Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 7, 2017

Rania Khalek’s defenders

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 12:38 am

Rania Khalek

A bunch of high-profile leftists have signed a statement denouncing the “witch-hunt” against Khalek as part of an ongoing campaign to defend her against angry, largely Arab activists opposed to Assad. The statement, not the first, deals with the withdrawal of an invitation to speak to SJP at the U. of North Carolina. A Shadowproof article indicates the kind of opposition to her appearance she ran into:

Amr Kawji said to the SJP chapter, “Save yourselves the embarrassment and cancel your event with Rania Khalek—an Islamophobic pro-Assad propagandist. So ashamed.”

“As a Syrian American (and former SJP member),” he wrote on their Facebook event page, “I am asking you kindly to either cancel this event with Rania Khalek or replace her with a coherent speaker. Rania’s comments on Syria and Islam have been extremely hurtful to many people, and she should not be allowed to continue to spew her propaganda. Save yourselves the embarrassment and please cancel the event or find someone else.”

Adam Sabra, a professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, also wrote on the Facebook event page, “I share other people’s concerns about inviting Rania Khalek to campus. In particular, her support for the Syrian regime undermines her credibility to speak on behalf of the Palestinian cause. I ask you to reconsider.”

Now, if the pro-Khalek statement has the effect of intimidating people like Kawji and Sabra from posting such comments on social networks in advance of a future Khalek appearance, can we conclude that they have become victims of McCarthyism as well? Just asking.

This is what happens when you go out on a limb to write Assadist propaganda. When Mother Agnes Mariam was invited to speak at John Rees’s pro-Assad confab in England a few years ago, people pressured Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill to withdraw, which they did. So did the degenerate nun. Everybody on Rees’s side raised a stink about her being silenced, like Neil Clark writing for RT.com.

The next flare-up was over Tim Anderson speaking at a conference on refugees on a Greek island. Anderson, who is a whole order of magnitude more toxic than Khalek, was disinvited and then re-invited. Here’s Anderson blasting those who would deny him his free speech rights, on Global Research of course.

This stuff goes on all the time when it comes to Syria. You are talking about a deep divide on the left over matters that have the same intensity as the Spanish Civil War. I personally am opposed to lobbying groups or magazines to prevent her from making a living. Yes, let Khalek make her living writing articles justifying the killing of White Helmets because they are “linked to al-Qaeda”. If Khalek needs to get paid to write such garbage, why should we stand in the way? It is only her own reputation she is destroying. Eventually the jobs will dry up anyhow because writing the kind of crap that she, Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal write will eventually mark them as hacks. The dirty little secret, after all, is that all these people are writing the same talking points that get passed around like a sexually transmitted disease.

If you want to know where the “smart” people are going, just reflect on Jacobin breaking ties with the Assadist left, as reflected by the signatures on the statement of a couple of people who used to write this kind of crap for them: Greg Shupak and David Mizner. It took far too long for Jacobin to reverse itself but better late than never.

The best approach is to point out how bad she is politically, the latest example taking the word of academic counter-terrorism “expert” Max Abrahms in a Salon article, whose poll revealed that Syrian refugees blame the rebels just as much as Assad. Max Abrahms is a hard-core Islamophobe who has been writing articles for the past 6 years making an amalgam between jihadists and everybody else who took up guns against the filthy murderer Bashar al-Assad.

You might want to look at Joel Beinin’s article “US: the pro-Sharon thinktank” from the July 2003 Le Monde diplomatique where he identifies Abrahms as a specialist in Israeli security affairs and a columnist for the National Review Online.

I invite you to check out Abrahms’s articles at National Review. Why a “pro-Palestinian” like Khalek would take Abrahms at his word is beyond me. Check out this article by Abrahms on the National Review website and see for yourself. Is this the sort of person we should trust for an objective survey on Syria?:

How does one explain this marked improvement in Israeli security? The “cycle of violence” theory would posit that such a reduction in terror derives from Israeli softness. Again, this logic was proven false. To staunch the bleeding from Israel’s July 2000 openhandedness, the Israel Defense Forces used an iron fist. Operation Defensive Shield, initiated in March 2002, brought the fight to the terrorists by deploying massive numbers of troops to the West Bank. This was language terrorists could understand. Evidently, it worked.

The only other thing worth mentioning is the utterly preposterous claim made in the statement: “The signers of this statement hold a range of views on Syria. Some agree with Khalek; others disagree – in some cases quite vehemently.”

What a joke. I don’t recognize a single name of anybody who is now a critic of Assad. Maybe sitting around a dining table, they might say things like “Assad is sooo icky” but not a single one has ever made a public statement to that effect.

Yes, Bassam Haddad signed the statement but he gave up supporting the rebels 5 years ago. Everybody else shares Khalek’s “analysis”, such as it is, including hard-core Assadists like Rick Sterling, Paul Larudee and Joe Emersberger.



