Tag Archives: Glenn Greenwald

Anti-Israel activists react to Charlie Hebdo massacre

When you have studied the output of anti-Israel activists for as long as I have, you know not only that anti-Zionism is usually just a flimsy façade for antisemitism, but also that the hypocrisy and bigotry that sustains the intense hatred for the world’s only Jewish state inevitably shapes a broader ideology. Even on issues that have nothing to do with Israel, it is therefore often easy to predict how anti-Israel activists will react. In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I was thus not surprised to see that anti-Israel activists did not join the outpouring of solidarity that swept social media.

Just a few hours after two Islamist terrorists had killed 12 people, veteran Israel-hater Ali Abunimah fumed on Twitter: “US ‘responded’ to 9/11 by invading Iraq. Which country do Internet idiots think France should invade to ‘in response’ to Paris attack?” He then immediately added: “Of course France assisted in many invasions already. Perhaps it can afford one or two more?” In order to leave no doubt that he indeed wanted to blame France’s policies for the terrorist attacks, he clarified his stance a few hours later.

AA on CharlieHebdo

Obviously angered by the solidarity expressed under the trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, Abunimah also made it absolutely clear that he preferred maligning the victims of the terror attack by implying that the magazine should be compared to the neo-Nazi site Stormfront.

AA CharlieHebdo Stormfront

The often vulgar and always deliberately provocative material published in Charlie Hebdo might seem an easy target for accusations of racism – at least if one overlooks the fact that the magazine is firmly grounded in the centuries-old tradition of radical French anticlericalism and that it has also featured plenty of caricatures offensive to Christian and Jewish (and Israeli) sensibilities. But this is of course something that people eager to accuse Charlie Hebdo of “racism” against Muslims were resolved to ignore.

Moreover, while the horrific attack in Paris initially had nothing whatsoever to do with Israel or Jews, anyone even vaguely familiar with Islamic extremism would have no illusions about the central role of Jew-hatred in this pernicious ideology. By the time an accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo attackers proceeded to prove this point by targeting a kosher supermarket in Paris, anti-Israel activists were keeping themselves busy spreading the argument – helpfully elaborated in a Guardian illustration and an Intercept post by Glenn Greenwald – that anyone who supported Charlie Hebdo caricatures that offended Muslims also had to endorse Nazi-style antisemitic caricatures for the sake of free speech.

Much to the delight of his fans, Greenwald gleefully suggested on Twitter that he had unmasked the anti-Muslim bigotry of Charlie Hebdo supporters: “The professed love for cartoons which malign religions & their adherents sure dissipates fast when applied to some groups rather than others.”

To make his point, Greenwald reproduced several antisemitic cartoons – some of them from Arab/Muslim media – which he acknowledged as “blasphemous and otherwise offensive.”

He contrasted these examples with what he described as “some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.”

As Greenwald surely knows, much of Latuff’s Israel-related work has been criticized as antisemitic, and Latuff himself actually doesn’t mind mingling with Jew-haters: in 2006, Iran’s Holocaust-denying president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the pretext of the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy to sponsor a “Holocaust Cartoon Contest” in which Latuff took part, sharing the second prize with a French entry depicting “The myth of the gas chambers.”

While Greenwald claimed he was focusing on “cartoons which malign religions & their adherents,” he tellingly included a Latuff cartoon from 2006 that was apparently drawn in support of Ahmadinejad’s “Holocaust Cartoon Contest.”

GG Latuff Holocaust cartoon

 It is beyond the scope of this post to explain why supposedly intelligent 21st-century progressives would argue that, if it is acceptable to caricature people who are regarded by believers as historic religious leaders, it must be equally acceptable to caricature the industrialized mass-murder of a long-persecuted minority in 20th century Europe.

