Archive for January 26th, 2012

My Neighborhood White Supremacist & the Kosher Response to Hate

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

On Jan. 24, police arrested 19-year-old Anthony Graziano in connection with the recent firebombings of two New Jersey synagogues and a rabbi’s home. It’s the latest development in a busy season of anti-Semitic attacks that began in early November 2011, when a 40-year-old Jackson Heights man allegedly spray painted swastikas on several buildings in Queens. A few days later, someone added an “ew” on a sign at the Avenue J subway station so that the sign then read, “Avenue Jew.” On Nov. 21, a Jewish man was stabbed on a subway platform as his assailants allegedly yelled anti-Semitic slurs at him.

Among these very real acts of hatred in the New York area, Jews have been targeted in several allegedly “fake” incidents of hatred. The NYPD recently announced that the November firebombing of three cars in Midwood, Brooklynmay have been an insurance scam rather than a genuine hate attack. And David Haddad, whom police suspect may be responsible for a more recent spate of anti-Semitic graffiti, is Jewish. Police think he may have used the guise of anti-Semitism to settle personal vendettas.

 

Several days after the Midwood car fires, an “ew” appeared on a sign at the Avenue J subway station sign so that it read “Avenue Jew.” Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

These incidents are horrible, regardless of what motivates them, but they are manifestations of attitudes that are unfortunately all too prevalent even in the New York metro area, where an estimated 12 percent of individuals self-identify as Jewish, versus about 2 percent nationally, according to the most recent regional Jewish Community Studyand data from the North American Jewish Data Bank.

After an encounter with a white supremacist in my own neighborhood, I’ve realized just how commonplace intolerance can be in our daily life.

“Excuse me, but I think your shirt is racist,” I said to the stock clerk working the night shift at the Super Stop & Shop in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, as he placed items on the shelves.

As someone who prefers gentleness to confrontation, I’m still not sure what I was thinking when I decided to tell him that I found his “White Pride Worldwide” T-shirt objectionable. But there I was, steeped in righteous indignation.

A demonstrator representing a white nationalist group in Canada carries a flag depicting a Celtic cross surrounded by the phrase “White Pride Worldwide.” It’s the same logo that appeared on the stock clerk’s shirt and was popularized by Stormfront, a white nationalist website. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League classify Stormfront as a hate group. Flickr/Thivierr

He had bags under his eyes, a tattoo of a what appeared to be a naked woman on his forearm and an unkempt mop of gray hair.

He sized me up. “Do you shop here in February?” he asked. ”What’s the difference between me wearing this shirt and this store handing out pamphlets during Black History Month in February?”

“The symbol on your shirt is a symbol of hate, that’s the difference. That cross is on the flag of the Ku Klux Klan,” I said.

I wouldn’t find out until I looked it up later, but the Celtic cross with the slogan “White Pride Worldwide” is actually the symbol of Stormfront, a white nationalist website founded by a former Klansman. Stormfront is classified as a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

“What do you know about the Ku Klux Klan? You need to read a history book about this country after the Civil War. This conversation is over, I’m not interested,” he said, before walking away. Not exactly a victory for open-mindedness near the deli counter.

What really shocked me was that the diverse group of other supermarket employees didn’t seem to see anything wrong with an employee wearing a shirt bearing a white supremacist slogan. His manager, a Latino man, told me that when the stock clerk plays military parade songs on a portable radio in his aisle, they mock him by goosestepping to the music.

The next day, I called the store’s manager, and identified myself as a neighborhood customer and described the stock clerk’s T-shirt. The manager said he was surprised to learn about his employee’s attire. I inquired about Super Stop & Shop’s employee dress code. If cashiers and deli counter attendants are required to wear uniforms, I asked, why shouldn’t that policy be extended to stock clerks, especially when their attire might offend customers? He apologized and asked me not to contact the regional manager until he spoke with the employee in question. He called me back as promised later to let me know that the stock clerk would not be allowed to wear offensive clothing in the future.

