Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Protesting: Out comes the Crazies!

Ever since the WTO summit in Seattle in 1999, protesting has returned with a vengeance across the States. For the last few years, large protests were predominately made up of a select group of individuals who often shared a similar socialistic and anti-American position. As of late however, a strong pro-Israel constituency has been organizing to counter protest pro-Hamas and Hezbollah events throughout the states. As the pro-Israel rallies got larger, a number of unsavory elements started to rear their heads.

On August 12th, International ANSWER had a rally that was originally advertised around San Francisco as an “anti-Israel” rally, but was changed at the last minute to an “anti-War” gathering for the sake of publicity. It was fortunately, one of the worst turnouts ANSWER has had. I would assume this has to do with ANSWER’s willingness to openly embrace more radical groups (like Hamas), but it may also have to do with the shear number of protests that go down in the Bay Area. Just about every weekend, one can find someplace to protest. Whether it is the war in Iraq, the actions of Israel, or capitalism in general, the Bay Area just loves to protest!

So as ANSWER began to organize more overtly anti-Israel demonstrations, a growing number of pro-Israel advocates began to hold counter demonstrations. In fact, I don’t think ANSWER has held an event as of late that did not bring about a significant counter-protest.

The left of the political divide does not have a monopoly on insane individuals, and recent counter protests have brought out a handful of folks carrying signs that were naive, unnecessarily provocative, and perhaps even racist.

Here are a couple of them posted at Indybay by an individual named “scary”.


I assume this one was meant to get ANSWER followers riled up, but hardly a positive message to send at an event intended to show that Israel has support from rational Americans. I don’t know the reasoning behind the comment, but I have a hard time seeing the logic in “nuking” any country. There were obviously plenty of folks carrying signs calling for the destruction of Israel, but that should not provoke counter protestors to take an equally absurd stance.


I am still confused by this poster, but the hat the sign holder wears gives me a little more insight into this individual’s mindset. His cap proudly adorns the name of San Francisco’s resident talk show idiot, Michael Savage. I don’t like to throw around the term fascist seeing as it is often overused and inaccurately applied, but Michael Savage clearly holds a number of pseudo-fascist opinions. He has, on more than one occasion, encouraged nuking Iran and laying large parts of Iraq to rubble. He compares anyone who doesn’t agree with his right wing fanaticism to sub-human vermin, and does so with great passion. In April of 2006, Savage said:
“They say, 'Oh, there’s a billion of them (Muslims) and 10 percent or so are radical (Muslims).' I said, 'So, kill 100 million of them, then there'd be 900 million peaceful Muslims left.”

How charming. Even for a conservative like myself, Michael Savage comes across as flaming moron, and makes other right wing radio hosts sound like left leaning socialists. The protestors standing with Israel should appeal to rational minded Americans who can see the need and responsibility Israel has to protect its people and boarders. Michael Savage, even when standing with Israel, is not an individual you want in your corner of the ring.


Yet another stupid poster. Islam is not the enemy of Israel. Israel’s enemy is radical terrorist organizations and governments that want it destroyed. This banner is not appealing to moderate minds, but radical groups who want to see a greater war with Muslim peoples across the globe.

Of course, these few instances of stupidity were but a small portion of the greater counter protest, which generally advocated peace for the region. Some folks have said that these signs were “planted” by ANSWER to discredit their opponents. I can’t comment on that conspiracy, although I find it highly unlikely. The truth is that there are extremists and idiots on all ends of the political spectrum. It is very convenient to blame “infiltrators” and “spooks” anytime something goes wrong. Heck, just about anytime violence occurs at a protest, or an individual does something stupid in the name of a political philosophy, it is blamed on some foreign force that was planted to discredit the protest or group as a whole. The reality is people say and do stupid things; outside assistance is rarely required.

As the pro-Israel protests get larger, we will see more signs like these. Rational minded citizens have a duty to confront these ideas the same way we would confront the gibberish coming from groups like ANSWER.

