Tag Archives: islam

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

America’s Breivik Complex: State terror and the Islamophobic right

This article was originally published at Alternet:

Few political terrorists in recent history took as much care to articulate their ideological influences and political views as Anders Behring Breivik did. The right-wing Norwegian Islamophobe who murdered 76 children and adults in Oslo and at a government-run youth camp spent months, if not years, preparing his 1,500 page manifesto.

Besides its length, one of the most remarkable aspects of the manifesto is the extent to which its European author quoted from the writings of figures from the American conservative movement. Though he referred heavily to his fellow Norwegian, the blogger Fjordman, it was Robert Spencer, the American Islamophobic pseudo-academic, who received the most references from Breivik — 55 in all. Then there was Daniel Pipes, the Muslim-bashing American neoconservative who earned 18 citations from the terrorist. Other American anti-Muslim characters appear prominently in the manifesto, including the extremist blogger Pam Geller, who operates an Islamophobic organization in partnership with Spencer.

Breivik may have developed his destructive sensibility in the stark political environment of a European continent riveted by mass immigration from the Muslim world, but his conceptualization of the changes he was witnessing reflect the influence of a cadre of far-right bloggers and activists from across the Atlantic Ocean. He not only mimicked their terminology and emulated their language, he substantially adopted their political worldview. The profound impact of the American right’s Islamophobic subculture on Breivik’s thinking raises a question that has not been adequately explored: Where is the American version of Breivik and why has he not struck yet? Or has he?

Many of the American writers who influenced Breivik spent years churning out calls for the mass murder of Muslims, Palestinians and their left-wing Western supporters. But the sort of terrorism these US-based rightists incited for was not the style the Norwegian killer would eventually adopt. Instead of Breivik’s renegade free-booting, they preferred the “shock and awe” brand of state terror perfected by Western armies against the brown hordes threatening to impose Sharia law on the people in Peoria. This kind of violence provides a righteous satisfaction so powerful it can be experienced from thousands of miles away.

And so most American Islamophobes simply sit back from the comfort of their homes and cheer as American and Israeli troops — and their remote-controlled aerial drones — leave a trail of charred bodies from Waziristan to Gaza City. Only a select group of able-bodied Islamophobes are willing to suit up in a uniform and rush to the front lines of the clash of civilizations. There, they have discovered that they can mow down Muslim non-combatants without much fear of legal consequences, and that when they return, they will be celebrated as the elite Crusader-warriors of the new Islamophobic right — a few particularly violent figures have been rewarded with seats in Congress. Given the variety of culturally acceptable, officially approved outlets for venting violent anti-Muslim resentment, there is little reason for any American to follow in Breivik’s path of infamy.

Before exploring the online subculture that both shaped and mirrored Breivik’s depravity, it is necessary to define state terror, especially the kind refined by its most prolific practitioners. At the dawn of the “war on terror,” the United States and Israel began cultivating a military doctrine called “asymmetrical warfare.” Pioneered by an Israeli philosophy and “practical ethics” professor named Asa Kasher and the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Amos Yadlin, and successfully marketed to the Pentagon, the asymmetrical warfare doctrine did away with traditional counterinsurgency tactics which depended on winning the “hearts and minds” of indigenous populations. Under the new rules, the application of disproportionate force against non-combatants who were supposedly intermingled with the “terrorists” was not only  justified but considered necessary. According to Kasher and Yadlin, eliminating the principle of distinction between enemy combatants and civilians was the most efficient means of deterring attacks from non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah while guarding the lives of Israeli soldiers.

Asymmetrical warfare has been witnessed in theaters of war across the Muslim world, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. The strategy was formalized in the Dahiya district of southern Beirut in 2006, when the Israeli military flattened hundreds of civilian structures and homes to supposedly punish Hezbollah for its capturing of two Israeli soldiers.

From the ashes of the Israeli carpet bombing campaign emerged the “Dahiya Doctrine,” a term coined by an Israeli general responsible for directing the war on Lebanon in 2006. “IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot uttered clear words that essentially mean the following,” wrote Israeli journalist Yaron London, who had just interviewed the general. “In the next clash with Hezbollah we won’t bother to hunt for tens of thousands of rocket launchers and we won’t spill our soldiers’ blood in attempts to overtake fortified Hizbullah positions. Rather, we shall destroy Lebanon and won’t be deterred by the protests of the ‘world.’” In a single paragraph, London neatly encapsulated the logic of state terror.

