Over just over a decade, socialite Arianna Huffington has patched together a veritable media empire. Huffington Post, launched on May 10, 2005. AOL acquired Huffington Post in 2011 for $315 million. The next year, Huffington Post became the first commercial digital outlet to win a Pulitzer Prize, taking home the award for national reporting. The company has since spun off local editions in Chicago, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Miami, and Hawaii, and international spin-offs in Canada, and Great Britain as well as French, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese, and Arabic language versions and partnerships.
The Huffington Post has always been a mixed bag. It drives up its stats with “clickbait.” Pulitzer notwithstanding, this detracts from the seriousness of its news coverage, as does its occasional penchant for polemic and conspiracy theory over fact. Nevertheless, Huffington must be credited for her very real impact. The format might be different, and her politics may have migrated over time, but the results are indisputable: today Arianna Huffington really has become the Matt Drudge of the political left.
Alas, while her politics may be firmly ‘progressive’ and mainstream even if to the left in the American context, they are anything but in the Arab world. Her “Huffington Post Arabi” has become a cesspool less for serious news, and more a mechanism to legitimize conspiracy, promote the Muslim Brotherhood, anti-Semitism, sectarian strife, anti-gay bias, and more. Admittedly, much of this lays less with Huffington directly than with the partners she choose and which now provide her Arabic site with content. Having sampled HuffPost Arabi, Brian Whitaker, a former Guardian journalist and Arabist whose own writings trend hard to the political left and occasional conspiratorial anti-Americanism, called her out for the content of her Arabic affiliate, much of which he seemed to blame on her partner, former Al-Jazeera Media Network chief Wadah Khanfar.
The Huffington-Khanfar partnership is curious. In 1997, Khanfar published a dissertation on “The Israeli Policy in Africa,” the introduction to which warned of “The Zionist project… [as] an expansionist project that seeks to establish a ‘Greater Israel,’ stretching from the head of the Nile to the mouth of the Euphrates in order to establish a presence across the African continent.” Khanfar warned of Israel’s looming “return to Africa…to drain it of its bounties and exploit its natural resources and use them to grow its industrial machine, and to fulfill its aspirations to dominate the region.” For most, such loony conspiracies would be a red flag. Huffington appears either not to care or to be unaware. Either way, the partnership is deeply troubling. Nor is Khanfar shy about his Hamas ties. While in South Africa, he shared an address with the Al-Aqsa Foundation, which the U.S. Treasury Department designated “a critical part of Hamas terrorist support infrastructure.” Such linkage to Hamas seems to be more rule than exception. Wadah’s brother Mahdi appears to be a Hamas activist, and two other brothers—Fahmi and Hakim—have been arrested for Hamas activities.
It was in South Africa that Khanfar joined Al Jazeera. In 2001, he transferred with the company to Afghanistan, and he became Iraq bureau chief in 2003. Huffington opposed the Iraq war, but her alliance with the Al Jazeera bureau chief at the time is curious. After all, on several occasions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. servicemen received anonymous tips drawing them to specific locations, only to find Al Jazeera reporters manning positions around what they later determined to be a massive booby-trap. Watching American servicemen murdered might make good ratings, but Al Jazeera at the time seemed to cross the line between journalism and terrorism.
Back to Khanfar: Whitaker reports Khanfar subsequently started “Integral Media Strategies,” and describes Khanfar’s Islamist leanings and writings at length, he only scratches the surface about Khanfar’s long obsession with “integral media.” Long before he formed his company, Khanfar argued in various seminars and speeches, that the goal of “integral media” is to challenge the influence of a media environment he believes overly dominated if not controlled by corporations and governments. In what might be considered extreme projection, Khanfar has suggested that too many traditional outlets present opinion as fact and do not represent the interests of “the people.” Both the rise of social media and the steep reduction in the cost of media technology, he argues, provide an opportunity to exert the collective will of “the people” over traditional power centers and curate news in the new media environment. Gobbledygook aside, what this means in practice is that “integral media” could generate content and gather news by social networks using smart bloggers with only basic knowledge of professional journalism. With savings generated by eliminating the traditional newsroom, he could invest in huge numbers of bloggers. The end result would not be the stiff hierarchies so common in major media corporations, but rather a small number of managers presiding over relatively flat networks. The Arab Spring—and especially Al Jazeera’s experience in Egypt—catalyzed Khanfar’s vision. As the Mubarak regime cracked down on foreign correspondents, Al Jazeera’s “New Media Department” distributed several hundred flip cameras to build a network of citizen-reporters who could post content online. (Iran’s Al-Alam did something similar among Iraqis ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq).