Comments:
Groups like ANSWER and others on the US far Left have long used agent provocotors within their opposers to try and cause trouble. I would assume these are cases of this
 
I wouldn’t put it past ANSWER to “plant” banners in the pro-Israel crowd, but I think that if we follow that line of argument, Indymedia can claim that all the terrible things published on their newswire were done by “foreign entities”. ANSWER’s tactics would indicate that they may be responsible for something like this, but the truth is those ideas are held by a portion of society, and they could easily have shown up and protested. The handful of stupid banners should not deter pro-Israel protestors from showing up and giving the cameras an alternate to the Hamas and Hezbollah love-fests that folks have been engaged in. We just need to recognize that a few bad apples can become representations for an entire side…
 
As the person who took the pictures I want to point out that I do understand they didnt represent the views of all or even most of those in the crowd. Sites like Zombietime and this blog tend to do exactly what I did with the post on Indybay and part of the idea behind the post was to make people think a bit about generalizing from the crazies in a group to the views of the larger crowd or even the orgnanizers.

A few people may have asked people in the crowd to take down the signs but most of those nearby seemed to like them and I doubt it was because they agreed with the message. The tedency for extreme statements to emerge in confrontational situation has little to do with underlying beliefs. One person yells something offensive, so out of anger somethig offensive is yelled back. The audio of teenagers yelling antiSemitic insults in Arab at previous protests has to be taken in this context too. I may be offended beause I am Jewish but I think taking statements that emerge out of yelling matchs as representative of underlying views is manipulative at best. Mel Gibsons drunk yelling probably was a sign of deeper antiSemitism but when teenagers are confronted with people waving Israeli flags yelling support for the bombing of their relatives i dont really know what you should expect.

Perhaps organizers on both sides need to do a better job or getting rid of the crazies, but at a public protest, what exactly can be done? Moderates telling extreme crazy types to quiet down can often make things even worse since the confrontation can cause a desire to do things to also offend you (and make the signs and chants even crazier). I also think its gotten to the point where some of this stuff is intended to provoke more extreme responses from the other side out of a desire to create confrontation for its own sake by people who are entertained by confrontation more than caring at all about the issues.
 
You made some very good points, thank you for chiming in.

I don’t think that the main organizers for either event have the ability to remove someone from their side of the street just because they don’t agree with their position or banner. I would simply argue that the organizers need to make sure that their message is rational and middle of the road, and to try ones best to live with the radicals in their ranks. At the same time, it is important that those of us who stand on the pro-Israel side of the aisle if you will, recognize that there are extremists working alongside of us who are not beneficial to our objective, and may even damage it.

The difference between these few stupid posters on the pro-Israel side, and the ANSWER event across the street, is that ANSWER publicly and overtly expresses some very radical and anti-Semitic positions. Do all the signs at an ANSWER march reflect the group’s feelings? No, but the speakers and banners they do use clearly spell out their extremist standpoint.

Again, thanks for the pictures!
 
Me again (the person who posted the pictures).

Alternet has a rather good article about how neonazis split over the war in Israel and there are some now on both sides of the conflict:
http://alternet.org/story/40343/


You say ANSWER "expresses some very radical and anti-Semitic positions" but miss the fact that their position vis-a-vis Israel has little to do with antiSemitism. ANSWER until a few years ago had members of the Worker's World Party in their leadership. ANSWER is a group whose main real point of unity is opposition to US backed wars. The IAC (which petty much is the same group as ANSWER) also stood solidly behind Serbia during the bombing of Belgrade and they had Serbian nationalist speakers who were prety openly antiMuslim at those antiwar protests(and they demonized the KLA as terrorists). The WWP stands behind groups attacked by the US and takes a rather simplistic position of being completely defensive towards the actions of the groups the US is attacking no mater what those groups do (ie they claimed there was no genocide in Bosnia) Their stands towards Saddam and even N Korea can be seen in a similar light.

It DOES make sense to have people with first hand experience speak at anti-war protests since the justice of the overall goals of a war (for example bombing Serbia to defend those in Kosovo) is irrelevent towards what one thinks of wars themselves when one realizes who suffers (the US did target infrastrucure and killed many civilians) I would bet that leaders of ANSWER have more nuanced views of conflicts but rallies lead to simple slogans and when one lets people whose families have been bombed speak one gets an expected level of irrational hate towards the groups dropping the bombs and anyone allied with them. I personally am sympathetic to ANSWER since I do like their letting peopel with direct experience speak even if the message isnt always one I agree with.

