Orlando Is a Hate Crime, No Matter What Donald Trump Says

Trump proved he’s in the mainstream of the Republican Party, as GOP leaders lamented the massacre without mentioning gays or guns.

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Law enforcement line. (Photo by Carl Ballou)

By Joan Walsh

He’s a Muslim terrorist. He’s a homophobe, his father says. It’s a hate crime. He’s ISIS. He’s not ISIS. It’s a hate crime. He called 911 and declared his allegiance to ISIS. An ISIS media outlet has claimed his allegiance. It’s a hate crime.

So much chatter, so little truth: At least 50 people, enjoying their Saturday night at an Orlando gay bar, died at the hand of a homophobic gunman armed with more guns and ammunition than any American civilian should be allowed to own, and 53 more were wounded. Omar Sidiqqi Mateen apparently associated himself with ISIS in a 911 call during the crime, and had been identified by law enforcement for possible ISIS sympathies. Far more important, in our American context, he associated himself with assault weapons and violent homophobia, which ended as it had before.

It’s a hate crime.

I feel like I’ve written this piece before: another place of inclusion is invaded by a violent hater, and innocent people are dead. I wrote it when a Jewish Community Center was shot up by a white supremacist, I wrote it again almost exactly a year ago when a white supremacist shot up a black church, I’m writing it now as a homophobe who may have been an Islamic extremist shot up a gay bar. I sent my daughter to a Jewish Community Center preschool; I’ve been welcomed at black churches my whole life; I went to gay bars in high school and college. As a straight white Catholic woman, I’ve been given so much privilege and comfort in spaces that aren’t “mine.”

It made me think about Donald Trump, who’s an eccentric weirdo who used to be a tolerant New Yorker of uncertain politics, who relied on the tolerance of his home state and city to cast aside two wives and repeatedly reinvent himself. Now he’s reinvented himself as the champion of homophobes and Islamaphobes, and he’s cast his lot with the party of cruelty to the LGBT community and indifference to the victims of white supremacy.

The Nation

Malala Yousafzai slams Trump: His idea to ban Muslim immigration is ‘full of hatred’

Malala Yousafzai (Facebook)
Malala Yousafzai (Facebook)

Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai condemned Donald Trump’s views on Muslims on Tuesday, at a somber ceremony to remember the 134 children killed in a Taliban attack on a Pakistani school a year ago.

“Well, that’s really tragic that you hear these comments which are full of hatred, full of this ideology of being discriminative towards others,” Malala told AFP, in response to recent comments by the US Republican presidential candidate.

Trump has been heavily criticized for calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States after a Muslim husband and wife killed 14 people in a shooting rampage in California, an incident classified as a terrorist act.

The event was organized by peace prize winner Malala and her family, and two survivors of the attack, Ahmad Nawaz, 14, and Mohammed Ibrahim, 13, took part.

The massacre saw nine extremists scale the walls of an army-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, lobbing grenades and opening fire on terrified children and teachers.

“There are these terrorist attacks happening, for example what happened in Paris or what happened in Peshawar a year ago,” Malala said, referring to last month’s Islamic State attack in Paris that killed 130 people.

Read more at The Raw Story

 To Defeat ISIS, We Must Call Both Western and Muslim Leaders to Account

And that includes the Saudi kings whose funding of Wahhabi doctrine gave rise to the scourge of Islamic extremism.

 Flowers are put in a window shattered by a bullet as Paris mourns the victims of a terrorist attack. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Flowers are put in a window shattered by a bullet as Paris mourns the victims of a terrorist attack. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

By Laila Lalami

 What happened in Paris on November 13 has happened before, in a shopping district of Beirut on November 12, in the skies over Egypt on October 31, at a cultural center in Turkey on July 20, a beach resort in Tunisia on June 26—and nearly every day in Syria for the last four years.

 The scenario is by now familiar to all of us. News of the killings will appear on television and radio. There will be cries of horror and sorrow, a few hashtags on Twitter, perhaps even a change of avatars on Facebook. Our leaders will make staunch promises to bring the terrorists to justice, while also claiming greater power of surveillance over their citizens. And then life will resume exactly as before.

Except for the victims’ families. For them, time will split into a Before and After.

We owe these families, of every race, creed, and nationality, more than sorrow, more than anger. We owe them justice.

We must call to account ISIS, a nihilistic cult of death that sees the world in black and white, with no shades of gray in between.

Read more at The Nation

Why Obama Should Stand Up to the Saudis

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By Dana E. Abizaid

With much of the US press focused on the daily images of barbarity coming out the lands occupied by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the brutal practices of the real Islamic State, Saudi Arabia, receive scant attention. The reasons for this are as sickening as they are obvious: a major oil supplier to the West and a nation that casts itself as the mortal enemy of Shia Iran has been courted and coddled by the US since the end of WWII to keep domestic gas prices low.

