Thursday’s PBS NewsHour indulged in offensive moral equivalence, pretending that Islamophobia in the United States was as big if not a bigger threat to public safety than the current wave of violent anti-Semitism hitting progressive big cities and college campuses, while also sliming Fox News hosts as endangering Muslims.
Host Geoff Bennett’s segment led with “Islamophobia,” even while Jews are under attack in America.
The White House’s warped priorities neatly cleaved with the bizarre news emphasis of tax-funded PBS. Not even a month after the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, the left is chasing the convenient phantom of “Islamophobia” to attempt to change the subject from anti-Semitism in the streets.
PBS again defended the death toll numbers provided by the terrorist group Hamas. At least Barron-Lopez identified the Gaza Health Ministry as a Hamas mouthpiece.
Nashashibi showed his radicalism, shamelessly using a Hamas war crime (taking civilian hostages) as leverage. Why was he invited to the White House?
But Barron-Lopez didn’t even blink, instead putting the responsibility for potential violence upon two conservatives who made some hard-edged comments regarding violent anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL): Arabs that live next to Jews that will only live next to them so long as they can plan a way to behead them, murder their babies, burn them alive. Some of the folks that have said, well, it’s not all Palestinians. Well, the fact of the matter is, I think it’s a lot more Palestinians than what they’re giving credit for.
Jesse Waters, FOX News Anchor: I want to say something about Arab-Americans and about the Muslim world. The West and Western technology have created the Middle East. We respect their kings. We kill their terrorists, OK? But we’ve had it. We’ve had it with them.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Are you worried that language like this could result in violence, in the 30 seconds or so we have left, Rami?
Nashashibi of course agreed.
Host Bennett finally located the genuine news story.
This ridiculous moral equivalence was brought to you in part by Consumer Cellular.
7:21:59 p.m. (ET)
Geoff Bennett: This week, the FBI director warned of a heightened risk for potential violence against Arab, Muslim and Jewish Americans in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
Laura Barron-Lopez starts our conversation about the rising threats with a look at a new White House effort to counter Islamophobia.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Geoff, the White House is working on a first-of-its-kind strategy to protect Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim because of their race or ancestry.
And it says the plan will be drafted by White House officials in coordination with community leaders.
Rami Nashashibi, founder of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, joins me now to discuss.
Rami, thanks so much for being here.
First off, what’s your reaction to this announcement by the White House to craft a national plan to counter Islamophobia?
Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network: The announcement is actually one that the community completely can understand and appreciate.
The timing, though, was one that I have been on record for challenging, only because, at this moment, so much of the time the anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia is directly associated with the dehumanizing language that unfortunately has become part and parcel of this really just absolutely terrible bombing on Gaza in the last few weeks that has led to a child being killed every 10 minutes.
Laura Barron-Lopez: And speaking of that, Rami, last week, when I asked President Biden about the death toll provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, which is a figure that State Department officials also go by, he cast doubt on it.
Rami Nashashibi: Yes.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war.
Laura Barron-Lopez: You were in a meeting with the president right after — not long after he made those comments. Did he say anything that reassured you during that conversation?
Rami Nashashibi: Well, I directly, in fact, addressed that quote with the president. I told him how unacceptable and atrocious it was, quite frankly, for so many that have associated him with a person who can really identify with human suffering, which I think he has done fairly well for communities across the globe and certainly with people who have suffered from individual tragedy.
He acknowledged that. He received it. He also gave us a form of apology.
What I was hoping to hear from the president and from the White House, quite frankly, which we have not heard since our meeting last week, was a much more explicit, forceful retraction of that type of language, because it is precisely that type of language, coupled with the silence on language that has been used by Israeli war ministers, like the defense minister, who called all Palestinians human animals, that has perpetuated this form of utter dehumanization of Palestinians that completely is associated with much of the spike in violence that many people in the community have unfortunately had to endure in this recent set of a few days and weeks.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Rami, since that meeting with the president, President Biden has called for a humanitarian pause. He did that just yesterday.
Do you agree with that?
Rami Nashashibi: I think we are — we asked him to call for a cease-fire. We are very grateful. I live in a state where Senator Durbin has become the first high-ranking senator to call explicitly for a cease-fire.
Really, at this point, we need the president, we need anybody of good conscience to realize that, when we have escalated to the point where a young — a child is dying every 10 minutes in Gaza, where water, electricity, fuel, generators are being shut off, people are dying in hospitals, that whatever you want to call it at this moment, it can’t just be a temporary pause.
We need to get people who are brave enough and courageous enough to call for a cease-fire. He also called for the release of the hostages, which, of course, makes sense if there’s a real peaceful resolution to address some of the systemic structural injustices that continue to stand in the way of a meaningful, peaceful resolution for Palestinians and Israelis.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Rami, in the last 24 hours, we have heard more and more Islamophobic — Islamophobic language from the Muslim, conservative, public figures like FOX News’ Jesse Watters, as well as Congressman Brian Mast of Florida. Take a listen.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL): Arabs that live next to Jews that will only live next to them so long as they can plan a way to behead them, murder their babies, burn them alive. Some of the folks that have said, well, it’s not all Palestinians.
Well, the fact of the matter is, I think it’s a lot more Palestinians than what they’re giving credit for.