After a request for comment from MetroFocus, Stop & Shop corporate spokesperson Arlene Putterman wrote in an email, “…this issue took place months ago and there was a misinterpretation of the tshirt design.” She added that, “the person was instructed not to wear any logoed tshirt in the store in the future.”

As the days wore on after the incident, I wondered, was I perhaps taking this T-shirt too seriously? Maybe sometimes a T-shirt is just a T-shirt?

I got my answer on Nov. 20, 2011, about one week after the Midwood car fires. I found a flyer on my windshield advertising a protest against a neo-Nazi cell that was operating in south Brooklyn. Out of curiosity, I walked the 15 or so blocks from my apartment building to the address on the flyer in Gravesend, Brooklyn. When I arrived, about 30 protesters had already gathered. They were associated with the Jewish Defense Organization, a group that advocates militancy and arranges self-defense classes and gun training for Jewish people. Their logo is of the Star of David with an Uzi sub-machine gun emblazoned across it.

The protesters were there to call for the eviction of a man suspected of running a neo-Nazi cell out of a basement apartment.

It turns out that the man allegedly running the neo-Nazi cell was the stock clerk from my supermarket.

Mordechai Levy, who organized the protest, told me he linked the stock clerk’s Gravesend address to posts on Stormfront’s online forums. (Later I  found a bit more information online about the stock clerk. In 2010, he described himself to a local newspaper as a “white nationalist” committed to preserving “the white race.”)

About 30 protestors organized by the militiant Jewish Defense Organization rallied outside the home of a suspected neo-Nazi on Nov. 20, 2011. Organizer Mordechai Levy, left, said that Jews should keep guns at home for self-defense. MetroFocus/Daniel T. Allen

At the protest, Levy shouted into a bullhorn, “One does not debate Nazis, one destroys Nazis,” and encouraged Jews to obtain legal guns for their homes. “Where do we send Nazis? To the cemetery!” he shouted.

Other protesters at the rally told me that the way to respond to anti-Semitism is with street justice. Joel Mechila, 22, came from a nearby Jewish enclave in Borough Park to support the rally. He said he’s encountered anti-Semitism on the streets in other neighborhoods and that he also supports taking the law into his own hands. He invited me to view a YouTube video in which he shatters the passenger-side window of a car driven by two young women he said were shouting “heil Hitler!” at him in Williamsburg.

But doesn’t calling for and responding to hatred with violence, even against white supremacists, perpetuate the cycle of hatred and violence? And, as the Midwood car burnings demonstrate, when there is even a possibility of “fake anti-Semitism,” do these types of reactions make sense?

It seems to me that Jews should respond to hate by working on strengthening our own community, rather than engaging with the haters.

Rather than lashing out at those who may be responsible for fomenting hatred, Jews should focus on celebrating and sharing our peoplehood. This sends a clear message to haters that we can be proud of our identity without discriminating or scapegoating others. In this way, we all become “brand ambassadors” — meeting violence with kindness and sharing the best our community has to offer rather than letting negative attention towards Jews dominate the headlines. This is the kosher response to hatred, and is the gold standard to which any community affected by bigotry must strive.

Several months after my initial encounter, I was walking home late one night and I nearly bumped into the stock clerk on the street. There was a tense moment as we looked at each other, as if we might finish then and there the exchange we started near the butcher’s block. Would he pick a fight? No. I think we both decided to let it be. We walked on.

What would be the point of provoking him further? He appeared closed to the idea that he could preserve his own identity in our pluralistic society without relying on symbols of hate. All I can do is live up to the ideals of my community and respect those of diverse backgrounds. And when I see those pamphlets being handed out at our supermarket during Black History Month, I’ll be sure to take one.

MetroFocus’ Daniel T. Allen is an active congregant of the Chabad of Sheepshead Bay and studied anti-Semitism and civil rights policy at the Baruch School of Public Affairs.

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14 Words Red, White & Black Rectangle Embroidered Patch

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
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"Please Dispose Of Your Jewish Zionist Trash" Embroidered Patch

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
"Please Dispose Of Your Jewish Zionist Trash" Embroidered Patch




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The 10 Most Racist Moments of the GOP Primary (So Far)

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
The Republican Party is digging deep into the old bucket of white racism, using the politics of fear, hostility and anxiety to win over white voters.

