From Michael Moore
Donald Trump never actually wanted to be President of the United States. I know this for a fact. I’m not going to say how I know it. I’m not saying that Trump and I shared the same agent or lawyer or stylist or, if we did, that that would have anything to do with anything. And I’m certainly not saying that I ever overheard anything at those agencies or in the hallways of NBC or anywhere else. But there are certain people reading this right now, they know who they are, and they know that every word in the following paragraphs actually happened.
Trump was unhappy with his deal as host and star of his hit NBC show, “The Apprentice” (and “The Celebrity Apprentice”). Simply put, he wanted more money. He had floated the idea before of possibly running for president in the hopes that the attention from that would make his negotiating position stronger. But he knew, as the self-proclaimed king of the dealmakers, that saying you’re going to do something is bupkus — DOING it is what makes the bastards sit up and pay attention.
Trump had begun talking to other networks about moving his show. This was another way to get leverage — the fear of losing him to someone else — and when he “quietly” met with the head of one of those networks, and word got around, his hand was strengthened. He knew then that it was time to play his Big Card.
He decided to run for President.
Of course he wouldn’t really have to RUN for President — just make the announcement, hold a few mega-rallies that would be packed with tens of thousands of fans, and wait for the first opinion polls to come in showing him — what else! — in first place! And then he would get whatever deal he wanted, worth millions more than what he was currently being paid.
So, on June 16th of last year, he rode down his golden escalator and opened his mouth. With no campaign staff, no 50-state campaign infrastructure — neither of which he needed because, remember, this wasn’t going to be a real campaign — and with no prepared script, he went off the rails at his kick-off press conference, calling Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers” and pledging to build a wall to keep them all out. Jaws in the room were agape. His comments were so offensive, NBC, far from offering him a bigger paycheck, immediately fired him with this terse statement: “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.” NBC said it was also canceling the beauty pageants owned by Trump: Miss USA and Miss Universe. BOOM.
Trump was stunned. So much for the art of the deal. He never expected this, but he stuck to his plan anyway to increase his “value” in the eyes of the other networks by showing them how many millions of Americans wanted Him to be their Leader. He knew, of course (and the people he trusted also told him) that there was no way he was actually going to win many (if any) of the primaries, and he certainly would not become the Republican nominee, and NEVER would he EVER be the President of the United States. Of course not! Nor would he want to be! The job of being President is WORK and BORING and you have to live in the GHETTO of Washington, DC, in a SMALL 200-yr. old house that’s damp and dreary and has only TWO floors! A “second floor” is not a penthouse! But none of this was a worry, as “Trump for President” was only a ruse that was going to last a few months.
And then something happened. And to be honest, if it happened to you, you might have reacted the same way. Trump, to his own surprise, ignited the country, especially among people who were the opposite of billionaires. He went straight to #1 in the polls of Republican voters. Up to 30,000 boisterous supporters started showing up to his rallies. TV ate it up. He became the first American celebrity to be able to book himself on any show he wanted to be on — and then NOT show up to the studio! From “Face the Nation” to “The Today Show” to Anderson Cooper, he was able to simply phone in and they’d put him on the air live. He could’ve been sitting on his golden toilet in Trump Tower for all we knew –and the media had no problem with any of that. In fact, CBS head Les Moonves famously admitted that Trump was very good for TV ratings and selling ads — music to the ears the NBC-spurned narcissist.
Trump fell in love with himself all over again, and he soon forgot his mission to get a good deal for a TV show. A TV show? Are you kldding – that’s for losers like Chris Harrison, whoever that is (host of “The Bachelorette”). He was no longer king of the dealmakers — he was King of the World! His tiniest musings would be discussed and dissected everywhere by everybody for days, weeks, months! THAT never happened on “The Apprentice”! Host a TV show? He was the star of EVERY TV SHOW — and, soon, winning nearly every primary!
And then… you can see the moment it finally dawned on him… that “Oh shit!” revelation: “I’m actually going to be the Republican nominee — and my rich beautiful life is f#*@ing over!” It was the night he won the New Jersey primary. The headline on TIME.com was, “Donald Trump’s Subdued Victory Speech After Winning New Jersey.” Instead of it being one of his loud, brash speeches, it was downright depressing. No energy, no happiness, just the realization that now he was going to have to go through with this stunt that he started. It was no longer going to be performance art. He was going to have to go to work.
Soon, though, his karma caught up with him. Calling Mexicans “rapists” should have disqualified him on Day One (or for saying Obama wasn’t born here, as he did in 2011). No, it took 13 months of racist, sexist, stupid comments before he finally undid himself with the trifecta of attacking the family of a slain soldier, ridiculing the Purple Heart and suggesting that the pro-gun crowd assassinate Hillary Clinton. By this past weekend, the look on his face said it all — “I hate this! I want my show back!” But it was too late. He was damaged goods, his brand beyond repair, a worldwide laughing stock — and worse, a soon-to-be loser.
But, let me throw out another theory, one that assumes that Trump isn’t as dumb or crazy as he looks. Maybe the meltdown of the past three weeks was no accident. Maybe it’s all part of his new strategy to get the hell out of a race he never intended to see through to its end anyway. Because, unless he is just “crazy,” the only explanation for the unusual ramping up, day after day, of one disgustingly reckless statement after another is that he’s doing it consciously (or subconsciously) so that he’ll have to bow out or blame “others” for forcing him out. Many now are sensing the end game here because they know Trump seriously doesn’t want to do the actual job — and, most importantly, he cannot and WILL NOT suffer through being officially and legally declared a loser — LOSER! — on the night of November 8th.
Trust me, I’ve met the guy. Spent an afternoon with him. He would rather invite the Clintons AND the Obamas to his next wedding than have that scarlet letter (“L”) branded on his forehead seconds after the last polls have closed on that night, the evening of the final episode of the permanently cancelled Donald Trump Shit-Show.
Don, if you’re reading this, do it soon. Give your pathetic party a chance to pick up the pieces and nominate Ryan or Romney so they can be the ones to lose the White House, the Senate, the House and yes, praise Jesus and the Notorious RBG, the Supreme Court. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re only the logical conclusion to a party that has lived off the currency of racism and bigotry and fellating the 1% for decades, and now their Trump has come home to roost.
