Monthly Archives: March 2012

After sabotaging Beinart talk, East Bay Jewish Federation leader vows to kill Muslims (updated/corrected)

Update/correction: I received the following note today from Peter Beinart explaining why his East Bay appearance was cancelled: “[The East Bay JCC] pulled out because a JVP person was moderator and then when there were no sponsors who were Zionist and anti-full BDS, I pulled out. I did that sadly–cause I agree with JVP on the awfulness of the occupation–but given my strong opposition to BDS targeting all of Israel, it didn’t make sense for me to speak to a forum in which there was not one anti-BDS organization sponsoring.”

Last week, when Peter Beinart embarked on a tour to promote his new book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” leading pro-Israel figures initiated an assault that was as hysterical as it was predictable. The campaign scored its first victory on March 23, when Bay Area pro-Israel groups including the Jewish Federation of the East Bay successfully pressured the East Bay Jewish Community Federation (the same group that helped block a Gaza children’s art exhibition last year) to withdraw its sponsorship of East Bay Jewish Community Center to cancel Beinart’s scheduled appearance. The pressure began when Jonathan Wornick, a Jewish Federation board member, took to Facebook to urge his friends in the local pro-Israel community to call for pulling out the cancellation of Beinart’s talk. “Write or call the East Bay JCC and tell them to REMOVE THEIR SPONSORSHIP of this event,” Wornick demanded.

After trashing Beinart and the sponsors of his talk, Wornick opened a Facebook thread mocking the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager killed by a neighborhood vigilante for no apparent reason other than being black. At the end of the thread, Wornick offered a list of hypothetical situations that would provoke him to shoot someone to death. He added: “and of course i’d shoot anyone anywhere if they were yelling allahu akbar! [sic]”

Below is Wornick’s call to ban Beinart:

Beinart-Wornick1

After extended ranting about Beinart, Wornick linked to an article reporting the vigilante-killer George Zimmerman’s claim that his teen victim punched him. “So now that the facts have come out…are you proud of yourselves for jumping to conclusions?” Wornick railed.

WornickFBTrayvon

Several screeds later, Wornick descended into murderous fantasies:

WornickFBTrayvon3

Wornick seems to have a penchant for extreme tirades. In March 2011, he published the following rant on his Facebook page:

“When will it end? Kill or be killed? Radical Islam, or, maybe all Islam is the problem. It’s a backward, misogynistic, hateful, anti-democratic, ant-semetic, and corrupt. We need to expose this to the western world and get people to realize that NOT ALL CULTURES ARE EQUAL. Islam, if allowed will spread and destroy all Western values. In order to stop films like this we need to stop the spread of Islam. Period.”

Though Wornick’s Islamophobic screed was publicly exposed, the East Bay Jewish Federation took no action against him. There is no reason to believe they will do anything this time, either. Thus important pillars of the Jewish establishment continue to confirm Beinart’s trenchant critique of them.

By the way, I have substantial criticisms of Beinart’s book which I will make known in the days ahead and in a review for the Journal of Palestine Studies. Mark Levine seems to share my opinions. Read his excellent review at Al Jazeera English.

This was cross-posted at Al Akhbar English.

France’s #Toulouse killings and the Salafist-Far Right alliance

Members of Forsanne Alizza join Catholic rightists in protest against a supposedly "Christianophobic" theatrical production

Members of Forsanne Alizza join Catholic rightists in protest against a supposedly "Christianophobic" theatrical production

As I write this, the standoff continues in Toulouse, France between French police and Mohammed Merah, the alleged murderer of several Muslim French soldiers and Jews. One of the most salient facts about the killer, a professed Islamic radical seeking to avenge various indignities committed against Muslims by the West, is that he was a member of an outlawed French Salafist group called Forsanne Alizza, or the Knights of Pride. The group, which has expressed sympathy for Al Qaida’s cause, was banned in January after its leadership was accused of training members “for armed combat.”

