Archive for Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Debbie Caves to Islamophobes

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by loonwatch

Debbie needs to grow a spine and stop caving into bigots:

Debbie Caves to Islamophobes

by Zaid Jilani (Salon.com)

Liberals who admire the Democratic Party’s tradition of inclusiveness and civil rights should be troubled by what happened last week in Florida. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has served as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee since last April, was until then scheduled to speak Saturday at the annual dinner event of the nonprofit group Empowering Motivating Educating Resourceful Grassroots Entities, or EMERGE USA.

EMERGE is a grass-roots group that works primarily with South Asians, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans to empower young people to take part in community service projects, local government and other forms of civic leadership. “Our broad goals are to incorporate minorities generally, Muslim or non-Muslim, into the political system,” EMERGE board member Imran Siddiqui says. Whether it’s running a get-out-the-vote drive or petitioning a city council to stop the construction of an industrial waste dump site next to a mosque, the group’s activities are little different than those of any other classic grass-roots American organization – the only difference being that a large portion of EMERGE’s members are from Muslim communities. Last year, former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., keynoted their event.

Yet Wasserman Schultz decided to abruptly pull out of speaking at EMERGE’s annual dinner last week. “We never agreed to do a fundraiser, nor an event,” claimed Wasserman Schultz spokesman Jonathan Beeton. Yet EMERGE had previously widely advertised Wasserman Schultz’s participation at the fundraising dinner without apparent complaint from the congresswoman’s staff. “We were interfacing with congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s people for about a year to try to get something together,” said Siddiqui. “So when she agreed to the banquet, we were elated.” There’s a much more likely explanation for her abrupt refusal to attend the event than a simple miscommunication. For months, Islamophobic websites and a far-right congressional candidate waged a smear campaign against EMERGE, pressuring Wasserman Schultz to back out of the event. With her withdrawal, it appears that they won.

The smears can be traced back to an article in right-wing McCarthyist David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine. In a February article, Joe Kaufman – who isvying in a Republican primary to challenge Wasserman Schultz for her seat in Congress – teamed up with Militant Islam Monitor’s Beila Rabinowitz to claim that EMERGE was part of a “nefarious agenda of placing Islamists into positions of American power and influence.”

Based on that absurd premise that the community service volunteers and voter registration gurus of EMERGE were out to install an Islamist government in the United States, the bulk of the article’s allegations focused on Khurrum Wahid,one of the group’s founders. Kaufman and Rabinowitz note that Wahid, a civil rights lawyer, represented individuals accused by the U.S. government of terrorism-related crimes. This line of attack was similar to one waged in 2010 against Department of Justice lawyers who represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The group Keep America Safe referred to these lawyers as the “Al Qaeda 7,” a charge so incendiary that even a former Bush official rebuked it, noting that “there is a long-standing and very honorable tradition of lawyers representing unpopular or even uncontroversial clients.”

But it’s not surprising that Kaufman would engage in such outlandish smears. They help distract from his own past of espousing extreme ideas and outlandish rhetoric. Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he endorsed using nuclear weapons against the Muslim world to retaliate, writing, “If the decimation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the right thing to do, in response to Pearl Harbor, then why the heck are we saving our nuclear weapons now?” He was even skewered by “The Daily Show” for his crusade to stop a Muslim Republican from getting the acceptance of the Broward County GOP. (Kaufman was at the time ironically leading a group called Americans Against Hate).

So how did a fringe congressional candidate, whose greatest feats have been getting mocked by “The Daily Show” and speaking out against Muslim Family Day at Six Flags on Fox News, cow one of the most powerful Democrats in the country? Unfortunately, he had some help running the smear campaign against EMERGE. His attacks were uncritically picked up by local news bloggers before making their way into larger right-wing publications. The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo sensationally wrote an article titled “Debbie’s Date With Radicalism,” playing a bizarre game of six degrees to claim that Wahid was associating himself with groups connected to the financing of al-Qaida because he once spoke at a conference of the mainstream Islamic Circle of North America. (Full disclosure: I attended one of its conferences as an elementary schooler, and so has one of Obama’s faith advisors, which may lead to claims that both Obama and I are secretly associated with al-Qaida.)

