Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 20, 2013

Jew-baiting okay at Moon of Alabama, but not me

Filed under: Islamophobia,Syria,ultraright — louisproyect @ 3:52 pm

Gerhard, the Moon of Alabama blogger

It’s very rare nowadays to find Jew-baiting on nominally leftwing forums but that’s exactly what I ran into during a brief time commenting at Moon of Alabama, an “anti-imperialist” website that like Global Research and Voltairenet can be relied upon to defend the Syrian dictatorship to the hilt.

I very rarely check in on Moon of Alabama but after doing a Google search on Sy Hersh’s “Whose Sarin” to see where it had shown up, I was not surprised that they had crossposted it. In a bear-baiting exercise, I posted a couple of comments that challenged the accepted wisdom of the blog owner and his regulars fully expecting them to gang up on me. But the response of one Rowan Berkeley who blogs at http://niqnaq.wordpress.com/ came as a complete surprise. He was responding to my calling attention to  European far right support for Bashar al-Assad:

Now, Louis, you must understand that the fact that [x] expresses rhetorical support for [y] simply tells you nothing about [y]. Indulging in this kind of guilt by involuntary association is a very common Jewish weakness in argument.

A very common Jewish weakness in argument? What the fuck?

This was the first time I had run into Jew-baiting since abandoning alt.politics.socialism.trotsky about 10 years ago when a character who uses the tag “Dusty” began harping on “globalists”, all of whom happened coincidentally to be Jews. It didn’t take him long to become a full-blown neo-Nazi with frequent crosspostings from Brother Nathanael Kapner, including a recent one titled “Racial Traits Of The Jews”.

If you go to Rowan Berkeley’s blog, you won’t find quite the same level of knuckle-dragging stupidity of “Dusty” but there’s no mistaking what he is about based on a December 13th posting titled “doesn’t it ever strike you as odd that ALL US treasury, fed, world bank, etc officials are jews?

Meanwhile, when I posted a comment there on December 17th calling attention to a Tea Party delegation visiting Lebanon at the behest of Mother Agnes, it was removed unceremoniously. One wonders how secure these “anti-imperialists” are in their politics when a single message out of 80 that goes against the grain cannot be tolerated. Apparently, Jew-baiting is acceptable but questioning the Baathist faith of the Moon of Alabama blog owner, a German named Gerhard, is not.

Just to make sure that people understand where I am coming from, I don’t use the term anti-Semitism since that has become so inextricably linked with mass movements of the 1930s that presented a mortal threat to Jews. The only people today in that kind of danger are Muslims, especially those whose rights are being abrogated in the name of fighting “jihadists”. This, to be sure, is one of the primary goals of Moon of Alabama—to demonize Muslims after the fashion of Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff and Paul Berman. Using the same inflamed rhetoric about “Wahhabists” and “Salafists”, the regulars at Moon of Alabama would have been invited to the Bush White House back in 2003 if the sole criterion were Islamophobia. For example, Gerhard is capable of saying things like “Why is the U.S. so much interested in creating a Sharia law state in Syria?” This moron is apparently more perturbed about Sharia law than he ever was about MIG’s firing rockets into tenement buildings in Homs or Aleppo.

The Islamophobia that runs rampant at Moon of Alabama is exactly the same as found in the ultraright today. If you want to check this for yourself, just Google “Seymour Hersh sarin” and see what turns up. In addition to Democracy Now et al, you will find links from Fox News’s hardcore rightist (I guess that is a tautology) Greta Van Sustern and Newsmax.com, the website launched by conservative journalist Christopher Ruddy in 1998 with financial support from the family of the late Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey and ultrarightist billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.