  1. From an interview with (signatory) Noam Chomsky:

    Do you believe that Syria and Assad are being demonized as well by the press? Do you believe barrel bombs, for example, are dropped by Assad?

    Chomsky: There’s strong evidence for that. He’s pretty horrible. In this case, I don’t think he’s really being demonized. It’s pretty awful.

    Many observers are coming to the defense of Assad (for example, see Mike Whitney’s discussion of Putin’s “progress” in Syria) and saying this is not a place to build a new regime, and sometimes they give the example of Libya and Iraq.

    Chomsky: That’s a separate question. [Muammar] Gaddafi was not a nice guy either, but it was no reason to destroy the country. However, in this case, it’s not even an option. Because if you tried anything like what was done in Libya, you’d have a world war.


    Comment by David Green — March 7, 2017 @ 2:34 am

  2. Chomsky is utterly unreliable. He’ll say that and then turn around and endorse Patrick Cockburn’s reporting.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 7, 2017 @ 2:36 am

  3. Chomsky covers all bases but at least he doesnt deny that Assad has killed Syrians. Not in the same league as Anderson et al. Anyway, a great piece Louis. Thanks. Love this blog!

    Comment by Durutti — March 7, 2017 @ 2:50 am

  4. BTW, I liked what you wrote initially: writing this kind of crap will haunt them for the rest of their lives. At least I hope it does.

    Comment by Durutti — March 7, 2017 @ 2:58 am

  5. Yes, that’s been a nearly 9-decade long pattern with Chomsky.

    Comment by David Green — March 7, 2017 @ 4:05 am

  6. Interesting that Shupak published an article on Jacobin 2 weeks ago, disproving your claim of his being banned: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/resurrecting-the-antiwar-movement/

    Comment by David Green — March 7, 2017 @ 4:13 am

  7. Riad Alarian: The blacklist this letter mentions does not exist. Those who insist on calling it a “de facto blacklist” are just trying to semantically validate what is otherwise a complete fantasy. What actually happened is that a handful of individuals (maybe 12, and that’s a very conservative estimate) contacted UNC SJP and—in incredibly mild language—asked them to reconsider inviting Rania because her Islamophobic apologetics for the Syrian regime betray SJP’s broader commitment to justice. By their own admission, some of UNC SJP’s own members seemed to have already taken issue with Rania vis-a-vis Syria before anyone contacted them about it, and the choice to cancel her speaking event was an internal decision resulting from deliberation, not some bullying campaign where the students’ arms were twisted.
    Rania made her own choices on Syria, and that’s her prerogative. She is free to go around defending Assad’s army by saying things like (and I am directly quoting here) “I don’t think it’s fair to write off the entire Syrian army” because they are “fighting ISIS and [are] the only reason the country hasn’t been totally overrun by gulf state backed insurgents.” But it is also the prerogative of Palestine activists—especially those who strongly oppose such views on Syria and stand on the side of justice—to respond and act according to such choices, as those who contacted UNC SJP did, and, ultimately, as UNC SJP itself did.
    No one would bat a second glance if, say, a longstanding supporter of Palestine was disinvited for supporting the Iraq War (e.g. Fouad Ajami-types), or for openly supporting fascists like Gaddafi (e.g. Eva Bartlett-types). But somehow, the “complicated” and “unclear” nature of Syria’s war makes it okay for Rania to spew the worst kind of Islamophobic, regime-validating bile possible and still be seen as the victim when students decide she has breached a moral line. How ironic that many of those who are loudly defending Rania on the grounds that she is the victim of a coordinated intimidation campaign are now doing precisely that: coordinating to produce “statements of solidarity” for the obvious purpose of intimidating future SJPs from ever daring to disinvite other speakers who want the luxury of being outrageously bad on Syria without consequences.

    Comment by John Gamey — March 7, 2017 @ 9:17 am

  8. Here’s Chomsky taking to task a supporter of Assad (an actual supporter, not just some “apologist”):
    He’s pretty far from someone like Rania Khalek.

    “Yes, that’s been a nearly 9-decade long pattern with Chomsky.”

    What’s the pattern?

    Comment by max — March 7, 2017 @ 10:23 am

  9. “How ironic that many of those who are loudly defending Rania on the grounds that she is the victim of a coordinated intimidation campaign”

    I think many are _projecting_ their impressions about “political correctness on campus” onto this case. In fact, Greenwald started putting out statements on Twitter against “triggerings” on campus, _right after he learned about Khalek_.
    Of course this is a really flawed way of looking at what happened to Khalek: she appears to have been simply disinvited after people raised _serious political disagreements, not shouted down by people who just wanted “a safe space”.