While Israel has sought to insulate itself from the legal ramifications of its attacks on civilian life by deploying elaborate propaganda and intellectual sophistry (witness the country’s frantic campaign to discredit the Goldstone Report), and the United States has casually dismissed allegations of war crimes as any swaggering superpower would (after a US airstrike killed scores of Afghan civilians, former US CENTCOM chief David Petraeus baselessly claimed that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their children alive to increase the death toll), the online Islamophobes who inspired Breivik tacitly accept the reality of Israeli and American state terror. And they like it. Indeed, American Islamophobes derive frightening levels of ecstasy from the violence inflicted by the armed forces against Muslim civilians. The Facebook page of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate group, Stop the Islamicization of America (SOIA), is Exhibit A of the phenomenon.

During a visit to SOIA’s Facebook page, which is personally administered by Geller and Spencer, it is possible to read rambling calls for killing “the diaper heads” and for Israel to “rule the whole Middle East.” A cursory glance at the website will also reveal visual propaganda reveling in the prospect of a genocide against Muslims. One image posted on the site depicts American and British troops dropping a nuclear bomb in the midst of thousands of Muslim pilgrims in Mecca. “Who ya gonna call? Shitbusters,” it reads.

A second image portraying a nuclear mushroom cloud declares: “DEALING WITH MUSLIMS — RULES OF ENGAGEMENT; Rule #1: Kill the Enemy. Rule #2: There is no rule #2.” Another posted on SOIA’s Facebook page shows the bullet-riddled, bloodsoaked bodies of Muslim civilians splayed out by a roadside. “ARMY MATH,” the caption reads. “4 Tangos + (3 round burst x 4 M 4′s) = 288 virgins.” However pathological these images might seem to outsiders, in the subculture of Geller and Spencer’s online fascisphere, they are understood as legitimate expressions of nationalistic, “pro-Western” pride. Indeed, none seem to celebrate violence against Muslims by anyone except uniformed representatives of Western armies.

The anti-Muslim fervor of Geller, Spencer and their allies reached a fever pitch during the controversy they manufactured in 2010 over the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in downtown New York City. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, in North Carolina, a right-wing Republican ex-Marine named Ilario Pantano made opposing the mosque the centerpiece of his campaign for Congress, proclaiming that New York was “forsaking Israel” by allowing the mosque’s construction. During the height of the his campaign, a report relying on documented evidence and confirmed testimonies revealed that while serving in Iraq in 2004, Pantano had executed two unarmed civilians near Fallujah, firing 60 bullets into their bodies with his M16A4 automatic rifle — he even stopped to reload — then decorated their corpses a placard inscribed with the Marine motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.” The incident did not hinder Pantano’s campaign, however. His Democratic opponent never mentioned it, Pam Geller hailed Pantano as “a war hero,” and he swiftly became a cult hero of the Tea Party.

Pantano lost his bid for Congress, however, another US military veteran closely allied with the Islamophobic right won a surprise victory in Florida: Republican Representative Allen West. While serving in Iraq, West was discharged from the military and fined $5000 after he brutally beat an Iraqi policeman, then fired his pistol behind the immobilized man’s head. As in Pantano’s case, reports of the disturbing incident only helped propel West to victory. In fact, West boasted about the beating in his campaign speeches, citing it as evidence of how hard he would fight for his constituents if elected.

Though Breivik’s hatred for Muslims clearly spurred him to violence, he wound up murdering scores of the non-Muslims. He believed they were enabling an Islamic takeover of Europe, or what he called the creation of “Eurabia,” and that the “traitors” deserved the ultimate punishment. In homing in on liberal elements in Norway, Breivik borrowed from the language of right-wing figures from the United States, labeling his targets as “Cultural Marxists.” Initially introduced by the anti-Semitic right-wing organizer William Lind of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, the term “Cultural Marxism” was a catch-all that defined a broad array of leftist types, but especially those who preached “political correctness” towards immigrants, homosexuals, and other oppressed groups including the Palestinians. “Let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists,” Breivik wrote in his manifesto. The killer also sought to differentiate between good Jews (supporters of Israel) and bad Jews (advocates for Palestinian rights), claiming that “Jews that support multi-culturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism as they are to us.”

