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Posts by Rania Khalek

Bernie Sanders and the question of Palestine

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

At a March 1988 news conference endorsing Jesse Jackson’s candidacy for president, Bernie Sanders blasted Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinian protesters as “an absolute disgrace.”

“The sight of Israeli soldiers breaking the arms and legs of Arabs is reprehensible. The idea of Israel closing down towns and sealing them off is unacceptable,” the then mayor of Burlington, Vermont, said to a gaggle of reporters.

Sanders was referring to the television images that shocked the world in those early months of the first intifada, of Israeli soldiers methodically breaking the limbs of Palestinian youths on the orders of then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Sanders went so far as to suggest that the US use the “clout” that its billions in military aid to Israel and its neighbors gave it to force a change in behavior, “or else you begin to cut off arms.”

This was a bold appeal for any elected official in the United States both then and now.

Fast forward to August 2014 and the Vermont senator struck a very different tone, angrily shouting at his constituents as they challenged his defense of Israel’s killing rampage in the Gaza Strip that summer.

“You have a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel … from populated areas,” Sanders said, deploying standard Israeli government talking points.

When a member of the audience called out a question on whether Palestinians “have a right to resist,” Sanders shouted back, “Shut up! You don’t have the microphone!” and threatened to call in the police.

“Are you going to arrest people?” the constituent shouted back.

Sanders quickly diverted the conversation to the brutality of ISIS or Islamic State.

A year later, Palestine solidarity activists were thrown out of a Sanders campaign rally in Boston and threatened with arrest for bringing a sign that said, “Will ya #FeelTheBern 4 Palestine?”

As Sanders, who is nominally an independent, surges in the Democratic primary campaign against establishment favorite Hillary Clinton, the issue of Palestine has been virtually absent from the debate.

In an attempt to halt the momentum of voters flocking to Sanders’ populist demands for economic equality, Clinton has employed neoconservative anti-Iran talking points that frame the Vermont senator as dangerous for Israel.

It marks one of the few moments in which Israel has been mentioned at all during the Democratic primary campaign – a striking contrast to the Republican race, which has been dominated by anti-Muslim fanaticism wrapped in chauvinistic support for Israeli violence.

Though Clinton remains the favorite to secure the Democratic nomination, Sanders is no longer considered such a long shot.

Many of Sanders’ supporters will be hoping that his huge victory in yesterday’s New Hampshire primary will give him the momentum he needs to challenge Clinton in states where polls give her a strong lead.

It is therefore worth examining his record on Palestine and the Israelis, how his views have shifted and what we might expect from him as he attempts to broaden his appeal.

A review of Sanders’ record suggests that the changes in his views are rooted in political expediency rather than ideological commitment. Read more

The Establishment’s Escalating Pressure on Women to Support Hillary Clinton

There is a sexist double standard, establishment columnists insist. Hillary Clinton can never yell about political revolution because she is a woman. Madeleine Albright wields one of her favorite lines and declares there is a “special place in hell” for women who do not help elect Clinton. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem suggests so many women at colleges and universities support Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton because they want to get with boys.

All of the above barely addresses the absurd identity politics, which increasingly dominates conversation about the 2016 presidential election.

What masquerades as a defense of women grows more and more offensive to women with legitimate reasons for not supporting Clinton.

On this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, we spend the hour with writer and guest host Roqayah Chamseddine talking about the madness in the 2016 presidential election. From “Bernie Bros” to how Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her supporters are increasingly using her identity to disrupt meaningful debate about her record, Chamseddine critiques the narrow concept of feminism that underpins conversation.

Host Rania Khalek leads a discussion of Clinton’s foreign policy and calls attention to key questions about Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy. We also talk about “electability” and what it means to be “realistic” when voting.

The podcast is available for download on iTunes. For a link to the episode (and also to download it as well), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Below are some highlights from our discussion with Roqayah Chamseddine.

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In War Games, Navy SEALs Normalize Treating U.S. Citizens as Enemy

United States Navy SEALs planned war games in the state of Washington for mid-January, where they would encroach upon residential areas, state parks, national parks, etc, without the consent of the public. The war games treat citizens as pawns because SEALs were trained to react to citizens as potential terrorists.

One of the most alarming aspects of the war games, which were reported on by Truthout journalist Dahr Jamail, is how it normalizes the idea that U.S. citizens can be enemies. The war games suggest a future where many more military exercises run roughshod over public spaces and soldiers simulate how citizens could pose a danger to them.