But in the unlikely case that Greenwald would like us to somehow ponder Muslim religious leaders and the Holocaust in a context relevant to the atrocities in Paris, one could cite the enormously influential Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi who has described Hitler as a tool of divine punishment for the Jews and expressed the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” In this context, one could also point out that when Qaradawi implored his god to “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people” and “count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one,” he did so based on the apparently widely shared Muslim belief in a divinely ordained battle “between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

It is this kind of beliefs – which, as far as I know, have not been explicitly repudiated by any influential Muslim cleric – that continue to allow radicalized Muslims to feel that they act piously when they commit atrocities like those in Paris. While there are liberal Muslims who have highlighted the urgent need for Muslim self-criticism and reforms, it seems that, as far as anti-Israel activists and their supporters in the media are concerned, these problems must be kept out of the spotlight. So when an Islamist terrorist targets a kosher supermarket in Paris, it’s just another great opportunity to make the case that a 7th century businessman and warlord who founded a religion cannot be mocked in cartoons as long as the almost successful 20th-century attempt to wipe out Europe’s Jews cannot be ridiculed. No doubt Jew-haters everywhere would agree with this approach.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

Harry’s Place has an excellent post on the Guardian illustration I mentioned above: “A response to Joe Sacco;” David Bernstein takes on Greenwald’s numerous “logical fallacies;” and a number of posts try to explain some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that have been attacked by the (willfully?) clueless as “racist” or “Islamophobic”, e.g. “dear US followers;” there is now even a new site devoted to “Understanding Charlie Hebdo cartoons.”

And, by way of an additional update, here’s one of my previous posts with some background on Glenn Greenwald’s obsession with Israel.

Quote of the day: Glenn Greenwald’s antisemitism

“The propaganda in question is a stream of venom and denunciation directed toward the democracy that is Israel, and a similar stream of extenuation and denial about the terroristic activities of Hamas and affiliated jihadist groups, while also maintaining a deafening silence about the various Islamic and secular butchers from Iraq to Syria to Libya who have turned much of the Middle East into a slaughterhouse.

Israel can be criticized like any other state. But treating the Jewish state as the prime focal point of evil in the modern world is clearly something else. That something else has a name. Linking without a shred of evidence police misconduct in Ferguson, Missouri, to Israel, or likening Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the ultimate symbol of evil, a leading Nazi—both of which Mr. Greenwald has done in recent weeks and both of which constitute demonization plain and simple—reveal the recrudescence of the centuries-old obsession of anti-Semitism in modern guise.”

From an American Interest article on “Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald, and Their War on Israel” by Gabriel Schoenfeld. Reading through Schoenfeld’s short summaries of some of Greenwald’s articles on the recent war between Hamas and Israel, I was struck by how much Greenwald’s writings seem to echo Ali Abunimah’s output at the Electronic Intifada. This is not to suggest that Greenwald copies Abunimah; he obviously just shares his hatred toward Israel and much of the ideology that is fashionable among Israel-haters.

But while Israel-bashing is Abunimah’s main occupation, it’s only a side-show for Greenwald. However, it is noteworthy that when Greenwald takes to Twitter, his reach is clearly much broader than Abunimah’s: Greenwald has some 416 000 followers compared to Abunimah’s roughly 57 000 followers. In this context it is important that Schoenfeld highlights “Greenwald’s prolific Twitter output,” noting that in this medium “his hatred of the Jewish state takes its most pristine form” – an observation that could also be made for Abunimah.

Among the tweets Schoenfeld reproduces to illustrate his point is the one copied below, which was retweeted by almost 1400 people.

Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald and the Islamists

If you are keeping up with news and views about Israel, you will likely know that the very popular and very opinionated blogger Glenn Greenwald has a well-deserved reputation for his intense dislike of Israel and its supporters. Jeffrey Goldberg once called it “ostentatious anti-Israelism,” noting that Greenwald “evinces toward Israel a disdain that is quite breathtaking. He holds Israel to a standard he doesn’t hold any other country, except the U.S.”

Similarly, Adam Levick argued in a commentary on Greenwald’s move from Salon to The Guardian last summer:

“Greenwald […] advances a brand of anti-imperialism […] informed by a palpable loathing of America, a nation he sees as a dangerous force of evil in the world. Greenwald’s anti-Americanism is so intense he once compared the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein to the Nazi conquest of Europe.

