From The Washington Blade: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/05/02/opinion-holocaust-remembrance-day/
by Kevin Naff
May 2, 2017
Listening to President Trump deliver remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day last week proved yet another galling exercise in surreal hypocrisy.
The same president who tapped Stephen Bannon to serve as his top adviser had the nerve to criticize Holocaust deniers, adding “we must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth in our time.”
And so, let’s tell some truth.
Truth: Bannon established Breitbart News as “the platform for the alt-right,” as he boasted last summer. While clever enough not to openly espouse anti-Semitic views himself, he deliberately cultivated Breitbart as the go-to place for expressing misogynistic, white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke praised Bannon’s White House appointment, which alone should tell you all you need to know about this dangerous figure. Alt-right lunatics are now ensconced in the White House, including among the press corps. Two fake journalists recently flashed “white power” signs inside the White House press briefing room and shamelessly posted the photos to social media. As first reported by the Independent, “Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room. In the photo, they are making a hand sign that can be used to signify ‘white power.’”
Truth: According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic attacks increased by 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Between January and March, the ADL reports there were 541 anti-Semitic incidents in the country compared to 281 during the same period last year. Trump’s gullible supporters — who are not influenced or constrained by facts, logic or reason — will dismiss those numbers as a coincidence. But for those of us with more than three functioning brain cells, it’s obvious that America’s deplorables have heard the dog whistles emanating from this White House and are acting accordingly. The bigots are unleashed and validated after being forced to endure an America led by a black man for eight years, their worst nightmare.
Truth: Speaking of dog whistles, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters recently that Adolf Hitler never used chemical weapons against his own people and referred to concentration camps and gas chambers as “Holocaust centers.”
Truth: As Trump belatedly and hypocritically condemned anti-Semitism — after empowering bigots and ignoring attacks on Jewish community centers and cemeteries — gay men are being rounded up, tortured and killed in secret prisons in Chechnya. Holocaust Remembrance Day sounds like an opportune time to condemn those prisons, which have been widely described in the media as “concentration camps.” But Trump didn’t mention Chechnya and hasn’t denounced the government’s actions to cleanse the country of gays. Hillary Clinton lambasted Trump over his silence on Chechnya. The State Department, which remains woefully understaffed such that it hasn’t been holding press briefings, is silent. Only Nikki Haley at the U.N. could be coaxed into denouncing Chechnya.
Why is that? Well, Chechnya is controlled by Vladimir Putin, whose own campaign against Russian gays is well known and documented. Trump’s ongoing love affair with Putin (or is our president being blackmailed by the Russian murderer?) precludes him from speaking out.
And so, amid cries of “never forget,” we do just that in Chechnya, turning away from the well-documented horrors being committed there against gay men. America’s pledge to respect the lessons of the Holocaust is now a hollow sham, a photo op that offers the appearance of caring while masking our government’s complicity in atrocity.
From The Forward: http://forward.com/opinion/370998/religious-liberty-executive-order-should-scare-jews/
May 4, 2017
Be careful what you wish for.
For years, the Christian Right, abetted by some Orthodox Jewish allies, has claimed that there’s a war on religion in America. Sometimes it’s the “War on Christmas,” sometimes it’s alleged persecution of Christians for practicing their faith, and sometimes it’s hard to articulate at all.
Well, today, the president of the United States bought into that rhetoric, and announced that he’s ending the war, signing an executive order that was heavy on symbolism and light on substance. Trump’s order focused on fake issues rather than real ones — good news for LGBTs and others who feared being targeted, but bad news for American Jews and other religious minorities.
On the substantive side, the Jewish backers of the action didn’t get anything they had wanted. No changes in funding for religious schools, no religious exemptions to allow discrimination.
But what we all got was an earful of gospel. In case there was any doubt about what “religious liberty” really means in a country that is 70% Christian, the audience in the Rose Garden got serenaded by Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman (one of his songs was a setting of the Lord’s Prayer) and preached to by televangelist Paula White (who sells “resurrection seeds” for $1,144).
In fact, the one substantive change of note will probably come back to haunt American Jews. That was the effective repeal by Trump of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment,” which prohibits nonprofit organizations — including religious ones – from political campaigning.
Critics had characterized the Johnson Amendment as a gag order on pastors, prohibiting them from preaching about politics. That’s hogwash.
Not only does the law not prohibit political sermons, it’s almost never enforced against churches – the Washington Post hasn’t been found only one investigation in the last 10 years.