Are Becker, Lubin or La Riva antiSemitic? Probably not. You can disagaree about their hardline stance regarding Israel but for members of the WWP the stand was pretty consistent with their stands on other conflicts so I really doubt it has anything do do with Judaism. Denis Bernstein on KPA's Flashpoints takes a much harder line than an ANSWER speaker and he seems prey proud to be Jewish (you may think his views on Israel are irrational but they are no due to antiSemitism)

I think its very important to distingush what is and isnt antiSemitic since the more false accusations are used the more people ignore real allegations. There are a group of antiSemites who do attend antiwar protests and hate Israel because it is Jewish; most of them are white and older and focus on things lke the USS Liberty, make refernces to dual loyalty and when you talk to them about nonIsrael-Palestine issues you find they are pretty right-wing. There is obviously also antiSemitism among others at antiwar protests but it doesnt help people address that when ANSWER is focused on when its pretty obvious that ANSWER's stands are based around a rather Stalinist version of Communism (and they would be proIsrael if the Soviets had become proIsrael before the Soviet Union collapsed) Of course ANSWER is no longer the WWP (since there was a split in ANSWER a few yars back) and the new groups leading ANSWER are slightly different but the explanation for their stance on Israel remains the same.

I dont think it would be that hard to get ANSWER to take a harder line against the few antiSemites who do atend their protests but I think its complicated by the constant charge that ANSWER is antiSemitic (when its clear at least to me that they will defend Hamas for the exact same reason they will defend Molosovic or the government of N Korea). If ANSWER's stand doesnt make sense to you, think of it as on where they would have supported the bombing of the King David Hotel (because any action by an oppressed group agaist thsoe oppressing them is justified in their view)
 
The charge that ANSWER is antiSemitic is in my view similar to a Republican charging them with being partisan for opposing the war in Iraq. For those who know ANSWER the charge is ridiculous (they probably hate Democrats even more than Republicans and they stood against Clinton's wars too) but for someone who sees everything as polarized between Republicans and Democrats this may be hard to grasp. ANSWER allows speakers to speak who support Hamas for the same reaosn they allow speakers to speak who defend N Korea. Those who attend their protest usually dont agree with the reason the ANSWER leaders allow speakers or support or oppose things but in the N Korean case I think it would be understandbible why people who hate the government of N Korea would oppose an invasion (since Japan and S Korea would get nuked) but since ANSWER is good at organzing protests and even a simplistic message that can prevent wars is better than nothing...
 
There were som einteresting investigations done - see here

http://www.think-israel.org/lipkin.qana.html
 
“ANSWER is a group whose main real point of unity is opposition to US backed wars. The IAC (which petty much is the same group as ANSWER) also stood solidly behind Serbia during the bombing of Belgrade and they had Serbian nationalist speakers who were pretty openly ant Muslim at those antiwar protests (and they demonized the KLA as terrorists).”

I agree that ANSWER is openly opposed to the United States and actions is takes, and has put them in bed with some of the more ruthless and totalitarian leaders in recent memory. But that may be a discussion for another day, since I want to get to this point:

“I think it’s very important to distinguish what is and isn’t anti-Semitic since the more false accusations are used the more people ignore real allegations.”

This is true, we do have to have the same understanding the term when discussing charges of anti-Semitism, but I believe out guidelines for applying it are going to differ. Which leads me into the reasons why I feel ANSWER put forth a number of anti-Semitic ideas and arguments, even though they may not be clearly evident:

ANSWER can argue that all of the speakers that they ask to speak at their rallies don’t express their personal opinions, but they continually recruit folks to speak who have very clear anti-Semitic views. Rabbi Lerner was banned from speaking at an ANSWER rally because he supported the right for Israel to exist and criticized anti-Semitism he saw developing within the anti-war movement. He was, none the less, an outspoken peace activist. His spokesperson said “we do not believe that had ANSWER been criticized by a major feminist or gay leader that the other coalition partners would have gone along with (the banning). So why should criticism of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing be treated differently? ....So why should our voice of critique of ANSWER's anti-Israel policy serve as justification for excluding our rabbi from speaking?"

