My response to Jeff Dunetz’s column of March 22, 2012:
To the editor:
Another week, another piece of gutter writing from Jeff Dunetz, this time recycling old memes from the 2008 election. I guess this is what we have to look forward to in the next few months. It’s an old trick; repeat the allegations and lies enough and people will begin to believe them; it’s for this reason that a recent poll showed that more than half of Mississippi’s Republicans and nearly half of Alabama’s think the President is a Muslim. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/12/news/la-pn-poll-obamas-a-muslim-to-many-gop-voters-in-alabama-mississippi-20120312
As usual with writers who don’t check their work, Dunetz makes some false accusations. For instance, Derrick Bell never called Anne Frank “the symbol of Jewish hypocrisy” and did not argue that Jews act only out of self-interest. The quote comes not from Bell, but from a review of Bell’s story, “Space Traders” written by conservative judge Alex Kozinski for the New York Times . One of the major proponents of the falsehood was the late conservative activist, Andrew Breitbart.
Another conservative meme of dubious origin is the claim that Obama is linked to Percy Sutton and by extension to Nation of Islam member Khalid al-Mansour. Originally, conservatives hacks made the claim based on statements made by an unwell Sutton at the end of his life about being asked to write Obama a letter of recommendation. It’s a complete falsehood. There is no evidence that Sutton ever wrote a letter of recommendation for Obama, no evidence that Obama ever knew Khalid al-Mansour, and no evidence that Saudi Prince bin-Talal paid Obama’s tuition. The claim is on the level of the claim that the President was born in Africa. It’s invidious nonsense, and sure enough, the only websites that carried stories of the allegation are hard-right websites, the same ones that promoted the birther claim. http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Obama_camp_denies_Sutton_story.html
It is true that former Secretary of State Zbigniew Bzrezinski was one of Obama’s many foreign policy advisors during the 2008 campaign. There is no evidence to support the contention that Obama adopted any of Brzezinski’s views on Jews or Israel, and his policies and rhetoric before 2008 and after reflect none of Brzezinski’s views. George W. Bush was advised by, among others, Brent Scowcroft, who holds the same views.
It is also true that the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama turned to Al Sharpton to blunt criticism of his economic policies in the African-American community. The same article notes that Obama avoided Sharpton during the 2008 campaign. It’s not clear that this says anything negative about Obama. Sharpton is, for better or worse, a leader in the African-American community. Crown Heights is 20 years in the past, and Sharpton today is not nearly the rhetorical bomb-thrower he was then. People moderate.
And of course, no piece of conservative hackery on Obama would be complete without mentioning Jeremiah Wright, because in this country, we always judge people based on what their clerics say, regardless of how much evidence there is that the person does not share the views of his cleric. John Hagee, the Evangelical Pastor right-wingers like Jeff love so much for his hard-right views on Israel, is fond of saying that the anti-Christ is Jewish. I guess all of his followers are antisemites, or, to use Jeff’s phrase, gravitate toward an antisemite. Beware if your rabbi says something extreme on the pulpit.
Like many political hacks who recognize that guilt-by-association is a poor argument, Dunetz says he’s not trying to argue Obama is an antisemite, but only that Obama “gravitate[s] to Jew-haters.” There is no evidence of that either. In fact, guilt-by-association is exactly Jeff’s argument, and if Jeff had bothered to do some basic research, he might have found that Obama isn’t even guilty of that.
Michael Brenner, Woodmere
Walid Phares is a great example of why you have to be wary of so-called “terrorism” experts on TV, particularly if, like Walid, they have political axes to grind.
Norway had a big terror attack today, and there’s some circumstantial evidence to suggest that it was Al-Qaeda related. Norway is putting some jihadis on trial; it’s one year since they were arrested.
Almost as soon as the attack was reported, Phares published a link to a Fox News story about the attack accompanied by this quote: “Why would the Jihadists hit a Government that supported the ’cause of Palestine’ to the extreme? If anything this is evidence that the Jihadists’ agenda isn’t even about Palestinian state, as some propagandists claim.”
This was not a quote from the Fox News article. It’s a quote of Walid’s or one that Walid adopted.
There’s only one problem with it. There’s been no reportage whatsoever that this was an Al-Qaeda or jihadist attack. The only reference currently available to the identity of a perpetrator pertains to the gunman in the Utoeya Island attack, who one witness describe as white and blonde.
I challenged Walid on this point and simply asked him why he’d accused Muslims of the attack if there was nothing yet available on the identity of the perpetrators. I asked him why he couldn’t wait a day before drawing conclusions.
First, he told me that a Jihadist outfit had already taken responsibility. Indeed, they had. The problem is that jihadist outfits tend to do this whether they are responsible or not, and of course, there was no independent confirmation of the claim. It’s certainly not something one can draw a conclusion from.