This common cause between “anti-imperialists” and the hard right around the need to defend Bashar al-Assad prompted blogger Ibrahim Moiz, a young Pakistani graduate student, to make these profound observations:

The other danger is a rather subtler one. It also involves the blanket label of the entire Syrian opposition as a homogenous breed of radical Islamic jihadists–Salafists is the popular term nowadays, last decade it was Wahhabists–who want to establish the always-dreaded global caliphate. There is certainly a spillover of disturbingly fanatical jihadists, most notably from Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, into Syria; their conquest last winter of the eastern stronghold of Raqqa is an alarming development that signifies their growing influence. Yet to assume that all factions in the opposition are as irredentist, fanatical and extreme as ISIL is to fundamentally misunderstand the situation at best, and to turn it into a self-fulfillment at worst. To paint the entire opposition, on political rather than realistic grounds, as radical fundamentalists is to marginalize the more inclusive, open and reconcilable elements among them. The same scenario has taken place time and again over the past twenty years–in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Algeria, Chechnya and Somalia.

Among the more surprising hosts of this viewpoint was the usually-excellent Boiling Frogs blog run by repeatedly-gagged former intelligence agent Sibel Edmonds: in an alarmingly broad-stroked screed last year, contributing writer William Engdahl submitted a wildly swinging attack on, among others, the Syrian opposition, branding them all as hardline Sunnis called “Salafists” and “Wahhabites” whose raison d’etre is to wipe out “moderate Muslim” movements, such as mystical Sufism, in favour of a rigid revivalist hard line. Among his examples of “Salafi terror” was, along with the (Deobandi, not Salafi) Taliban leader Mohammed Omar, Egypt’s only legitimately elected president in history, Mohamed Morsi, who through that same twisted, broad-stroked logic was deposed in Egypt this summer during a bloody coup whose leaders termed any opposition as “terrorists” who deserved to be bloodily eradicated (a line repeated by, among others, the Wahhabi government of Saudi Arabia–so much for that theory) (3). Another usually excellent website, Global Research, which has long critiqued Western narratives in war zones, published an article by Michael Chossudosky that blamed the rise of death squads in Syria solely on opposition Sunni jihadists, never mind that both Sunni radicals and the same Iran-affiliated Shia extremists who had dominated post-Baathist Iraq have used such tactics. I privately contacted Chossudosky to pursue this rather unlikely claim further but have received no response. (4)

It is the same line toed by, among others, American neoconservatives such as David Frum and Richard Perle, their Muslim apologists like Stephen Schwartz and Zuhdi Nasser, and the brutal dictatorships of Central Asia, who have resorted to branding any dissent as Wahhabism to justify a savage crackdown for the past twenty years. While criticism of Wahhabis and Salafis is certainly not unwarranted–and there are certainly some voluble Wahhabis and Salafis, including Al-Qaeda, who uphold an extremely rigid and exclusive interpretation of Islam and authorize violent persecution of Shia and other minorities–the Muslim Matters website points out (5) that it is a usually politically motivated label, used by foreigners since colonial Britain to brand any native Muslim opposition to imperialism without much regard to accuracy. Hardly a black-and-white measure, in short, of judging radicalism. The killer of the Pakistani governor of Punjab, for instance, was a member of the generally more liberal Sufi persuasion, while the West’s closest Arab partner, Saudi Arabia, is the birthplace of what is broady termed Wahhabism. In Tunisia, meanwhile, Salafist party leader Saleh Bouazizi has condemned violence and refused to cooperate with violent Salafis; a self-described “true Salafist” Marwa, offered her interpretation of a Salafi as any emulator of Prophet Muhammad’s followers, which would put most observant Muslims in the category (6).

The practical dangers of such an approach–as if the detainment of random suspected Wahhabists and co in Guantanamo Bay and similar facilities is not enough–is the marginalization of the more inclusive Islamists and the empowerment of radicals like Al-Qaeda. While critics of intervention, such as the Irish parliamentarian Clare Daly (in an otherwise superb and rousing speech that railed at the Irish media and government’s slobbering reception of the Obamas last spring), have branded the Islamist rebels radicals and defended the Assad regime on the grounds of it being “secular” (7), the secularism of Baathist Syria (and indeed, of most Arab and Muslim regimes, from Central Asia to Egypt) is of a very different sort from the non-partisan, above-sectarianism brand seen in the West. In the Muslim world, where religion tends to be a far more public and encompassing affair than in the West, secular rulers–from the Young Turks to Islam Karimov to the Assads to Saddam Hussein–have sought to impose their usually nationalism-inclined rule not by rising above sectarian differences but by exploiting them.

