Tag Archives: Matt Duss

How the U.S. Government Promotes Islamophobia

I often focus on organizations and individual right-wing activists outside the U.S. government that have stoked anti-Muslim sentiment here.  But the U.S. government itself is just as culpable in promoting a McCarthyist climate of fear where every Muslim-American is considered a “terror threat” and Islam is turned into the new bogeyman of the day.

The latest installment in the Washington Post‘s investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin, “Top Secret America,” provides a look into how the U.S. government is mired in the deep swamp that is Islamophobia in America (emphasis mine):

Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies…

Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.

“Alabama, Colorado, Vermont,” said Montijo, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant. “California, Texas and Missouri,” he continued.

What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.

“They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House – not on my watch!” he said. “My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.”

With so many local agencies around the country being asked to help catch terrorists, it often falls to sheriffs or state troopers to try to understand the world of terrorism. They aren’t FBI agents, who have years of on-the-job and classroom training…

Amazingly, the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think tank, is also being listened to by the U.S. homeland security apparatus:

A book expanding on what Shoebat and Montijo believe has just been published by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based neoconservative think tank. “Shariah: The Threat to America” describes what its authors call a “stealth jihad” that must be thwarted before it’s too late.

The book’s co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center’s director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.

“Members of our team have been involved in training programs for several years now, many of which have been focused on local law enforcement intelligence, homeland security, state police, National Guard units and the like,” Gaffney said. “We’re seeing a considerable ramping-up of interest in getting this kind of training.”

The fact that Gaffney speaks with law enforcement on how to combat “terrorism” is disturbing.  Matt Duss of Think Progress explains that Gaffney is a person who thinks that “Obama is a Muslim, question[s] whether Obama is an American citizen, [and] believe[s] that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s new logo is a sign of the president’s ‘submission to sharia.’”  Gaffney is not an expert on Islam.  In fact, Gaffney did not consult a single Islamic scholar on his “report” on shariah law, and only started studying the religion three years ago.

What’s more, as I explained here, the Center for Security Policy’s general counsel is David Yerushalmi, an advocate for criminalizing Islam and who once wrote that “blacks [are]…the most murderous of peoples.”

Another recent instance of the U.S. government promoting Islamophobia was the arrest of Mohamed Osman Mohamud in Oregon, which in reality was, as Glenn Greenwald put it, the FBI successfully thwarting its own plot.

The next day, this happened:

U.S. investigators said a fire at an Islamic center in Oregon on Sunday was arson and warned they would tolerate no retribution for an attempt by a Somali-born teenager to detonate what he thought was a car bomb.

Image and Reality of Barack Obama’s Israel Policy

Photo from AFP

The photo shown above of an Israeli throwing a shoe at an image of Barack Obama perfectly captures the bizarre notion emanating from right-wing Zionist circles, both in the U.S. and in Israel, that President Obama is hostile to the State of Israel.  In the U.S., neoconservative writers and commentators constantly push the meme that Obama is the most anti-Israel president the U.S. has ever seen.

Recently, journalists Edward Klein and Richard Chesnoff authored a five-part article titled “The Jewish Problem with Obama” that perfectly encapsulates the view that Obama is anti-Israel.   The main point of the article, which mostly quotes right-leaning Zionists like Bret Stephens, Ed Koch and Marty Peretz, is that Obama has lost his once overwhelming support with Jewish voters because of his supposedly tough stance on Israel.  The article cites his outreach to the Arab world, the short-lived spat over illegal settlements in East Jerusalem between Vice President Joe Biden and the Israeli government and the Obama administration’s endorsement of the “linkage” argument, which is the notion that the Israel/Palestine conflict contribues to anti-Americanism in the Middle East, bolsters terrorism and harms U.S. national security. 

The journalists even go as far to suggest that Obama’s not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic:

The White House seemed strangely indifferent to the feelings of resentment that its treatment of Netanyahu aroused in the Jewish community. For shortly after Netanyahu returned to Israel, the president risked provoking even greater Jewish outrage by insinuating that American troops were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan because Israel refused to agree to peace with the Palestinians. The Israeli-Arab conflict “is costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasures,” the president said.

A perception began to spread throughout the Jewish community that the Obama administration was not only outwardly hostile to Israel, but perhaps, without even knowing it, hostile to Jews as well. This thesis was forcefully argued by Jonathan Kellerman, the best-selling suspense novelist and a professor clinical pediatric and psychology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine…

But like the Tea Party fantasy of Obama as a socialist who wants to redistribute wealth to America’s poor, the image of Obama as anti-Israel belies the reality of how Obama has been a staunch ally of Israel while it swallows up more Palestinian land and kills and injures Palestinians daily.

