers what has been happeningin Ferguson with an escalation in police targeting community organizers

Podcast: As Congress Buys Into More War, CODEPINK Becomes the Conscience of America

On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure Kevin Gozstola and I speak with retired Army colonel and former US diplomat Ann Wright of CODEPINK Women for Peace about the group’s protests against the Obama administration’s ISIS bombing campaign.  (Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here).

More about the episode from Kevin:

The past week was filled with officials coming before members of Congress to sell President Barack Obama’s strategy for escalating war in Iraq and Syria. It worked. Congress approved the arming and training of rebel forces in Syria to fight ISIS. However, this did not take place without members of Congress hearing some voices of dissent loud and clear.

CODEPINK Women for Peace managed to convince a group of people to be at almost all of the hearings on combating ISIS. They held up pink signs that could be seen behind officials like Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry. The group even provoked a lecture from Kerry, who scolded them for protesting the administration’s war plans.

It has been much more difficult to get people to protest than in 2005, when liberals were willing to flock to Washington, DC, to protest President George W. Bush’s administration. Although Obama’s war plans risk some of the same dangers Bush risked, there has been no massive demonstration in the streets.

This week on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast retired Army colonel and former US diplomat Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in 2003 in protest against the Iraq War, is the show’s guest. She discusses her organizing with CODEPINK, which spent the past week demonstrating in congressional hearings on Capitol Hill on the Obama administration’s plans to combat ISIS. She reacts to Secretary of State John Kerry calling out CODEPINK and also discusses an op-ed written by Chelsea Manning on what the US should do to fight ISIS.

During the discussion portion of the show, we acknowledge the votes in Congress giving Obama the go-ahead to train and arm Syrian rebels. Co-host Rania Khalek highlights a story she wrote this week on an Israeli drone conference. We talk about Israel’s NSA scandal with Unit 8200 members blowing the whistle on spying against innocent Palestinians. Then, we move on to the Justice Department invoking the state secrets privilege to protect an anti-Iran advocacy group and wrap up our show covering the US responseto the spread of Ebola in north African countries.

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