January 25, 2012  |

One cannot forget that the contemporary Republican Party was born with the Southern Strategy, winning over the former Jim Crow South to its side of the political aisle, and as a backlash against the civil rights movement. This is a formula for a politics of white grievance mongering and white victimology; a dreamworld where white conservatives are oppressed, their rights infringed upon by a tyrannical federal government and elite liberal media that are beholden to the interests of the “undeserving poor,” racial minorities, gays, and immigrants.

In keeping with this script in order to win over Red State America, the 2012 Republican presidential candidates have certainly not disappointed. Both overt racism and dog whistles are delectable temptations that the Republican presidential nominees cannot resist. With the election of the country’s first African-American president, and a United States that is less white and more diverse, the GOP is in peril. In uncertain times, you go with what you know. For the Republican Party, this means “dirty boxing,” digging deep into the old bucket of white racism, and using the politics of fear, hostility and anxiety to win over white voters by demagoguing Obama.

Racism is an assault on the common good. Racism also does the work of dividing and conquering people with common interests. While the 2012 Republican candidates are stirring the pot of white racial anxiety, this is a means to a larger end—the destruction of the country’s social safety net, in support of vicious economic austerity policies, and protecting the kleptocrats and financiers at the expense of the working and middle classes.

Here are the top 10 racist moments by the Republican presidential candidates so far.

1. Newt Gingrich puts Juan Williams “in his place” for daring to ask an unpleasant question during the South Carolina debate. This was the most pernicious example of old-school white racism at work in the 2012 Republican primary campaign. Newt Gingrich, a son of the South who grew up in the shadow of legendary Jim Crow racist Lester Maddox, is an expert on the language and practice of white racism (in both its subtle and obvious forms). He has ridden high with Republican audiences by suggesting that black people are lazy, and their children should be given mops and brooms in order to learn the value of hard work. With condescending pride, Gingrich has also stated that he would lecture the NAACP–one of America’s most storied civil rights organizations–that they ought to demand jobs and not food stamps from Barack Obama.

On Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday, under the Confederate flag, in the state of South Carolina, Gingrich defended his racist contempt for African Americans by putting Juan Williams, “that boy,” in his place. During the debate, Juan Williams had gotten uppity and was insufficiently deferential to Newt.

This dynamic was not lost on the almost exclusively white audience in attendance (nor on the white woman who congratulated Gingrich the following day for his “brave” deed). They howled with glee at the sight of a black man, one who dared to sass, being reminded of his rightful place at Newt’s knee. In another time, not too long ago, Juan Williams would have been driven out of town for such an offense, if he was lucky — the lynching tree awaited many black folks who did not submit to white authority.

The symbolism of Newt Gingrich’s hostility to black folks, on King’s birthday, and the personal contempt he demonstrated for Juan Williams, was a classic moment in contemporary Republican politics. This was the “scene of instruction,” when a black man was a proxy for a whole community, a stand-in for the country’s first black president, as Newt Gingrich showed just what he thinks about Barack Obama, specifically and about people of color, in general. In that moment, white conservatism’s contempt was palatable, undeniable and unapologetic.

 2. Herman Cain, in one of the most grotesque performances in post-civil rights-era politics to date, deftly plays his designated role as an African-American advocate for some of the Tea Party and New Right’s most racist policy positions. Most notably, in numerous interviews Cain alluded to the Democratic Party as keeping African Americans on a “plantation,” and that black conservatives were “runaway slaves” who were uniquely positioned to “free” the minds of their brothers and sisters. The implication of his ahistorical and bizarre allusion to the Democratic Party and chattel slavery was clear: black Americans are stupid, childlike and incapable of making their own political decisions, as Cain publicly observed that “only thirty percent of black people are thinking for themselves.”

 

Doubling down, as a black conservative mascot for the fantasies of the Tea Party faithful, Herman Cain also suggested that anyone who accuses them of “racism” (ignoring all available evidence in support of this claim) were in fact anti-white, and the real racists.