Now that the Toulouse killer has been unmasked as a radical Muslim, and not a white Christian Islamophobe like Anders Behring Breivik, the French extreme right can breathe a sigh of relief. Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader vying for the French presidency, is apparently seeking to ride the tragedy all the way to victory. Today, she declared, “The Islamic fundamentalist threat has been underestimated in our country and political-religious groups are developing due to a certain laxism.”

But a glance into the recent activities of Forsanne Alizza exposes the irony of Le Pen’s words. Indeed, Forsanne Alizza has been engaged in an open alliance with neofascist figures and extreme right-wing Catholic groups who emerged from the core of Le Pen’s National Front party and who comprise some of her most loyal supporters.

The de facto Salafist-neofascist alliance was forged in October 2011 when two right-wing Catholic groups, Action Francaise (French Action) and Renouveau Francais (French Renewal) staged  a morality crusade against a performance in Paris of Romeo Castallucci’s play, “On the Concept of the Face of God.” At first, the rightists tried to halt the performance of the play on the anti-religious discrimination grounds. Their grievances focused on a scene of a son cleaning his father’s feces off the floor while images of Jesus Christ flashed on a projection screen. After failing to stop the play, the groups organized a 10-day protest vigil outside Theatre de la Ville, attempting to stop ticket holders from entering through various means of intimidation. Before one performance, seven far-right activists were arrested while attempting to enter the theater with concealed knives, teargas, and stones.

In footage below, Catholic right activists chant “France, Youth, Christianity,” during a October 29, 2011 demonstration against “Christianophobia” outside Theatre de la Ville:

Among the demonstrators at the Theatre de la Ville was Xavier Beauvais, a schismatic ultra-conservative Catholic priest with pronounced anti-Semitic tendencies. As the blog Culture Bot noted, Beauvais has lionized Leon Degrelle, a Belgian extremist who joined the Nazi SS during World War II then led various neo-Nazi outfits in the decades after. Filling out the protest ranks were members of Renouveau Francais, a far-right group that endorsed Marine Le Pen for President in 2007, and which earned an important show of support from Bruno Gollnisch for its campaign against Castalluci’s play.

Marine Le Pen and Holocaust revisionist Bruno Gollnisch

Marine Le Pen and Holocaust revisionist Bruno Gollnisch

Who is Gollnisch? He was the closest ally of Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean Marie, and unsuccessfully challenged Le Pen fille for the National Front’s leadership position in 2011. Gollnisch is also a Holocaust revisionist who was placed on probation and slapped with a hefty fine by a Lyon court for denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, among other specious claims. Gollnisch has been a regular speaker at conferences of American Renaissance, an American white nationalist group that brings an assortment of extreme racialist figures from Jared Taylor to Sam Dickson to Philip Rushton together each year to promote biological determinist theories about the genetic superiority of Anglo-Saxon whites (read my report from the 2006 gathering of AmRen here).

Another key supporter of Renouveau Francais’ crusade against Castalluci’s play was Alexandre Gabriac. Gabriac served as a central committee member and regional councilor in Le Pen’s National Front until photos emerged showing him delivering a Nazi sieg heil salute, prompting Le Pen to expel him from the party. Despite calls from National Front cadres to forgive Gabriac, Le Pen was in the process of an intensive image makeover designed to increase her appeal among Jewish voters inclined towards National Front’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant positions. Since embarking on her campaign for the presidency, Le Pen has taken a stridently pro-Israel line, earning her a 20-minute meeting last November with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor. She was not going to let a mid-level Nazi sympathizer stand in the way of her ambitions.

Le Pen scored a meeting with Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor

Le Pen scored a meeting with Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor

Gabriac was present along with 300 Catholic rightists at the October 29 protest at Theatre de la Ville. There and during a march earlier that day in Paris, the right-wing Catholics were joined by members of the Salafist splinter group Forsanne Alizza. According to the French blog, Poisson Rouge, Forsanne Alizza issued a press release on its website calling for members to protest with the Catholic fundamentalists. And so Forsanne Alizza activists marched side-by-side with members of Renouveau Francais and Action Francaise, echoed their chants, and expressed solidarity against “Christianophobia.”