Khanfar went further, however. Rather than allow the free content he generated to diffuse passively across the web, he and a team of close associates set up multiple websites, each of which would both generate some fresh content, but then re-post and amplify material from other websites in the network. Imagine, for example, an Arabic equivalent of Associated Press, albeit without professional journalists. The sheer number of outlets, combined with Youtube, twitter, and other social media could place the content he generated into the center of political discussion. Take, for example, the following news outlets, the websites for which were all registered by one Mohammed Arnous:
- Noon Post: Managed by Arnous, also the new media director at Al Jazeera Turk, Noon Post’s tone is consistently more sympathetic to Islamist terrorism and more hostile to Israel and moderate Arab states than mainstream Arabic media. Just a quick glance at its twitter feed (@NoonPost) demonstrates this. On August 24, 2014, it declared, for example, “the Palestinian Resistance Wings… [to be] the next nucleus of a Liberation Army,” and a few weeks later, it glorified terrorist attacks in Israel with effusive praise, declaring, “The Vehicle and the Knife Succeed in Threatening the Security of Israel.” When Huffington Post announced the start of HuffPost Arabi, Noon Post broadcast the press release across its network. HuffPost Arabi was going to be its partner, not its competitor.
- The Tunisian Press Agency: Established in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, this official-sounding news service has led the charge to condemn Egypt’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization,” and generally promotes political Islamism against the backdrop of Tunisians seeking a more secular government.
- Libya Al-Khabar: This site heralded the arrival of Libyan militants trained in Egypt and regularly amplifies the supposed heroism of Libyan radicals and Islamists.
- Turk Press: With Tayyip Erdoğan’s suppression of more liberal and independent press and simultaneous promotion of Islamist papers and web portals, Turkey’s media scene hardly needed Islamist reinforcement, but that’s exactly what Turk Press is. On November 10, 2014, for example, it headlined “Where is the Islamic Ummah on the American-Israeli Agreement?”
There are sites as well:
- Middle East Eye: Jonathan Powell, an Al Jazeera employee in charge of special projects in the Chairman’s office and close associate of Khanfar (the three are pictured together in a photo tweeted by Huffington among key colleagues at a desert dinner in Qatar), was the launch consultant for this outlet staffed largely by Muslim Brotherhood acolytes. In theory, Middle East Eye covers the region, but in reality, it maintains a steady drum beat of criticism of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government in Egypt.
- Sasa Post: Whitaker wrote at length about the Sasa Post which has published such articles as “How the Jews Control the Global Economy,” but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Here, for example, Sasa Post suggests the Jews cynically manipulate the Holocaust to their aims, and that they really didn’t care or talk much about the Holocaust until the 1960s, when it became politically convenient. The site was initially registered to Majid Al-Adwan, a social media specialist for Qatar Charity and a presenter of the Qatar Foundation radio show (also pictured at the desert gathering), although the site subsequently switched its registration to a proxy.
The importance of these sites is that they generate content and cross post, both among each other and then to HuffPost Arabi. In effect, Huffington gives these outlets a greater audience and an ability to launder their hatred into the mainstream.
The Arab world is politically diverse. There are progressive forces, and there are regressive forces and, in the Sunni Arab world, the battles between the two have become particularly bloody. The Arabic media environment, meanwhile, is likewise not homogenous. There are real professionals across the landscape who risk their life to report real news, but the proportion of the press landscape occupied by unethical, unprofessional, polemical, and conspiratorial journalists is far greater than in perhaps any other region on earth. How unfortunate it is that with HuffPost Arabi, Huffington choose to cast liberals, religious minorities, secularists, and gays aside in order to empower, publish and promote the Sunni Islamist religious fringe.
Why is Huffington Promoting Muslim Brotherhood Media?
Must-Reads from Magazine
Donald Trump sees disloyalty even in his closest supporters.
In a performance that would have shocked sensibilities if they weren’t already flogged to the point of numbness, President Trump delivered a nostalgic, campaign-style stem-winder on Monday to a troop of boy scouts. The commander-in-chief meandered between crippling self-pity and gauche triumphalism; he moaned about his treatment by the “fake media,” praised himself for the scale of his Electoral College victory, and pondered aloud whether to dub the nation’s capital a “cesspool” or a “sewer.” Most illuminating in this manic display was an exposition on the virtues of fealty. “We could use some more loyalty; I will tell you that,” the president mused. These days, Trump seems fixated on treachery—among Republicans in Congress, among his Cabinet officials, and among his subordinates in the administration. His obsession may yet prove his undoing.