Breivik’s characterizations of the left (and of left-wing Jews) echoed those familiar to right-wing bloggers and conservative activists in the US, particularly on the issue of Israel-Palestine. The only difference seems to have been that Breivik was willing to personally kill sympathizers with Palestinian rights, while American Islamophobes have prefered to sit back and cheer for the Israeli military to do the job instead. The tendency of the American right was on shocking display this June when the Free Gaza Flotilla attempted to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip (during the previous flotilla in 2010, nine activists were killed by what a United Nations report described as execution style shootings by Israeli commandoes). As the debate about the flotilla escalated on Twitter, Joshua Trevino, a US army veteran and who worked as a speechwriter in the administration of George W. Bush, chimed in. “Dear IDF,” Trevino tweeted. “If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla — well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.” While Trevino hectored flotilla participants, Kurt Schlicter, a former American army officer and right-wing blogger for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site, joined the calls for bloodshed. ”Sink the flotilla,” Schlicter wrote on Twitter. “Enough screwing around with these psychos.”

Neither Schlicter or Trevino saw any reason to apologize for inciting the murder of fellow Americans, nor did Trevino appear to face any consequences at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he serves as Vice President. Instead, Trevino earned a rousing defense from prominent conservative personalities like Erick Erickson, a paid CNN contributor who lauded “the correctness of Josh’s opinion” that Israel should kill American leftists. Indeed, no one from inside the American right’s online media hothouse condemned Trevino, Schlicter or Erickson, or even brooked a slight disagreement. Meanwhile, the incitement against Palestine solidarity activists has continued, with pro-Israel operatives Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid writing this July in the Jerusalem Post that “Flotilla Folk are not like other people.”

When the smoke cleared from Breivik’s terrorist rampage across Norway, American Islamophobes went into  intellectual contortions, condemning his acts while carefully avoiding any criticism of his views. While making sure to call Breivik “evil,” the ultra-nationalist commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan insisted that “Breivik may be right” about the supposed clash of civilizations between the Muslim East and the Christian West. Pipes, for his part, accused Breivik of a “purposeful” campaign to discredit him by citing him so frequently in his manifesto, while a panicked Geller claimed that Breivik “is a murderer, a mass murderer. Period. He’s not anything else.”

The comically revealing reactions by American Islamophobes to Brevik’s killing spree demonstrate the politically catastrophic situation they have gotten themselves into. All of a sudden, their movement was under intense scrutiny from a previously derelict mainstream media. And they were likely to be monitored to an unprecedented degree by federal law enforcement. These same figures who influenced Breivik had been printing open calls for terrorist violence against Muslims and leftists for years — while a few went a step further on the battlefield. Before Breivik killed 76 innocent people, they had generally gotten away with it.

Why were America’s Islamophobes able to avoid accountability for so long? The answer is not that their yearnings for righteous political violence had not been fulfilled until Breivik emerged. The truth is far more uncomfortable than that. America’s Islamophobic right was only able to make so much political headway because a broad sector of the American public had tolerated and even supported the kind of terror that they openly celebrated.

Anders Behring Breivik, a perfect product of the Axis of Islamophobia

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store visits the Utoya Labor Youth camp a day before Breivik's killing spree. He earned loud cheers with an unapologetic call for Palestinian rights.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store visits the Utoya Labor Youth camp a day before Breivik's killing spree. He earned loud cheers with an unapologetic call for Palestinian rights.

When I wrote my analysis last December on the “Axis of Islamophobia,” laying out a new international political network of right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, Tea Party activists and racist British soccer hooligans, I did not foresee a terrorist like Anders Behring Breivik emerging from the movement’s ranks. At the same time, I am not surprised that he did. The rhetoric of the characters who inspired Breivik, from Pam Geller to Robert Spencer to Daniel Pipes, was so eliminationist in its nature that it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone put words into action.