However, at a march in Washington, ANSWER had Abdul Malim Musa, a Muslim cleric. On October 31, 2001, Musa had appeared at a news conference at the National Press Club with other Muslim activists and members of the New Black Panther Party, where speakers asserted that Israel had launched the 9/11 attacks and that thousands of Jews had been warned that day not to go to work at the World Trade Center. At that press conference, Musa blasted the "Zionists in Hollywood, the Zionists in New York, and the Zionists in D.C." who "all collaborate" to put down blacks and Muslims. ANSWER has room in its antiwar coalition for Musa, but not Lerner. (David Corn - The Nation)

This leads into two points that reflect an anti-Semitic current within ANSWER. ANSWER clearly does work very hard to make sure that the speakers at its events reflect their main argument and do not deviate from it (as Lerner would). Simply bringing up the fact that there were racist activists working within the movement was unacceptable, but having a gentleman come on who claims the Jews were somehow responsible for 9/11. Speakers sharing the anti-Jew rhetoric of Hamas and Hezbollah unfortunately also appear quite often on ANSWER’s stages.

If ANSWER is concerned with American Wars abroad, they seem to spend a good chunk of their time criticizing Israel and its policies. Their speakers constantly assert that there should be “no war for Israel”. This is classic anti-Semitism. Strife and war in the world is equated with “Israeli” control of the United States government. The same way that Abdul Musa supported the claim that 9/11 was a “Zionist” conspiracy; ANSWER’s speakers often attack Israel for what they describe as the terror it brings on innocent people. While I am not arguing that it is unacceptable to criticize an action the Israeli government makes, when they are the sole receiver of any criticism it shows an extreme bias that has historical roots. We can not look past the fact that these arguments; this position where Jews (or Zionists, the term now used to shroud anti-Semitic rhetoric) have somehow been responsible for great tragedies and conflicts, are historically rooted in anti-Semitism. One who states that anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Israel or Zionism, merely turns the "crude equation" on its head, implying that no criticism of Israel can ever be anti-Semitic if you describe it as “Zionism”. When far too often, it is the same old game people have been using for centuries.

That Israel has also served as the obsession for so many leftist groups, including ANSWER, is a result of a similar consensus that has persisted since Stalin's time. Historically, elements of the left, including ANSWER, have defended thugs and dictators who cloaked themselves in leftist rhetoric. Apologizing for Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot derailed international social justice movements for decades, and ANSWER’s recent acceptance of Hamas and Hezbollah into this fold only goes to further erode any authority they had and put them closer to violent anti-Semites. Romanticization violence against Israelis and Jews worldwide has cost ANSWER and countless other groups a great deal of moral currency.
Thus, American Jews and rational middle of the road individuals like myself, have been forced to conclude that ANSWER and large portions of the left are not interested in distinguishing between critiquing Israel's government and being anti-Semitic. The draw militant and violent groups have is apparently too strong, and the classic anti-Semitism of the past is too easy to adapt into slightly more acceptable rhetoric for a new generation. While I don't believe that most leftists are anti-Semitic, I also don't believe that many of them care about the Israeli and American-Jewish side of the conflict. Thus, rightly or wrongly, the left has come to act exceptionally anti-Semitic.

I greatly appreciate your comments and for keeping them reasonable and civil.
 
The influence of those with strong anti Jewish views has long been a problem within the UK anti-war movement. There is of course enourmous evidence of this on the UK Indymedia website which has been documented elsewhere but it does raise the issue of accepting any support on the "enemy of my enemy" principle. The British Far and Soft Left has had a streak of anti-semitism for many years
 
On a side note, it would be greatly appreciated if everyone used a name or pseudonym when posting, so that there is not a single schizophrenic “anonymous” user.
 