Donald Trump wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. That has become obvious, and not just because Trump’s new communications director (whose portfolio seems to consist of inflating the president’s ego in friendly media venues and purging the administration of experienced political professionals) admitted as much. Trump told the New York Times that Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from any investigation into the campaign was “very unfair” to him personally. The president has criticized his “beleaguered” attorney general for taking a “weak” position on prosecuting Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, and investigating the Ukrainian government’s efforts to support the Clinton campaign.
This is all post hoc. Trump expressed no interest in re-litigating the charges against Hillary Clinton (which his former FBI director dismissed as beyond the scope of prosecution) in November of last year. The tenor of Trump’s agitation with his attorney general is proportional to the tempo of new revelations regarding the special counsel investigation into the president’s campaign, many of which were first revealed to the public cryptically in Trump’s own public pronouncements. As a self-described campaign operative, Sessions was obliged to recuse himself from any investigation into the campaign’s activities, and he did so in February. The move reportedly irritated Trump at the time, but his outrage has boiled over only as the probe has begun to ensnare his family.
There is no small amount of absurdity in the fact that Jeff Sessions is perhaps the most loyal of Trump’s associates in Washington. His every action has been designed to shield Trump from the consequences of his own recklessness. When Donald Trump was still regarded by the majority of GOP officeholders as a liability and a usurper, Sessions was the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse the rogue candidate. He was a stalwart campaign-trail surrogate and turned in a workmanlike performance at the Justice Department. When Trump fired his FBI director, Sessions refused to testify before Congress as to the nature of pertinent conversations between the president and his Cabinet. When privilege did not protect those conversations, Sessions insisted that he had simply forgotten many of the particulars.
Perhaps more than most, Sessions helped to make Donald Trump the president. As attorney general, the former senator has been effective in overseeing an increasingly restless Justice Department populated by people who chafe amid Trump’s regular attacks on them and their superiors. Even now, by declining to be goaded into resignation, Sessions is protecting the president. Trump seems to imagine that Session’s removal would clear the way for a new attorney general, who would be free to dismiss Robert Mueller and dissolve the special counsel’s office at will. But that wouldn’t happen. Trump would merely ignite a political firestorm and be faced with the task of finding another person to serve as a punching bag atop his least favorite agency.
This is all to say nothing of the fact that such a masochistic individual would have to be confirmed by Republicans in the Senate. In that process, lawmakers would surely seek assurances that the new attorney general would not touch the special counsel’s office. The Republican-led Congress is already conducting four of their own investigations into Trump’s campaign. The president’s extraordinary relationship with Russia has forced the GOP-led legislature to prepare a sanctions bill that robs the presidency of its freedom to administer those injunctions.
This all might seem like hostility, but it’s precisely the opposite; it’s guidance of a kind that a political novice with self-destructive impulses sorely needs. But this sort of protection, too, has led the president to wallow in melancholy and a sense of betrayal. “It’s very sad that Republicans do very little to protect their president,” he wrote of the incoming sanctions bill.
The kind of paranoia on display in Trump’s attacks on his most loyal partners in government is not unfamiliar. It is the kind that mistakes a desire for self-preservation—an instinct found in every successful political actor—as weakness and perfidy. Trump is fortunate enough to have surrounded himself with people devoted enough to him to know when his requests are inappropriate or when the president is better served by preserving the appearance of their independence. The fact that Trump finds even that kind of pantomimed insubordination intolerable is disturbing. This is a man who would sacrifice competence for sycophancy. In a less robust system of constitutional laws, they are the impulses of a leader who would corrupt the very government he manages. They still might.
In his attacks on Sessions—an early Trump supporter, a dedicated public servant, and a man with more goodwill among Republicans on Capitol Hill than the president may ever possess—Trump might have gone too far. Even Trump surrogates who are loath to criticize the president when he most deserves it are no longer being shy. Perhaps they know the bell will toll for them one day, or maybe they sense the danger of the moment. If past behavior is a guide, these defections won’t compel Trump to rethink his conduct. In fact, they might only reinforce in Trump the notion that he is surrounded by traitors.
I have written before about Steven Salaita. Once a tenured professor of English at Virginia Tech, he resigned from that position on the strength of an offer from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign to serve in the American Indian Studies program. But in the summer of 2014, UIUC rescinded the offer, mainly over of a series of reprehensible Salaita tweets.