The United States maintains a special relationship with the Saudi Dynasty that contradicts every ideal America stands for. Nobody should hold his breath waiting for the US media or government to finally and thoroughly expose the draconian policies of the desert kingdom, but President Obama does have the opportunity in one case to pressure the Saudis into granting amnesty to Ali-Mohammad al-Nimr and thereby earn a small part of his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. In a recent interview with the Guardian, al-Nimr’s mother pleaded that Obama has the power to “interfere and rescue my son.”

The Saudi government convicted al-Nimr – 17 at the time – of possessing firearms while protesting for Shia rights in 2012. But it is clear that is not the only reason the young man is sentenced to be beheaded and crucified. His uncle is the prominent dissident Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr who has also been sentenced to death for criticizing the Saudi State.

If the United States is ever to devise and implement an effective Middle East policy a reevaluation of its relationship with Saudi Arabia will be essential. Standing up for al-Nimr is vital in this regard. By pressuring the Saudis to pardon al-Nimr, Obama can win three immediate victories important to this reevaluation. First, he could portray himself as a seeker of justice in the spirit of his Nobel. Second, he could win some goodwill amongst those Shia the Saudis have repressed for generations. Lastly, his actions could open a dialogue in the US media that might educate the American public to crimes that are committed with its tacit support.

Since the US media and government rarely reprimand the Saudis, the American people have little understanding of the grave human rights abuses that take place daily in the kingdom. According to Amnesty International, the Saudis executed 102 people in the first six months of 2015. Death by sword beheading – often public – is the preferred punishment for adultery, homosexuality, and witchcraft (basically, not having radical Sunni Wahhabi beliefs). Children and the mentally handicapped do not escape the sword.

Read more at CounterPunch

Dana E. Abizaid teaches European History at the Istanbul International Community School.

As Syria’s Revolution Sputters, a Chaotic Stalemate

 TORN BY WAR The view from a mosque in Homs, Syria, that has served as a rallying point for insurgents.  Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
TORN BY WAR The view from a mosque in Homs, Syria, that has served as a rallying point for insurgents. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

By Anne Barnard in The New York Times

ANTAKYA, Turkey — It was a victory that President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents had dreamed of: Insurgents seized a key army base in northern Syria after more than a year of trying. But the mood in this Turkish border town, flooded with Syrians who have fled both government bombings and extremist insurgents, was more bitter than celebratory.

The assault this month was led by the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s arm in Syria, which claimed the spoils. By contrast, many of the first Syrians to rise up against Mr. Assad in 2011 — civilian demonstrators and army defectors alike — followed the battle from the sidelines here, unable to enter Syria under threat of death from the extremists of Nusra and its rival group, the Islamic State.

As Syria’s war heads toward its fourth year, the complex battleground is increasingly divided between the government and the extremists, leaving many Syrians feeling that the revolution on which they gambled their lives and livelihoods has failed.

Different insurgent groups battle one another, even as they fight against Mr. Assad’s forces and his allies, foreign Shiite militias. A chaotic stalemate reigns in a war that has killed more than 200,000 people and wounded one million.

In northern and eastern Syria, where Mr. Assad’s opponents won early victories and once dreamed of building self-government, the nationalist rebel groups calling themselves the Free Syrian Army are forced to operate under the extremists’ umbrellas, to go underground or to flee, according to Syrian insurgents, activists and two top commanders of the American-financed F.S.A. groups.

Read more at The New York Times

Ted Cruz’s Big Adventure

If Republicans win the Senate, expect a ferocious tactical clash between Cruz and the actual leader Mitch McConnell

Ted Cruz (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
Ted Cruz (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

“Ted Cruz’s big (awful) plans: Why a clash is coming if GOP wins majority” by Jim Newell in Salon

No one’s more excited about the prospects of a Republican takeover of the Senate than the incoming Senate majority leader, Ted Cruz. He’s already been serving as Speaker of the House for two years, and come Tuesday night, he may well have control of both chambers of Congress. Once he’s elected President in 2016, he’ll be the first man in history to serve concurrently as Speaker of the House, Senate majority leader, and President of the United States. Whenever as the next Supreme Court justice keels over, he’ll appoint himself to that, too. This is ultimately the America that America deserves.

You may be asking how a junior Senate backbencher who’s not in line to chair any committee will effectively serve as Senate majority leader. He’ll do so the same way that, as a junior Senate backbencher, he’s effectively served as Speaker of the House the past two years. Through whatever feats of raw political talent and nimble exploitation of congressional process, Cruz positions himself as the go-to vehicle through which all far-right rage is channeled in Washington. He’s the front man for the interests of radicalized “outside groups” (well-funded organizations with presences in Washington D.C.) like Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, Tea Party Patriots, and so forth. Whenever the specter of practical governance — funding the government, raising the debt ceiling — sweeps its way into the corridors of the Republican leadership, there materializes Ted Cruz, exorcising the demon. We simply do not care for Texas Senator Ted Cruz here at Salon dot com, but hey, the man fills a space.

