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Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression

www.washingtonpost.com


Jamal Khashoggi (Illustration by Alex Fine for The Washington Post)

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.

As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

There are a few oases that continue to embody the spirit of the Arab Spring. Qatar’s government continues to support international news coverage, in contrast to its neighbors’ efforts to uphold the control of information to support the “old Arab order.” Even in Tunisia and Kuwait, where the press is considered at least “partly free,” the media focuses on domestic issues but not issues faced by the greater Arab world. They are hesitant to provide a platform for journalists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. Even Lebanon, the Arab world’s crown jewel when it comes to press freedom, has fallen victim to the polarization and influence of pro-Iran Hezbollah.

The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. In 1967, the New York Times and The Post took joint ownership of the International Herald Tribune newspaper, which went on to become a platform for voices from around the world.

My publication, The Post, has taken the initiative to translate many of my pieces and publish them in Arabic. For that, I am grateful. Arabs need to read in their own language so they can understand and discuss the various aspects and complications of democracy in the United States and the West. If an Egyptian reads an article exposing the actual cost of a construction project in Washington, then he or she would be able to better understand the implications of similar projects in his or her community.

The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.

Read Jamal Khashoggi’s columns for The Washington Post

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Facebook And Israel Officially Announce Collaboration To Censor Social Media Content

 

www.activistpost.com

By Whitney Webb

Following Facebook’s censorship controversy over a world famous photograph of the Vietnam War, Facebook has agreed to “work together” with Israel’s government to censor content Israeli officials deem to be improper. Facebook officially announced the “cooperative” arrangement after a meeting took place between Israeli government ministers and top Facebook officials on September 11th. The Israeli government’s frenzied push to monitor and censor Facebook content it deems inappropriate follows the viral success of BDS, or Boycott, Divest, Sanctions, a global non-violent movement that works to expose Israeli human rights violations.

The success of BDS has struck a nerve with Israel, leading its government to pass legislation allowing it to spy on and deport foreign activists operating within Israel and Palestine. Israel has also threatened the lives of BDS supporters and has lobbied for legislative measures against BDS around the world. They are now seeking to curtail any further BDS success by directly controlling the content of Facebook users.

However, Facebook’s formal acknowledgement of its relationship with Israel’s government is only the latest step in an accord that has been in the works for months. In June of this year, Facebook’s Israel office hired Jordana Cutler as head of policy and communications. Cutler is a longtime adviser to Netanyahu and, before her recent hire at Facebook, was Chief of Staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Facebook may have been intimidated into the arrangement by Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs, and Information, who threatened to enact legislation, in Israel and abroad, that would place responsibility on Facebook for attacks “incited” by its social media content. Erdan has previously said that Facebook “has a responsibility to monitor is platform and remove content.”

In addition, as the Intercept reported in June, Israel actively reviews the content of Palestinian Facebook posts and has even arrested some Palestinians for posts on the social media site. They then forward the requests for censorship to Facebook, who accepts the requests 95% of the time.

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An Israeli Soldier with “Revenge” written across his chest took to Facebook to incite retaliation against Palestinians after 3 Israeli teenagers were killed. His post was not censored by Facebook and was praised by the Times of Israel.

In what is an obvious and troubling disparity, Facebook posts inciting violence against Palestinians are surprisingly common and Facebook rarely censors these posts. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Glenn Greenwald, this disparity underscores “the severe dangers of having our public discourse overtaken, regulated, and controlled by a tiny number of unaccountable teach giants.”