    Comment by mlinchits — March 7, 2017 @ 10:35 am

  10. “No one would bat a second glance if, say, a longstanding supporter of Palestine was disinvited for supporting the Iraq War (e.g. Fouad Ajami-types), or for openly supporting fascists like Gaddafi (e.g. Eva Bartlett-types). But somehow, the “complicated” and “unclear” nature of Syria’s war makes it okay for Rania to spew the worst kind of Islamophobic, regime-validating bile possible and still be seen as the victim when students decide she has breached a moral line.”

    That’s exactly right. It is of course true that a civil war of the Syrian type is inherently more complicated—both morally and politically—than something like Iraq. With Iraq it was clear: just don’t invade.

    Comment by mlinchits — March 7, 2017 @ 10:44 am

  11. she also appears to have recouped her financial losses owing to “witch hunt” several times over, in just a few days!

    so victimized. so unfair.

    Comment by mlinchits — March 7, 2017 @ 11:22 am

  12. Good catch on Shupak. But by and large, Jacobin has reversed direction. You can read Tweets by Mizner and other Assadists complaining about this turn.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 7, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

  13. @Max re Chomsky: I was being sarcastic. I agree with Chomsky and support Rania Khalek. She has done nothing to deserve to be vilified, not on this blog or anywhere else.

    Comment by David Green — March 7, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

  14. So you have no problem Khalek describing the White Helmets as linked to al-Qaeda?

    Comment by louisproyect — March 7, 2017 @ 2:15 pm

  15. Thanks for the photo of Rania. She’s beautiful, and brilliant. She was a hero for the Palestinians when you were still… do you ever talk about the Palestinians?

    You act like Assad is Tsar Nicholas trying to put down a proletarian revolution. This is a regime-change operation to install a Western puppet. Do you really want to be on the side of Israel on this?

    Comment by Tyler — March 7, 2017 @ 2:23 pm

  16. Tsar Nicholas was benevolent compared to Assad. He only sent opponents to Siberia while Assad kills them in prison.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 7, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

  17. @ Louis. I don’t know if the WH are linked to AQ. But if Khalek thinks that, and even if it’s not true, it doesn’t make her a supporter of Assad. I’ve listened to hours of her podcast, and she has never supported Assad. She does not deserve to be vilified by you, and she certainly does not deserve to be “de-platformed”–not that anyone does. Your hatred for those whom you claim support Assad takes precedence with you over a basic sense of decency and fairness in debate about these issues. Your monomania about this issue results in your perspectives being twisted beyond reason.

    Comment by David Green — March 7, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

  18. Nobody supports Assad in the same way that Bob Avakian supported Mao. Instead, it is much more of a “lesser evil” stance that Max Abrahms has perfected. You spend all your time whipping up the hatred of “jihadists” and say nothing about Assad. Any idiot can figure out who you are for. This is not to speak of Khalek accepting an invitation to take part in a colloquium organized by the dictatorship. What a filthy deed.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 7, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

  19. basic sense of decency?

    You really couldn’t make it up.

    Comment by John Gamey — March 7, 2017 @ 6:24 pm

  20. @Tyler – still going with that ‘regime change’ mantra? I think Louis Proyect has addressed this about a thousand times here , and very effectively.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — March 7, 2017 @ 6:51 pm

  21. Off tangent. @LouisProyect. “sar Nicholas was benevolent compared to Assad. He only sent opponents to Siberia while Assad kills them in prison.”

    To be fair, Nicholas II never fought in a civil war. But to say that he “only” sent his opponents to jail is mistaken. From 1906 to 1911 military-style tribunals were in place, which meted out justice overwhelmingly to civilians. All in all, they executed close to three thousand people in this time frame. These trials were pretty indiscriminate, but their primary targets were narodnik terrorists, who had themselves assassinated thousands of people. One could also add numerous massacres perpetrated by his regime and its allies.

    Comment by Max/mlinchits — March 7, 2017 @ 6:51 pm

  22. The anti-Khalek lies remind me so much of the climate in 2002 when so many liberals sided with PNAC and the Bush admin, and proceeded to call anyone who opposed regime change “pro-Saddam”. They made almost the exact same arguments. “Look at all these things you say about Bush, you don’t even mention Saddam’s crimes” and so forth. The slur “Assadist” as it’s being slung here, no different from how the anti-war left was accused of being apologists for Saddam.

    Khalek’s work has been “Assadist” in just the same way. It has always pushed the view that as horrible as the Assad regime is, western intervention would empower groups that are even worse. It’s what we said about Iraq. We were right then, Khalek is right now, and the slander being directed at her is ignorant and vile.

    Comment by Don O'Neill — March 10, 2017 @ 12:24 am

  23. “We were right then, Khalek is right now, and the slander being directed at her is ignorant and vile.”