Let the tone of one exemplify many others: Concerning three kidnapped Israeli teens—there was already reason to believe they had been killed—Salaita opined, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.” As I noted at the time, reasonable people could disagree about whether the offer should have been rescinded.
Ultimately, UIC paid $875,000 to make the case go away. But it was troubling that some on the left chose not only to defend Salaita’s academic freedom—as one might defend the freedom of the Westboro Baptist Church to say vile things—but also that they made him into a kind of hero. To this day, he remains an elected member of the National Council of the American Studies Association and is still from time to time invited to give lectures at prestigious places about how he is not allowed to speak.
He has been occupying a chair in American Studies at the American University of Beirut. But that was not a tenured or tenure track position and, apparently, no one else will offer him a job. So he has decided to leave academia.
We will now be endlessly subjected to the claim that Salaita cannot find a job merely because, as he puts it, he has “disdain for settler colonialism.” The problem is, he says, that academia is a “bourgeois industry that reward self-importance and conformity.”
That is nonsense.
First, Steven Salaita’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, roughly that Zionism is the problem and that turning Israel into a pariah state is a prudent and moral way of dealing with it, may be foolish and morally obtuse. But it is hardly out of bounds in academia and well over a thousand academics have expressed public support for the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Many of them occupy tenured positions at prestigious colleges and universities and, at least as far as I can tell, pay no professional cost for holding the very same set of views Salaita wants us to think is too hot for academia to handle.
Second, in the field Salaita inhabits, a pro-BDS position is not a nonconformist position. It is famously the official line of the American Studies Association. The Association for Asian American Studies, which preceded the ASA in passing a boycott resolution, passed the resolution unanimously with nary an extension. Over four years ago, I observed that not one scholar in that field had publicly dissented. As far as I know, that remains the case today. Salaita himself, in spite of a thin scholarly record, was offered a job at UIUC, the flagship of the Illinois system, presumably on the strength of his activism. There is no doubt in my mind that were it not for his disgusting tweets, he would be happily tenured at U of I spouting the same line he was spouting before he got into trouble.
Of course, people who take radical positions, even if those positions are popular in their subfields, may find themselves under closer scrutiny than people who don’t, even at colleges and universities that are supposed to value unconventional thinking. That’s unfortunate, and should be decried. Indeed, the U of I’s defense of its decision to rescind Salaita’s offer in terms of civility was unconvincing and rightly earned the disdain of academic freedom organizations like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the American Association of University Professors. People do sometimes lose their jobs over this kind of thing. But Salaita’s views are not what undid him. He was undone by his own callousness and recklessness, neither of which has he found any reason to regret.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Has Washington given up on Syria?
Last week, I wrote about one of the troublesome byproducts of the Trump-Putin summit in Hamburg: a ceasefire in southwestern Syria that Israel worries will entrench Iranian control of that area bordering the Israeli Golan Heights. The day after my article came out, the Washington Post reported on another troubling decision that President Trump has made vis a vis Syria: Ending a CIA program that had provided arms and training to anti-Assad forces.
Gen. Tony Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, insisted that this decision was not a sop to Russia. But whether intended that way or not, that is the effect of this decision. The Post quoted a current U.S. official as saying: “This is a momentous decision. Putin won in Syria.” That seems indisputable. By stopping support for the anti-Assad forces, the U.S. is conceding that Bashar Assad—Russia and Iran’s client—will stay in power indefinitely.
The U.S. continues, of course, to support the Syrian Democratic Forces, the misleading name of the largely Kurdish YPG rebels that are besieging the Islamic State city of Raqqa. But the YPG has no interest in overthrowing Assad and no interest in governing Arab areas. Their objective is to set up a Kurdish state, Rojava, in northern Syria, and they have friendly relations both with Damascus and Tehran. There is no way that the Kurds can rule the majority of Syrian territory, which is populated by Arabs.
That will leave multiple factions to battle it out for control of most of Syria: the Iran-Assad-Russia axis (spearheaded by Hezbollah and other Iranian-created militias, and backed by Russian air power), the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which is rumored to get support from Gulf states), and the Islamic State, which may be down at the moment but hardly out. These factions have their differences, but they are united on certain core essentials. All are rabidly anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli, and all are violent jihadists, whether of the Shiite or Sunni persuasion.
It is not in America’s interest for any of these groups to control a substantial amount of Syrian territory. Yet President Trump has now made the puzzling decision to stop support for the only faction that could keep substantial swathes of Syria out of jihadist hands.