With Facebook arguably functioning as the most dominant force in journalism, its control over the flow of information is significant. The fact that a private company with such enormous influence has partnered with a government to censor its opponents is an undeniable step towards social media fascism. Though social media was once heralded as a revolutionary opportunity to allow regular people to share information globally and to politically organize for grassroots change, allowing governments to censor their opposition threatens to transform it into something else entirely.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

This article (Facebook And Israel Officially Announce Collaboration To Censor Social Media Content) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com

Top Image Credit – http://www.wb7.hk

 

Scholars ask to have their names added to ‘Professor Watchlist’

prof

The newly inaugurated U.S. administration has created an atmosphere of violence, racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. A less discussed aspect of these attacks is on academic freedom. The 2016 election has taken to new extremes the threats to academic freedom. We can see a preview of what this administration intends in their response to the recent cancellations of “talks” by professional provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who engages in public, cruel harassment of students who are critical of his extremist views, from the lectern through trigger cameras that project students’ images without their consent. He then proceeds to taunt them and incite actions against them on the basis of their physical appearance, race, sexuality, and gender. Instead of condemning this kind of incitement, President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from UC Berkeley after Yiannopoulos’ “talk” was cancelled at UC Berkeley and other UC campuses. 

We can also see indications of things to come in the lack of condemnation – hence tacit permission – of attacks by the [David] Horowitz so-called Freedom Center on certain University of California campuses for considering establishing themselves as a set of sanctuary campuses. The recent Executive Order in the form of a travel ban on people coming from seven Muslim majority countries (blocked by an appeals court) has ensnared students, faculty and visiting scholars who have had their academic lives and careers put into jeopardy as a result of the proposed ban. The absence of international scholars from large parts of the Middle East would severely affect the quality and reach of our educational institutions. Similarly, the anti-immigration bashing and the threat to build a wall with Mexico puts the important DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in jeopardy, directly threatening our undocumented college studentsThe politically motivated attacks on research scientists working on climate change and fetal tissue research are further indications of a political climate intent on thoroughly trampling over academic freedom.

Furthermore, with regard to academic freedom and free speech, a legislator in the state of Arizona proposed a bill that would prohibit state institutions from offering any classes or activities that “advocate solidarity” or “promotes division, resentment or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people.” In other words, discussion of social justice should not be part of the educational curriculum. While this bill died before it reached a vote, Arizona already bans the teaching of ethnic studies in K-12 education, a law that is being challenged in court. We can expect to see more of these attempts to limit academic freedom in the coming four years. These initiatives are important for us to know and attempt to counteract. These are very direct interventions in our campus lives, potentially putting a chill on our educational atmosphere and affecting academic freedom.

A recently formed “Professor Watchlist” purports to alert students about professors they claim “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.” This watchlist echoes Horowitz’s project, Campus Watch and the insidious, anonymously sponsored Canary Mission. The latter lists both faculty and students, threatening the latter with slanderous public information for use by prospective employers and the former with threats of violence. The Professor Watchlist names numerous professors from California institutions of higher learning. In response to the Professor Watchlist, faculty from throughout California, at public and private universities, have followed the lead of faculty at the University of Notre Dame, in sending the Professor Watchlist our names to be added to their list. We refuse to be intimidated by such harassment tactics.

Below is a letter we are sending to Professor Watchlist:

We, the undersigned faculty in various universities and colleges in California, write to request that you place our names, all of them, on Professor Watchlist.

We make this request because we note that you currently list on your site several of our California colleagues, such as Professors Bettina Aptheker, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Melina Abdullah, Hatem Bazian and some 20 others, whose work is distinguished by its commitment to reasoned, fact-based civil discourse examining questions of tolerance, equality, and justice. We further note that nearly all faculty colleagues at other institutions listed on your site, the philosophers, historians, theologians, ethicists, feminists, rhetoricians, and others, have similarly devoted their professional lives to the unyielding pursuit of truth, to the critical examination of assumptions that underlie social and political policy, and to honoring this country’s commitments to the premise that all people are created equal and deserving of respect.

This is the sort of company we wish to keep.

We surmise that the purpose of your list is to shame and silence faculty who espouse ideas you reject. But your list has had a different effect upon us. We are coming forward to stand with the professors you have called “dangerous,” reaffirming our values and recommitting ourselves to the work of teaching students to think clearly, independently, and fearlessly. So please add our names, the undersigned faculty from California institutions, many of whom belong to California Scholars for Academic Freedom, to the Professor Watchlist. We wish to be counted among those you are watching.