18 Comments »

  1. Hi. This is Ibrahim Moiz. I appreciate your excellent work re Syria and the link, but I do want to clarify, I’m still an undergraduate student. Thanks and best

    Comment by Ibrahim — December 20, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

  2. Wow, an undergrad! That’s even more impressive. When I was an undergrad, I was a muddle-headed liberal. Thank god for the up-and-coming left.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 20, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  3. Quite some time ago, I noted the anti-imperialist ties binding people like Gore Vidal, Pat Buchanan and Chalmers Johnson together. My belief is that, while they undoubtedly disagreed on many social issues, they gathered around a belief in a US untainted by empire and the US military industrial complex. Sy Hersh and his sources may have some tenuous connections here as well. They, with the exception of Buchanan, frequently appeared on progressive programs like Democracy Now without a recognition that they have roots in the states rights perspective of the 19th Century and the anti-imperialist efforts of people like Carl Schurz.

    Your experience at Moon over Alabama is consistent with this, a Buchananespue expression of it. Foreign entanglements are considered a kind of corruption, with the indigenous peoples of the country involved being considered a devious “other” with violent, anti-Enlightenment characteristics that contaminate the Americans unfortunate enough to come into contact with them. Hence, the Syrian resistance is conflated with Islamic extremism and the peoples of countries like Pakistan and those in Central Asia are described as incapable of participating in a social order that is not repressive and sectarian. As far as people like the participants at Moon are concerned, “Jews” like you, of course, suffer from the same defects.

    The peril is that the US right is embracing isolationism based upon this vision of the world. It is filling the gap left by progressive endorsement of Obama’s war on terror, as most recently demonstrated when progressive Democratic representatives, like mine, Doris Matsui, promptly supported air strikes against Assad in Syria as soon as Obama announced his intention to launch them.

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 20, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  4. ” In a bear-baiting exercise, I posted a couple of comments that challenged the accepted wisdom of the blog owner and his regulars fully expecting them to gang up on me…. One wonders how secure these ‘anti-imperialists’ are in their politics when a single message out of 80 that goes against the grain cannot be tolerated.”

    Wow.

    I have done the same on this very blog only to see my posts deleted.

    Care to justify?

    Comment by Dan Tucker — December 21, 2013 @ 4:15 am

  5. I don’t have any big problems with being banned or having my messages deleted. I have been censored at Socialist Unity and Crooked Timber. Big deal. My main complaint is allowing Jew-baiting on a leftwing blog. But as I pointed out, hatred of Muslims is the driving force behind “Moon of Alabama” rather than socialism or any other radical ideology. It is the same phenomenon at work where a former American policy-maker named Yossef Bodansky’s spin-doctoring at Global Research for Bashar al-Assad gets picked up by both Ray McGovern and Rush Limbaugh. Something is rotten in Denmark (or Germany?)

    Comment by louisproyect — December 21, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  6. Yossef Bodansky is the same idiot who’s entire writing career consists of scaremongering stories about global jihadis infiltrating Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (lol), jihadis threatening the Free World from Chechnya (lol again, though there are jihadis in Chechnya, his analysis is that the jihadis were fine and good when on the American side vs Russia, but boy as soon as they started thinking for themselves they became EVILDOING terrorists), jihadis threatening the State of Israel with Being Wiped off the Map, jihadis threatening the Free World from Afghanistan because they don`t like NATO raiding and pillaging their land. In other words, not exactly a reliable customer and it`s surprising, and worrying, that Global Research, and the generally reliable Ray McGovern–rightly very critical of the American invasion of Iraq–would sign on to an undisguised neocon apologist`s version of events simply, it appears, to back Bashar Assad`s continuing hold

    Comment by Ibrahim — December 21, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

  7. Richard Estes writes: “The peril is that the US right is embracing isolationism based upon this vision of the world.”

    To whom, exactly, is this a peril? Wouldn’t internationalist leftists prefer that the entire U.S. right, along with the U.S. “liberals”, embrace isolationism? Or do we really believe that the U.S. could, without a revolutionary transformation, play a beneficial role in the world?