August 3, 2016 – by Pieter Van Ostaeyen and Guy Van Vlierden
Belgian fighters in Syria & Iraq – an important review of our data
After a thorough review of our data, we do estimate the total number of Belgian foreign fighters who were active at some point in the current Syrian-Iraqi at 543 individuals now. Almost 70% of them have joined Islamic State, while Shariah4Belgium and the so-called Zerkani network remain the most important recruiters. 127 people have returned to Belgium, while at least 105 were reportedly killed.
We have been keeping track of Belgian foreign fighters for several years now, and we felt that a review of our data was needed. At the time of our very first publication, most of the information was vague and much records in our database lacked sufficient identification.
While adding details, the risk of double counting grew. We are pretty confident that the number of fighters not discovered yet, greatly compensated for that. But with all the sources we have now — both publicly available as confidential ones — we thought it would be wise to omit as much of potential doubles as possible.
Therefore, we have reviewed every single entry in our database, investigating the chance that the same person occurred elsewhere. Apart from a rather small number of obvious cases, we finally decided to omit an even number of completely anonymous records dating from before 2014 as the number of fighters we know in detail who had left already at that same time. That is a rather arbitrary measure, but we do believe that it helps to make our estimate more accurate.
On the other hand, we added all the information that we have about minors taken to the battlefield, records that we previously didn’t count. It can be feared that the foreign fighters phenomenon will last for many years, and while the minors of today probably will be the fighters of tomorrow, it becomes relevant now to count them in.
Definition of Belgian fighters
Altogether, we do estimate the number of Belgian foreign fighters in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict at 543 now, defining them as follows:
1) every person of Belgian origin, foreign origin but living in Belgium for a significant time, or clearly recruited by an entity operating from Belgium and departed to the conflict zone via Belgian soil;
2) having at least physically tried to reach the war zone of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict that started in March 2011;
3) with a clear intention to join a local fighting party there, be it as a fighter themselves or in any other role.
While it has to be stressed that this definition is broader than Sunni Islamists, actually 534 (or 98% of all our records) can be considered as such. Other kind of affiliations, such as pro-regime fighters in both Syria and Iraq, certainly are a very small part of the foreign figher phenomenon in reality too. But they are also underrepresented in our database because the focus of our active investigations is the Sunni Islamist part.
In the near future, we may try to get a clearer picture of those other kind of affiliations too. More specifically, we would like to add figures about Kurdish fighters, who aren’t included at all for the moment, although we know for sure that they too have Belgian fighters in their ranks. Another possible extension of our database could be the Belgian foreign fighters who have joined Islamic State in Libya.
Our count versus the official one
Although our total estimate is considerably lowered by the review, it is still higher than the number of 458 mentioned by Interior Minister Jan Jambon in April of this year. Probably, authorities do limit their number to fully identified and thus juridically relevant cases, while our database also includes anonymous cases for which the source was deemed reliable. But with much more limited means, we still identified 324 individuals with their full names.
Of all the people in our database, 493 have reached the battle zone — a rate of 90.8%. 32 or 5.9% were stopped somewhere abroad, and 18 or 3.3% before they left the Belgian soil. We have information about 127 people who returned to Belgium — which is slightly higher than the official figures of 114 à 117 mentioned recently. 401 of our records are males, representing 74%. 64 or 12% are females, while the gender is not known for another 78 or 14%.
We have information about 27 children taken to the war zone as minors, of whom at least 18 male and 6 female. These numbers do exclude however youngsters who were juridically still minors at their moment of departure, but apparently have left at their own will. According to official sources, there are at least 48 Belgian minors who have left, of whom 32 were younger than twelve.
Islamic State by far the most important group
217 people in our database joined the Islamic State. That is 67.4% of all 322 records for which an exact affiliation is known. Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of the global terrorist network al-Qaeda that has rebranded itself into Jabhat Fath as-Sham very recently to indicate a split from al-Qaeda, is the second most important group with 43 people for whom it is their last known affiliation.
It must be noted that affiliations often changed in course of time. The third most important group for instance, Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, became a part of the Islamic State early in 2013. Until then, it was the group joined by almost all the recruits of Shariah4Belgium. Some of them followed their leaders into the Islamic State immediately, while a significant number of others initially switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra. 33 people are still listed in our database with Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen as last known affiliation, because we do not know in which group they landed. But the total number of Belgians who have belonged to Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen at a certain point amounts to 77.
Other Sunni Islamist groups with Belgians in their ranks are Suqur as-Sham (joined by the notorious Brussels based cheikh Bassam Ayachi, and merged in March of last year with Ahrar as-Sham) with 13 people; Katibat al-Khadra and the so-called Katibat des Français with two individuals; and Faylaq as-Sham, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, Jaysh Muhammad, Jund al-Aqsa, Katibat al-Muhajiroun and the Turkistan Islamic Party with each one.
Shariah4Belgium & Zerkani network main recruiters
Looking at recruitment organizations, the Antwerp based Shariah4Belgium still is the most important one. 97 people were at least in touch with that organization before their departure. Second comes the network around the Brussels recruiter Khalid Zerkani, with 72 individuals. An overlap exists, mainly in the circles of the Brussels recruiter Jean-Louis Denis. He worked together with both networks, and has influenced at least 55 people who tried or succeeded to reach the battle zone. The Centre Islamique Belge of the mentioned Bassam Ayachi had proven ties with four fighters, while the so-called ‘Terloplein Group’ and ‘The Way of Life’ — both of which can be considered as spin-offs of Shariah4Belgium — had ties with respectively five and one who’ve tried.
Geographically, the Brussels Capital Region has the highest number of Belgian foreign fighters with 179 individuals on a total of 403 for whom the origin is known, including at least 40 from the now notorious municipality of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. Antwerp is the second most important place of origin with 98 people, while Vilvoorde (29) and Mechelen (17) add to the importance of the axis Brussels-Antwerp as hotbed of the Belgian jihad.