But with the Johnson Amendment gone (it’s still on the books, but Trump’s IRS will not enforce it), pastors and rabbis and imams will be under more pressure to be more explicitly political. That’s why most grassroots evangelical pastors actually opposed the change. Can you imagine, now that the gloves are off, rabbis endorsing American and Israeli political candidates from the pulpit? Or being pressured to do so by their biggest donors? It’s a disaster.
Continue reading at: http://forward.com/opinion/370998/religious-liberty-executive-order-should-scare-jews/
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/opinion/chechnyas-anti-gay-pogrom.html
By Ekaterina Sokirianskaia
May 3, 2017
MOSCOW — At the beginning of April, reports surfaced that a crackdown on gay men was afoot in Chechnya, the small, turbulent republic on the southern edge of the Russian Federation. According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, more than 100 gay men were rounded up by the police and brutalized in secret prisons, and at least three of them were killed. Many remain in detention.
In fear and desperation, 75 people called in to the Russian LGBT Network’s Chechnya hotline. Of these, 52 said they had been victims of the recent violence, and 30 fled to Moscow where they received help from L.G.B.T. activists.
“Once they bring you there,” a survivor told me, referring to the secret prison in Chechnya where he’d been detained, “they immediately start the beatings and electrocutions, demanding information about who you were dating.” The guards, he said, would spit in the prisoners’ faces, and worse: “We were such hated creatures that each guard felt obliged to hit us when passing by.”
This persecution of gays is symptomatic of the repressive regime that now runs Chechnya. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, that rugged outpost of the old empire has lived through separatist agitation, terrorism and two bloody wars. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, some 5,000 are still missing, and its towns were left in ruins.
Chechnya’s autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has enjoyed near unconditional support from Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad, started out as a separatist Islamic leader, but at the beginning of Russia’s second military campaign against Chechen rebels, which began in 1999, he swapped sides to support Moscow.
When Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a terrorist attack in 2004, his son took his place, muscling out rival strongmen and monopolizing power in the republic by placing his people in charge of federal institutions. Mr. Kadyrov ensured that his fighters were integrated into the local police force, largely preserving the command chains, and their violent skills were deployed in heavy-handed counterterrorism operations on behalf of the Kremlin.
In 2009, by the end of what was officially called “the counterterrorism operation,” he had succeeded in suppressing the separatist insurgency and consolidating his regime. Loyalty to Moscow was rewarded with lavish federal funds to raise Chechen towns from rubble and build shiny skyscrapers in the capital, Grozny.
Collective punishment is the hallmark of Mr. Kadyrov’s repression. Relatives of those who displease the authorities are threatened, beaten, held hostage, expelled from the republic or have their homes burned down. Such methods were first applied to suspected rebels but have spread to regime critics, religious dissenters, even drunken drivers. The same techniques have now been applied to the families of men thought to be gay, which are threatened with detention unless the suspects turn themselves in to the police.
“If somebody does not obey my orders in this republic, I’ll force him,” Mr. Kadyrov boasted on Chechen TV in 2013.
In this climate of humiliation and immense fear, Chechens are fleeing the Russian Federation en masse. Yet the Kremlin turns a blind eye to such excesses in return for allegiance. Mr. Kadyrov calls himself a foot soldier for Mr. Putin. Chechnya sends thousands of state employees, students and schoolchildren into the streets to celebrate Russia Day, Mr. Putin’s birthday and the annexation of Crimea. Chechen “volunteers” have fought in Ukraine and in Syria, and Mr. Kadyrov regularly assails the West, Russian liberals and the opposition. Above all, Mr. Kadyrov has pursued the fight against separatism and Islamist insurgency.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/opinion/chechnyas-anti-gay-pogrom.html
From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/ron-howard-there-are-alarming-similarities-between-1930s-nazis-and-trump/
Sarah K. Burris
25 Apr 2017
Famed physicist Albert Einstein is the subject of a new series produced by Ron Howard. The National Geographic Channel’s show depicts the funny and controversial side of the “Genius” scientist who was known for being silly and political as well as amorous.
According to a Daily Beast interview with Howard, the first episode of the series breaks down the man who became known as one of the world’s most well-known Jews to stand up against the Nazis. Einstein ultimately ends up on a Nazi hit list and the pilot episode opens with the assassination of one of his dearest friends. The scene that follows it shows Einstein “shagging his secretary,” Howard explained.
The team working on “Genius” was keenly aware of the existing political problems scientists are facing with conservatives, many of whom reject science on a number of issues from climate to evolution and even basic biology. The second episode finds Einstein and his wife trying to flee Nazi Germany but the U.S.’s immigration policies block them. Einstein’s science was often dismissed as “Jewish physics” by anti-Semites and detractors. The story follows the couple as they come to the U.S. as a refugee.