Now, the weekly podcast, “Unauthorized Disclosure,” returns for a third season. Our guest this week is Jamail, who talks about documents he obtained from a source within the Navy. He describes how the Navy circumvented the process so the public would not be able to object to plans. It excluded clandestine trainings from regulations requiring environmental impact statements. “Peace parks” in Washington would be violated by the military. Jamail also talks about some of his other extensive reporting on climate disruption, including the melting of the Arctic.

In the discussion portion, hosts Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek recap the past few weeks of 2016 and talk about Guantanamo, Obama’s State of the Union speech, and U.S. government raids and deportations against refugees from Central America.

The podcast is available for download on iTunes. For a link to the episode (and also to download it as well), go here.

Below is a partial transcript of the interview with Dahr Jamail.

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Year-End Episode of ‘Unauthorized Disclosure’: A Look Back at 2015

All throughout the year, we have enjoyed producing weekly episodes of our podcast, “Unauthorized Disclosure.” Each guest has brought incredible insight to issues and topics, which we believe deserve widespread discussion and are often under addressed in the establishment media. But this is our final episode of 2015.

Roqayah Chamseddine, a writer and someone who currently works at “The Empire Files” with Abby Martin, joins the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast as a guest co-host (again).

For the first half of the hour-long episode, we talk about the GOP debate, which happened last week because it perfectly encapsulates a lot of what was wrong with this year. We shift to discussion about ISIS and Islamophobia. (In fact, some of our discussion may sound like what Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders said during the Saturday night debate when asked about the bigotry Donald Trump and other GOP candidates are fueling.)

We spend some time talking about the issue of climate change and how once again we’re horrified that what needs to be done is not being done by the U.S. government and other world powers. The statistics for how bad things will get continue to be stunning. Plus, our media and politicians spend very little time giving climate change the attention it truly merits.

The podcast is available for download on iTunes. For a link to the episode (and also to download it as well), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

If you enjoy the podcast, help us keep the show going by donating to support the next season of “Unauthorized Disclosure.”

Below are some highlights from the year-end episode:

Read more

Donald Trump, anti-Muslim hysteria and the hypocrites who enabled his rise

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

Last week’s proposal by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States elicited condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Yet his proposal comes after nearly 15 years of anti-Muslim demonization propelled by many of the same figures now distancing themselves from Trump’s opportunistic Muslim-baiting.

It has been truly stunning to watch people who have directly contributed to anti-Muslim prejudice express shock as the hate spirals out of control.

Jeffrey Goldberg, the former Israeli prison guard and national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, tweeted that he was “astonished” by the volume of Twitter users in his timeline under the impression that every Muslim is a terrorist.

Goldberg should try reading his own shoddy reporting for a clue about where people in his timeline got such an idea.

Notorious for depicting Muslims as uniquely prone to irrational violence, particularly against Jews and Israel, the former fan of the far-right politician Meir Kahane has made a habit of collectively blaming Muslims for failing to rein in extremists.

Of course, Goldberg, who presents himself as the voice of American Jews, has never made a similar demand of his own community — though if he ever did, things might get awkward, since he is one of the extremists.

On top of being a proven liar who helped push the US into invading Iraq, Goldberg is a returning foreign fighter who was radicalized as a teenager at a Zionist summer camp in New York’s Catskills mountains.

In the 1990s he left the United States to join the Israeli military. He served as a prison guard at Ketziot, an Israeli army prison camp in the Naqab (Negev) desert where thousands of Palestinian political prisoners languished during the first intifada.

In his book Prisoners, Goldberg admits that after watching a fellow prison guard beat a Palestinian prisoner unconscious for saying something the guard didn’t like, Goldberg lied to help cover it up.

He also confessed to beating Palestinians himself, though he claims his victims deserved it, writing, “I never hit a Palestinian who wasn’t already hitting me.”

When he wasn’t dishing out beatings to his colonial subjects, Goldberg tortured them in an arbitary manner; he once sent a Palestinian man to solitary confinement because the man refused to recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

Much of Goldberg’s anti-Muslim animus is tied to legitimizing Israel as an exclusivist state.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris earlier this year, Goldberg argued that the Jews of Europe may need to escape to Israel lest they be persecuted by a potentially looming alliance between Europe’s Islamophobic far-right and Muslim extremists.

Given the intense marginalization and disenfranchisement of Muslims across Europe, the notion that Islamists will soon be embraced by the anti-Muslim far-right is ludicrous, to say the least.

More recently, in a piece titled “The paranoid, supremacist roots of the stabbing intifada,” Goldberg attributes the ongoing Palestinian revolt against Israel’s colonial violence to “the unwillingness of many Muslim Palestinians to accept the notion that Jews are a people who are indigenous to the land Palestinians believe to be exclusively their own.”