Read more at Salon

Israeli Parliament Deputy Speaker Calls For “Ethnic Cleansing” of Gaza

Moshe Feiglin

“A refreshingly open call for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from an Israeli deputy speaker”

By Katie Halper in The Raw Story

I’ve always said that I like my ethnic cleansers like my men: honest, direct, and with a plan. Sadly, like good men, honest and open ethnic cleansers are few and far between. As the Israeli government, and those who blindly defend it, claim that the attacks in Gaza are for self-defense, and self-defense alone, one man has the courage to admit that the real goal is to rid the area of Palestinians and populate it with Jews. And that man is Moshe Feiglin, Deputy speaker and member of Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

Read more at The Raw Story

Rebel Leader: Malaysia Plane Filled with Already Dead Bodies

Igor Girkin (AP Photo / Dmitry Lovetsky)

From the Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — A top pro-Russia rebel commander in eastern Ukraine has given a bizarre version of events surrounding the Malaysian jetliner crash — suggesting many of the victims may have died days before the plane took off.

The pro-rebel website Russkaya Vesna on Friday quoted Igor Girkin as saying he was told by people at the crash site that “a significant number of the bodies weren’t fresh,” adding that he was told they were drained of blood and reeked of decomposition..

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 was shot down Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard. The plane was flying 10,000 meters above an area where Ukrainian forces have been fighting separatist rebels. Each side accuses the other of downing the plane.

U.S. intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the U.N. Security Council in New York on Friday that the missile was likely fired from a rebel-held area near the Russian border.

Read more at Talking Points Memo

Israel’s Bloody Status Quo

By Michiel Coxcie, Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Cornelis Floris, Cornelis Bos (circle of) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Roger Cohen in The New York Times

LONDON — Sheldon Adelson’s right-wing Israel Hayom, the biggest-selling newspaper in Israel, has called for Gaza to be “returned to the Stone Age.” During the last Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza, in 2012, a government minister called for Gaza to be consigned “to the Middle Ages.” Before that, there was the Gaza War of 2008-2009, in which 1,166 Palestinians died and 13 Israelis, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The story goes on and on. There is no denouement. Gaza, a small place jammed with 1.8 million people, does not recess to the Stone, Iron, Middle or other Ages. It does not get flattened, as Ariel Sharon’s son once proposed. The death toll is overwhelmingly skewed against Palestinians. Hamas, with its militia and arsenal of rockets, continues to run Gaza. The dead die for nothing.

Israel could send Gaza back to whichever age it wishes. Its military advantage, its general dominance, over the Palestinians has never been greater since 1948. But it chooses otherwise. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk of a ground invasion is empty. The last thing Israel wants, short of a cataclysm, is to go into Gaza and get stuck.

What Israel wants is the status quo (minus Hamas rockets). Israel is the Middle East’s status quo power par excellence. It seeks a calm Gaza under Hamas control, a divided Palestinian movement with Fatah running the West Bank, a vacuous “peace process” to run down the clock, and continued prosperity. Divide and rule. Hamas is useful to Israel as long as it is quiescent.

Read more at The New York Times

Tales from Gaza: What is life really like in ‘the world’s largest outdoor prison’?

With its sandy beaches and sumptuous seafood, it could be a holiday resort. But life in Gaza, post-Israeli sanctions and with 50 per cent unemployment, has never been more difficult. Alistair Dawber meets the people trying to survive on the Palestinian coast.

By Alistair Dawber in The Independent

The guide books warn that it’s very unstable and that tourists shouldn’t go there; the Foreign Office tells Brits that there’s a high threat from terrorism – don’t visit any part of the territory, it says, and if you do, there is no ‘our man’ there to help you out.

In truth, it is pretty difficult to get into Gaza anyway. Unless you are a journalist or work for an NGO, the likelihood is that you will get stopped at Israel’s airport-terminal-like border post at Erez, which governs who is allowed to enter the Palestinian territory and, more importantly in Israeli eyes, who is allowed out.

But once you do get permission to go to Gaza, you realise that it is not like anywhere else. After getting the necessary stamps in your passport, you take a long walk through an 800-metre or so long cage, overlooked by Israeli army gun posts and balloons fixed with cameras that keep an eye over what’s going on. Locals call it “the world’s biggest prison”, and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Palestinian Abu Ameera poses for a photograph with children at Shati refugee camp Saleh Jadallah

Gaza is about 5,000 years old and one of the world’s oldest cities. In that time it has been both a thriving port and, as it is today, a sprawling mess of refugee camps and poverty. According to the United Nations, 1.5 million people call it home, making Gaza one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Of the 1.5 million inhabitants, 1.1 million are refugees; those who lived in what is now Israel before 1948 refuse to give up the belief that one day they’ll return to their former homes.

Read more at The Independent