“Those pressures and threats on people and narrow-minded thinking and greed and careerism around science and politicizing science and discovery—they’ve never faded entirely,” Howard told the Daily Beast. “But it certainly has not been lost on us that these issues are more up front and center, and reemerging with a level of intensity that we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s the U.S. but it’s also around the world. So those scenes in episode one and in the series definitely carry with them more impact than I think we expected when we began.”
Howard also wondered openly about the ways in which the world would have been different if Einstein had simply arrived in the U.S. and hidden from public view. Instead, Einstein continued his anti-Nazi political activism and continued doing his life’s work.
Complete article at: http://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/ron-howard-there-are-alarming-similarities-between-1930s-nazis-and-trump/
From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-double-standards-of-anti-zionism-and-sexism_us_58f410a9e4b04cae050dc8ac
Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American political activist, expressed back in March how feminists need to care for Palestinian women, and alluded to the sentiment that Zionism and feminism are incompatible. Sarsour said to The Nation, “It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”
Big Bang Theory actress and Orthodox Jew, Mayim Bialik, retaliated by writing an article for Grok Nation, which outlined how Sarsour’s statements were not only offensive, but also false. Bialik wrote on her Facebook page, where she also apologized for making it seem as though Sarsour directly said that Zionism and feminism are incompatible, “[The] conversation surrounding Zionism finally went too far for me to keep my big mouth shut.” Bialik vocalized her frustrations, and now I am following suit. I am tired of the discrimination against my people and of activists, such as Sarsour, who think they can pit my identity as both a Zionist and feminist against each other.
The headline-making feud between Sarsour and Bialik made me start to think about the correlation between my feminism and my support of Israel. Zionism is the belief that Jews have the right to a state, just as feminism is the right to equality. But both definitions have been shanghaied by anti-Semitic and misogynistic rhetoric. This is where I realized that the ways in which people express anti-Zionism are very much alike to sexism.
My stances with Israel are not straightforward, because sociopolitical realities are complex. As a liberal Zionist I do not support Likud or Netanyau, just as I do not support Trump. But as a Jew, I was raised to love my Jewish homeland and to appreciate it as the only true sanctuary for my people. My view is further complicated because as an academic I praise the country for being the only democracy in the Middle East. Most importantly for me, as a feminist, I value Israel for its progressive stances on women’s and LGBTQIA’s rights.
As a Zionist and a feminist my stances have been relegated to black and white understandings, leaving me a blank canvas for others to picture me. Once people at my liberal arts college, Sarah Lawrence, discovered the dark truth that I do not despise Israel, I was labeled as a Zionist-extremist. Similarly, as a female, I am labeled as a slut or prude, dumb or overbearing—the latter being when they realize I have a brain. It is this labeling of my Zionism and of my womanhood that reduces the beauty of belief to something ugly and untrue.
Beyond the labels themselves, it is the mindset behind them that is disturbing. It is as though they are created in a moral-complex vacuum, which only spouts double standards but refuses to take in any insight. If a woman speaks her mind she is considered angry, whereas a man is deemed intelligent and forthright. Similarly, Israel is constantly under threat of destruction by surrounding countries, but Israel is seen as the Goliath perpetrator.
The Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be reduced to good and evil. This is not to relegate the human rights violations that have occurred, but to contextualize them. We are dealing with Likud, a right-winged government, and Hamas, a UN recognized terrorist regime. I am critical of the government just as I am with most current countries. But Israel is more than a government. It is a country that allows trans people into the army, has Arab women representation in government, and maintains women’s rights, such as education, in their legislature.
It is absurd, especially when one looks to any country North, South, East, or West of Israel and understands their human rights violations, that I am told my feminism and Zionism are incompatible. Our allegiances should be with the people—both Israeli and Palestinian—and not focused on demonizing either, that is unless we demonize the entire Middle East for their relatively greater human rights violations. People call Israel an ethnic cleansing, apartheid state but Israel has a more diverse population than its surrounding countries and, unlike South Africa apartheid, has laws of nondiscrimination within its constitution. Yes, racism exists within Israel, as it does in most parts of the world. But singling out the Jewish State above the rest shows how these double standards are a projection of anti-Semitism as opposed to true concern for the people.
Continue reading at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-double-standards-of-anti-zionism-and-sexism_us_58f410a9e4b04cae050dc8ac