105 deaths, of whom 11 by suicide attacks
Of the Belgian foreign fighers in our database, 105 were reportedly killed. For nine of them, that happened after their return to Europe to commit a terrorist attack: Khalid Ben Larbi and Soufiane Amghar during a police operation on January 15, 2015 in Verviers (Belgium); Bilal Hadfi and Ibrahim Abdeslam while conducting suicide attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris (France); Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh during a police operation following the Paris attacks on November 18, 2015 in Saint-Denis (France); Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd during a police operation on March 15, 2016 in Forest (Belgium); and Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui while conducting suicide attacks on March 22, 2016 in Brussels (Belgium).
It has to be stressed that the death of 96 others in the war zone cannot be verified. There are for instance several cases known already of foreign fighters faking their death to lure security services, including the already mentioned Abdelhamid Abaaoud prior to the Verviers plot and the Paris attacks. So, being mentioned in the list of people killed we publish beneath, only means that relevant sources have announced the death of that person, without clear signs that it was inaccurate. Altogether, 11 Belgian fighters have died while committing suicide attacks: six in Iraq, two in France, two in Belgium and one in Syria.
List of Belgian foreign fighters reportedly killed
- Julian André Harinton, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, convert from Antwerp who most likely joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in April 2012
- Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, a Syrian living in Brussels who joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in Latakia governorate in August 2012
- Rustam Gelayev, son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev who lived a while in Belgium, killed in Aleppo governorate in August 2012
- Soufiane Chioua, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks who left in October 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unkown date
- Bilal Zinati, recruit of the Denis network who left in December 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unknown date
- Sean Pidgeon, a convert from Brussels recruited by the Denis & Zerkani networks, killed in Aleppo governorate in March 2013
- Anonymous fighter from Mechelen, killed before April 2013 according to an imam who assisted his family
- Anonymous fighter from Vilvoorde whose death was announced in April 2013. He was barely eightteen years old and got killed by a sniper two weeks after his arrival in Syria
- Ahmed Stevenberg, the alias of an unidentified fighter of Jabhat an-Nusra, killed by the Syrian army in the Latakia governorate in April 2013
- Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa, a Frenchman raised in Brussels, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in April 2013
- Tarik Taketloune, aka Abu Khattab, figher from Vilvoorde who was recruited by Shariah4Belgium and joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, killed in May 2013
- Saïd Amrani, Denis recruit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg who was killed in May 2013
- Ismail Amgroud, a fighter from Maaseik who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in June 2013
- Noureddine Abouallal, aka Abu Mujahid, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in July 2013
- Younis Asad Rahman, the alias of a fighter also known as Asad ar-Rahman al-Belgiki, killed in August 2013 in Latakia governorate
- Abu Salma al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in August 2013 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Younes Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Hamza Kharbache. Joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2013 in Damascus governorate
- Ahmed Daoudi, aka Abu Mochsin, Shariah4Belgium recruit who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, but reportedly soon switched to a hospital job. Was active as a medical worker during the Al Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013, went missing shortly afterwards and was reported dead
- Abdel Rahman Ayachi, aka Abu Hajjar, son of the Brussels-Syrian cheikh Bassam Ayachi, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in September 2013
- Abdelgabar Hamdaoui, a Shariah4Belgium recruit fighting for Jabhat an-Nusra, killed in September 2013
- Ahmed Dihaj, aka Abu Ateeq, a leading figure within Shariah4Belgium, who left early in 2013 to join Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
- Houssien Elouassaki, aka Abu Fallujah, Shariah4Belgium recruit who became the emir of the foreign chapter within Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen. Switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed in September 2013
- Mohamed Bali, aka Abu Hudayfa, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from Antwerp, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
- Abdelmonhim R’ha, Sunni Islamist fighter from Antwerp, reportedly a relative of former Belgian Guantánamo detainee Moussa Zemmouri. Killed in September 2013
- Ibrahim El Harchi, aka Abu Ali, a recruit of Jean-Louis Denis fighting for Islamic State, killed in mid December 2013 during clashes with Ahrar as-Sham in Idlib governorate
- Sabri Refla, aka Abu Tourab, Denis recruit from Vilvoorde, who subsequently joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and the Islamic State. Committed suicide attack in Iraq in December 2013
- Abu al-Baraa al-Belgiki, an anonymous fighter of Algerian descent, who served as emir for Islamic State in the Syrian town of Saraqib and was killed there in January 2014
- Ouafae Sarrar, aka Umm Djarrah, wife of Shariah4Belgium recruit and Islamic State fighter Ilyass Boughalab. Reportedly killed around January 2014
- Abdelmonaïm Lachiri, aka Abu Sara, recruit of the Zerkani network and a son of its ‘pasionaria’ Fatima Aberkan, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in February 2014
- Feisal Yamoun, aka Abu Faris, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who left with wife and three young kids, killed in February 2014
- Hamza Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Younes Kharbache, who joined the Islamic State and was killed in February 2014 in Aleppo governorate
- Brahim Labrak, Denis recruit from Brussels with French roots, who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, switched to Islamic State and was killed in February 2014
- Nabil Ajraoui, Denis recruit who left as a minor in November 2013 and was killed in February 2014
- Ilyass Boughalab, aka Abu Djarrah, Shariah4Belgium recruit killed in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
- Yoni Mayne, aka Abu Dujana al-Mali, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Belgian father and Malinese mother, killed near ar-Raqqah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
- Saïd El Morabit, aka Abu Muthanna, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp, killed between ar-Raqqah and Hasakah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
- Abdelilah Jab-Allah, aka Abu Omar, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in March 2014
- Karim Mahrach, aka Abu Azzam, recruit of Jean-Louis Denis from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in April 2014
- Mohamed Said Haddad, Zerkani recruit from Brussels and brother of the Verviers terrorist plot member Abdelmounaim Haddad. Killed in April 2014
- Khalid Bali, aka Abu Hamza, brother of Mohamed Bali, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in May 2014 at the age of seventeen
- Khalid Hachti Bernan, aka Abu Mehdi/Abu Qa’qa, member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, originally from Virton, who was killed in May 2014