The article wondered aloud why a “proud Jewess” like Wasserman Schultz would appear with the Muslim-dominated EMERGE, clearly trying to stoke a racial and religious divide. It also quoted a “prominent Jewish Democrat,” who hid behind anomynity to claim that EMERGE’s leaders have a “soft spot for terrorism.” The Free Beacon topped off all of this reporting with a memo titled, “DNC BOSS TO RAISE MONEY FOR TERRORIST LAWYER.”

It’s easy to play this ridiculous guilt by association game with anyone, of course. Take the Washington Free Beacon, for example. It is run by Michael Goldfarb, a former McCain campaign flack who  is also a senior vice presidentat Orion Strategies, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm. Orion Strategies has had as one of its clients none other than George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center. Goldfarb has also worked for the Emergency Committee for Israel, which has a board member who said Palestinians should be thrown into the sea to be “food for sharks” and whose executive director called on the Israeli Defense Forces to use protesters as “target practice.” By their own logic, the Free Beacon is on the payroll of George Soros and has troubling associations with would-be genocidal anti-Arab activists.

The smear campaign against EMERGE should be more comical than respectable – it was led by hysterical Islamophobes and third-rate bloggers – and it would have been, if not for the fact that Wasserman Schultz appeared to give in to it. “Unless the Muslim community has somebody stand up to this,” reflects Siddiqui on the smear campaign, “this is just going to keep happening. And it needs to stop.”

Zaid Jilani is a Washington journalist. Follow him @zaidjilani.More Zaid Jilani

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by loonwatch

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

by Rabia Chaudry, Huffington Post

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the latest victim of an intricate web of half-truths and outright lies woven for political profit and as part of a broad, well funded, Islamophobia network. The Congresswoman was slated to be the keynote speaker at an April 21 event for the group EMERGE USA, but backed off after a scathing blog post by Joe Kaufman, who happens to be running for a Congressional seat for Florida’s District 20.

EMERGE USA is a non-profit committed to empowering minorities through increased civic engagement and education about the political process. The organization has strong roots in the community and has been publicly supported by one of Florida’s senior statesmen, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, an expert on terrorism and intelligence. However, the fact that EMERGE USA was founded and is run by Muslims seems to be the proverbial bee in Kaufman’s bonnet. Ultimately, Kaufman’s Glen Beck-esque acrobatics in trying to link EMERGE USA board members and staff to “questionable” organizations and associations can be easily dismissed because of factual errors and deliberate obfuscation.

The truly insidious aspect of this entire incident, however, is that it can be linked to a multi-pronged attack on Muslims nationwide through the creation of an Islamophobia network with deep pockets and an agenda to marginalize American Muslims at every turn. The Center for American Progress’s 2011 report “Fear, Inc.” thoroughly documents this network’s funding, messengers and reach. Its efforts have manifested in anti-sharia legislation in dozens of states, bigoted trainings for law enforcement and intelligence communities, the character assassination of mainstream national Muslim organizations and even promotion of the idea that President Obama is a Muslim.

The nightmarish narrative disseminated by the numerous think tanks, pundits and self-appointed “experts” on Islam and terrorism has not only successfully influenced the American discourse on Islam and Muslims, but has had significant political impact. The Islamophobia network focuses much of its time and energy on influencing and supporting politicians who promulgate its world view. It provides politicians with talking points, platforms and agenda items to keep the suspicion and fear of Islam and Muslims in the news. Examples of such politicians cited by the “Fear, Inc.” report include the following:

  • Rep. Peter King: held numerous hearings on Islamic radicalization
  • Rep. Sue Myrick: called for congressional inquiry on the CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, held hearings on influence of Muslim Brotherhood, leading Congressional fearmonger against Muslims
  • Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. John Shadegg and Rep. Paul Broun: supporters of the CAIR congressional investigation
  • Rep. Allen West: declared Islam as the enemy, claimed it is not a religion and held a briefing called “Homegrown Jihad in the USA”
  • Rep. Renee Ellmers: made the Park51 into an issue, calling it a ground zero victory mosque
  • Rep. Michelle Bachman: frequently raises concerns over homegrown Islamic threat and engages in anti-sharia rhetoric

While the influence of the Islamophobia network on right-wing politicians is more visible, the pressure it exerts on progressives is more troubling. Left-leaning politicians are also vulnerable to manipulation, as can be seen in Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s case. The Congresswoman is not the first Democrat to distance herself from a Muslim organization after being attacked by Islamophobes. To American Muslims who are mostly progressive in their politics, abandonment by Democratic politicians feels like betrayal.