Most sincerely,

Ece Algan
Director, Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies California State University at San Bernardino

Richard P. Appelbaum
Distinguished Research Professor
Sociology and Global Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Paola Bacchetta
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Carole H. Browner
Distinguished Research Professor
Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Anthropology, and Gender Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Edmund Burke, III
Professor Department of History
University of California, Santa Cruz

Lara Deeb
Anthropology
Scripps College

Julia Elyachar,
Anthropology and Economics
University of California, Irvine

Richard Falk,
Fellow, Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
Former Special Rapporteur, UN Human Rights Council

Aranye Fradenburg
Professor, Department of English
University of California, Santa Barbara

Margaret Ferguson,
Distinguished Professor of English,
University of California at Davis

Mayanthi L. Fernando
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz

Gary Fields
Associate Professor
Department of Communications
University of California, San Diego

Prof. Claudio Fogu

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/scholars-professor-watchlist/#sthash.C1nQqyWD.dpuf

This is the best news ever!!

 

Dear Avaaz movement,

For 7 years we’ve fought corporate giants to save the internet, and it’s looking like WE’VE WON!!!!!

First in the US, then Brazil, India and now here’s what the top French official (and key swing vote) told us last week before he announced the EU law safeguarding the internet for half a billion people:

Sebastien Soriano

“I must confess that some of these tweets and messages that I received made me emotional… people asking me to “Save the Internet” and “Stop corporate capture…” I really wanted to respond to them.”
— Sebastien Soriano, Head of French Internet Regulator ARCEP

Officials announcing the law showed charts of unprecedented numbers of public comments – up to 640 per minute, the overwhelming majority from Avaaz!

Corporations wanted a fast internet for the mega-rich, and a slow one for the rest of us. We fought for the principle of “net neutrality” – equal internet for all!

It was a global fight that ranged across 7 years and 4 continents:

Net Neutrality US

United States – 2.5 million of us join a US Senator who threatened to block discussion by reading our signatures out from the Senate floor! The legislation dies. WIN!

Net Neutrality India

India – Avaaz partners with national campaign groups, with tens of thousands of our Indian members joining a call to the Telecoms minister. WIN!

Net Neutrality Brazil

Brazil – Large numbers of parliamentarians actually join our campaign, helping to pass “the Marco Civil – the most advanced law to protect the internet in the world.” WIN!

Net Neutrality EU

Europe – Telecoms giants launch a massive push to get loopholes in our hard won net neutrality law. We stop them. The press doesn’t normally tell happy stories, but this is one they’re raving about. Read about the latest victory for people power in Reuters, Tagesspiegel, Politico, EFE, Euractiv and the Wall Street Journal. WIN!

Net Neutrality Media

The internet is more than just another issue. It’s a profound empowerment of human beings to connect us to each other. Net inequality would have channeled that power to the rich few – their websites would have loaded much faster and worked better than small businesses, bloggers, or nonprofits like Avaaz.

But we used the power of our connection to defend connection itself, and net neutrality is now the standard for the internet everywhere.

And that’s a sign of hope for every challenge the world faces. Because as long as we stick together, and stay connected, we CAN build the world we all dream of.

With joy and gratitude,

Ricken, Alice, Ben, Luca, Pascal, Emma, Fatima, Wissam and the whole Avaaz team

P.S. Avaaz can only do all this because we are 100% funded by small individual donations — no corporate, government, foundation, or large donor money. To keep our work for Internet Freedom going, chip in here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_internet_donate/

* And a big THANK YOU and CONGRATS to all our amazing allies involved in winning these historic victories in each country, especially: Access Now, Digitale Gesellschaft, DemandProgress, EFF, EDRi, Fight for the Future, FreePress, Gilberto Gil, La Quadrature du Net, MoveOn, Save the Internet, World Wide Web Foundation, The Right to Know campaign and so many more!


Avaaz is a 44-million-person global campaign network
that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

You became a member of the Avaaz movement and started receiving these emails when you signed “” on 2010-04-22 using the email address annie.damas@gmail.com.
To ensure that Avaaz messages reach your inbox, please add avaaz@avaaz.org to your address book. To change your email address, language settings, or other personal information, contact us, or simply go here to unsubscribe.