Jesse Waters, FOX News Anchor: I want to say something about Arab-Americans and about the Muslim world. The West and Western technology have created the Middle East. We respect their kings. We kill their terrorists, OK? But we have had it. We have had it with them.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Are you worried that language like this could result in violence, in the 30 seconds or so we have left, Rami?
Rami Nashashibi: Absolutely.
And that’s why I think the undergirding call for a conference on Islamophobia and linking it to, of course, even the rise of antisemitism, these things are absolutely interlinked, and we have to be explicit in our condemnation of both.
I stand with the call for that and the creation of it, but we have to address also the current political realities that are animating so much of this. And our communities have to see that our fate are absolutely interwoven together. And that is happening right now.
There are courageous Jewish community members every single day that are calling for a peaceful cease-fire, alongside Muslims and people of all faith. And that is a, I think, illustration of how our communities can come together.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Rami Nashashibi, thank you so much for your time.
Rami Nashashibi: Thank you.
Geoff Bennett: In addition to the spike in Islamophobia, a wave of antisemitic incidents has swept the world since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt is the Biden administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and she joins us now.
Thanks so much for coming in.
Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Geoff Bennett: So, as I mentioned, incidents of antisemitism have surged globally since the October 7 by Hamas on Southern Israel.
And putting some numbers to it, in this country, the ADL reports antisemitic incidents have risen by about 400 percent in the two weeks following the attack. London’s police force say they have seen a 14-fold increase, a 240 percent year-on-year increase in Germany. And, of course, we all saw what happened in Russia as that angry crowd searched for Jews to harm after a plane had arrived from Tel Aviv.
How is the administration confronting the scourge of antisemitism and hate, given the severity and the scale of it?
Deborah Lipstadt: The president, the vice president, the secretary of state, to whom I report directly, have been absolutely unequivocal in their condemnation of this.
This is something separate and apart from what’s going on in the Middle East. I mean, of course, it’s tied to it. But to attack Jews — I mean, I just came back from Paris. In France, they have seen more antisemitic events in the past three weeks since October 7 than they saw in all of 2022.
To attack Jews, Jewish institutions is not to take a side in the Middle East conflict. It’s to be antisemitic. And the administration has been unrelenting in condemning this, and I have gotten very strong support from my colleagues.
Geoff Bennett: Are the condemnations, the denouncements of antisemitism — in some cases, officials are stepping up security — is that sufficient to meet the moment, or is more required?
Deborah Lipstadt: It’s not sufficient.
I mean, I don’t know — there’s a limit to what official — government can do. You really need a whole-of-society approach. That’s one of the reasons why I and so many of my colleagues and colleagues in other countries who deal with this issue have asked leaders, government leaders, civil society leaders to speak out and condemn this.
This is unacceptable. It is — I used to talk about a surge in antisemitism when this first began. And then I talked about a storm. Now, this past week, I have been talking about a tsunami. You see it. You see it on university campuses. And I have been to Rome. I have been to Paris. I’m off to Germany in a day, in two days.
We see it in this country, expressions, unrelenting expressions of Jew hatred. We talk about antisemitism, but really a strong word is pure and simple Jew hatred. And that has nothing to do with the Middle East. It’s like people just felt — the cover is off, I can say whatever I want.
Geoff Bennett: Well, when it comes to the anger over the deaths of what are believed to be thousands of Palestinians as a result of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, what’s the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel’s government and anti-Israel rhetoric that translates into antisemitism?
Deborah Lipstadt: I think they’re very different.
Look, in democracies — in Israel, take Israel, for example. The national sport is not football. The national sport is criticism of the government. Every Israeli knows what its government should be doing better. So it’s not a matter of criticism of government or even criticism of policies.
It’s when you justify hatred. So many instances — in many instances in that — you mentioned the incident in Russia, in Dagestan, when the plane — they were saying, where are the Jews? They weren’t saying, where are the Israelis? Where are the Jews? In Australia, we saw a demonstration, “Gas the Jews.” We have seen that in Berlin. We have seen similar things in Paris, in London, and in this country.
That’s not about the Middle East. That’s about antisemitism. That’s about hating Jews.
Geoff Bennett: Is there a difference between right-wing antisemitism and left-wing antisemitism? Does the political ideology warrant different approaches to combating it?
Deborah Lipstadt: I think — you know, it’s ironic. Antisemitism is ubiquitous. It comes from every place on the political spectrum, as we have seen in the past couple of weeks. And, as I said in my confirmation hearings before the Senate, it can come from Christians. It can come from Muslims. It can come from atheists. It can come from Jews.
It comes from everywhere. And on some level, the far, far right and the far, far left often meet on the issue of antisemitism. You need different tactics to address these groups, but I don’t know if you can really change those people on the extremes. The people I want to reach when I’m going overseas, when I’m speaking to different groups, to different governments, civil society, are the people who might say, well, there’s something to this. I want to expose them to what this hatred can do.
No genocide ever began with people picking up guns or machetes or creating gas — it begins with words, and it escalates from there. And words “Death to the Jews,” “Jews should die,” “We need a Jew-free society,” which you hear in this country and you hear abroad, are just fodder for that hatred and doesn’t go away. It just builds and builds.
Geoff Bennett: Ambassador Lipstadt, thanks so much for coming in. It’s a real pleasure to speak with you.
Deborah Lipstadt: Well, good, even on this topic.
Geoff Bennett: Yes.
Deborah Lipstadt: Thank you very much for having me.