    Comment by Roger Abrams — December 22, 2013 @ 8:04 am

  8. Oh, the desperate attempt to paint anti imperialists as anti Semitic. The last refuge of the pro imperialist left! Your conversion to fully fledged ‘decent’ has been achieved. If Christopher Hitchens were alive he would toast you this Christmas.

    Good letter in the CPGB this week:

    “Few countries in the Middle East have experienced the same level of chemical attacks as the Iraqi people. Starting in the 1920s, which saw the first ever gassing of the Kurds by the British, for nearly 100 years every generation has grown up under the shadow of chemical weapons.

    Vivid descriptions have been given by Iraqi and Iranian veterans of their exposure to chemical weapons in the Iran/Iraq war and the various neurological impacts.

    Medical experts in the Kurdish village of Halabja are still dealing with the breathing difficulties and disabilities which have arisen among survivors of that fateful day in the late 1980s when planes flew over the village and gassed an estimated 5,000 people.

    It was in the first Gulf War of the 1990s, when the Iraqi people once again witnessed the first hand impact of chemicals, that the combination of burning oil fields, depleted uranium, along with a host of other toxins being spewed into the environment, led to it being classified as the most toxic war in modern history.

    People involved with Iraq during the 1990s witnessed a dramatic increase in birth defects in the areas most heavily bombed by the UN-sanctioned ‘Desert Storm’, with rates of cancer soaring beyond pre-war levels and Gulf War illness/syndrome still being the unexplained medical condition amongst western service personnel.

    According to Iraqi government statistics, prior to the outbreak of the first Gulf War the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.

    John Pilger recalled a 1999 visit to Iraq in which he spoke with paediatrician Dr Ginan Ghalib Hassen, who described the many children she was treating with neuroblastoma: “Before the war, we saw only one case of this unusual tumour in two years. Now we have many cases, mostly with no family history. I have studied what happened in Hiroshima. The sudden increase of such congenital malformations is the same.”

    After the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent US/UK occupation, chemical weapons were once again inflicted upon the Iraqi people, which included the use of white phosphorous against civilian populations in areas like Fallujah.

    According to acclaimed journalist Dahr Jamil, the US and British military used more than 1,700 tons of depleted uranium in Iraq in the 2003 invasion – on top of the disputed figure of up to 900 tons in the 1991 Gulf War.

    In context, the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned the British government in the 1990s that “if 50 tons of the residual dust (from depleted uranium) was left in the region, an estimated half a million excess cancer deaths would result by the year 2000”.

    The Iraqi section of Al-Qaeda, which has since rebranded itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for its involvement in the Syria uprising, were also the first branch of Al-Qaeda to start using chemical weapons.

    Between October 2006 and June 2007, Iraq experienced 15 chlorine bomb attacks, according to the US defence department, the first documented case being in Ramadi where terrorists detonated a car packed with 12 120mm mortar shells and two 100 pound chlorine tanks.

    Chlorine attacks also occurred in Fallujah, Balad and again in Ramadi, with a later attack against Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Diyala where a car bomber detonated two tanks of chlorine and 1,000 pounds of explosives, with the chlorine alone causing an adverse reaction to over 65 US service members.

    In June 2013 the Iraqi army shut down three Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant bomb factories and seized chemicals which were designated for chemical attacks, less than one month before its use in neighbouring Syria. Situated close to the borders with Iraq’s turbulent neighbour, among the ingredients found in the bomb factories were those for Sarin.”