So according to Goldberg, Muslims who refuse to recognize that he — a white Jewish guy from Long Island, New York — is indigenous to the Middle East, are intolerant extremists. However, Goldberg, an active cheerleader of US aggression who believes he’s biblically entitled to dispossess Palestinians so he can have a spare state, is apparently more rational, objective and civilized than Trump and the backwards people on his Twitter timeline who inexplicably believe all Muslims are terrorists.

Mainstreaming Islamophobia

One of the most disingenuous condemnations of Trump’s proposal came from the Anti-Defamation League, a hardline pro-Israel lobbying outfit that bills itself as a civil rights organization devoted to combatting anti-Semitism.

“Trump’s plan to bar people from entry to the United States based on their religion is unacceptable,” declared Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director.

The ADL’s purported opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry is hard to take seriously for a number of reasons, first and foremost being its energetic support for Israel’s religiously discriminatory immigration policy and the right-wing Trump-like leaders that enforce it.

While Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, denounced Trump’s comments, the fact remains that religious tests and blanket bans are standard operating procedure in Israel.

In past decades the ADL has infiltrated and spied on Arab American activists and illegally gathered intelligence on Palestine solidarity and anti-apartheid groups, some of which was passed on to Israeli government officials as well as the white supremacist regime in South Africa.

In more recent years, the ADL has played a crucial role in mainstreaming Islamophobia, often throwing its weight behind smear campaigns spearheaded by a cadre of well-funded Islamophobes who for more than a decade have pumped out disinformation about Muslims and Islam, from which far-right Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik drew inspiration.

This Islamophobia network, as the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress labeled it, is funded in large part by wealthy pro-Israel donors and has generated a nationwide freakout about an alleged jihadist threat posed by deceptive US Muslims.

In 2006, the ADL’s foundation gave $2,500 to the virulently anti-Muslim Middle East Forum headed by Daniel Pipes, a prominent ringleader of the Islamophobia network.

The following year, the ADL, then headed by Abraham Foxman, aligned itself with Pipes and the similarly bigoted Frank Gaffney in their anti-Muslim campaign to fire Debbie Almontaser from her position as principal of New York City’s Khalil Gibran International Academy.

In his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, Trump cited a debunked poll issued by Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, a Washington, DC based think tank that, according to the ADL’s own findings, “has pioneered the anti-Sharia hysteria by publishing materials regarding the threat of an Islamic takeover of the US.”

In 2010, the ADL sided with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencerin opposing the construction of a Muslim community center, dubbed “the ground zero mosque,” near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City.

In the days prior to Trump’s announcement, right-wing media outlets — including the New York PostDaily Caller, and Breitbart — tried (and failed) to connect the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a Muslim group based out of Jamaica, Queens, to the Muslim couple who gunned down 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, on 2 December.

To push their theory, right-wing outlets relied on smears advanced by none other than the ADL, which tried in 2010 to portray ICNA as an extremist group due to its criticism of Israel.

By repeatedly siding with anti-Muslim fanatics, the ADL has granted an aura of credibility to the very bigots it has then turned around and condemned.

Meanwhile, as anti-Muslim attacks skyrocket to unprecedented levels, the ADL refuses to engage with the largest Muslim advocacy organization in the country, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, because of CAIR’s outspoken criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

Bipartisan hate

Donald Trump is “a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” who “doesn’t represent my party,” asserted Republican presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham in response to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims.

But even as the South Carolina senator, who has scarcely seen a Muslim country he didn’t want to bomb, spoke out against Trump’s bigotry, he continued to spew his own.

Addressing a Jewish audience on Sunday, Graham promised that if elected president he would launch a US military ground invasion and occupation of Iraq and Syria to defeat Islamic State.

“There’s no way to defend freedom without fighting against evil, and there’s never been a bigger evil since World War II than radical Islam,” Graham told the crowd.

While Republicans have been more explicit in their rhetoric, they aren’t alone in pushing anti-Muslim hate.

Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California said last week that “anywhere between 5 and 20 percent” of Muslims “have a desire for a caliphate” and are prepared “to institute that in any way possible,” including through violence and terrorism.

Faced with intense criticism for her wild assertion, Sanchez, who sits on the homeland security committee in the House of Representatives, refused to apologize or back down. Instead she sourced her claim to a book by Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris titled Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue.

In it, Harris and Nawaz speculate about what they believe to be the percentage of Islamists worldwide but they say nothing about the desire for a caliphate that Sanchez was referring to.