The politicians who continue to be used to spread or confirm the network’s ugly narrative must realize something very important: while winning small battles, they are losing the war. History has proven that bigots, racists, xenophobes, anti-Semites and other variations on the same brand of fear and suspicion have never succeeded — socially or politically. Even genocide, the extreme expression of bigotry, has left nothing but failed ideology in its wake.

A simple understanding of the human psyche tells us that people tire of living in fear, worn out from perpetually being “anti-other.” Over time, we make up and move on. The battle of the Islamophobes will also eventually be lost because American Muslims and their allies will continue to push back against false narratives. The lifespan of Islamophobia in the United States will undoubtedly end up a sad blight on our history like other failed “anti” movements — but politicians, both Republican and Democrat, should ask themselves on what side of history they wish to be.

Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, President of the Safe Nation Collaborative, and an Associate Fellow of the Truman National Security Project.

“Judenrat Jon” Stewart

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2012 by loonwatch

“Judenrat Jon” Stewart

by: David Harris-Gershon on January 7th, 2012

When Jon Stewart is called a “smug, self-loathing Jew” by a right-wing Jewish personality (who is often called upon by conservative pundits to wax political), it’s tempting to dismiss the comment as a disgusting tribal dig.

When Jon Stewart is called a Judenrat who “would have been first on line to turn over his fellow Jews in Poland and Germany” by this same hawkish voice, it’s tempting – even though this voice has a visible platform – to just ignore the comment as the product of the Republican, FOX-inspired echo chamber.

However, ignoring these comments wouldn’t just be dangerous, it would be to allow a growing brand of hatred coursing through America’s veins – produced on the fringes – to continue infecting our public discourse (and public opinion) on matters both foreign and domestic.

It’s a hate-filled islamophobia that masquerades as patriotic, as anti-terrorism, as proudly American and Zionist (as though the two are synonymous). It’s a brand of hatred that the current GOP seeks, a hatred it feels it needs, a hatred it foments for perceived political gain at great cost to civil society. And, as much as it pains me as a progressive Jewish American to say, it’s a hatred right-wing American Jews are often solicited to be spokespeople for on venues like Fox News, with claims of anti-Semitism at the ready should they be critiqued by people such as, well, Jon Stewart.

So, wait – what happened to Jon Stewart, exactly? – you ask. Here is the context:

Jason Jones and The Daily Show crew produced this rather brilliant segment on how Broward County Republicans orchestrated a campaign to block membership of a Muslim Republican to the Broward Republican Party’s executive committee. This was done with the help of the Muslim-hating group ironically called Americans Against Hate (headed by Joe Kaufman, who is running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz for Congress).

The segment elicited this disgusting display from Pamela Geller:

This is not the first time that The Daily Show made fun of, ridiculed, and smeared proud Americans and passionate zionists. What’s he doing? And why? Does he know how much CAIR raised for their home office, Hamas, whose stated goal is to destroy the Jewish homeland, through the Holy Land Foundation? Stewart missed his calling. He would have been first on line to turn over his fellow Jews in Poland and Germany. Smug self-loathing Jew.

Yes, Geller is a nut. And yes, this particular display has been limited – so far – to her personal site. But Geller, just one of many fringe figures who inexplicably get airtime aplenty, knows what she’s doing. She knows the game: play the anti-Semitism card.

And not just any anti-Semitism card – the self-hating-Jew card. And she plays it against one of our country’s most important media critics and defenders of reason. Why? Because he represents exactly what she and her right-wing minions loathe: someone willing to call out islamophobia for what it is, even when promoted by American Jews.

While it would be easy to dismiss all this due to the messenger, does Jon Stewart shy away from railing against hatred and bigotry when it is perpetrated by the unhinged?

Nope.

And neither should we.