    Comment by The Man With No Name — December 22, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

  9. Oh, the desperate attempt to paint anti imperialists as anti Semitic.

    Not at all. It is only that one scumbag Rowan Berkeley who is a Jew-baiter. And to repeat myself, I don’t find the term anti-Semitism useful since it evokes the 1930s, a time when Jews were vulnerable. Today, it is the Muslims who are demonized and repressed, a victim of the Islamophobia that is the main agenda of Moon of Alabama–not anti-Semitism.

    In terms of the CPGB relying on the testimony of the Iraqi army, you might as well just accept the word of Bashar al-Assad.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 22, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

  10. […] while back I called attention to Rowan Berkeley, the Jew-baiting commenter at this “anti-imperialist” website. After […]

    Pingback by Jew-baiting continues at Moon of Alabama | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — February 12, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

  11. I came across this thread while hunting for any post that may indicate why Moon of Alabama is currently down.
    Nothing to do with zionism, the proprietor of MoA whmo you incorrectly identified as ‘Gerhard’ is currently publishing uncomfortable realities about the sleazebags who put together the unconstitutional & undemocratic coup against the elected president of the Ukraine. If the site’s absence isn’t maintenance but the effect of a DDOS attack that will be why.,
    Firstly as someone who has posted to MoA since before the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US, let me say that what you call ‘jew baiting’ & what I prefer to call Judeophobia isn’t that common at MoA.
    Most posters are anti-imperialists most not all, many are from Arab speaking nations which in your world would likely classify them under the lump of western prejudice reffered to as ‘Arabs’ even though their culture and customes vary tremendously.
    But if you don’t get that you won’t get what I’m gonna say next, which is that a great many of the posters to MoA have come to the erroneous conclusion that all contemporary Sunni political leaders are closet supporters of Israel.

    Some of us see it differently and recognize that these low life politicians are just succumbing to pressure from the US/euro/english/israeli cabal that guarantees their continued ‘leadership’ over the people of the ME by forcing those ‘leaders’ into ignoring egregious zionist crimes against the indigenous people of the Jordan Valley.
    This causes those posters to contort themselves into some weird shapes – the worst of which was cheer-leading the dismissal of Egypt’s elected government simply because Morsi had threatened to send troops to aid the fight against Syria’s Assad administration. Morsi would never have done such a thing but some of the hangers-on at MoA are incapable of simultaneously walking & chewing gum much less understanding the complex balancing act someone like Morsi had to pull off if Egypt were to progress past a military dictatorship.

    I have no love for some of the elements of Sunni political movements myself, but attacking these political movements for merely existing is shortsighted and counter to the interests of people throughout the ME. When what we used to call ‘lefties’ sink to mud slinging the al quaeda slander at fellow anti-imperialists something is seriously wrong. The foreign elements shit-stirring in Syria need to go – so do their US, Saudi &Qatari backers but lets not chuck the baby & the bathwater.

    Rowan Berkely is an odd fish. He doesn’t come across as one of the cognically incapable types who comprise his handful of fellow travellers.
    I have always considered him to be a big fat chunk of zionist astro turf, put there by israel as a quick way of discrediting the accurate anti-imperialist stuff that is published at MoA.

    I have posted that on occasion and have never had those posts deleted. The only times posts have disappeared has been when I have fallen foul of the anti-spam barriers that automatically delete posts that are too long (from someone unknown to the site) have too many hyper text links or those that are too short and repetitive.

    I regularly disagree with mine host who is no Judeophobe and who I doubt to be the Ba’athist you claim. You got b’s name wrong what else have you messed up? My posts are not deleted nor are the ones that call Berkley to task for his lame racist views.

    I initially thought he was suffering from the daddy issues which occasionally drag young men into anti-establishment perspectives, but I have come to realise Berkley is a plant. so what?
    Trying to stop the spread of intolerance by being intolerant, is classic ‘putting out the fire with gasoline’ and I believe b shares that POV.