Nawaz and Harris are notorious for trafficking in the kind of propaganda that provides a theoretical backbone to a more sophisticated style of Islamophobia that appeals to liberals.

Harris, a neuroscientist with a pathological obsession with Islam, has made a career out of preaching anti-Muslim venom under the guise of liberal atheism.

As for Nawaz, a self-styled ex-Islamist and rising star in the Islamophobia industry, he runs the Quilliam Foundation, an influential London-based counter-extremism think tank that receives significant funding from neoconservatives in the US.

Under Nawaz’s guidance, Quilliam helped shape the UK’s counter-radicalization program, Prevent, which brands Muslim schoolchildren and workers in the public sector as potential terrorists for expressing support for Palestine, growing a beard or criticizing the UK’s foreign policy.

That’s why it is strange to see Nawaz, of all people, feigning concern about Trump’s proposal.

Islamophobia is about more than just reactionary hate and bigotry; it’s necessary for legitimizing US aggression in the Middle East. That’s why weapons companies that profit from endless war are among its key funders.

In other words, meaningful opposition to Islamophobia demands principled rejection of the bipartisan US war machine that profits from it.

Trump is an opportunistic demagogue exploiting the very real economic anxieties of white working class Americans with a politics of bigotry. But many of the people loudly condemning him helped set the stage for his rise. We shouldn’t let them off the hook.

Podcast: Donald Trump, ISIS, and How ‘Militarized Identity Politics’ Fuels Hatred and War

Multiple supporters of GOP candidate Donald Trump were given airtime in the media to argue in support of his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Fortunately, CNN invited someone on to their cable news network to explain how supporters of Trump have been scared into thinking “crazy Muslims” are going to kill us all.

“The statistics tell a very different story since 9/11. Around 40 people have been killed by Muslim terrorists in the United States. Around 400,000 have been killed in gun crime as a whole,” Arun Kundnani, author of “The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror,” explained.

Kundnani had conservative commentator Kurt Schlichter foaming at the mouth after he suggested Trump is not brave for speaking out against Muslims but rather it is average American Muslims, who ride the subway or drive cabs, that are brave. A CNN anchor requested he provide facts when accusing a “large number of Muslims” of believing in violent extremism. He was livid and said, “You want me to Google it right now?”

On this week’s episode of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, Kundnani joins the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast to expand on many of the comments he made about Trump’s call to ban Muslims. Kundnani describes how the American “War on Terrorism” reinforces hatred toward Muslims and Arabs. He offers an analysis of the Islamic State and how they are drawn to a fight they believe is between the West and Islam. He also assesses failures to counter certain narratives around the Islamic State as well as nationalist perspectives, which are now promoted by Trump.

During the discussion, the show’s hosts, Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola, talk about the infamous Warden Burl Cain resigning from the Angola penitentiary and Rahm Emanuel and police brutality in Chicago.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

If you enjoy the podcast, help make the next season of “Unauthorized Disclosure” possible by donating here.

Below is a partial transcript of the interview with Arun Kundnani.

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Podcast: France canceled climate protest—but not weapons expo—after Paris attacks

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, numerous American Muslims or U.S. citizens, who have brown skin, live in fear of what might happen if they go out in public. There have been several reported hate crimes. One mosque was vandalized by a ripped up Quran covered in feces. Right-wing protesters armed with shotguns and rifles stalked a mosque in Irving, Texas, on November 21.

Passengers are informing gate agents, who work for airlines like Spirit or Southwest, that they are afraid to fly with brown people. Airlines and airport security are enabling this racist hysteria by removing them from flights. In one case, even though the individuals were completely harmless to other passengers, they were booked on another flight. The Islamohpobia of passengers won out.

Journalist Todd Miller is this week’s guest on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast. He recently returned from France, where he attended a major weapons expo called Milipol and witnessed the French security state’s crackdown on climate activists during COP21.

Miller recalls being chased by French police, who enforced a ban against demonstrations instituted in the wake of the Paris attacks. He describes the detestable scene at the expo just days after the attacks, where companies were eager to use the Paris attacks and even exploit the fear of refugees to sell their products. He also highlights his recent reporting at the U.S.-Mexico border on how the U.S. Border Patrol has turned indigenous American land into a war zone.

During the discussion part of the show, Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola announce a year-end fundraiser to raise money for Season 3 of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast. The hosts also talk about the San Bernardino shooting and how the media swarmed the shooters’ home and effectively tampered with the scene. Finally, the hosts share their reviews of Spike Lee’s new film, “Chi-Raq.”

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Support the next season of “Unauthorized Disclosure” by donating here.

Below is an edited partial transcript of the conversation with Todd Miller.

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