When I asked him why he couldn’t wait, he said: “Sir we don’t wait when we know. My comments are not issued from a forensic police unit but as an expert. Not only we know these are the Jihadists based on the framework of the ongoing war, but we can even project into the future and we did so with books, articles and briefings. The “wait and see” posture is for those who are told by apologist experts that “Jihad is Yoga.” That is not our case. Thank you.”
Not exactly answering my question.
Walid warned another poster (one nuttier than him who said all Muslims lie and no Muslim could be trusted) not to impugned a “community.” I pointed out that by quickly blaming “jihadists,” he was providing an invitation for anti-Muslim racists to come out of the woodwork.
Phares responded: “”Sir, who posted that “attack was perpetrated by Muslims”? If you read my work for the last 30 years, you’d realize it is all precise and academically sound. There was no word “Muslim.” The word “Jihadist” is an ideological word, which is also used by Arabs and Muslims when terror attacks occur in the region. Please read my book “The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy” so that you see the difference.”
That’s a deceitful answer. I think the vast majority of the people on this Earth identify jihadi with Muslim. Jihad’s a Muslim concept, last I checked. And I am pretty sure that it is not “academically sound” to claim that an attack was perpetrated by jihadists an hour after it happens when your only evidence is a claim of responsibility by a previously unknown group.
I then pointed out the only eyewitness info we had on the attackers was on the gunman, who was reported to be white and blonde, and I suggested (not without reason) that maybe Phares was jumping to a conclusion because he had to say something tonight on Fox, who, after all, pays people like him to say things like this.
Phares responded: “”Sir “blonde” doesn’t mean anything. There are Jihadi blondes. This is racism when you don’t know the issue. This attack is occurring in the middle of a war, not in the beginning of it. Besides, I know when I want to issue my statement. Media called since minute one for early assessment and it was given to them based on my assessment. You disagree with it, that’s your issue. Now read the information which is going to come. Thank you for your advice on how to analyze, and how to issue it, I have mine. Besides, selecting Fox News or any other media is my decision.”
Wow. So it isn’t racist to immediately assume that “jihadists” are behind the attack before there is any actual evidence of it. But it is racist to suggest that evidence that the gunman was white and blonde is a fact that augurs against it being a jihadist attack.
I told Walid that the right thing to do was to wait, and I told him he was being, in Bill O’Reilly’s words, a weasal.
In classic weasally form (and in the form of those who do not have the courage of their convictions), he defriended me after that.
Yeah, Walid, I’m sure there are white blonde jihadists. Just haven’t seen one perpetrate a terrorist attack yet. I’m also sure that there are way the heck more white blonde Norwegians. And given the realities, it’s fair to suggest that if the only identified perpetrator is white and blonde, maybe jumping to the conclusion that it’s the “jihadists” is a stupid idea motivated mostly by your own parochial prejudices and the fact that you’re paid to jump to that conclusion for a living.
Maybe the right thing to do if the media is contacting you is to be honest and give the only answer people with any integrity would give on a day where dozens of young people are killed, there’s little evidence of anything yet, and most of the world is focused on the victims: “I don’t know.”
The headline from Obama’s speech on the Middle East seems to be Obama’s call for a solution based on 1967 lines. Apparently lots of people are not aware that this has been US policy for more than four decades. Neither is it inconsistent with President Bush’s letter indicating that Israel would be able to hold on to settlement blocs.
Nevertheless, I’m waiting for the paroxysms of anger about how the President threw Israel under the bus from the usual quarters.
Attended a great concert musicians from the New York Chamber Virtuosi at the Roerich Museum on West 107th Street. It was a packed house. The soprano Danya Katok sang Rachmaninoff songs, and the violinist Alex Shiozaki played Stravinsky, both accompanied by pianist Nana Shi. Pianist Milena Zhivotovskaya played two of her preludes, and then was joined by violinist Sabina Torosjan and cellist Laura Kegeles for Shostakovich‘s Piano Trio No. 2, my favorite chamber work of the twentieth century, maybe of all time.
Next week, the New York Chamber Virtuosi Orchestra will be concluding their season with a concert at Merkin Hall. The concert will feature three novelties; the first a rare performance of Wieniawski‘s Faust Fantasy with Gabriella Fink, violinist, a new work by composer Jessica Sibelman, and a new arrangement of Tchaikovsky‘s Sleeping Beauty for orchestra and narrator.
It looks like Ahava’s flagship in London has been forced out by pro-Palestinian demonstrators:
Dmitri Mitropoulos is one of the most underrated conductors of the last century. This recording from 1960, one of his last, is white-hot. Very fast first movement, thiumphant 3rd, and beautiful 2nd and 4th. The Philharmonic sounds pretty wonderful.
I have kept a blog in the past, and have decided to take another shot at one now.
This blog will serve three purposes. The first will be the same as the last blog, to serve as a repository of my letters and articles. The second will be to serve as a place for me to talk about my musical interests. The third will be to discuss international politics and politics in the Jewish community.