As horrific as Breivik’s actions were, he can not be dismissed as a “madman.” His writings contain the same themes and language as more prominent right-wing Islamophobes (or those who style themselves as “counter-Jihadists”) and many conservatives in general. What’s more, Breivik was articulate and coherent enough to offer a clear snapshot of his ideological motives. Ali Abunimah and Alex Kane have posted excellent summaries of Breivik’s writings here and here and a full English translation is here. It is also worth sitting through at least a portion of Breivik’s tedious video manifesto to get a sense of his thinking.

From a tactical perspective, Breivik was not a “lone wolf” terrorist. Instead, Breivik appeared to operate under a leaderless resistance model much like the Christian anti-abortion terrorists Scott Roeder and Eric Rudolph. Waagner and Rudolph organized around the Army of God, a nebulous group that was known only by its website and the pamphlets its members passed around in truck stops and private meetings. If they received material or tactical support, it occurred spontaneously. For the most part, they found encouragement from like-minded people and organizations like Operation Rescue, but rarely accepted direct assistance. Breivik, who emerged from the anti-immigrant Norwegian Progress Party (which built links with America’s Tea Party) and drifted into the English/Norwegian Defense League sphere of extremism, but who appeared to act without formal organizational support, reflects the same leaderless resistance style as America’s anti-abortion terrorists.

While in many ways Breivik shares core similarities with other right-wing anti-government terrorists, he is the product of a movement that is relatively new, increasingly dangerous, and poorly understood. I described the movement in detail in my “Axis of Islamophobia” piece, noting its simultaneous projection of anti-Semitic themes on Muslim immigrants and the appeal of Israel as a Fort Apache on the front lines of the war on terror, holding the line against the Eastern barbarian hordes. Breivik’s writings embody this seemingly novel fusion, particularly in his obsession with “Cultural Marxism,” an increasingly popular far-right concept that positions the (mostly Jewish) Frankfurt School as the originators of multiculturalism, combined with his call to “influence other cultural conservatives to come to our…pro-Israel line.”

Breivik and other members of Europe’s new extreme right are fixated on the fear of the “demographic Jihad,” or being out-populated by overly fertile Muslim immigrants. They see themselves as Crusader warriors fighting a racial/religious holy war to preserve Western Civilization. Thus they turn for inspiration to Israel, the only ethnocracy in the world, a country that substantially bases its policies towards the Palestinians on what its leaders call “demographic considerations.” This is why Israeli flags invariably fly above black-masked English Defense League mobs, and why Geert Wilders, the most prominent Islamophobic politician in the world, routinely travels to Israel to demand the forced transfer of Palestinians.

Judging from Breivik’s writings, his hysterical hatred of the Labor Party’s immigration policies and tolerance of Muslim immigrants likely led him target the government-operated summer camp at Utoya. For years, the far-right has singled Norway out as a special hotbed of pro-Islam, pro-Palestinian sentiment, thanks largely to its ruling Labor Party. In 2010, for instance, the English Defense League called Norway a future site of “Islamohell,” “where unadulterated political correctness has ruled the roost, with sharp talons, for decades.” Yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal editorial page rushed to blame Muslim terrorists for what turned out to be Breivik’s killing spree, it slammed the Norwegian government for pulling troops from Afghanistan and demanding that Israel end its siege of Gaza. For his part, Breivik branded the Labor Party as “traitors.”

There is no clear evidence that Breivik’s support for the Israeli right played any part in his killing spree. Nor does he appear to have any connection with the Israeli government. However, it is worth noting that in November 2010, the Israeli government joined the right-wing pile on, accusing the Norwegian government of “anti-Israel incitement” for funding a trip for students to New York to see the “Gaza Monologues” play. Then, the day before Breivik’s terror attack, which he planned long in advance, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stor visited the Labor Youth camp at Utoya. There, he was met with demands to support the global BDS movement and to support the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid. “The Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now,” the Foreign Minister declared, earning cheers from the audience.

Breivik’s writings offer much more than a window into the motives that led him to commit terror. They can also be read as an embodiment of the mentality of a new and internationalized far-right movement that not only mobilizes hatred against Muslims, but is also able to produce figures who will kill innocent non-Muslims to save the Western way of life.