To contact Avaaz, please do not reply to this email. Instead, write to us at www.avaaz.org/en/contact or call us at +1-888-922-8229 (US).

Chelsea writes on 5 years in confinement in new Guardian op-ed

May 27, 2015 by Chelsea E. Manning

“The years since I was jailed for releasing the ‘war diaries’ have been a rollercoaster.”

It can be difficult, sometimes, to make sense of all the things that have happened to me in the last five years.

“In the years before these documents were collected, the public likely never had such a complete record of the chaotic nature of modern warfare”, writes Chelsea E Manning.

Today marks five years since I was ordered into military confinement while deployed to Iraq in 2010. I find it difficult to believe, at times, just how long I have been in prison. Throughout this time, there have been so many ups and downs – it often feels like a physical and emotional roller coaster.

It all began in the first few weeks of 2010, when I made the life-changing decision to release to the public a repository of classified (and unclassified but “sensitive” ) documents that provided a simultaneously horrific and beautiful outlook on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. After spending months preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in 2008, switching to Iraq in 2009 and actually staying in Iraq from 2009-10, I quickly and fully recognized the importance of these documents to the world at large.

I felt that the Iraq and Afghanistan “war diaries” (as they have been dubbed) were vital to the public’s understanding of the two interconnected counter-insurgency conflicts from a real-time and on-the-ground perspective. In the years before these documents were collected, the public likely never had such a complete record of the chaotic nature of modern warfare. Once you come to realize that the co-ordinates in these records represent real places, that the dates are our recent history and that the numbers represent actual human lives – with all of the love, hope, dreams, hate, fear and nightmares with which we all live – then you cannot help but be reminded just how important it is for us to understand and, hopefully, prevent such tragedies in the future.

A few months later, after spending months poring over at least a few thousand classified US diplomatic cables, I moved to also have these documents released to the public in the “cablegate” archive. After reading so many of these documents – detailing an exhaustive list of public interest issues, from the conduct of the “global war on terrorism” to the deliberate diplomatic and economic exploitation of developing countries – I felt that they, too, belonged in the public domain.

In 2010, I was considerably less mature than I am now, and the potential consequences and outcomes of my actions seemed vague and very surreal to me. I certainly expected the worst possible outcome, but I lacked a strong sense of what “the worst” would entail. I did expect to be demonized and targeted, to have every moment of my life re-examined and analyzed for every possible personal flaw and blemish, and to have them used against me in the court of public opinion or against transgender people as a whole.

When the military ordered me into confinement, I was escorted (by two of the friendliest guys in my unit) to Kuwait, first by helicopter to Baghdad and finally by cargo plane. It was not until I arrived at the prison camp in Kuwait that I actually felt like I was a prisoner. Over the succeeding days, it only got worse as the public and the media began to seek and learn more about what happened to me. After living in a communal setting for about a week, I was transferred to what amounted to a “cage” in a large tent.

After a few weeks of living in the cage and tent – not knowing what my charges were, having very limited access to my attorney and having absolutely no idea of the media firestorm that was beginning to swirl in the world outside – I became extremely depressed. I was terrified that I was not going to be treated in the dignified way that I had expected. I also began to fear that I was forever going to be living in a hot, desert cage, living as and being treated as a male, disappearing from the world into a secret prison and never facing a public trial.

It didn’t help that a few of the Navy guards delivering meals would tell me that I was was waiting for interrogation on a brig on a US cruiser off the coast of the horn of Africa, or being sent to the prison camps of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At the very lowest point, I contemplated castrating myself, and even – in what seemed a pointless and tragicomic exercise, given the physical impossibility of having nothing stable to hang from – contemplated suicide with a tattered blanket, which I tried to choke myself with. After getting caught, I was placed on suicide watch in Kuwait.