Rhetoric about settlements aside, the Obama administration has continued many of the Bush administration’s staunchly pro-Israel polices, like the adoption of a “West Bank first” approach of showering the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank with aid, international backing and training for security forces in an effort to isolate Hamas, which runs Gaza.  This approach is an effort fully backed by Israel, which has had a long-time policy of separating the West Bank from Gaza in an effort to preclude the possibility of a Palestinian state and keep the Palestinians isolated in Bantustan-like arrangements. 

What’s more, the Obama administration has, in fact, bolstered U.S.-Israeli cooperation on a number of fronts.  Matt Duss, a national security blogger at Think Progress’ Wonk Room, succintly laid out why the notion that Obama is anti-Israel is just plain wrong in a post yesterday:

…There’s simply no serious argument to be made that President Obama hasn’t been, by any objective measure, an extremely pro-Israel president. He has remained committed to ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge, raising the amount of U.S. military aid to Israel, making it the single largest expense of the 2010 foreign aid budget. Obama also authorized $205 million to enable Israel to complete its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.

Obama has significantly increased the level of strategic dialogue and the depth of intelligence coordination between our two countries, particularly in regard to Iran. According an Israeli official I spoke to in June, that coordination is now “even better than under President Bush.”

Obama has expanded trade between Israel and the U.S., and played an extremely important behind-the-scenes role in bringing about Israel’s acceptance into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Obama went before the United Nations General Assembly in September and challenged the international community to support Arab-Israeli peace, insisting before the world that “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” declaring that “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

I would add to Duss’ list the administration’s offer of “military hardware, support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, help with enforcing a ban on the smuggling of weapons through a Palestinian state, a promise to veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks and a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East” in exchange for a measly two-month extension of the so-called “settlement freeze.”  

Some prominent supporters of Israel in the United States do appreciate Obama’s pro-Israel stance.  Phil Weiss reported earlier this month on a fund-raising letter being sent out by Mark and Nancy Gilbert, who are big-time fundraisers for the Democratic Party.  The letter thanks Obama for his support for Israel and goes on to quote a speech given by Ambassador Michael Oren touting the “brilliant accomplishments and strong support of Israel demonstrated by the Obama Administration.”

Still, Obama’s so-called “Jewish problem” has become conventional wisdom.  Part of it stems from a distrust of Obama for having a Muslim middle name and for having past relationships with Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi.  There’s also political incentives for right-wing Zionists to push the “Obama is anti-Israel” meme, as they’re hoping for a Republican sweep of Congress in November and a Republican capture of the White House in 2012.  If that happens, what rhetorical resistance the Obama administration has put up would dissapear under a Republican administration and Israel would have total free-rein. 

But even the mild criticism of Israel that Obama and his foreign policy team have engaged in has not contributed to any substantive shift in policy towards Israel. 

The gap between the right’s image of Obama and the reality of his policy on Israel is vast, and the Zionist right and the Israel lobby have tailored their misleading image of Obama as anti-Israel to successfully beat back the Obama administration and forced it to tone down what little criticism there was.

Groundwork Laid for Media Narrative of Failed Peace Talks: It’s the Palestinians’ Fault

With direct “peace talks” between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government headed nowhere fast after the Netanyahu government let the so-called “settlement freeze” lapse, the groundwork for the media narrative on who to blame if the “peace talks” officially break off is being laid.  Predictably, it will be, and already is, a narrative of Palestinian rejectionism versus Israeli generosity.

Matt Duss, a must-read blogger on Middle East issues over at Think Progress’ Wonk Room, picks up on this, pointing to the headlines written after the Palestinian Authority pointedly said “no” to Netanyahu’s “offer” of a partial extension of the “settlement freeze” in exchange for the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.  The Palestinians recognizing Israel as such would effectively sign away the Palestinian right of return and relegate once and for all Palestinian citizens of Israel to institutionalized and official second-class status (which is the case already.)

Duss writes:

As opposed to a settlement freeze, the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State is an entirely new one. What Netanyahu is essentially saying to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, then, is that, in return for Abbas meeting this new demand, Netanyahu generously offers to partially, temporarily meet one of Israel’s already existing obligations.

Of course the Palestinian Authority has refused this “offer.” Is it really unclear why? Now let’s look at some of the headlines:

The Washington Post: “Israeli prime minister offers conditional settlements freeze”

Associated Press: “Israeli PM offers conditional settlements freeze”

Ha’aretz: “Netanyahu pleads to save talks as Palestinians threaten walkout”

Jerusalem Post: “PA quashes PM’s offer for renewed building freeze”

And thus, magically, the Palestinians have threatened the talks by rejecting yet another generous Israeli offer.

Here’s some more headlines on that theme:

-Palestinians Reject Israel’s Offer on Settlement Freeze, Voice of America News

-Palestinians Reject Israel Offer, Wall Street Journal

-Palestinians reject Israeli offer on settlement freeze, BBC News

-Palestinians reject Israeli demand, Reuters

You get the picture.  Israel is now essentially saying: we will partially obey international law for 60 days (and then go back to violating it), as long as you sign away basic human rights–refugees and their descendants returning to homes they were expelled from and equality for all–forever. And media, both in the U.S., in Israel and around the world, are adopting Israel’s framing of the issue.