 

Herman Cain’s disdain was not limited to the black public. He also argued that undocumented immigrants should be electrocuted at the U.S. border by security fences, and that Muslim Americans are inherently treasonous and should be excluded from government. Perhaps most troubling, Herman Cain advocated for extreme forms of racial profiling in which Muslims would have to carry special identification cards.

 

Racism and anti-black sentiment know no boundaries. Herman Cain demonstrates that some of its most deft practioners are (ironically) people of color.

 

3. Ron Paul argues that the landmark federal legislation that dismantled Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s was a moral evil and a violation of white people’s liberty. Ron Paul’s claim that the rights of black Americans are secondary to the “freedom” of whites to discriminate, is an almost perfect mirror for the logic of apartheid. Ron Paul’s white supremacist ethic is more than a dismissal of one of the crowning legislative achievements of the 20th century: it is the endorsement of a principle that conveniently allows white people to hate and discriminate in the public sphere at will–and without consequence–against people of color. This “freedom” is the living and bleeding heart of white racism.

 

4. Rick Santorum tells conservative voters that black people are parasites who live off hard-working white people. Santorum’s claim that “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money” is problematic in a number of ways. First, Santorum channels the white supremacist classic Birth of a Nation and its imagery of childlike free blacks who are a burden on white society. In addition, Santorum’s assumption that black people are a dependent class is skewed at its root. Why? Santorum presupposes that African Americans are uniquely pathological and lack self-sufficiency, ignores the black middle-class, and directly race-baits a white conservative audience by telling them that “the blacks” are coming for their money, jobs and resources. There is no mention of Red State America’s disproportionate dependence on public tax dollars, or how the (white) middle-class and the rich are subsidized by the federal government.

 

5. In keeping with the class warfare narrative, and as a way of proving their conservative bona fides, Republican candidates have crafted a strategy in which they repeatedly refer to the unemployed as lazy, unproductive citizens who would “be rich if they just went out and got a job.” In fact, as suggested by Mitt Romney, any discussion of the wealth and income gap in the United States (and the destruction of the middle class), should be done in a “quiet room,” as such truth-telling stokes mean-spirited resentment against the rich. Conservatives have an almost Orwellian gift for manipulating language. The financier class is reframed as “job creators.” Programs that workers pay for such as Social Security are equated with “welfare.” Americans who are victims of robber baron capitalism and structural unemployment are painted as dregs who want nothing more than to “live off of the system.” Despite all evidence to the contrary, unions are painted as bastions for the weak, the greedy, and those who hate capitalism.

 

Race is central here: Conservatives seeded this ground with their assault on the black poor. The invention of the welfare queen by Ronald Reagan became code for lazy, fat, black women who game the system at the expense of hard-working whites. The Right uses the same framing in order to attack immigrants as people who want to destroy the country and steal the scarce resources of “productive” white Americans.

 

Efforts to shrink “big government” are closely related to the Right’s observation that the federal government employs “too many” blacks. The Republican Party refined its Ayn Rand-inspired shock doctrine and disaster capitalism through decades of practice on black and brown Americans. The racist tactics that were once used to justify the evisceration of programs aimed at helping the urban poor are now being applied to white folks on Main Street USA during the Great Recession.

 

6. Mitt Romney wants to “keep America America.” The dropping of one letter from the Ku Klux Klan’s slogan, “Keep America American,” does not remove the intent behind Romney’s repeated use of such a virulently bigoted phrase. While Mitt Romney can claim ignorance of the slogan’s origins, he is intentionally channeling its energy. In the Age of Obama, the Republican Party is drunk on the tonic of nativism. From remarks about “the real America,” to supporting the mass deportation of Latinos and Hispanics, a hostility to any designated Other is central to the 21st-century know-nothing politics of the Tea Party-driven GOP. Romney’s slogan, “Keep America America” begs the obvious question: just who is American? Who gets to decide? And should there be moats and electric fences to keep the undesirables out of the country?

