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Meet The Right-Wing Extremist Behind Anti-Muslim Film That Sparked Deadly Riots

"Innocence of Muslims" consultant Steve Klein is a veteran anti-Muslim organizer with close ties to the Christian right in California

"Innocence of Muslims" consultant Steve Klein is a veteran anti-Muslim organizer with close ties to the Christian right in California

The US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three US diplomats were killed in attacks and rioting provoked by an obscure, low-budget anti-Muslim film called “The Innocence of Muslims.” The producer of the film is a real estate developer supposedly named “Sam Bacile” who claims to be an Israeli Jew. Bacile told the AP the film was made with $5 million raised from “100 Jewish donors.” He said he was motivated to help his native country, Israel, by exposing the evils of Islam.

While Bacile claims to be in hiding, and his identity remains murky, another character who has been publicly listed as a consultant on the film is a known anti-Muslim activist with ties to the extreme Christian right and the militia movement. He is Steve Klein, a Hemet, California based insurance salesman who claims to have led a “hunter-killer team” in Vietnam.”

Klein is a right-wing extremist who emerged from the same axis of Islamophobia that produced Anders Behring Breivik and which takes inspiration from the writings of Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Daniel Pipes.

It appears Klein (or someone who shares his name and views) is an enthusiastic commenter on Geller’s website, Atlas Shrugged, where he recently complained about Mitt Romney’s “support for a Muslim state in Israel’s Heartland.” In July 2011, Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized alongside the anti-Muslim Coptic extremist Joseph Nasrallah to demand the firing of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, whom they painted as a dupe for Hamas.

Klein is also closely affiliated with the Christian right in California, organizing resentment against all the usual targets — Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, and even Mormons. He is a board member and founder of a group called Courageous Christians United, which promotes anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim literature (including the work of Robert Spencer) on its website. In 2002, Klein ran for the California Insurance Commissioner under the American Independent Party, an extremist fringe party linked to the militia movement, garnering a piddling 2 percent of the vote.

Klein has been closely affiliated with the Church at Kaweah, an extreme evangelical church located 70 miles southeast of Fresno that serves as a nexus of neo-Confederate, Christian Reconstructionist, and militia movement elements. The Southern Poverty Law Center produced a report on Kaweah this spring that noted Klein’s long record of activist against Muslims:

Over the past year, Johnson and the church militia have developed a relationship with Steve Klein, a longtime religious-right activist who brags about having led a “hunter killer” team as a Marine in Vietnam. Klein, who calls Islam a “penis-driven religion” and thinks Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca is a Muslim Brotherhood patsy, is allied with Christian activist groups across California. In 2011, as head of the Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, he worked with the Vista, Calif.-based Christian Anti-Defamation Commission on a campaign to “arm” students with the “truth about Islam and Muhammad” — mainly by leafleting high schools with literature depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a sex-crazed pedophile.

Klein, based in Hemet, Calif., has been active in extremist movements for decades. In 1977, he founded Courageous Christians United, which now conducts “respectful confrontations” outside of abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. Klein also has ties to the Minuteman movement. In 2007, he sued the city of San Clemente for ordering him to stop leafleting cars with pamphlets opposing illegal immigration.

Like many other activists who fashion themselves as “counter-Jihadists,” Klein has organized against the construction of mosques in his area. While leafleting against a planned mosque in Temecula, California, which he claimed would herald the introduction of Shariah law to the quiet suburb, Klein remarked, “It all comes down to the first amendment. I don’t care if you disagree with me. Just don’t cut off my head.”

Klein appears to be allied with the National American Coptic Assembly, a radical Islamophobic group headed by Morris Sadik. Sadik claims to have discovered the film and began promoting it online. Once it went viral, the trailer was translated into Arabic, sparking outrage in the Middle East, and ultimately, to the deadly attacks carried out by Muslim extremists today.

Klein claims credit for inspiring “Sam Bacile” to produce “The Innocence of Muslims,” promising him he would be “the next Theo Van Gogh,” referring to the Dutch columnist who was murdered by a Muslim extremist. Of the attacks in Libya, Klein said, “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”

Rick Perry distorted historian, who likened Texans’ “inherent chauvinism,” “belligerence” to Israel (Updated)

Update #1: Perry repeated his mis-citation of Fehrenbach in the Wall Street Journal today.

