Rania Khalek Dispatches from the Underclass

Originally published at The Electronic Intifada

An Arab American man was shot and killed in front of his home last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a neighbor who terrorized the victim’s family for years, referring to them by such racist slurs as “dirty Arabs” and “dirty Lebanese” who “throw gay people off the roof.”

Khalid Jabara, a 37-year-old of Lebanese Christian descent, was shot to death on his front porch on Friday.

Stanley Vernon Majors, a 61-year-old with a history of violence, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm after a felony conviction.

For the three years prior to the killing of Khalid, the Jabara family had endured threats, racial epithets, assaults and a vehicular attack that left Khalid’s mother Haifa with a broken shoulder and other injuries.

Majors spent eight months in jail awaiting an October trial on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and other charges related to the car ramming of Haifa Jabara. But in May he was released on bond, despite a prosecutor telling the court that Majors was “a substantial risk to the public.”

“This suspect had a history of bigotry against our family,” said Khalid’s sister Victoria Jabara Williams in a statement on behalf of the family that she posted on Facebook on Monday.

“He often called us ‘dirty Arabs,’ ‘filthy Lebanese,’ ‘Aye-rabs,’ and ‘Mooslems,’” the statement said. “He made xenophobic comments about many in our community – ‘filthy Mexican’ and the ‘n’ word were all part of his hateful approach to anyone from a different background.”

“My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years,” Williams Jabara wrote. “Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our repeated protests, he was released from jail with no conditions on his bond — no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, nothing.”

In a motion filed in May, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler urged the court against releasing Majors on bond, warning that he “has demonstrated a habitual disregard” for the law and the welfare of Oklahoma citizens and “has demonstrated a wanton disregard for the life of [Haifa Jabara].”

Majors was also convicted in 2009 in Los Angeles of threatening to “terrorize” and sentenced to 16 months in prison.

The Tulsa prosecutor asked the judge to deny bond or raise it to the maximum allowed for the charges: $300,000. Instead, District Judge William LaFortune increased Majors’ bond from $30,000 to just $60,000, allowing him to get out of jail.

Three months later Khalid Jabara was shot dead and Majors was charged with his murder.

Police negligence?

Police portrayed the slaying of Jabara as a tragedy that could not have been prevented, caused by an ongoing feud between neighbors.

According to the police, Jabara called to report someone knocking on his windows at 5:00 pm last Friday.

Police say they arrived to Jabara’s home at 6:30pm, determined there was nothing they could do and left at 6:40pm.

Jabara was killed eight minutes later.

Jabara’s family described the sequence of events much differently.

“Only 30 minutes prior to my brother’s shooting, Khalid called the police stating this man had a gun and that he was scared for what might happen,” Victoria Jabara Williams’ statement on behalf of the family said. “The police came and told him there was nothing to be done. Minutes later, the suspect murdered our brother with four shots.”

According to court documents, both Khalid and Haifa Jabara were granted protective orders against Majors that prohibited him from having any contact with them or possessing a firearm for five years.

Yet according to FOX23, police maintained that “Majors was not doing anything to warrant a search of his home.”

In response to the Jabara family’s accusations of police negligence, the Tulsa Police Department’s public information officer Jeanne MacKenzie told The Electronic Intifada that “officers responded to a suspicious activity call earlier in the evening called in by the victim” but upon arrival were “unable to locate any criminal activity.”

Asked why police didn’t question Majors, Mackenzie replied, “it is too early to comment on all aspects of this investigation. The homicide unit is still preparing their investigation to present to the district attorney’s office.”

History of hate and violence

Majors was arrested in March 2015 for allegedly violating the protective order against Haifa Jabara. According to the report by the arresting officer, Jabara told police that Majors’ had entered her driveway and yelled “Fuck you” and “I want to kill you.”

“While taking Majors into custody, he was asked to put down his beer multiple times by officers,” the report states. “Majors chugged his beer before he put it down.” He was also reportedly “uncooperative” the entire time.

Haifa filed the protective order against Majors in 2013 for stalking her, knocking on her windows late at night and launching into racist tirades against her and her family.

In early 2015, Khalid filed for a protective order as well.

Six months later, Majors allegedly tried to make good on his threat. On 12 September 2015, he allegedly rammed his car into Haifa Jabara while she was jogging, leaving her with a “broken shoulder, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken nose, head trauma and fractured ribs amongst other injuries,” according to her family.

The district attorney charged Majors with “intentionally” hitting Jabara and “maliciously” fleeing the scene. “There were no skid marks to indicate an attempt by [Majors] to the stop the vehicle prior to striking the victim” on what was “a clear and sunny day,” the prosecutor’s filing states.

When police found Majors in a nearby parking lot, he was drunk and urinating. He reportedly told police, “I was out driving my car, drunk. I’m always drunk and you guys never stop me.”

The brazen behavior he has been able to get away with in such circumstances, including in this case after allegedly trying to kill someone, stands in sharp contrast to the endemic police shootings of Black Americans often for doing nothing at all.

Influenced by pinkwashing?