Granted, the moderates loosely affiliated with the Free Syrian Army have been losing ground for years. That is largely the fault of President Barack Obama, who unwisely refused to heed the advice of the officials in his administration who advocated a vigorous train-and-assist program for non-jihadist rebels. Such a program would have had a much greater chance of working in earlier years. America’s failure to help the moderates has led many fighters to defect to more radical groups, and many of our allies have been killed or expelled.
But it would not be impossible to reverse these trends, and trying would be worthwhile. There are, after all, scores of military-age Syrian men who have fled the country as refugees. If the U.S. had the will to act, they could be trained, armed, and organized into an effective military force on Jordanian or Turkish soil and then sent with U.S. advisers and U.S. air support to secure Syrian territory. We currently provide that kind of aid to the Kurds, but we have cut off the Arab fighters, who are willing to risk their lives to fight against one of the biggest war criminals in the world—Bashar Assad, who is responsible for upwards of 400,000 deaths.
This decision makes little sense on strategic or moral grounds. Instead of abandoning the moderates, we should be doing more to buttress them. Even if it’s too late to overthrow Assad, who is more secure than ever since Russia entered the conflict in 2015, it might at least be possible to limit him to a few major cities and the Alawite heartland and prevent jihadists from taking control of most of the Syrian countryside. If we stop trying, we are conceding much of Syria to the Iran-Russia camp indefinitely. That is not in our interest, nor in that of our regional allies. Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, will be very happy.
It's a duck.
Democrats are finally digging out of the wreckage the Obama years wrought, and are beginning to acknowledge the woes they visited upon themselves with their box-checking identity liberalism. So, yes, the opposition is moving forward in the Trump area, but toward what? Schizophrenia, apparently.
The party’s rebranding effort began in earnest last week when Democrats revealed a new slogan meant to evoke an old one: “A Better Deal.” Writing for the New York Times opinion page on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted the Democratic Party’s new agenda “is not about expanding the government, or moving our party in one direction or another along the political spectrum.” Any sentient political observer could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
“First, we’re going to increase people’s pay,” Schumer wrote. “Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.” He endorsed Bernie Sanders’ $1 trillion infrastructure spending proposal, a national paid family and sick leave program, and a hike of the minimum wage to $15 per hour. To reduce the cost of consumer goods, Democrats will pursue changes in the law to allow Congress to break up big firms with oppressive capriciousness.
When pressed on Sunday about what the “Better Deal” agenda may mean for health care, Schumer confessed it meant the most radical expansion of entitlement benefits in American history. “Medicare for people above 55 is on the table. A buy-in to Medicare is on the table. Buy-in to Medicaid is on the table,” the senator said. All options are available—including, apparently, a single-payer system in the form of voluntary Medicare-for-all—once Democrats “stabilize” ObamaCare’s insurance market.
Schumer admitted that the source of Democratic troubles in 2016 and since isn’t Moscow or former FBI Director James Comey; it’s that the electorate doesn’t know what values or beliefs his party represents. Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy agreed. “Our failing historically has been to focus on very targeted demographic messages, cultural issues, rather than broad-based economic themes,” he insisted. So the Democratic Party’s message in 2018 will apparently be not just big government but behemoth government. And yet, the faintest warble of Schumer’s conscience compelled him to assure voters that big government isn’t the Democratic objective. Why?
Because the way for Democrats to win involves party members farther to the Right—that faction of Democrats known as the Blue Dogs. “The [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] recognizes that the path to the majority is through the Blue Dogs,” asserted Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. She told Politico that she is in talks with at least 20 potential candidates vying to revive this endangered species. “We are able to convince folks who normally wouldn’t vote for a Democrat to vote for this Democrat.”
Before voters purged moderate House Democrats by voting for Republicans instead in 2010, their eventual disappearance was heralded as a great victory for the Progressive Monolith. “Democrats aren’t ideological enough,” wrote Ari Berman in an October 2010 New York Times op-ed. He argued that ideological homogeneity would make Democrats “more united and more productive.” In fact, the 2010 midterm elections marked the end of the legislative phase of Barack Obama’s presidency. Good call there.
The House’s Blue Dog Coalition is “dedicated to pursuing fiscally-responsible policies, ensuring a strong national defense, and transcending party lines,” according to its mission statement. How those objectives comport with Schumer’s platform—cutting a 13-figure check for infrastructure, rampant economic interventionism, and a semi-single-payer system—is anyone’s guess. Democrats may plan on localizing individual races so as to shield their candidates from the party’s negatives, but that’s easier said than done. Just ask Jon Ossoff, who lost in a Georgia special election despite having done precisely this.