The Great Islamophobic Crusade

Crossposted with TomDispatch.com.

Nine years after 9/11, hysteria about Muslims in American life has gripped the country. With it has gone an outburst of arson attacks on mosques, campaigns to stop their construction, and the branding of the Muslim-American community, overwhelmingly moderate, as a hotbed of potential terrorist recruits. The frenzy has raged from rural Tennessee to New York City, while in Oklahoma, voters even overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure banning the implementation of Sharia law in American courts (not that such a prospect existed). This campaign of Islamophobia wounded President Obama politically, as one out of five Americans have bought into a sustained chorus of false rumors about his secret Muslim faith. And it may have tainted views of Muslims in general; an August 2010 Pew Research Center poll revealed that, among Americans, the favorability rating of Muslims had dropped by 11 points since 2005.

Erupting so many years after the September 11th trauma, this spasm of anti-Muslim bigotry might seem oddly timed and unexpectedly spontaneous. But think again: it’s the fruit of an organized, long-term campaign by a tight confederation of right-wing activists and operatives who first focused on Islamophobia soon after the September 11th attacks, but only attained critical mass during the Obama era. It was then that embittered conservative forces, voted out of power in 2008, sought with remarkable success to leverage cultural resentment into political and partisan gain.

This network is obsessively fixated on the supposed spread of Muslim influence in America. Its apparatus spans continents, extending from Tea Party activists here to the European far right. It brings together in common cause right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, and racist British soccer hooligans. It reflects an aggressively pro-Israel sensibility, with its key figures venerating the Jewish state as a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror and urging the U.S. and various European powers to emulate its heavy-handed methods.

Little of recent American Islamophobia (with a strong emphasis on the “phobia”) is sheer happenstance. Years before Tea Party shock troops massed for angry protests outside the proposed site of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, representatives of the Israel lobby and the Jewish-American establishment launched a campaign against pro-Palestinian campus activism that would prove a seedbed for everything to come. That campaign quickly — and perhaps predictably — morphed into a series of crusades against mosques and Islamic schools which, in turn, attracted an assortment of shady but exceptionally energetic militants into the network’s ranks.

Besides providing the initial energy for the Islamophobic crusade, conservative elements from within the pro-Israel lobby bankrolled the network’s apparatus, enabling it to influence the national debate. One philanthropist in particular has provided the beneficence to propel the campaign ahead. He is a little-known Los Angeles-area software security entrepreneur named Aubrey Chernick, who operates out of a security consulting firm blandly named the National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination. A former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has served as a think tank for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a frontline lobbying group for Israel, Chernick is said to be worth $750 million.

Chernick’s fortune is puny compared to that of the billionaire Koch Brothers, extraction industry titans who fund Tea Party-related groups like Americans for Prosperity, and it is dwarfed by the financial empire of Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media baron who is one of the largest private donors to the Democratic party and recently matched $9 million raised for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces in a single night. However, by injecting his money into a small but influential constellation of groups and individuals with a narrow agenda, Chernick has had a considerable impact.

Through the Fairbrook Foundation, a private entity he and his wife Joyce control, Chernick has provided funding to groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and CAMERA, a right-wing, pro-Israel, media-watchdog outfit, to violent Israeli settlers living on Palestinian lands and figures like the pseudo-academic author Robert Spencer, who is largely responsible for popularizing conspiracy theories about the coming conquest of the West by Muslim fanatics seeking to establish a worldwide caliphate. Together, these groups spread hysteria about Muslims into Middle American communities where immigrants from the Middle East have recently settled, and they watched with glee as likely Republican presidential frontrunners from Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin promoted their cause and parroted their tropes. Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the increasingly widespread appeal of Islamophobia is that, just a few years ago, the phenomenon was confined to a few college campuses and an inner city neighborhood, and that it seemed like a fleeting fad that would soon pass from the American political landscape.