After being transferred back to the US, I was confined at the now-closed military brig at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. This time was the most difficult for me overall, and felt like the longest. I was not allowed to have any items in my cell – no toothbrushes, soap, toilet paper, books, paper and on a few occasions even my glasses – unless I was given permission to use them under close supervision. When I was finished, I had to return these items. At night, I had to surrender my clothing and, despite recommendations by several psychiatrists that I was not deemed suicidal), wear a “suicide prevention” smock – a single-piece, padded, tear-proof garment.

Eventually, after public outcry regarding the conditions of my confinement at Quantico and the resignation of PJ Crowley, the former press secretary of the Department of State, I was transferred to medium custody and the general population at an Army prison. It was a high point in my incarcerated life: after nearly a year of constantly being watched by guards with clipboards and having my movements controlled by groups of three-to-six guards while in hand irons and chains and limited contact with other humans, I was finally able to walk around and have normal conversations with human beings again.

The government pressed forward with charges of “aiding the enemy” – a treasonable offense under the US constitution – and various charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Over nearly two years of hearings, I witnessed firsthand just how much the the government was willing to invest in my prosecution: the stacks of money spent; the gallons of fuel burned; the reams of paper printed; and the lengthy rolls of personnel, lawyers and experts.

For over 100 days, I watched the lawyers who prosecuted my case present me as a “traitor” and “enemy of state” in court and then become friendly people giving greetings and making chit-chat out of court. It became clear to me that they were basically just decent people doing their jobs. I am convinced that they did not believe the treason arguments they made against me – and was, even as they spoke them.

The verdict and sentencing at the end of my court-martial was difficult to predict. The defense team seriously worried about the aiding the enemy charge and the very wide range for a sentence, which was anything between “time served” and life without parole. After the judge announced my 35-year sentence, I had to console my attorneys who, after years of hard work and effort, looked worn out and dejected. It was a low-point for all of us.

After years of hiding and holding off because of the trial, I finally announced my intent to change my name and transition to living as woman on 22 August 2013 – the day following my sentencing – a personal high point for me, despite my other circumstances. However, the military initially declined my request to receive the medically-mandated treatment for my diagnosed gender dysphoria, which is to live as a woman and receiving a regular regiment of estrogen and androgen blockers. Just like during my time at Quantico and during my court-martial, I was subjected to a laborious and time consuming legal process. Finally, just under four months ago – but nearly a year and a half after my initial request – I began my hormone treatment. I am still fighting for the right to grow out my hair to the military’s standard for women, but being able to transition remains one of the highest points for me in my entire life.

It can be hard, sometimes, to make sense of all the things that have happened to me in the last five years (let alone my entire life). The things that seem consistent and clear to me are the support that I receive from my friends, my family and the millions of people all over the world. Through every struggle that I have been confronted with, and have been subjected to – solitary confinement, long legal battles and physically transitioning to the woman I have always been – I manage not only to survive, but to grow, learn, mature and thrive as a better, more confident person.

Help us provide support to Chelsea in prison, maximize her voice in the media, continue public education and build a powerful movement for presidential pardon.

Please Donate Today!

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Mohamed Fahmy hits out at al-Jazeera over its protection of journalists

Reporter jailed last June with Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed says network had own political agenda during reign of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy says the network left him and his Egypt-based colleagues unprotected.
 Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy says the network left him and his Egypt-based colleagues unprotected. Photograph: Hasan Mohamed/AFP/Getty

The al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is awaiting retrial after more than a year in an Egyptian prison, has accused the network of “epic negligence” and said it was partially to blame for his arrest and imprisonment. 

Fahmy called it naive and misleading to see the case purely as a crackdown on press freedom because Qatar, which funds the al-Jazeera network, used it to “wage a media war” against Cairo.

Fahmy, who had both Egyptian and Canadian nationality before giving up his Egyptian passport in an attempt to speed up his deportation in December, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, are due back in court next week following the release of their Australian colleague, Peter Greste, earlier this month. The three al-Jazeera English (AJE) employees were jailed last June on trumped-up charges of helping terrorists and spreading false news.