- Nabil Azahaf, aka Abu Sayyaf, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Vilvoorde who became a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in May 2014
- Abu Handalah, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter who appeared in the video ‘Turning Point’ and was killed in May 2014 near Aleppo
- Yassine El Karouni, aka Abu Osama, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from the Netherlands, but living in Antwerp. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in May 2014
- Kiéran Luce, aka Abu al-Qada al-Faransi, recruit of Denis network coming from the French-Caribbean island of Martinique. Joined Islamic State and committed suicide attack in northern Iraq in May 2014
- Iliass Azaouaj, an imam from Brussels who left to get Belgian fighters back home, then joined Islamic State himself, but was executed on suspicion of being a spy around July 2014
- Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in July 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Adem Ben Amro, aka Abu Obayda at-Tunisi, Tunisian who lived as refugee in Antwerp, joined the Islamic State in July 2014 and committed a suicide attack in Kobanê at an unknown date
- Souleymane Abrini, Zerkani recruit and brother of Paris & Brussels attacks accomplice Mohamed Abrini. Joined the Islamic State and was killed in August 2014
- Abu Jihad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate in August 2014
- Zakaria El Bouzaidi, best friend of Sean Pidgeon, who was recruited together with him by the Denis & Zerkani networks. Killed in September 2014
- Abu Mohsen at-Tunisi, anonymous Belgian fighter of Tunisian descent, fighting for Islamic State and killed in September 2014 during a battle near the airport of Deir ez-Zor
- Abu Adnan al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Algerian descent who switched from Jabhat an-Nusra to Islamic State at the end of 2013 and was killed in September 2014
- Abu Mohamed al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in October 2014 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Saudi descent, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in October 2014 in Latakia governorate
- Abu Yahya al-Belgiki, anonymous member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, killed in October 2014
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter mentioned on a list of deaths of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, published in October 2014. It was later confirmed that this kunya doesn’t refer to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who faked his own death around the same time
- Abu Sulayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter of Maghribian descent, killed in Kobanê in November 2014
- Bilal Barrani, aka Abu Said, Zerkani recruit of French origin who was living in Brussels, joined Islamic State and was killed in December 2014
- Khongr Pavlovitch Matsakov, Sunni Islamist fighter from Ostend with roots in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, killed in January 2015
- Abu Taymiyya al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter killed in Kobanê in January 2015
- Khalid Ben Larbi, aka Abu Zoubeyr, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
- Soufiane Amghar, aka Abu Khalid, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
- Anis Bouzzaouit, aka Abu Ibrahim, a Zerkani recruit who entered the Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in February 2015 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Fahd Asamghi, aka Abu Sabir, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who subsequently fought for Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa’l Ansar and Jabhat Ansar al-Din. Killed in March 2015
- Younes Bakkouy, aka Abu Aziz, Islamic State fighter from Genk who left with two brothers, one of whom (and most likely him) was reportedly killed in March 2015 near Tikrit in Iraq
- Abu Bakr al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter from Brussels who committed suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq) on March 11, 2015
- Mesut Cankurtaran, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde, recruited by Shariah4Belgium and the Denis network. Killed in March 2015 in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate
- Karim Kadir, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Charleroi, who committed suicide attack at the Iraqi-Jordan border on April 24, 2015
- Abu Tourab al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter from Brussels killed in May 2015 in Damascus governorate
- Abu Handala al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter killed in May 2015
- Abu Muslim al-Belgiki. Anonymous Islamic State fighter from Antwerp. His death was announced in June 2015, but reportedly happened around a year earlier
- Sami Ladri, aka Abu Waliya, Zerkani recruit from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and committed suicide attack near an-Nukhayba (Iraq) on June 22, 2015
- Fayssal Oussaih, aka Abu Shaheed, Islamic State fighter from Maaseik, killed in July 2015
- Abu Iliace al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter whose death was announced by an Islamic State source in ar-Raqqah in July 2015
- Mossi Junior Juma, teenager from Brussels with roots in Burundi, said to be taken to Syria by his mother and killed in July 2015 at the age of sixteen
- Lucas Van Hessche, aka Abu Ibrahim, convert from Menen with roots in Haiti, joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2015 in Hasakah governorate
- Abu Mariyya al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Bruges, apparently of Indian descent. Joined Islamic State and was reportedly killed during his very first battle in August 2015
- Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed by British drone strike in ar-Raqqah in August 2015
- Brian De Mulder, aka Abu Qasim al-Brazili, convert from Antwerp with Belgian father and Brazilian mother, recruited by Shariah4Belgium. Died in October 2015 of wounds sustained by an air strike three weeks earlier
- Mohammed Hajji, Islamic State fighter from Antwerp, killed by an air strike in ar-Raqqah in October 2015
- Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State figher, killed in October 2015 by a French air strike on a training camp near ar-Raqqah
- Abdelmalek Boutalliss, aka Abu Nusaybah, Islamic State fighter from Kortrijk who committed suicide attack near Haditha (Iraq) on November 11, 2015
- Andy Bizala Lubanza, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Congolese & Rwandese roots, joined Islamic State and was killed in November 2015
- Anonymous, Belgian wife of Islamic State emir ‘Abu Khabab’ from Saudi Arabia, killed with her husband in November 2015 in Deir ez-Zor
- Bilal Hadfi, aka Abu Mujahid al-Faransi, Islamic State fighter of French origin living in Brussels, who committed suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
- Ibrahim Abdeslam, aka Abu Qa’qa al-Belgiki, Islamic State fighter of French origin living Brussels, who committed a suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
- Abdelhamid Abaaoud, aka Abu Omar al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed on November 18, 2015 during a police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
- Chakib Akrouh, aka Dhul-Qarnayn al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined the Islamic State and was killed on November 18, 2015 during police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
- Mohammed Jattari, Sunni Islamist fighter from Tienen, killed at unknown date in 2015
- Younes Ahllal, aka Abu Taymiyah al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in January 2016
- Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor governorate on January 20, 2016
- Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in al-Hawiqa near Deir ez-Zor on January 30, 2016
- Umm Shérazade al-Belgiki, anonymous woman from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and was reportedly executed for witchcraft in February 2016
- Anonymous Belgian fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State, reportedly executed for treason in Deir ez-Zor in February 2016
- Salahuddin al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, who was killed as an important battle commander in Deir ez-Zor governorate in March 2016
- Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd, aka Abu Abdulaziz al-Jazairi, Islamic State fighter of Algerian descent who was killed on March 15, 2016 during a police operation in Forest (Belgium) linked to the Paris attacks
- Najim Laachraoui, aka Abu Idriss, Brussels recruit of the Denis & Zerkani networks, who joined the Islamic State and committed a suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016
- Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was stopped on his way to Syria, but committed suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016 (Belgium)
- Abou Souleyman Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Brussels, who switched side from the Islamic State to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed near Idlib in April 2016, reportedly by an American drone
- Abu Anas al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed near Mosul (Iraq) in April 2016
- Abu Dawoud al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter with Jabhat an-Nusra, identified as deputy emir of its foreign fighters in August 2013. Killed by an air strike in May 2016, targeting a meeting of Jabhat an-Nusra leadership at Abu Adh Dhuhur air base in Idlib governorate
- Abu Abdilah al-Belgiki, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter of Maghribian origin, killed in June 2016 by a tank attack of the Syrian army near Aleppo
- Anonymous Belgian fighter, killed as Islamic State commander in a battle near Deir ez-Zor in July 2016
- Abu Miqdad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle near Deir ez-Zor in August August 2016
 For much more detail on the geographical spread of the Belgian foreign fighter phenomenon, please see http://www.ispionline.it/it/EBook/Rapporto_Hotbeds_2016/Cap.3.pdf
At Israel’s request, Twitter is blocking Israelis from viewing certain tweets published overseas. Similar take-down notices have been sent to other international online platforms, the Justice Ministry confirms.
Israeli authorities are taking steps to block their own citizens from reading materials published online in other countries, including the United States.
The Israeli State Attorney’s Office Cyber Division has sent numerous take-down requests to Twitter and other media platforms in recent months, demanding that they remove certain content, or block Israeli users from viewing it.
In an email viewed by +972, dated August 2, 2016, Twitter’s legal department notified American blogger Richard Silverstein that the Israeli State Attorney claimed a tweet of his violates Israeli law. The tweet in question had been published 76 days earlier, on May 18. Silverstein has in the past broken stories that Israeli journalists have been unable to report due to gag orders, including the Anat Kamm case.
Without demanding that he take any specific action, Twitter asked Silverstein to let its lawyers know, “if you decide to voluntarily remove the content.” The American blogger, who says he has not stepped foot in any Israeli jurisdiction for two decades, refused, noting that he is not bound by Israeli law. Twitter is based in California.
Two days later, Twitter sent Silverstein a follow-up email, informing him that it was now blocking Israeli users from viewing the tweet in question. Or in Twitter-talk, “In accordance with applicable law and our policies, Twitter is now withholding the following Tweet(s) in Israel.”
The tweet is still available from American and non-Israeli IP addresses, but viewed from Israel, it looks like this:
[The offending Tweet, BREAKING: Israeli Judge Accused of Sexually-Abusing Daughter, Investigated in Secret, is here]
Because I am writing this from Israel, I am legally forbidden from telling you what Silverstein’s original tweet said. I can’t even tell you the specific legal reason why I can’t tell you what I can’t tell you.
What I can say is that as the use of military censorship in Israel has become less common and less sweeping over the years, authorities are increasingly using court gag orders to control the flow of information in the country. Often times those gag orders cover the very existence of the gag order itself.
+972 has seen Twitter’s correspondence with Silverstein, but not the Israeli Justice Ministry’s specific request of Twitter. Justice Ministry spokesperson Noam Sharvit denied, however, that Israel demanded any concrete action of Twitter in Silverstein’s case, only that it “brought the violation of the gag order to the company’s attention.”
A page on Twitter’s website explaining the practice of “withholding” content stresses its commitment to being as transparent as possible about its censorship. The company notes that it has partnered with Lumen to make “requests to withhold content” themselves available to the public.
The database of take-down notices provided by Lumen and Twitter, however, does not include the publication of a single request that either mentions or originates from Israel or the Israeli government. Therefore, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty exactly what the Israeli request entailed.
Facebook, on the other hand, provides public data about the number of requests to restrict content in Israel “alleged to violate harassment laws, as well as content related to Holocaust denial.” Facebook says it restricted 236 pieces of content in Israel in the second half of 2015, the most recent period for which data is available.
Israeli legal authorities censoring information published inside Israel’s geographic and legal jurisdiction might seem like standard practice, albeit morally and ethically objectionable. Attempting to block information published overseas, however, is more akin to the type of censorship we’re used to hearing about in countries like China, Turkey, Syria, and Iran.
In most countries where internet censorship is most prominent, the practice is most commonly associated with the suppression of political dissent and attempts to control the free flow of information, upon which democracy and healthy political debate are fully dependent. Those who want to circumvent internet censorship, however, have an array of technical options for accessing blocked content.
This development also comes as the Israeli government has declared non-violent political activists as a high-priority target. Earlier this week, the public security minister and interior minister announced their intentions to deport foreign anti-occupation and BDS activists, and make Israeli citizens whose political activism includes nonviolent tactics like boycotts, “pay a price.”
Most of the public discussion surrounding internet censorship in Israel in recent months has focused on alleged Palestinian incitement to violence, which, at least at face value, can be interpreted to be a matter of public safety. Enforcing a gag order, however, is the state attempting to control the flow of information, plain and simple.
Which is not to say that there are not legitimate uses of gag orders, for instance, to protect minors and victims of certain crimes. According to the Israeli Justice Ministry spokesperson, Silverstein’s tweet indeed included information that could be used to identify a minor who was the victim of a sex crime.