Update #2: A friend wonders if Doug Feith, who is now advising Perry on foreign policy, was the one who slipped Fehrenbach’s quote in.

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate and current Texas Governor Rick Perry attacked President Barack Obama and the Palestinian UN statehood bid in a foreign newspaper, the Jerusalem Post. Perry devoted most of the editorial to assailing Obama as anti-Israel. But buried in the op-ed, in a line intended to highlight the shared values of Texas and Israel, Perry quoted the historian T.R. Fehrenbach. “Historian T.R. Fehrenbach once observed that my home state of Texas and Israel share the experience of ‘civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies,’” Perry wrote.

Fehrenbach published an authoritative book on the ethnic cleansing of the Comanche Indians by the Anglo settlers of Texas. He wrote with deep sympathy for the indigenous population, and though he expressed a strong identification with Texan culture, he was harshly critical of the settlers’ cruely toward the native population. Perry’s quoting of Fehrenbach seemed curious, so I opened up my copy of Fehrenbach’s “Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans” to see if he cited the historian accurately. When I found the passage Perry had pulled from, my suspicions were realized: Perry (or more likely some half-wit speechwriter) had distorted Fehrenbach’s original text and taken it wildly out of context.

The full passage Perry quoted from is on page 257 of Fehrenbach’s “Lone Star:”

The Texan’s attitudes, his inherent chauvinism and the seeds of his belligerence, sprouted from his conscious effort to take and hold his land. It was the reaction of essentially civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies they despised. The closest 20th-century counterpart is the State of Israel, born in blood in another primordial land.

Fehrenbach would have agreed with Perry that Texas shared values with Israel. But unlike Perry, he thought that those values were all the wrong ones: hatred of the other, a reliance on violence to seize land, and a legacy of ethnic cleansing. According to Fehrenbach, what Israel did to the Palestinians in 1947 and ’48 — and continues to do — is analogous to the Texans’ treatment of the Comanches and Mexicans during the 19th century. The comparison highlights Israel’s distinction as the world’s last settler-colonial state; a country based on an anachronistic system of ethnic exclusivism. It is hard to imagine that Perry would have scored any political points by quoting Fehrenbach accurately. So instead, in the name of his presidential ambitions, he distorted and abused the writing of one of the Lone Star state’s most celebrated historians.

GOD TV and the Jewish National Fund plant the Forest Of Hate

In August, I witnessed the third demolition of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in Israel’s Negev desert. It was a harrowing scene that I will never forget. And it has been repeated five times since then, forcing the residents to sleep in the open air while rebuilding their homes over and over. I knew at the time that the Jewish National Fund, a quasi-governmental organization that plants trees all around Israel, especially over destroyed Palestinian villages, planned to establish a forest on the land that Al-Arakib stood. But I didn’t know at the time that the financing for the forest came from an extreme dominionist evangelical broadcasting network called GOD TV, or that the forest, which already represented an insane plan since it was going to fill an arid desert with non-native trees, would be called “GOD TV Forest.”

GOD TV and Jewish National Fund’s Forest Of Hate from Max Blumenthal on Vimeo.

Since then, GOD TV’s real motives have come to light. And (surprise, surprise!), GOD TV personality and complete huckster Rory Alec makes no secret of his desire “to plant a million trees to prepare the land for the return of [God's] son.” Once again, the Jewish — I repeat, Jewish! — state of Israel has partnered with open anti-Semites to dispossess the Palestinian un-people.

To illustrate the perversity of the JNF and GOD TV’s plans, I have embedded in this post a video I helped create that intersperses footage of Rory Alec promoting his End Times forest to his viewing audience with footage I shot of Al-Arakib’s destruction by Israeli forces. Alec is standing less than a kilometer from Al-Arakib in the video. By the end, he is seen giving a check to the mayor of Givot Bar, a Jews-only settlement in the Negev that requires residents to pony up 5000 shekels just to apply for residency (sorry, no poor Mizrahi Jews allowed to live here either!).

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The Carmel Wildfire is burning all illusions in Israel

The following piece was originally published at Electronic Intifada:

“When I look out my window today and see a tree standing there, that tree gives me a greater sense of beauty and personal delight than all the vast forests I have seen in Switzerland or Scandinavia. Because every tree here was planted by us.”