I'm sure those anti-muslim banners are anti-zionist provocation. Even in the past they was pretending being 'jewish' to defame them.
Don't forget that even The Protocolls was a forgery written by anti-jewish tzarist agents
 
I'm sorry that i change the issue. But the Israel.indymedia is not better Nazimedia than any other IMC
This is ful of anti-jewish conspiracy theories on 9/11 and stuff like
''Jews child murders"

https://israel.indymedia.org/mod/comments/update/index.php

At the same time israel.imc staff have the nerv to whine, cry and complaine of being 'censored'' ?

In fact, Israeli authorities are too soft on the Nazimedia
 
You're one of those fence sitting "conservatives", aren't you? I bet you'd tell a doctor to leave a few cancer cells in you too. To wipe them all out would be offensive and disgusting to you, right?

Either you recognize the danger Islam poses to the world, or you're marked for death. Too much turning the other cheek garbage is what's allowed the insane Muslims, and their Unbathed collaborators, to flourish as they have. Civilization will always suffer as a consequence of the weak minded.

This is a World War. Wake up and get your head out of your Kumbaya.
 
OHMSS is of course right. Radical Islam is not seeking a compromise with the non Muslim world, it's not seeking multi culturalism or a harmonious working relationship. It's seeking a Muslim world, Islam transaltes as "obedience" and that is what they want. The Left is being used and their views on free speach, minority rights and women issues are laughed at by Muslims. The West needs Islamic countries at the moment because that's where the oil is, once the alternatives are found (and Canadian oil is less than five years away) the gloves can be taken off. I have heard is said a Christian - Muslim war is coming, that's wrong, its already started.
 
"Rabbi Lerner was banned from speaking at an ANSWER rally because he supported the right for Israel to exist and criticized anti-Semitism"

I think he was probably banned because ANSWER leaders really are too one sided in the nationalistic way they deal with issues. Would they have let a Bosnian speaker speak at an antiKosovo war rally? I dont know, but if so you cant call the thing with Lerner antiSemitism (personally, I agree far more with Lerner than ANSWER speakers but I think ANSWER is more productive in terms of usuing their influence to organize antiwar protests so I support them for that reason; Lerner has enough pull he could probably organize better antiwar protests... but he doesnt... probably because he is too busy)

"However, at a march in Washington, ANSWER had Abdul Malim Musa"

I dont know the exact case but couldnt you argue that their screening process is based around not really questioning the views of groups that also strongly oppose specific wars rather than antiSemitism (an antiJapanese speaker might be heard at a rally against war with N Korea but while that would show bad screening it wouldnt mean that it resulted from underlying antiSemitism on ANSWER's part). The antiMuslim stuff at the proIsrael rally was prety open and while some organizers may have scolded them I wouldnt doubt that if there had been a stage some of the crazy antiMuslim people would have spoken (would they have been pulled from stage? I dont know)

"If ANSWER is concerned with American Wars abroad, they seem to spend a good chunk of their time criticizing Israel"

If they focued on Israel at a Haiti or Serbia protest I would understand your point but with Middle Eastern protests or protests around the bombing of Lebanon by Israel....

" large portions of the left are not interested in distinguishing between critiquing Israel's government and being anti-Semitic"

Perhaps thats because there is so much crying wolf and the heated nature of the issue is so bad things get blurred. I personally feel more antiSemitism at work when bosses from Texas start discussing prayer meetings than I do at a protests where a few crazy people and a few angry teenage kids may happen to yell something antiSemitic (since the lack of power decreases the threat) When a boss told me that I was being stingy for not wanting to do a gift exchange thing for Christmas because I wasnt Christian I think that was antiSemitic but ANSWER isnt (even if some people at protest are and their politics leaves a lot to be desired) Overt antiSemitism on the part of neoNazis and the like is something groups like the ADL need to deal with but the much more constant type of discrimination one feels in the US is discrimination for not being Christian rather than for being Jewish. These issues that would unite Hindus, Jews and Muslims get pushed aside when antiSemitism is framed in terms of the crazies and views on Israel rather than the more immeditate and impactful forms of discrimination most of us feel.