Fahmy’s comments follow several attempts to present his case in a more favourable light to the Cairo establishment in recent months, including an opinion piece in Egypt’s leading private broadsheet that expressed his support for the army’s overthrow of ex-president Mohamed Morsi.

read full article here

Mourning the Parisian Journalists Yet Noticing the Hypocrisy

Posted: 01/09/2015 8:26 am EST Updated: 01/09/2015 9:59 am EST

As the editor of a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine that has often articulated views that have prompted condemnation from both Right and Left, I had good reason to be scared by the murders of fellow journalists in Paris. Having won the 2014 “Magazine of the Year” Award from the Religion Newswriters Association, and having been critical of Hamas’ attempts to bomb Israeli cities this past summer (even while being equally critical of Israel’s rampage against civilians in Gaza), I have good reason to worry if this prominence raises the chances of being a target for Islamic extremists.

But then again, I had to wonder about the way the massacre in Paris is being depicted and framed by the Western media as a horrendous threat to Western civilization, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I wondered about the over-heated nature of this description. It didn’t take me long to understand how problematic that framing really is.

When right-wing “pro-Israel” fanatics frequently sent me death threats, physically attacked my house and painted on the gates statements about me being “a Nazi” or “a self-hating Jew,” and called in bomb threats to Tikkun, the magazine I edit, there was no attention given to this by the media, no cries of “our civilization depends on freedom of the press” or demands to hunt down those involved (the FBI and police received our complaints, but never reported back to us about what they were doing to protect us or find the assailants).

Nor was the mainstream or Jewish media particularly concerned about Western civilization being destroyed or freedom of thought and association undermined when various universities denied tenure to professors who had made statements critical of Israel, or when the Hillel association, which operates a chain of student-oriented “Hillel Houses” on college campuses, decided to ban from their premises any Jews who were part of Jewish Voices for Peace. Nor was the media much interested in a bomb that went off outside the NAACP’s Colorado Springs headquarters the same day as they were highlighting the attack in Paris. Colorado Springs is home to some of the most extreme right-wing activists. It was a balding white man who was seen setting the bomb, some reports claim, and so the media described it as an act of a troubled “lone individual,” rather than as a white right wing Christian fundamentalist terrorist. Few Americans have even heard of this incident.

And when the horrific assassinations of 12 media people and the wounding of another 12 media workers resulted in justifiable outrage around the world, did you ever wonder why there wasn’t an equal outrage at the tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed by the American intervention in Iraq or the over a million civilians killed by the U.S. in Vietnam, or why President Obama refused to bring to justice the CIA torturers of mostly Muslim prisoners, thereby de facto giving future torturers the message that they need not even be sorry for their deeds (indeed, former Vice President Cheney boldly asserted he would order that kind of torture again without thinking twice)?

So don’t be surprised if people around the world, while condemning the despicable acts of the murderers in Paris and grieving for their families and friends, remain a bit cynical about the media-circus surrounding this particular outrage while the Western media quickly forgets the equally despicable acts of systematic murder and torture that Western countries have been involved in. Or perhaps a bit less convinced that Western societies are really the best hope for civilization when they condone this kind of hypocrisy, rather than responding equally forcefully to all such actions repressing free speech or freedom of assembly. I could easily imagine (and regret) how some Islamist fundamentalists will already be making these points about the ethical inconsistencies of Western societies with their pomposity about human rights that never seem to constrain the self-described “enlightened democracies” from violating those rights when it is they who perceive themselves as under attack.

Yet there is a deeper level in which the discourse seems so misguided. As Tikkuneditor-at-large Peter Gabel has pointed out, there is no recognition in the media of the dehumanizing way that so much of the media deals with whoever is the perceived threatening “other” of the day. That media was outraged at the attempt by some North Korean allied group to scare people away from watching a movie ridiculing and then planning to assassinate the current (immoral) ruler of Korea, never wondering how we’d respond if a similar movie had been made ridiculing and planning the assassination of an American president. Similarly, the media has refused to even consider what it would mean to a French Muslim, living among Muslims who are economically marginalized and portrayed as nothing but terrorists, their religious garb banned in public, their religion demeaned, to encounter a humor magazine that ridiculed the one thing that gives them some sense of community and higher purpose, namely Mohammed and the religion he founded.