– David Ben Gurion, Memoirs

“Why are there so many Arabs here? Why didn’t you chase them away?”

– David Ben Gurion during a visit to Nazareth, July 1948

JNF forests burning in Northern Israel (photo by Oren Ziv/Active Stills)

JNF forests burning in Northern Israel (photo by Oren Ziv/Active Stills)

Four days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to place thousands of migrant workers from Africa and Southeast Asia in a prison camp deep in the Negev Desert because, as he claimed, they pose a “threat to the character of [the] country,” a burning tree trunk fell into a bus full of Israeli Prison Service cadets, killing forty passengers. The tree was among hundreds of thousands turned to ash by the forest fire pouring across northern Israel, and which now threatens to engulf outskirts of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. Over the last four days, more than 12,300 acres have burned in the Mount Carmel area, a devastating swath of destruction in a country the size of New Jersey. While the cause of the fire has not been established, it has laid bare the myths of Israel’s foundation.

Israelis are treating the fire as one of their greatest tragedies in recent years. A friend who grew up in the Haifa area told me over the weekend that he was devastated by the images of destruction he saw on TV. His friend’s brother was among those who perished in the bus accident. Though he is a dedicated Zionist who supported Netanyahu’s election bid in 2008, like so many Israelis, he was furious at the response — or lack of one — by the government. “Our leaders are complete idiots, but you already know that,” he told me. “They invested so much to prepare for all kinds of crazy war scenarios but didn’t do anything to protect civilians from the basic things you are supposed to take for granted.”

On 3 December, Netanyahu informed the country, “We do not have what it takes to put out the fire, but help is on the way.” To beat back the blaze, Bibi has had to beg for assistance from his counterpart in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and Israel’s American and British patrons. Israel is a wealthy country which boasts to the world about its innovative spirit — its US-based lobbyists market it as a “Start-Up Nation” — but its performance during the forest fire revealed the sad truth: its government has prioritized offensive military capacity and occupation maintenance so extensively that it has completely neglected the country’s infrastructure, emergency preparedness and most of all, the general welfare of its citizens.

Beyond the embarrassing spectacle of Turkish supply planes landing in Tel Aviv just six months after Israeli commandoes massacred Turkish aid volunteers on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, or the confessions of impotence by the hard-men Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, the fire exposed a terrible history that had been concealed by layers of official mythology and piles of fallen pine needles.

“There are no facts”

Among the towns that have been evacuated is Ein Hod, a bohemian artists’ colony nestled in the hills to the north and east of Haifa. This is not the first time Ein Hod was evacuated, however. The first time was in 1948, when the town’s original Palestinian inhabitants were driven from their homes by a manmade disaster known as the Nakba.

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Republican Gomorrah on NPR’s Here And Now

NPR’s Here And Now aired Robin Young’s interview with me today. We were able to cover lots of new territory in the interview, from the roles of Francis Schaeffer and R.J. Rushdoony in inspiring the Christian right’s tactics and goals, to Dwight Eisenhower’s prophecy about the radical right, to the birth of the terrorist wing of the anti-abortion movement, to the weird intersection of the LaRouche cult and the anti-Obama crazies. Listen to it at the 4:20 mark here.

Palin’s Pastor: God “Is Gonna Strike Out His Hand Against…America”

Larry Kroon

Palin's pastor, Larry Kroon, warns God "is gonna strike out his hand against" America

On July 20, 2008, the pastor of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s home church, Larry Kroon, delivered a sermon called “Sin Is Personal To God.” Kroon, the senior pastor of the non-denominational Wasilla Bible Church in Wasilla, Alaska, used the book of Zephanaiah as his reference point for discussing “that great day of the Lord when God will finally bring closure to human history… a day of wrath.” According to Kroon, “all things and all people” are going to bear the brunt of God’s “intense anger.” “There’s anger with God,” he proclaimed. “He takes sin personal.”

Kroon placed Zephaniah in a modern context, warning that the sinful habits of Americans would invite the wrath of God. “And if Zephaniah were here today,” Kroon bellowed, “he’d be saying, ‘Listen, [God] is gonna deal with all the inhabitants of the earth. He is gonna strike out His hand against, yes, Wasilla; and Alaska; and the United States of America. There’s no exceptions here — there’s none. It’s all.’”

(Kroon’s sermon can be heard here; a full transcript is here.)

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