7. Rick Perry’s nostalgic memories of his family’s ranch, “Niggerhead.” You cannot choose your parents (or decide what your ancestors will christen the family retreat before your birth). You can, however, choose to rename the family ranch something other than the ugliest word in the English language.

 

The world that spawned and nurtured Rick Perry’s Niggerhead was none too kind to black people. Jim and Jane Crow were the rule of the land; it was enforced through violence, threats and intimidation. Moreover, Rick Perry grew up in a “sundown town.” These were communities from which blacks were banished by violence, and where white authorities made sure that African Americans would never again be allowed in the area. The whiteness of memory and nostalgia is blinding. While he has finally dropped out of the race, the Niggerhead episode is emblematic of Rick Perry’s obsession with states’ rights, and a broader fondness for the Confederacy and secession. These are traits he shares in abundance with the remaining Republican presidential candidates.

 

8. Former candidate Michele Bachmann suggests that the black family was stronger during slavery than in freedom. Her claim is not just a simple misunderstanding of history and the importance of family in the Black Experience. No, she is signaling to a tired, white supremacist, slavery-apologist narrative which opines that African Americans were/are not yet ready for freedom, and could only “flourish” under the benign guidance of the Southern Slaveocracy.

 

In a moment when states such as Arizona and Texas are outlawing ethnic studies programs, and when the Tea Party and its allies are leading an assault on educational programs that are not sufficiently “pro-American,” Bachmann’s claims are part of a broader effort to literally whitewash U.S. history.

 

When married to her belief in a willful lie that the framers of the United States Constitution were abolitionists who fought tirelessly to eliminate slavery (in reality, both Jefferson and Washington were slaveowners), and a defense of slaveholding Christian whites who “loved their slaves,” Bachmann’s ignorance of the facts transcends mere stupidity and slips over to enabling white supremacy.

 

9. The Republican Party’s 2012 presidential candidates’ near-silence about how the Great Recession has destroyed the African American and Latino middle-class. This speaks volumes about just how selectively inclusive the Republican Party—which markets itself as the defender of the “American Dream” and of an “opportunity society”—really is. During the Ronald Reagan-Politico debate, the Republican candidates were asked what they would do to address the gross and disparate impact of the Great Recession on black and brown communities. While whites are suffering with an official unemployment rate of almost 10 percent, African Americans have struggled with a rate that is almost two to three times as high. In addition, the black and brown middle-class has seen its income, assets and wealth gutted by the Great Recession, where in 2011, whites have almost 20 times the average net worth of African Americans. As always, when White America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu…or worse.

 

In that awkward moment, only Rick Perry chimed in and proceeded to recycle the same tired rhetoric about “growing the economy” as a vague cure for all ills. One must ask: how would the Republican candidates have responded if the white middle-class had been devastated in the same manner, and to the same degree, as the black and brown middle-class? I would suggest that for the former, it would be treated as a crisis of epic proportions; for the latter, it is a mere curiosity and inconvenient fact.

 

Politics is about a sense of imagined community. The Ronald Reagan-Politico debate made clear that while the African American and Latino middle-class is being destroyed, the Republican Party has little concern or interest in remedying such a tragic event. It would seem that the Republican Party’s “big tent” has no room for “those people.”

 

10. The echo chamber that is Fox News, right-wing talk radio, the conservative blogosphere, and Republican elected officials daily stoke the politics of white racial resentment, bigotry and fear. Ultimately, the Republican candidates would not use racism as a weapon if it were not rewarded by their voters, and encouraged by the party’s leadership. An army travels on its stomach; it needs foot soldiers and shock troops to advance its aims. From the ugly, race-based conspiracy fantasies of Birtherism to the astroturf politics of the Tea Party to a news network whose guests routinely disparage Barack Obama with such labels as “ghetto crackhead” to the bloviating racist utterances by opinion leaders such as Rush Limbaugh, to the common bigotry on display at right-wing Web sites that use monkey, ape, gorilla, pimp, and watermelon imagery to depict the United States’ first black president and his family, it is clear that racism “works” for the Republican Party. To ignore the attraction of rank-and-file white conservatives to such ugliness is to overlook the driving force behind the Republican nominees’ behavior.