To even raise this kind of question is to open oneself up to charges of not caring about the murdered or making excuses for the murderers. But neither charge is accurate. I fear those fundamentalist extremists just as much as I fear the Jewish extremists who have threatened my life and the Christian extremists who are now exercising power over the U.S. Congress. Every form of violence outrages and sickens me.

Yet the violence is an inevitable consequence of a world which systematically dehumanizes so many people who are made to feel powerless and despairing and deeply depressed about the possibility of finding the milk of human kindness anywhere. The representation of evil dominates the media, and becomes the justification for our own evil acts. And that evil is made possible because so many among us avert our eyes and shut our ears to the cries of the oppressed.

The U.N. estimates that some 10,000 children will die of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition today and every other day in 2015. 2.5 million live on less than $2 a day, 1.5 million on less that $1 a day. Every day thousands of young women are sold into prostitution or “voluntarily” join it in order to raise enough money to help feed their families. Tens of millions of others work in horrendous “sweat shop” conditions. When some of them and some who know about them and feel outraged turn to various forms of nationalist or religious fundamentalist extremism, their violent actions rightfully get condemned. But the silence at the violence that is structural and a pervasive consequence of the globalization of capital is rarely brought to anyone’s attention.

All of us absorb this global reality into our unconscious, just as we absorb the violence, hatred, and demeaning of others. We tolerate the kind of endless put-downs that the “humor” magazines and even supposedly liberal comedians like Bill Maher perpetrate, not realizing how much damage all of this does to our souls. The spiritual consequences are all around us: people despairing of ever being understood by others, growing distrustful of others, and feeling that no one really can be trusted. A collective and global emotional depression makes so many people withdraw into themselves, sometimes in relatively harmless ways, but often in ways that undermine the possibility of any human community emerging that would be capable of dealing with the social and environmental problems that face the human race, thereby giving freedom for the global corporations and their hired guns in the media and politics to continue to run the world for their own narrow interests and without regard to the wellbeing of other people or the environment.

“But they ridicule everyone’s religion, not just the Muslim’s, so isn’t that fair?​” we are reassured. But the reassurance isn’t reassuring. That they ridicule everyone is exactly the problem — the general cheapening and demeaning of others is destructive to everyone. But of course not equally destructive, because people who are already economically and socially marginalized are in far greater danger of having this demeaning sting rather than feel funny.

“And shouldn’t free speech and individual human liberties be our highest value? This value that is put into danger if you ask for some kind of responsibility from comedians.” Two responses: 1. No, individaul human liberties is not our highest value. Our highest value is treating human beings with love, kindness, generosity, respect and see them as embodiments of the holy, and treating the earth as sacred. Individual liberty is a strategy to promote this highest value, but when that liberty gets abused (as for example in demeaning women, African Americans, gays in public discourse) we often insist that the articulators of racism, sexism and homophobia be publicly humiliated (not shut down, but using our free speech to vigorously challenge theirs). 2. Free speech is not defeated when we use it to try to marginalize hateful or demeaning speech. So lets call demeaning speech, including demeaning humor, what it really is — an assault on the dignity of human beings.

None of this is reason to stop mourning the horrific murders in Paris or to excuse it in any way. But it is reason to wonder why the media can never tell a more nuanced story of what is happening our world.

________________Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazinewww.tikkun.org, chiar of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressiveswww.spiritualprogressives.org, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue http://www.beyttikkun.org, and author of 11 books including 2 national best seller: The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. He welcomes your involvement in building a Love and Justice movement in Western societies. RabbiLerner.tikkun@gmail.com

Tariq Ramadan @ Democracy Now on Charlie Hebdo massacre

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Novelist and Poet Omar Hazek: An Open Letter After a Year in Prison

Novelist and poet Omar Hazek was jailed on December 2, 2013, charged with violating Egypt’s anti-protest law, a “crime” for which he is serving two years in prison. Yet he maintains more hope than most:This letter initially ran in Al-Masry al-Youm. Hazek’s family gave permission for an English translation.

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