In a more general sense, however, when a state has demonstrated its willingness to use gag orders and censorship to cover up its own crimes (the Bus 300 Affair and evidence of extrajudicial killings exposed by Anat Kamm) and to stifle legitimate free speech that challenges an undemocratic military regime, it becomes a moral imperative to fight all forms of censorship.
One recent and unfortunate example of how gag orders and censorship can be used to obfuscate justice, and at the very least give the impression of a coverup, is the shooting deaths of two Palestinian siblings by Israeli security contractors at the Qalandia checkpoint in late April of this year.
Palestinian witnesses said that the two, who were said to have knives in their possession, posed no immediate threat to the Israeli guards or police officers stationed at the checkpoint. Israeli authorities, however, have refused to release CCTV footage of the shooting, and placed a sweeping gag order on the investigation and the identity of the suspects. On August 2, the gag order was once again extended until August 31 — 126 days since the shooting.
It may have been possible to justify the original gag order, which was supposed to last only one week, with investigatory considerations. More than four months later, however, it is hard not to question what it is police have to hide.
Asked how many take-down requests have been sent to overseas social media platforms, the Israeli Justice Ministry spokesperson responded:
Asked whether it has also sent international media outlets requests to block certain content from Israeli readers, the Justice Ministry spokesperson said: “there have been such requests in the past which were sent to foreign providers, also including [publications] that were published in Israel.”
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
August 05, 2016
Twitter wrote to me this week, asking me to censor a tweet I had posted saying that Israeli judge, Shamai Becker had been accused of sexually assaulting his daughter. Their request originated from a demand by the Israeli attorney general that Twitter censor the tweet because it allegedly violated a gag order in the case.
I told Twitter that I would not do so because the tweet was a truthful report based on Israeli media*. I argued that Twitter should not censor the tweet because the government of the State of Israel had no right to extend the jurisdiction of Israeli law either to me or to U.S. companies.
Twitter replied earlier today with this disappointing message:
Dear Twitter User:
This is a follow-up to our correspondence, dated August 2, 2016, regarding your Twitter account, @richards1052.
In accordance with applicable law and our policies, Twitter is now withholding the following Tweet(s) in Israel.
Follow Tikun Olam @richards1052
השופט שמאי בקר חשוד בביצוע עבירות מין בבתו. צא”פ הוטל על זהותו
9:40 AM – 18 May 2016
BREAKING: Israeli Judge Accused of Sexually-Abusing Daughter, Investigated in Secret
.השופט שמאי בקר חשוד בביצוע עבירות מין בבתו. צא”פ הוטל על זהותו For the past year, the Israeli police have been investigating charges against Israeli magistrate judge, Shamai…
17 17 Retweets 7 7 likes
For more information about withheld content, please review our Country Withheld Content policy page: https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169222.
We cannot provide legal advice. You may wish to contact your own attorney about this matter.
Twitter calls this “withholding” its content. I know what I call it: censorship. They have permitted themselves to be intimidated by the State of Israel, whose officials refuse to honor freedom of expression and the press. They have dragged Twitter down to the low level of Israel.
Imagine this scenario: you are a public figure in your country and the police arrest you for a serious crime. Your lawyers obtain a gag order forbidding the media in your own country from associating your name with the charges. Then your lawyers approach the foremost legal officer of the State and demand that he use the full weight of the state to enforce domestic law in a foreign country. And the State, on your behalf, bullies a foreign company into doing so. I hope you can see the absurdity of this hypothetical case.
This is a slippery slope. Imagine every tin-pot dictator (or even a lowly street-sweeper) in the world finding hundreds or thousands of tweets which accuse him of crimes or misdeeds. The dictator succeeds in obtaining the judgment of a court that silences the media in his own country. After that, the State’s leading lawyer tells Twitter that they must censor all content that violates the laws of that country.
Twitter’s decision offers a field day for Erdogan or al-Sisi or Xi Jinping. They can now go to town cleaning up all the objectionable content on Twitter. And it could involve not just foreign leaders, but any average citizen who can avail himself of the laws of his land in this fashion. Anyone may object to anything tweeted about them. As long as you can get your nation’s legal officer to take up your cause, Twitter will have no recourse because this decision sets a precedent they can’t ignore.
Here’s another analogy to consider: Israeli media are not legally responsible for what readers post in the talkback section. This is also the case under U.S. law. But the Israeli attorney general is, in effect, arguing that Twitter is directly liable for whatever any of its users tweet which violates Israeli law. If Haaretz isn’t responsible for a comment posted which violates Israeli law, then why is Twitter?
* Serious affair court system trying to hide, Ynet, in Hebrew.The judge is not named. Google translation
A shorter version of this piece was published at the New Arab.
From the canyon walls of Manhattan island to science-fiction California, coastal and urban America is more diverse and sophisticated than almost anywhere else in the world.
As for inland America, the stereotypes are true, but other things are also true.
In April we were travelling to talk about our Syria book, in New Jersey, then Boston, then over to LA. From there inland to Colorado, high desert at the mountains’ beginning where you can suffer sunstroke and frostbite in the same afternoon.
The cities here exemplify American modernity. They are clean, bright, spacious, and architecturally befuddled. At the same time they bear an emotional trace of the recent Wild West past. One of our talks was in a town called Golden (for the metal, and the craze), at the Colorado School of Mines.
Another was at a liberal arts college in Colorado Springs, a conservative city boasting a US Airforce Academy, lots of retired soldiers, weapons factories, and a concentration of evangelical churches. It also houses the 47-acre HQ of Focus on the Family, a media and lobbying organisation which militates against abortion and gay marriage and promotes creationism instead.
Before we spoke a woman came up and introduced herself as “an international poet”. She told us she cared about Syria very much. “And it’s so obvious what the solution is! An international Sunni-Shia peace conference.”
Later a crag-faced man pursued the same theme. “They have to solve their religious problems,” he decreed. “At base, this is about Sunni and Shia. It’s the same conflict that’s raged since the start of Islam.”