As is often the case with Guardian-brand commentators, Greenwald’s anti-imperialist ideological package includes a vicious anti-Zionism, and a corresponding belief in the injurious influence of organized US Jewry on American foreign policy in the Middle East.”

But it turns out that Greenwald’s loathing for Israel and the US developed only with his growing fame as a blogger. In late 2005, not long after he started his first blog “Unclaimed Territory,” he wrote a post under the title “The Myth of International Wisdom.” Criticizing a Washington Post column by David Ignatius on rising anti-Americanism, Greenwald sharply rejected the notion that “the prevalence and wisdom of these anti-American sentiments around the world compel the U.S. to change its course in order to once again become popular in the world.”

Greenwald’s line of reasoning from back then makes for fascinating reading – not just because of the stark contrast to his current views, but also because one could obviously substitute Israel for America when reading the following passages:

“Any nation would be acting foolishly, and self-destructively, if it allowed its foreign policy to be guided by the threat perceptions of people in other countries. When it comes to facing the profound threat posed to American interests by Islamic extremism, it is naturally the case that people in other countries will view the danger posed by that threat as being less serious and important than Americans perceive it to be.

Americans, justifiably and understandably, consider the 9/11 attacks to be a profound and intolerable assault on U.S. national security, an event so threatening and jarring that it justifies measures which would have previously been considered to be too extreme. […]

This fundamental difference in interests [of different countries] is critical, as it illustrates the utter folly, and irrationality, of using the perceptions of other countries to judge America’s foreign policy. When it comes to the U.S. deciding what it needs to do and should do in response to the threats which gave rise to 9/11 and similar attacks, it is the American perception of the severity and importance of those threats – and not the perception of other countries – which ought to determine America’s response. […]

International unpopularity may be the result of an undesirable or unwarranted foreign policy, but such unpopularity may just as easily flow from the U.S. doing exactly what it ought to do to protect its interests. International public opinion of America’s foreign policy is not evidence, one way or the other, of the merit of those policies. […]

It may be beneficial to U.S. interests to have other countries like what we are doing, but being popular in other countries is not an end in itself. The U.S. can and should pursue whatever measures it deems appropriate to protect its national interests. The fact that the populations or governments of other countries perceive those measures to be excessive or unwarranted is to be expected because those countries have different threat perceptions and divergent interests. And, for exactly that reason, their approval or disapproval cannot be used to assess the rightness of, let alone to dictate, American foreign policy.”

This proof that once upon a time, Glenn Greenwald had some eminently reasonable views was unearthed due to a bitter controversy that erupted recently when Sam Harris challenged Greenwald because he recommended an Al Jazeera article that accused Harris of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The ensuing exchange between the two prominent writers is characteristic for all too many contemporary debates: while Sam Harris bases his arguments firmly on verifiable facts and observations, Greenwald counters by taking refuge in politically-correct pieties.

As Harris highlights in an excellent post on the controversy, his interest in “the logical and behavioral consequences of specific beliefs” means that he cannot necessarily “treat all religions the same.” But this is of course exactly what Glenn Greenwald demands: the man who in 2005 forcefully argued that the US had every right to respond to “the profound threat posed to American interests by Islamic extremism” and “Muslim terrorism” now strenuously objects to “Harris’ years-long argument that Islam poses unique threats beyond what Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions of the world pose.”

Greenwald may say that he has come to see the error of his old views and changed his mind – a step that enabled him to become a leading proponent of the political correctness he condemned in 2005 as “corrupt and dangerous reasoning.”

But that the political correctness Greenwald now champions is as corrupt and dangerous as ever is perhaps best illustrated by his glowing endorsement of a “superb review of Harris’ writings on Israel, the Middle East and US militarism” published on Mondoweiss by one of the site’s regular contributors.

Mondoweiss is of course a site well-known for peddling antisemitic memes, and by linking to it in order to buttress his accusations that Harris is promoting “Islamophobia”, Greenwald demonstrates that not all forms of bigotry are equally troublesome to him.