Continue reading

The Return of Ghosts: Debating the rise of Geert Wilders and the far-right at the Nexus Symposium

The Nexus Institutes Return of Ghosts conference was inspired by the rise of far-right politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands

The Nexus Institute's Return of Ghosts conference was inspired by the rise of far-right politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands

I spent last week in Amsterdam, where I participated in the “Return of Ghosts” symposium of the Nexus Institute, a discussion/debate about the resurgence of neo-fascism in Europe and anti-democratic trends in the West. Besides providing a forum for debating European politics, the symposium was the occasion for the first public appearance in Europe by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa since he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last month. The arrival of Vargas Llosa, one of the world’s foremost intellectuals, resulted in an overflow crowd filled with members of the Dutch media, the country’s political class, and the royal family.

Even with Vargas Llosa in the spotlight, the participants’ attention was focused on Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, which is now the third leading party in the Netherlands. With his gathering influence, Wilders has essentially placed the Dutch coalition government in a stranglehold; the government meets with him every Wednesday to gauge his opinions and ask for his instructions. While Wilders dictates at will to the government, he remains independent of it, comfortably avoiding the consequences of policies he has helped to shape. It is the perfect position for a politician whose agenda is comprised exclusively of xenophobic populism, and typical strategy of the far-right in countries across the continent.

Wilders’ base lies in the mostly Catholic south, where ironically few people have ever encountered a Muslim. He has also generated support in the city of Groeningen, once a citadel of the communists. Seeking to expand his base, Wilders promised to hire scores of “animal cops” to investigate and prosecute the abuse of animals, a clever wedge strategy in the only country I know of that has a party dedicated exclusively to animal rights. Of course, Wilders could care less about our furry friends. His stated goal is to end immigration not just to Holland but to all of Europe; ban the Quran (free speech is only for the “Judeo-Christian” community), and severely limit the rights of Muslim citizens of Europe by, for instance, instituting what he called a “head rag tax” on Muslim women. Wilders’ international allies include the goosestepping neo-Nazis of the English Defense League, the far-right pogromist Pam Geller, the Belgian neo-fascist party Vlaams Belang, and a substantial portion of the US neocon elite. Over the course of just a few years, he has become perhaps the most influential Islamophobe in the world.

But does this make Wilders a fascist? Rob Riemen, the director of the Nexus Institute, thinks so. Riemen has just published a book entitled “De Eeuwige Terugkeer Van Het Fascisme,” or “The Eternal Return of Fascism” (I eagerly await its English translation), dedicated to highlighting the danger of Wilders’ eerily familiar brand of right-wing populism. In the book, Riemen urges readers to compare Wilders’ politics to the early incarnations of European fascism, not to the genocidal terminal stage fascism of late World War II. He calls the parallels between Wilders and the early fascists “one-and-one.” In an economic and civilizational crisis like the kind the Netherlands is facing, Riemen warns that reactionary figures like Wilders can easily seize power while centrist elements stand by politely and passively, refusing to call a spade a spade. Where Wilders’ ascendancy will lead is unknown, but if he is not stopped in his tracks, Riemen is certain the story will not end well. In the week after its publication, Riemen’s book flew off the shelves, selling 5000 copies while generating heated reactions from across the spectrum of debate.

Riemen told me that despite the public enthusiasm for his book, his characterization of Wilders has been attacked as “un-Dutch.” In Dutch culture, as in so many others, open confrontation is avoided at all cost. Political disagreement is welcomed only if it is expressed in a collegial manner, as though nothing more than reputations were at stake. So the Dutch cultural elite generally goes along to get along. The resistance Riemen has met since he called Wilders out seemed to have alarmed and frustrated him. Why was it so difficult for liberal elements in the Netherlands to recognize the clear resonances of fascism in Wilders’ political style? he wondered. And why did they seem more concerned with regulating the terms of debate than with forming a united front against the far-right? Once the symposium opened and I was able to see the Dutch elite in action, I began to understand Riemen’s indignation.

Continue reading

Neocon Pogromist Pam Geller Attacks Her Allies And Supporters. Why?