I tried to explain that the conflict at base was between a revolution and a tyrant, and it didn’t go back all those centuries, though of course powerful actors on all sides had instrumentalised sectarianism to serve their interests, particularly in the regime’s case, to divide and rule. Those in power will always exploit communal tensions when they need to disarm a challenge, and every society suffers such tensions. “In America, for example, there are racial divisions. Isn’t that so?”
A profound and lasting silence in response to my question. Wrong audience for this.
My co-author Leila overheard a conversation at a shop front. “That guy’s bringing Syrians in,” said one man, perhaps referring to Obama, under whose rule a mere 2500 Syrians have been granted shelter. “Well they won’t be coming here,” his companion replied. “And if they do we’ll soon make them wish they were back at home in Syria.”
In the city council, councilor Andy Pico had proposed a resolution declaring “opposition to the relocation of refugees to the city.” “We have a responsibility to our citizens to ensure their safety,” he said. “We need to be sure the people coming here have been screened.”
And so he did his bit to feed the election season hysteria that has cast every Syrian, every Muslim, every immigrant as a potential criminal or terrorist.
This version of WASP America was not at all comforting, yet we were staying with friends who didn’t fit the ethno-ideological bill, and who were happy living there, moving unharrassed within their own networks. It seemed to sum up America: even inland, very different people coexist. Communities and their subgroups, in one way at least, enjoy more autonomy than they would in Europe. There’s a suburb of Colorado Springs called Manitou Springs, once home to hippies, now less counter-cultural but still full of crystal healing shops and (legal) marijuana dispensaries.
Next we flew to Chicago, brutally post-industrial, wind howling between its towers. Between the gusts you can hear the ghosts of the proletarians washed up here from Poland, Russia, Ireland, the American South. Parts (not Downtown) looked like parts of London or Manchester. A kind of normality, as far we were concerned, until we caught the bus to Madison, Wisconsin.
We were hosted very kindly, and in way that seemed deeply protestant. “Thank you for your witness,” one woman told me, though she didn’t attend our talks and therefore didn’t know precisely what we were witnessing.
We gave a talk in a radical bookshop, then answered questions.
The first came from somebody who believed the United States had installed Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran. Another speaker focused on the New Yorker’s recently published report on documents incriminating the Assad regime in war crimes. “Why are they talking about it now?” she wanted to know. “They’re planning something. It’s boots on the ground, regime change, something…” This habit of thought – whereby the real torments of far-away people are dwarfed in significance and impact by the imaginary machinations of the only state that matters, the American one – is depressingly common.
A third speaker argued (against my cynicism) that you don’t need to believe in conspiracy theories, you only have to read the documents published by the Project for a New American Century. These writings call for Syria to be dismantled. Surely that’s the cause of what’s happening there now.
It’s a strange analysis that prioritises the fantasies projected by a neo-con, Zionist thinktank (which folded in 2006) over the current concrete acts of millions of Syrians (and Russia and Iran). Strange and part-way racist, as if white people’s (especially Jewish) words enter the cosmic fabric so inevitably as to determine brown people’s history for years to come. The writings, protests and battles of Syrians mean nothing in comparison.
That’s what I said in response. The speaker left the bookshop.
Our hosts took us for a drink, kept bending our ears. “Most Americans don’t realise that they live in a dictatorship,” one said, “that every move they make is being watched.” Someone warned Leila to beware of Amtrak (the train company), because once you’ve been in one of their carriages they have your image, they follow you everywhere. Someone else drove off in a car with ‘9/11truth.org’ stuck on its bumper.
A few days later Democracy Now, America’s flagship leftist channel, spent an hour sycophantically interviewing journalist Seymour Hersh, a man who can’t be bothered to make up sensible names for those who feature in his conspiracy theories (Hersh told Russian TV that Syria’s rebels are led by a group called ‘shawarma al-shawarma’, or ‘the meat sandwich of the meat sandwich’).
Of course, conspiracism is not just an American problem. After a talk in Montreal, Canada, a student approached: “Why didn’t you talk about the Rothschild bank?”
“What should we have said?”
“That the Rothschild bank controls all global finance, and Assad refused to do business with them, so they attacked him.”
Wrong on so many levels, I didn’t know where to start. I said something about Assad’s neo-liberalism, his obvious desire to do business with the world’s banks.
The boy’s reply was swift: “Why didn’t you talk about the Qatari pipeline?”
Neither is conspiracism an issue only with rustic, or poorly-educated, or youthfully enthusiastic types. The bourgeois-intellectual pages of the London Review of Books, at least when they treat the Middle East, are dripping with it too.
Much of the British left is convinced that the revolutionary communities of Damascus gassed themselves in August 2013, that there’s a Western regime-change plot afoot against President Assad, that Putin is the victim in the Ukraine, that the Turkish coup attempt was a false flag operation. It was the left which spread the idea that Syrian revolutionaries were ‘all al-Qaida’ before the right applied the slur to Syrian refugees. And the right is as prone to its hyper-nationalist and Islamophobic conspiracies as ever. To some extent the Brexit vote was mobilised by such myths as the supposedly imminent arrival on British shores of 70 million Turks.
Arabs and Muslims are notoriously vulnerable to conspiratorial thinking, in part because in a previous generation so much politics was actually done by conspiracy, and in part through intellectual laziness. It’s always been simpler to blame ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Shia’ for all ills than to actually address the ills. But not really simpler. Conspiracy theories don’t merely promote complacent inaction, they create new tragedies too. In north western Pakistan, for instance, where word spread that the polio innoculation was a UN poison to render Muslims infertile, a new generation has been stunted by the disease.
Perhaps there’s more excuse for conspiracism in regions where the people are subject to the traumas of poverty, dictatorship and war. If so, its increasing prevalence in the educated, prosperous West is more difficult to explain.
Could it be that technical and economic developments are undermining not just our political culture but even our intelligence? The huge expansion of media production, moving our fantasy worlds as well as our historical and personal memories onscreen and online, means we need use less of our brains. No need to remember a phone number or a line of poetry, no time to mull over a novel. We follow updates and let the algorithms do the thinking. Because most of us are more comfortable now with mobile phones and websites than books. Books are generally fact-checked before publication, while internet success is measured only in clicks. Books demand reflection and sustained concentration, an attention to nuance. With the new technology, by contrast, gratification – informational, emotional, sexual – is only a thumb-click away.