The media narrative of Israeli generosity and Palestinian rejectionism is an old one that was prominently displayed in the aftermath of the collapsed Camp David peace talks in 2000.

Seth Ackerman, writing for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Extra! magazine in July/August 2002, documented the U.S. media’s telling of the Camp David story in an excellent article:

The seemingly endless volleys of attack and retaliation in the Middle East leave many people wondering why the two sides can’t reach an agreement. The answer is simple, according to numerous commentators: At the Camp David meeting in July 2000, Israel “offered extraordinary concessions” (Michael Kelly, Washington Post, 3/13/02), “far-reaching concessions” (Boston Globe, 12/30/01), “unprecedented concessions” (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, 12/4/01). Israel’s “generous peace terms” (L.A. Times editorial, 3/15/02) constituted “the most far-reaching offer ever” (Chicago Tribune editorial, 6/6/01) to create a Palestinian state. In short, Camp David was “an unprecedented concession” to the Palestinians (Time, 12/25/00).

But due to “Arafat’s recalcitrance” (L.A. Times editorial, 4/9/02) and “Palestinian rejectionism” (Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report, 3/22/02), “Arafat walked away from generous Israeli peacemaking proposals without even making a counteroffer” (Salon, 3/8/01). Yes, Arafat “walked away without making a counteroffer” (Samuel G. Freedman, USA Today, 6/18/01). Israel “offered peace terms more generous than ever before and Arafat did not even make a counteroffer” (Chicago Sun-Times editorial, 11/10/00). In case the point isn’t clear: “At Camp David, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an astonishingly generous peace with dignity and statehood. Arafat not only turned it down, he refused to make a counteroffer!” (Charles Krauthammer, Seattle Times, 10/16/00).

This account is one of the most tenacious myths of the conflict. Its implications are obvious: There is nothing Israel can do to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors. The Israeli army’s increasingly deadly attacks, in this version, can be seen purely as self-defense against Palestinian aggression that is motivated by little more than blind hatred.

As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

House Republicans Pal Around with anti-Muslim, anti-Black racist David Yerushalmi

It should come as no surprise that elected officials are aiding and
abetting anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., especially with mid-term elections nearby.  But it was still a little shocking to read Think Progress national security blogger Matt Duss’ post on a newly released report titled “Sharia: The Threat to America.”

Duss writes that the report, authored by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, was presented to Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI).  Here’s the slightly shocking part:  also attending the event Duss reported on was David Yerushalmi, the general counsel for the Center for Security Policy.

So just who is this Yerushalmi fellow that Republican politicians were palling around with?

Yerushalmi has been aptly described as a “Jewish fascist” by blogger Richard Silverstein.  As Silverstein highlighted in August 2007, Yerushalmi has said:

One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one…Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people…What interest does America have in a strong Israel? If your answer is democracy in a liberal or western sense, know you have sided with the Palestinians of Hamas.

Yerushalmi was a member of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, which was instrumental in the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim smear campaign that brought down Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic school in Brooklyn.  He has followed his Islamophobic buddies Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in joining in their war against the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, and is an attorney with the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Geller and Spencer.

That’s not even the worst part.  Charles Johnson, the blogger at the formerly right-wing, hawkish website Little Green Footballs who “parted ways with the right” for, in part, its “Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.),” has the rundown on Yerushalmi:

This is a good time for some background information on Pamela Geller’s associate David Yerushalmi, who is an advocate for criminalizing Islam itself and imposing 20-year sentences on practicing Muslims. Yes, really.

He’s not simply anti-Muslim, though; Yerushalmi also wrote a now-infamous article titled “On Race: A Tentative Discussion, Part II,” in which he advocated a return to a pre-Bill of Rights Constitution, and the restriction of voting rights to white male land-owners. Again … yes, really.

Here’s a lengthy article at Talk To Action on the bizarre views and causes of David Yerushalmi: Anti-Semitic White-Supremacist Orthodox Jew Tries To Ban Islam In US.

Yerushalmi has deleted as much evidence of the “On Race” article as he could; he removed it from the Internet Archive and the Google cache, and put his entire website behind a registration wall. But here’s a PDF that contains the full article, and it’s as ugly and twisted a piece of racism as anything I’ve ever seen. Yerushalmi opens by calling Islam “an evil religion,” and “blacks … the most murderous of peoples.”

A quote:

“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote. You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect on political society, certainly took it seriously. Why is that? Were they so flawed in their political reckonings that they manhandled the most important aspect of a free society – the vote? If the vote counts for so much in a free and liberal democracy as we ‘know’ it today, why did they limit the vote so dramatically?”

So there you have it: House Republicans are openly associating themselves with a “Jewish fascist” who has called “blacks…the most murderous of peoples” and advocates for the criminalization of Islam.