At 1:03 in the video below, a Forzanne Alizza leader explains (in French — translation coming soon) why his group joined the protests against Castalluci’s play:

Though Le Pen will spend the coming weeks holding forth about the supposed failure of the French government to crush Forzanne Alizza, there was a time when some of her most committed political-religious partisans united with the group that allegedly helped inspire the Toulouse killer in a crusade against the thing they hated more than anything else — more than Islam and even mass immigration. That thing was liberalism itself.

This was cross posted at Al Akhbar English

#GazaUnderAttack on Citizen Radio

Israeli Channel 10 military anchor Alon Ben David stands beside a graphic reading, "Death toll: Gaza, 25; Israel, 0" (via Ami Kaufman at 972mag.com)

Israeli Channel 10 military anchor Alon Ben David stands beside a graphic reading, "Death toll: Gaza, 25; Israel, 0" (via Ami Kaufman at 972mag.com)

I discussed Israel’s real motives for its recent attacks on the Gaza Strip and talked about my reporting on Israel-Palestine with Citizen Radio hosts Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein.

Citizen Radio happens to be one of the most refreshing and authentically progressive radio shows I’ve listened to. Kilkenny and Kilstein deserve enormous credit for bringing the issue of Gaza to their listeners.

Listen to my interview here.

Israeli democracy, or the lack thereof: a conversation with Alternet’s Joshua Holland

I recently spoke to Alternet’s Joshua Holland about law and politics in Israel. Our conversation focused on the image of Israel as a Western style democracy coping with legitimate security concerns versus the reality of Israel as an ethnocratic state managing its demographic peril through authoritarian measures approved by the Jewish majority. The discussion can be heard here. Below is a transcript via Alternet:

Joshua Holland: Max, I don’t want to talk about Iran today. I don’t want to talk about the Israeli lobby in the United States, and I don’t want to talk about the Occupation. I want to talk about something I don’t think gets enough attention in this country, which is the sharp rightward turn of the Israeli government.

One of the great non-sequiturs of our political discourse is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. And I say it’s a great non-sequitur because it’s usually used as a response to, for example, criticism of the Occupation. You say this Occupation is terrible, and people say it’s the only democracy in the Middle East.

Anyway, Tzipi Livni, the leader of the opposition Kadima Party, accused Benjamin Netanyahu recently of, “an attempt to transform Israel into a type of dictatorship.” Kadima lawmakers said that recent legislation passed by the Knesset represented, “the gravest challenge to democracy since the establishment of the state in 1948.” Tell me about the sharp rightward lurch. When did this happen, because I remember when I was a kid Israel was almost a socialist country.

Max Blumenthal: Well, by not wanting to talk about Iran you’re an anti-Semite and I condemn that.

JH: Max, I’m a self-loathing Jew — please get this straight.

MB: Part of Netanyahu’s goal in focusing on Iran is taking the Palestinian question off the table, and so it’s good that you’re talking about this. Israel has never been a democracy in the sense that we think about a democracy. It’s a settler, colonial state that privileges the Jewish majority, which it created through violent methods of demographic manipulation over the indigenous Palestinian outclass.

That’s true even inside Israel. So when you hear people like Tzipi Livni — who is for now the head of the Kadima Party but soon to be ousted, and actually came out of the Likud Party and was aide to Ariel Sharon – when you hear liberal Zionists, people on the Zionist left, warning that Israel is turning into a fascist state what they’re talking is the occupation laws creeping back over the green line, and that these right-wing elements are actually starting to crack down on the democratic rights that have been afforded to the Jewish majority inside Israel. So Jews who are left-wingers, who are dissidents and speak out against state policy are actually beginning to feel a slight scintilla of the kind of oppression that Palestinians have felt since the foundation of the state of Israel. That’s where this criticism is coming from.

I think we really need to get beyond the discourse of occupation and the discourse of fascism, and instead to talk about institutional discrimination and apartheid, which is what has been present since the foundation of the state of Israel.

JH: Now I want to talk about some of the specific measures that have been proposed, some of which have passed. There are some things that have been pulled back or tabled temporarily due to international pressure, and other have actually gotten through and become law. Tell be about the crackdown on NGOs.

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