The party’s leaders seem aware that the kind of hyper-liberalism articulated in the “Better Deal” agenda is incompatible with the kind of “economic populism” that proposes individual frugality and prudence as well as solvent safety nets for those who need assistance. For all his faults, Trump was able to marry these two concepts in a way that appealed both to Republicans and enough swing Democrats to win the White House. Democrats appear to be appealing to centrists only at the point of a progressive bayonet. If Democratic candidates start winning again, it won’t be a result of their party’s coherent platform.
The border of incitement.
The idea that speech can itself constitute an act of violence grows ever more popular among the left’s leading polemicists. They argue that employing a politically incorrect word can be triggering; that the wrong gender pronoun can provoke; that words and sentences and parts of speech are all acts of aggression in disguise. The left seeks to stop this violence, or less euphemistically: to silence this speech.
Given their particular sensitivity to the triumphant mightiness of the pen, it’s profoundly disturbing to note where lines are drawn and exceptions made.
Linda Sarsour, the left’s darling of the day, posted a widely-shared picture of Palestinians praying in the streets of Jerusalem, an act protesting the placement of metal detectors outside the Al Aqsa Mosque. “This is resilience. This is perseverance. This is faith. This is commitment. This is inspiration. This is Palestine,” Sarsour wrote. “Denied access to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque in their own homeland, Palestinians pray on the streets in an act of non-violent resistance. They are met with tear gas and rubber bullets.”
Absent from her platitudinous prevarication was any mention of the inarguably violent act that led Israel to construct the metal detectors in the first place, the recent killing of two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount. Also absent: any reference to the three Israelis who were brutally murdered in the settlement of Halamish on Friday night. It was a far cry from nonviolent resistance when 19-year-old Omar al-Abed entered a home, saw a family finishing a Shabbat dinner, and began indiscriminately stabbing his victims.
Sarsour’s rhetoric is dangerous precisely because she understands her audience and how to appeal to their emotions. She peppers her statements with a few felicitous bromides like “non-violent resistance” and hopes no one notices the inconsistency of her arguments. Others on the left are slightly more honest about their intentions.
Writing in Al Jazeera, Stanley Cohen called on Israel to “accept that as an occupied people, Palestinians have a right to resist—in every way possible.” He begins by telling his readers: “long ago, it was settled that resistance and even armed struggle against a colonial occupation force is not just recognized under international law but specifically endorsed.” His entire article is predicated on a false premise in that it demands the characterization of Israel as a “colonial occupation force”— a characterization that is categorically incoherent.
Cohen cites a 1982 UN Resolution which “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” He does not mention which countries voted for and against this resolution.
Among the countries that voted for it: Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Qatar, Niger, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq.
Among the countries who voted against it: Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States.
On college campuses, the call for armed struggle has become the Cri de Coeur of leftist students who are otherwise hypersensitive to the impact that intangible words can have on corporeal beings. On Columbia’s campus, students who form the backbone of the BDS movement have successfully blurred the line between incitement and impassioned—albeit severely misguided—opinion. In 2016, the Columbia/ Barnard Socialists concluded one social media post by declaring: “long live the intifada.” As recently as Sunday—after the Halamish attack— the Students for Justice in Palestine shared the Al Jazeera article calling for armed resistance. Where are the outraged professors, administrators, and students concerned for the safety of the student body? Where are the charges of bigotry and racism, the calls to silence this speech, to stop this violence?
Nowhere does the idea that speech can constitute violence find more support than on elite liberal arts colleges. But regardless of whether they have intellectual or moral merit on their own, calls for safe spaces, trigger warnings, and micro-aggression-free environments that come from groups or individuals who not only condone, but use their words to quite literally call for violence, must be ignored, and the hypocrisy highlighted.
From the safe confines of an ivy-covered campus–or from the relative safety of this country, for that matter–it’s easy to preach justice and retribution, to portray armed struggle as the necessary means that will find justification through a righteous end. But especially those who are sensitive to the power of language should understand: euphemistic terminology does nothing to mitigate the violent nature inherent in this rhetoric. There must be no confusion. The left’s glorification of armed struggle is nothing short of approval for those Palestinians who target and kill innocent men, women, and children. Those who proclaim to speak for social justice have been damningly silent.