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Russian billionaire placed on presidential ballot

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

MOSCOW (AP)Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has been registered as a presidential candidate and will be the only political newcomer in the race.

He joins Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and three veteran party leaders on the ballot for the March vote.

The Central Election Commission’s decision Wednesday to register Prokhorov came a day after it blocked the candidacy of an opposition leader.

Putin is seeking to return to the post he held from 2000 to 2008, and is all but certain to win.

Prokhorov’s candidacy has been seen as an effort to channel discontent among Russia‘s urban middle class, the core of the anti-Putin protest movement. Prokhorov insists he is acting independently, but he has refrained from criticizing Putin directly and has said he would consider serving as his prime minister.

 

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Theo Angelopoulos, Greek director behind ‘Ulysses’ Gaze’, dies after being hit by motorcycle

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Greek director Theo Angelopoulos poses for a portrait session during 'Incroci di civilta' , Venice literary Festival last April.

ATHENS, Greece — He was known for his slow and dream-like directing style and had enough stamina at 76 to be working on his latest movie.

But award-winning Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos was killed in a road accident Tuesday after being hit by a motorcycle while walking across a road close to a movie set near Athens’ main port of Piraeus.

The driver, who was also injured and hospitalized, was later identified as an off-duty police officer.

The accident occurred while Angelopoulos was working on his upcoming movie “The Other Sea.”

Angelopoulos had won numerous awards for his movies, mostly at European film festivals, during a career that spanned more than 40 years.

In 1995, he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for “Ulysses’ Gaze,” starring American actor Harvey Keitel. Three years later, he won the main prize at the festival, the Palme d’Or, for “Eternity and a Day,” starring Swiss actor Bruno Ganz.

“The atmosphere, symbolism and historical context of his cinematic storytelling went beyond the art form that he worked in and inspired young filmmakers,” Greek President Karolos Papoulias said Wednesday. “(This) occurred at a time when he was extremely creative and the country was in need of his insight, making his absence all the more painful.”

Survived by his wife Phoebe and three daughters, Angelopoulos is to be buried Friday at Athens’ First Cemetery.

Greece’s state Ambulance Service, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry into reports that paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident 45 minutes after they were called.

Born in Athens in 1935, Angelopoulos lived through the Nazi occupation of Greece during World War II and the ensuing 1946-49 Greek civil war — recurring themes in his early films.

He studied law at Athens University, but eventually lost interest and moved to France where he studied film at the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris.

After returning to Greece, he worked as a film critic for a small, left-wing newspaper and started to make films during Greece’s 1967-74 dictatorship.

Described as mild-mannered but uncompromising, Angelopoulos’ often sad and slow-moving films mostly dealt with issues from Greece’s turbulent recent history: war, exile, immigration and political division.

It was not until 1984 with “Voyage to Kythera” that his scripts were written in collaboration with others.

Angelopoulos attracted mostly art-house audiences, using established actors including Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau in two of his most widely acclaimed films, “The Bee Keeper” and “The Suspended Stride of the Stalk.”

His bleak landscapes, slow editing pace and long spells without any dialogue meant his movies did not always please filmgoers or critics.

American film critic Roger Ebert wrote of “Ulysses’ Gaze”: “There is a temptation to give ’Ulysses’ Gaze’ the benefit of the doubt: To praise it for its vision, its daring, its courage, its great length. But I would not be able to look you in the eye if you went to see it, because how could I deny that it is a numbing bore?”

In a rare television interview last year, Angelopoulos said his next film was to be about Greece’s major financial crisis. He publicly called on rival political parties to work together to try and ease the hardships facing many Greeks.

“I remain a leftist in total confusion,” he told state-run NET television.

Several months later, the country’s two main rival political parties agreed to form a coalition government to tackle Greece’s enormous debt problems.

“This is an emergency situation. We must realize this. So we must all examine what can be done — the left and right. This is my plea,” he said in the interview. “I am afraid of what tomorrow will bring.”

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