The piece Greenwald recommends so warmly is a tediously long essay entitled “Sam Harris, uncovered.” Thankfully, however, the author quickly reveals what’s the worst about Harris:

“For a man who likes to badger Muslims about their ‘reflexive solidarity’ with Arab suffering, Harris seems keen to display his own tribal affections for the Jewish state. The virtue of Israel and the wickedness of her enemies are recurring themes in his work. The End of Faith [an award-winning best-selling book by Harris] opens with the melodramatic scene of a young man of undetermined nationality boarding a bus with a suicide vest. The bus detonates, innocents die and Harris, with the relish of a schoolmarm passing on the facts of life to her brood, chalks in the question: ‘Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy-you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it-easy to guess the young man’s religion?’”

But Mondoweiss readers are then told that it is actually not at all easy to guess the religion of the suicide bomber, because if one does away with the “narrow focus” of Harris on the early 21st century and instead looks at the issue historically, one can find “Hindu Tamil Tigers …. or, in 1945, a Buddhist Kamikaze; or….the German Luftwaffe’s suicide squadrons.”

Unsurprisingly, this leads to the triumphant argument: “What the religion of the bomber is depends on at which point of history you begin to start your timeline.”

Glenn Greenwald may think this is “superb,” but it really is utterly stupid and disingenuous. It is stupid because an observation that is true for the present cannot be invalidated by pointing out that at some other point in history, things were different. Harris didn’t claim that throughout history, suicide bombings were usually perpetrated by Muslims; he simply highlighted the well-documented phenomenon that in recent times, it has been primarily Muslims who have perpetrated suicide bombings and that such “martyrdom operations” are widely accepted and regularly glorified by Muslims.

Moreover, while I’m not familiar enough with Hinduism and Buddhism to know if their faithful have developed anything comparable to the contemporary Muslim “martyrdom” cult, I am absolutely certain that the pilots in the German Luftwaffe’s suicide squadron – which operated only a few missions at the very end of the war – were not motivated by their Christian faith: when they embarked on their deadly missions, they didn’t shout some equivalent of “Allahu Akbar,” but “Heil Hitler.”

Yet, this is the kind of “reasoning” Glenn Greenwald admires as “superb” – perhaps because his own reasoning isn’t much better. Take for example Greenwald’s complaint that “of course there are some Muslim individuals who do heinous things in the name of their religion – just like there are extremists in all religions who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion, yet receive far less attention than the bad acts of Muslims.”

The problem with this politically-oh-so-correct mantra that there are “bad apples” everywhere is that not everywhere “bad apples” are considered bad.

Imagine for a moment that a prominent and influential religious leader like the pope wrote glowingly about a divinely ordained and religiously motivated battle between all Christians and all Muslims; or that such a leader praised Hitler and the Holocaust and expressed the hope that there will be a “next time” when the “believers” will have the chance to finish the job; or that he prayed for the annihilation of those whom he and his followers consider enemies and called on God to “kill them, down to the very last one.”

Qaradawi on the Holocaust

Very different from what Greenwald claims, no prominent Christian or Jewish leader could make such statements without a storm of outraged media coverage and vociferous demands for his resignation. But when the “Global Mufti” Qaradawi propagates the vilest views inciting hatred and justifying violence, the western media don’t have to say much about such appalling statements broadcast in the Muslim world to a devoted audience of an estimated sixty million believers.

And if all religions are equally likely to have adherents “who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion,” there should be broad majorities of Christians or Jews who favor something comparably revolting to Sharia punishments such as “stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the … religion.” If all religions were really equally likely to have adherents “who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion,” there should also be many millions of Christians or Jews who admired Al-Qaeda-like groups for most of the past decade.

It is indeed bigotry when the actions and views of a few extremists or fringe groups are taken as representative for a much larger group of believers, but it is also a form of bigotry to ignore well-documented evidence showing that what would be condemned as extremist for Christians and Jews is widely accepted in the Muslim world.

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First published April 13 on my JPost blog.