    MoA does get a lot of information early- especially stuff that may promote the interests of moscow but that isn’t all they publish and in saying that, a similar comment could be made about the NY Times who publish a lot of stuff that promotes the interests of washington – more power to MoA I say because it is vital to hear as many sides of a story as possible and I have yet to read any such post by b which has been demonstrably factually incorrect.
    b publishes alternate viewpoints but not incorrect viewpoints.

    Of course the same cannot be said of his anonymous posters. Even those are usually only wrong because of an inability to understand complex issues or having been led astray by asshats like rowan berkley.

    I don’t go there so often any more because getting tainted with a ‘judeophobic by association’ tag is an impediment to anyone serious about restoring the rights of the Jordan Valley’s indigenous people, but times like this – the current interesting divergence of opinion between obama and putin makes Moon of Alabama a vital link in understanding what is actually occurring in the Ukraine.

    Comment by Wayne Bowdene — March 6, 2014 @ 12:05 am

  12. Look, I don’t pay much attention to Moon of Alabama but I doubt that anybody with my politics as well as my command of the history and politics of Syria ever showed up there. I seriously doubt my post was trapped in a spam filter. On top of that, Jew-baiting is not to be trifled with even though Jews are not persecuted. If anybody like Rowan Berkeley showed up on a website that was not so heavily tilted toward Putin and the “axis of good”, he would be given the boot.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 6, 2014 @ 12:28 am

  13. This:
    “I doubt that anybody with my politics as well as my command of the history and politics of Syria ever showed up there”
    inevitably leads to this:
    “I seriously doubt my post was trapped in a spam filter”
    I cannot count the number of times that has happened to me at MoA and it mostly occurred with innocuous posts -every time a message to b got the post out of the filter & onto the boards, but self absorbed types rarely accept that its not all about them.
    Too busy putting tickets on yerself so unable to comprehend simple fuck ups eh.

    I have no time for orientalists / arabists they’re just another form of colonialist bulldust – whitefellas playing the superior knowledge card which may even be true when considering the subject from a whitefella POV, but never is when the real issues that matter to the subject are considered. I won’t waste any more time trying to convince some uppity snot of the bleeding obvious.

    Comment by Wayne Bowdene — March 6, 2014 @ 6:44 am

  14. […] entity” under US law; Counterpunch, describedas “a neo-Nazi magazine”; Moon of Alabama, a pro-Assad blog; and RT, the Kremlin’s English-language propaganda […]

    Pingback by Conflicts Forum | New Day Starts — July 17, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

  15. […] under US law; Counterpunch, described as “a neo-Nazi magazine”; Moon of Alabama, a pro-Assad blog; and RT, the Kremlin’s English-language propaganda […]

    Pingback by Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust | New Day Starts — July 17, 2014 @ 10:49 pm

  16. Hi, I wrote from Italy just for asking you if you are sure that “Gerhard” is the owner of Moon of Alabama. Do you know anymore else about him? Here in Italy a lot of red/brown website are relinking Moon of Alabama’s post about Syria and I’m trying to understand something more. Thanks and…good job!

    Comment by Fabio — January 3, 2017 @ 7:31 am

  17. I get paid to post anti Semitic comments on geopolitics websites. After this others can identify the author of these websites as ‘anti semitic’ and hopefully the label sticks, to discredit them. It’s easy and I come cheap. Hope this clears things up.

    Comment by Yosser — January 29, 2017 @ 12:32 pm

  18. I believe the Moon of Alabama blogger’s name is Bernard, not Gerhard.

    When I sent him an article published on the Gatestone Institute blog called “The West’s Real Bigotry: Rejecting Persecuted Christians” by Ms. Uzay Bulut, a Turkish Muslim, as an FYI, Bernard wrote back the following.

    “STOP sending me your announcements. I am NOT interested in them.”

    Comment by Lezou — February 27, 2017 @ 4:11 am


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