One last thing:
"Radical Islam is not seeking a compromise with the non Muslim world, it's not seeking multi culturalism or a harmonious working relationship. It's seeking a Muslim world,"

This seems to be the view of Pipes and a lot of the right but it misses a lot. Shia fundamentalists in S Lebanon and Sunni Wahabbi fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia are very different groups and one cant sepak of "Radical Islam" as a single thing. In S Lebanon, Shia fundamentalism that gave birth to Hezbollah may have been an immediate result of the Israeli invasion and the Civil War but it goes back farther and has a lot to do with political and economic inequalities in Lebanon (Sadrs' Movement of the Dispossessed in the 1970s being one example) Sunni fundamentalism also comes in a lot of forms. The Taliban treated their own population worse than almost any country ever has but it wasnt expansionist. The Chechen resistance contains a small number of internationalists but is also fundamentally nationalist (and most fighters just want a seperate Chechen state). The small groups of fundamentalist Muslims that talk of a future Caliphate seems to want that only in Muslim areas and dont seem nearly as expansionist as Christian groups that spend a lot more time trying to convert people. Dominianism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominionism ) seems to be much more of an immediate threat in the US than any worry of a Muslim fundamentalist takeover. The real danger of terrorism is not one of fundamentalism but one of anger and desperation that is often framed in Islamic fundamentalist themes but usually has more to do with personal experiences (or mental problems) by those carrying it out than anything top do with Islam (in Bin Laden's case the anger came from not being allowed to fight Saddam and having the Saudi leadership invite the US in instead... you can see that in terms of infidels and Islamism or you can see it as a personal slight of an egotistical crazy person or you can see it as anger comming from something closer to nationalism than religion)

Focusing on terrorism as being Islamic seems a bit nonsensical in a global context since some of the craziest terrorit groups of recent years were not Muslim. Remember Om Shinrikyo and how they not only produced nerve gas but had bought land in Austrialia and were mining Uranium? How about Tim McVey and the militia movement; he was trained by the US military in explosives and while the group that blew up the Federal Building wasnt huige the militia movemnt included thousands of similarly crazy ex-military types who hated anyone nonChristian or nonWhite. And of course in Israel you have those who mourn Baruch Goldstein; when he killed 29 Muslim worshippers and wounded 125 in a 1994 that was before a single Hamas suicide bomb had ever gone off... Goldstein killed the worshipers on February 25 1994 and the first major Hamas bombing was on April 6th of the same year. Mass killing is evil and it doesnt matter who started it but its worth remembering that Hamas' violence wasnt purely born out of irrational antiSemitism and some of it was more akin to the irrational tit-for-tat racist gang violence between groups that one sees in many US cities where the racism is more a result of back and forth violence over competition for turf rather than being the cause of the violence.
 
I criticize Indymedia sites for allowing antisemitic racists to run rampant without intervening or even calling them out on it. (Heck, sometimes the antisemitic idiots are the ones who are actually serving on the editorial boards.) Anyway, I'd hate to see that recreated here. So let me just say this:

OHMSS just made a sweeping derogatory characterization of Muslims as a whole that is ungrounded, ignorant, and frankly just hate junk.

Is there a radical, fundamentalist, violent strain of Islam that is engaged in a violent culture-war, and that deserves calling out and confrontation? Absolutely. But making sweeping statements about Muslims without being more careful to be clear what you're talking about can't help but be read as bigoted ignorance.
 
I agree that the enemy is not an entire religion. I definitely do not agree with the idea that Islam must be destroyed to find peace. I am not so foolish as to believe that many of the terrorist organizations and governments we face these days just happen to be centered around Islam, but that assessment is not a condemnation against the faith.
 
Just a quick meta-observation. It's ironic that this diverse and open discussion is actually more like what Indymedia was intended to provide than what it's (sadly) morphed and devolved into.
 
But making sweeping statements about Muslims without being more careful to be clear what you're talking about can't help but be read as bigoted ignorance.

They drive their women back into burning buildings, Brainiac. Just what do you really need to know about an insane medieval and misogynist cult?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1874471.stm
 
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