    Who is “we”? The Party of Socialism and Liberation? Socialist Action? John Rees’s Counterfire? Moon of Alabama? Infowars? Lyndon Larouche?

    Comment by louisproyect — March 10, 2017 @ 12:35 am

  24. We were right then …

    The key here is the false accusation that the U.S. is waging an Iraq-style war in Syria to topple Assad, the reflex of an invariable pattern of evil-doing stretching back to time immemorial. This is not they case, as Louis has demonstrated repeatedly, at least to my satisfaction. And nor is it the case that the U.S. invaded Libya under the evil spell of the vampire Hillary and Bombed Libya Back Into the Stone Age (BBISA) in order to rid the world of the green giant Qaddafi.

    This is not to argue that the U.S. was or is a benevolent or virtuous actor in those scenarios, merely that the Dr. Van Helsing vs. Dracula scenario imagined by the brain-dead pseudo-left is not an accurate version of the facts–and that revolutionaries may well under particular circumstance make legitimate use of third-party actions not intended for their benefit.

    I’m unfamiliar with Khalek’s work, so can neither praise nor condemn her, though the attacks on the White Helmets certainly sound bad, but there is no doubt about the insanity of what Proyect calls the “Ba’thist Amen Corner” and their syphilitic cousins, the pseudo-left cultists of the thieving, corrupt, foul-mouthed, murdering dwarf Putin–whose only real talent apart from proficiency in judo, BTW, is that he can tell dirty jokes fluently in several European languages.

    I fear the Syrian revolution may be a lost cause at present. There is no doubt that, if so, this will have untold evil consequences even beyond those already suffered. Even so–perhaps more so if that is the case–the left in the West cannot afford to waste its energies on the inappropriately framed Disney-cartoon struggles of light and darkness being put forward in the name of anti-imperialism by dupes and double agents.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 10, 2017 @ 1:17 pm

  25. @Farans. Colorful language is hardly a replacement for rational argument, of which you have none. As an American citizen, and therefore a citizen of the most powerful and destructive nation on earth, I am concerned about the consequences of my own government’s actions. We have made a charnel house of the region at least since 1991, or go back to 1967 if you want. So tell me, what are you doing to oppose Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen with American blessing?

    Comment by David Green — March 11, 2017 @ 8:15 pm

  26. Slightly off-topic, but have you seen this:


    Who, would you say, are the fakers here? The Swedish doctors or the White Helmets?

    Thanks in advance for your consideration.

    Comment by Adrian Kent. — March 20, 2017 @ 2:52 pm

  27. M. Ferrada de Noli is the guy behind Swedish Doctors for Human Rights. He claims that Amnesty International framed Assad for the murder of 13,000 prisoners. I doubt that anybody outside of the Baathist amen corner would take him seriously.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 20, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

  28. The ‘Humam Slaughterhouse’ report is another matter – which we could discuss if you like, but what do you think of the hard evidence of the White Helmet video? The stills he has taken from it, what of them?

    Comment by Adrian Kent. — March 20, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

  29. I am no physician and cannot make an intelligent comment about how injections are administered. What I do know is that people like Khalek, Beeley, Norton, Blumenthal et al are engaged in a massive propaganda campaign to demonize the White Helmets. This is part of their campaign obviously.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 20, 2017 @ 3:51 pm

  30. Chomsky is another worthless liberal.

    Comment by Akira Zentradi — April 21, 2017 @ 2:24 am

  31. Can you please point to evidence to support your claim that joe emersberger is a “hardcore assadist”? Is this just because he interviewed ms Khalek over this controversy? It appears to be a very ridiculous claim on this blog’s part. As he has never written in support of Assad. Joe has written some of the best critiques of US media promoting war and interventionism . Nice try on your part attempting to silence those critics .

    Comment by Web reader — April 21, 2017 @ 6:12 am

  32. Isn’t it interesting how the most viscous old sectarians of cargo-cult Marxism get along so well with the worst genocidal sectarians of Sunni Islamism?

    Comment by Lee Sun-sil — April 22, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

  33. Your idea of a liberated woman is a half naked drug whore, but when Rania Khalek dares defend her own people against CIA backed death squads, look how the knives come out!

    Comment by Lee Sun-sil — April 22, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

  34. Lee Sun-sil, you are a walking bag of Stalinist shit.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 22, 2017 @ 10:30 pm

  35. […] Rania Khalek is a western pro-Palestine activist blacklisted by several Palestinian groups (as in, groups run by Palestinians and connected to other Arabs, namely anti-Assad Syrians) due to her frequent justifications of Assad, Iran and Russia murdering and repressing Arabs, including Palestinians. […]

    Pingback by Radiohead in Tel Aviv: It's no worse than playing in the US | Bible Prophecy In The Daily Headlines — July 17, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

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