From the Facebook page of Pam Geller's Stop The Islamization Of America (SIOA)

From the Facebook page of Pam Geller's Stop The Islamization Of America (SIOA)

After working tirelessly to inspire a nationwide pogrom against Muslim citizens of the United States, the leading online race hustler Pam Geller is pantomiming outrage about a video showing her supporters harassing and nearly assaulting a black man they mistook for a Muslim at the rally against the construction of the Cordoba House Islamic center on August 22. Geller’s reaction to the video was couched in a typically unhinged tirade against me; she described me as a “kapo” and “notorious Jew hater.” Geller then claimed, “I have no idea what this rally is,” and went on to attack the heavily-promoted, well-publicized demonstration as a “half-assed effort,” calling it, “harmful to the cause of freedom of expression.”

It is always amusing when leaders of groups that openly promote genocide against religious minorities and other out-class members accuse their followers of crossing a red line, as though there is any threshold they will not cross. Usually these moments arise from the kind of ugly leadership struggles that are common to proto-fascist movements comprised of neurotic and otherwise psychologically dysfunctional individuals (see the demise of the Minutemen for an example). Such a scenario appears to have prompted Geller’s screed.

As a stereotypical, shrieking figure who exhibits the classically sadomasochistic pathology of authoritarian demagogues — the simultaneous drive to destroy the weak and worship power — Geller is utterly incapable of summoning any moral opposition to the raw racism that was on display at Park51. After all, she played a central role in inciting the ugly spectacle.

More genocidal propaganda from Geller's SIOA

More genocidal propaganda from Geller's SIOA

Thus it appears Geller’s attempt to distance herself from the rally is purely cynical, the result of a row between her and the group that organized the rally, The Coalition To Honor Ground Zero. Richard Bartholomew speculated that Geller may have flown into a petulant frenzy over the pointed exclusion of her outfit, Stop The Islamization Of America, from the protest. Acrimony between her and Tom Trento of the Florida Security Council over the handling of a past anti-Muslim initiative may have also provoked her snit. Whatever the reason, it is increasingly clear that Geller is going to extreme lengths to keep the movement under her heel; any event planned outside the purview of her organization presents a direct threat to her celebrity and paycheck.

Geller’s claim that she had “no idea” about the August 22 rally is ridiculous. According to the Daily Caller, “Beth Gilinsky, an organizer for The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and founder of the Jewish Action Alliance, is coordinating the rally.” And Gilinsky and Geller have worked hand-in-glove for years. At the April 25 Stand With Israel rally in New York City, Gilinsky introduced Geller as “a very dear friend” for whom she holds “enormous admiration.” (Geller proceeded to wave a scarf reading “Yid Army” before the crowd, making a cartoonish attempt at Jewish ethnic identification while at the same time expressing her admiration for violent British football hooligans.) Geller has also lavished praise on Gilinsky, hailing her as one of the “warriors” who attempted to stop the Khalil Gibran Academy from opening in Brooklyn.

The Facebook page of SIOA is a window into the mentality of Geller and her allies

The Facebook page of SIOA is a window into the mentality of Geller and her allies

Considering that Geller and Gilinsky spearheaded the campaign against the Girban Academy and that they at least claim to be “very dear” friends, it is hard to imagine that Geller had “no idea” that Gilinsky and company were planning a major rally on August 22. So Geller is simply deceiving her readers. And given that many of those on the list of organizations and individual racists supporting The Coalition To Honor Ground Zero are scheduled to appear at the rally Geller is planning on 9-11 against Cordoba House, Geller appears to be disparaging her own allies as well, conceding that they are in fact a bunch of deranged, potentially violent bigots whose actions are “harmful to the cause of freedom of expression.”

It is up to Geller to explain to her readers why she is lying to them and why she holds her confederates in such contempt. Until then, she can respond to the following questions:

1. Does Geller condemn the August 22 Park 51 rally or not? Put up or shut up.

2. Does Geller condemn the groups and individuals associated with the “half-assed” and “harmful” effort?

3. If Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s illegitimate child as Geller has claimed, is Geller the mistress of Mel Gibson?

4. If Geller is such a good Jew, why does she endorse a British fascist group that is led by anti-Semitic skinheads and is connected to the whites-only British National Party?

5. Does Geller condemn Glenn Beck as an anti-Semite for saying the Jews killed Jesus? Yes or no. Anti-semitism, yes or no.

6. If Geller is such a good Jew, why does she so brazenly violate established halachic guidelines against cosmetic surgery?