There’s nothing more gratifying than a total theory which explains the whole world in under a minute. And nothing easier. You don’t need to study detail, there’s no need for rigorous logic, not even for coherence. As with Trumpism (or Trumpery?), you only need a slogan, a meme.
The internet is growing into our collective brain. An internet search for ‘the illuminati’ provides almost 13 million results. ‘Syrian revolution’ comes up with about half that (and half of those will be conspiracist approaches). This is the problem we’re up against.
Our connections to Israel flourished, faltered and finally ended even though we grew up, live and work in the heart of the American Jewish community.
Hasia Diner and Marjorie N. Feld Aug 01, 2016 4:45 PM
Hasia Diner: The Israel I once loved was a naïve delusion When I was asked to run as a delegate on the progressive Hatikva platform to the 2010 World Zionist Congress, I encountered my personal rubicon, the line I could not cross. I was required to sign the “Jerusalem Program.” This statement of principles asked me to affirm that I believed in “the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem as capital” for the Jewish people. It encouraged “Aliyah to Israel,” that is, the classic negation of the diaspora and as such the ending of Jewish life outside a homeland in Israel.
The “Jerusalem Program” also asked me to declare that I wanted to see the “strengthening [of] Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state.” As to democratic, I had no problem, but the singular insistence on Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state made me realize that, at least in light of this document, I could not call myself a Zionist, any longer. Does Jewish constitute a race or ethnicity? Does a Jewish state mean a racial state?
The death of vast numbers of Jewish communities as a result of Zionist activity has impoverished the Jewish people, robbing us of these many cultures that have fallen into the maw of Israeli homogenization. The ideal of a religiously neutral state worked amazingly well for the millions of Jews who came to America.
The socialist Zionism of the Habonim youth movement was central to my early years, providing my base during the 1970s when the Jewish settlement of the Occupied Territories began. I need not belabor the point that from that date on, the Palestinian land that has been expropriated for Jews has grown by leaps and bounds and that the tactics used by the State of Israel to suppress the Palestinians have grown harsher and harsher.
Nor do I need to say that the exponential growth of far right political parties and the increasing Haredization of Israel, makes it a place that I abhor visiting, and to which I will contribute no money, whose products I will not buy, nor will I expend my limited but still to me, meaningful, political clout to support it.
I have read too much about colonialism and racism to maintain what I now see as a naïve view, that only the events of June 1967 changed everything. The Israel that I loved, the one my parents embraced as the closest approximation to Eden on earth, itself had depended well before 1967 upon the expropriation of Arab lands and the expulsion of Arab populations. The Law of Return can no longer look to me as anything other than racism. I abhor violence, bombings, stabbings, or whatever hurtful means oppressed individuals resort to out of anger and frustration. And yet, I am not surprised when they do so, after so many decades of occupation, with no evidence of progress.
I feel a sense of repulsion when I enter a synagogue in front of which the congregation has planted a sign reading, “We Stand With Israel.” I just do not go and avoid many Jewish settings where I know Israel will loom large as an icon of identity.
Marjorie N. Feld: The moment I began my reeducation
In all facets of my very Jewish upbringing I was immersed in Holocaust education. It was made absolutely clear to me that only Israel could prevent the concentration camps, right-wing anti-Semitism and genocide, from reappearing. Friends and I travelled throughout Israel on a summer high school program in 1988, hitting the Jewish tourist spots (Masada, the Western Wall) that reinforced both Jewish nationalist triumphalism and the co-constitutive invisibility of Palestinians, their history, the violence and ethnic cleansing that created the Jewish state.
I now call it my propaganda tour, but I learned this language only later. From non-Jews I met in liberal and left organizations in college, I first heard strong critiques of Zionism as Western colonialism, as a militarist project, as racism. Very smart friends of mine were articulating these critiques, and they made me terrifically uncomfortable.
A feminist scholar I met at a conference asked me directly if I considered myself a Zionist, and I gave an indirect answer. Her anger became palpable. She nearly shouted: “You’ve read Chomsky, haven’t you?” I had not yet read Noam Chomsky’s writings on Israel, I confessed. As I recall she turned away and didn’t speak to me again that evening. That might be hyperbole, or more likely my own sense of shame.
I reeducated myself, stopping to look at all of the facts that I had bumped up against for years. The 1948 radio broadcast of the votes at the UN that declared the Jewish people had a home and would never face genocide again: I had listened to this recording and this interpretation dozens of times in the sites of my Jewish education. Now I interpreted it anew. The founding of Israel was the Nakba, the great catastrophe, for Palestinians, with ethnic cleansing, destruction, and no right of return.
In short, I no longer found common ground with those who saw an anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist bent, or even conspiracy, on the left. I saw that that Israel fit neatly into my broader understanding of Western colonialism. How could Israel be the antidote to genocide when it was the product of imperialism and ethnic cleansing?
Like Hasia, I often feel marginalized. I travel across several towns, driving past many other synagogues, to my synagogue precisely because I too refuse to enter to any institution that flies the “We Stand with Israel” banner.
‘Before’ and ‘after’ Zionism in the U.S. Jewish community
Our journeys from “before” to “after” identifying with Zionism have been painful, and we’ve searched for allies and institutions. We have both found Jewish Studies a difficult space in which to criticize Israel, to stand against the Occupation or even Zionism. Though we certainly do not claim to speak for all American Jews, as scholars we know we are a part of something much larger, something that, we assert, should be shaking the foundation of American Jewish leaders. Closing down all conversations on Israel/Palestine, demonizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, marginalizing or silencing those who dissent from the Zionist “consensus”: there is a growing gap between these leaders and the people for whom they claim to speak.
Hasia Diner is a professor of American Jewish history at New York University. She is the author of “We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust” (NYUP, 2010).
Marjorie N. Feld is professor of history at Babson College and the author of “Nations Divided: American Jews and the Struggle over Apartheid” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.734602