Majors called the police on the Jabara family incessantly. One officer recalled being “dispatched to their location three times in one day as a result of [Majors] issuing complaints about the [Jabara] household.”

It was behavior reminiscent of Craig Stephen Hicks, an anti-religion bigot who obsessively harassed his Muslim neighbors – Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha – about parking spaces.

Hicks is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges for killing the couple, along with Yusor’s younger sister Razan Abu-Salha, in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last year.

Three hours before Majors rammed his car into Haifa Jabara, court documents show that Majors summoned the police to complain about a “vehicle parked in the street facing the wrong way.”

The officer who was dispatched that day testified that Majors characterized the Jabara family as “filthy Lebanese” who “throw gay people off the roof.”

After the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, began releasing shocking propaganda videos in late 2014 showing the group throwing people it accused of being gay off a roof, the right-wing echo chamber that typically incites hate against gays went to work portraying the savage acts of ISIS as representative of the supposedly inherent intolerance in Islam and Middle Eastern culture.

This rhetorical strategy – known as pinkwashing – is also used to portray Western countries and Israel as inherently more tolerant and thus to justify or erase violence against allegedly uncivilized Muslims.

ISIS has continued to produce similar videos every few months depicting acts of violence against gay people, likely in order to advance the group’s twisted objective of eliminating the “grayzone” – the co-existence that Muslims enjoy in Western countries – and sparking an all-out civilizational war.

To achieve this goal, ISIS has entered a de facto tacit alliance with right-wing and pro-Israel propagandists who gleefully spread such anti-Muslim defamation.

Around the same time ISIS debuted its first anti-gay snuff film, Majors married a man named Stephen Anthony Schmauss.

This raises the troubling possiblity that the pinkwashing narrative adopted by the American right in recent years resonated with Majors on a personal level.

Broken system

On another occasion, Majors allegedly yelled “Fuck you Arabs, Fuck you bastards. I want to kill you all. I know where your daughter lives and will take care of her,” according to a motion filed by the district attorney in September 2015.

Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, emphasized that being Lebanese Christians did not shield the Jabara family from the Islamophobia that factored into the hatred espoused by Majors.

“It’s not just Muslims or even Arabs” who are being targeted by anti-Muslim bigotry, Ayoub told The Electronic Intifada. “It’s anyone who is perceived as Arab or Muslim. We have Hispanics who call our office reporting harassment for being perceived as Arab or Muslim.”

“A lot of people are going to say all we have to do is defeat Donald Trump,” he added. “But if he loses it’s not going to change for immigrant communities. These hate crimes didn’t start because of Donald Trump. They were happening before Trump and they’re going to continue after he’s gone. It’s indicative of a broken system.”

Months before Trump kicked off his presidential run, the FBI warned in an internal report that right-wing extremists, inspired by anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and disinformation funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by wealthy pro-Israel zealots, were beginning to plot attacks against Muslims.

And while the hate has certainly intensified in the Trump era, he’s hardly the only demagogue around, particularly in a right-leaning state like Oklahoma.

In June, State Representative Pat Ownbey republished an article on his Facebook page that called for a “final solution” against “radical Islam,” echoing the phrase used to describe Hitler’s genocide of Europe’s Jews.

Two days after the slaying of Jabara, the imam of a Queens, New York, mosque and his assistant were gunned down in the street just after they left afternoon prayers.

Oscar Morel, 35, has been charged with the murder of Imam Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, Thara Miah, 64. While police still say the motive is unclear, that attack only heightened fears that rising Islamophobia is increasingly turning lethal on America’s streets.

“I want to shed light and bring awareness to the negligence that occurred from the first moment the neighbor … this monster … called our family ‘Dirty Arabs,’ to the time he ran over my mother with his car, to the two protective order violations, and our constant vigilance to communicate and be proactive with the [district attorneys], to the fact that they let him out of jail after eight months,” Khalid Jabara’s sister Victoria wrote in a separate Facebook post.

“While one cannot explain irrationality and evil, one thing I can explain is that indifference and inaction were major factors leading to Khalid’s death,” his brother Rami wrote on Facebook.

“As an attorney, I have seen the system fail defendants, but it also seems to fail the victims just as much or perhaps more. I feel like my family lost, my community lost. My brother lost. We all lost. I feel like we did everything we possibly could do [to] advocate for and protect ourselves.”

People are using the hashtag #justice4Khalid to demand accountability.

“When I was in school,” recalled Republican pollster and right-wing propaganda consultant Frank Luntz, “there was no opposition to Israel whatsoever.”

But today, he warned, “schools across the country have tremendous challenges” because young people are dramatically more liberal, increasingly hostile toward Israel and more sympathetic to Palestinians.

To defeat BDS, Luntz concluded that Israel’s supporters must adopt language that appeals to the campus left.

Luntz was speaking on 31 May to a packed conference hall at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where the Israeli mission to the UN and the World Jewish Congress hosted the first international #StopBDS conference.

An estimated 1,500 people, many of them college aged, attended the summit to learn and discuss strategies for crushing the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement burgeoning on US college campuses.

Speak young, speak left

To illustrate his point, Luntz presented polling he said was taken within the last 90 days showing attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians among US college students.

He was most troubled that only one in three students considers themselves pro-Israel. Almost a quarter of students support Palestinians over Israel and 39 percent think Israel should return all Israeli land to Palestinians.

Forty-three percent favor boycott as a means to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights and 44 percent – almost half – view Israel as an apartheid state.

Read more…

Throughout the Democratic presidential primary, journalists and commentators have relied upon their interactions with Bernie Sanders supporters on social media to promote the myth that what drives white men to support the democratic socialist is angst or some form of racial resentment. But there simply is no basis in fact for this argument; in fact, it is class politics, which is at the core of the groundswell of support for Sanders.

Matt Karp, who is an assistant professor of history at Princeton and a contributing editor of Jacobin, appears on the show to talk about a story he co-authored with Shawn Gude on the Sanders campaign, class politics of the campaign, and how—despite the dominant narrative—it is not driven by white male angst.

Karp wrote a piece that deconstructed a flawed survey, which two political scientists inappropriately used to draw conclusions about white Sanders supporters. The problem, as Karp points out, is the survey included Republicans. When they are removed and only people who likely voted for Sanders remain, it shows white Sanders supporters are not only more class conscious than white Clinton supporters but they are consistently less racist than white Clinton supporters.

We spend the interview breaking down this survey, discussing why it is important, and what Karp has learned from writing about the Sanders campaign for Jacobin.

Then, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola return from a weeks-long break to highlight the hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy speech against Donald Trump. The hosts talk about the tragedy of refugees drowning as they flee for Europe. U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s appeal is briefly discussed. Finally, the hosts talk about the upcoming California primary and the Democratic Party’s disdain for independent voters.

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

To listen to this week’s discussion (and also to download the discussion), go here. A page will load with the audio file of the discussion. It will automatically start playing for you to hopefully enjoy.

Below is a partial transcript.

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On Tuesday, I spoke with Nadia Kanji of The Real News about how Bernie Sanders’ appointment of five representatives to the Democratic platform committee could lead to a dramatic showdown over Palestine at the party’s convention in July.

Read more…

Donald Trump derided Hillary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy record [last] weekend, a glimpse into a potential general election strategy of casting Clinton as the more likely of the two to take the nation to war.

Just moments after maligning Syrian refugees at a rally in Lynden, Washington, Trump pivoted into a tirade against Clinton as a warmonger.

“On foreign policy, Hillary is trigger happy,” Trump told the crowd. “She is, she’s trigger happy. She’s got a bad temperament,” he said. “Her decisions in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya have cost trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and have totally unleashed ISIS.”

Read more… 

In recent days, has Israel launched a series of aggressive military actions in the besieged Gaza Strip, killing a Palestinian woman and injuring several other people, including three children.

And like clockwork, mainstream Western media swooped in to throw the narrative in Israel’s favor, brushing aside Israel’s relentless violations of the Gaza ceasefire and its killings of dozens of civilians in the besieged territory.

But first, the facts.

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My niece and nephew staged a mock debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and it’s hilarious!

Possibly the only movement to force a response from presidential candidates in the election is Black Lives Matter. Activists pushed Bernie Sanders to develop a racial justice platform after disrupting his speeches. Activists in South Carolina and Philadelphia have challenged Hillary Clinton over her support for policies of mass incarceration and her “superpredator” comment in the 1990s.

Along with Latino and American Muslims, Black activists have been at the forefront of protests against Donald Trump when he holds rallies. They have challenged his racism often facing the threat of brutality from Trump supporters. Media pundits have lectured activists on whether it is effective to protest Trump, even as they suggest Trump’s spreading of bigotry has crossed a line.

For this week’s episode of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola interview, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, the author of “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.” She provides a historical context and sharp insights on what has unfolded. She talks with us about the Congressional Black Caucus, solidarity in the Black Lives Matter movement, and poverty among Black Americans. She addresses the issue of the Democratic Party and what kind of obstacle it presents to Black liberation—and much more from her book.

In the discussion segment, Khalek and Gosztola highlight the U.S. military’s decision to charge no officers with crimes for the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz. They briefly talk about the storming of parliament by Iraqis. Then, the hosts discuss Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech, and the next phase of Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president.

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

To listen to this week’s discussion (and also to download the discussion), go here. A page will load with the audio file of the discussion. It will automatically start playing for you to hopefully enjoy.

Below is a partial transcript.

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The US military has adopted an Israeli procedure known as “roof-knocking” in its war on Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh, adding yet another failed Israeli tactic to its counterterrorism toolkit.

Roof-knocking entails striking the roof or upper story of a home or building with a mortar shell or missile prior to bombing it with even bigger munitions, in a supposed effort to warn civilians inside that they should evacuate.

Israel used this tactic to absolve itself of liability for killing civilians in Gaza. But human rights investigators found the tactic to be ineffective and at times deadly to the very civilians it was allegedly supposed to protect.

Two years later, however, the US is copying it.

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