Israel spin doctors move to exploit Orlando massacre

New Yorkers show their solidarity with victims of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, by placing flowers outside The Stonewall Inn, which is considered an epicenter of the US LGBTQ rights movement, in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood on 12 June.

Albin Lohr-Jones SIPA

Authorities in Florida are still releasing the names of the 49 people massacred by Omar Mateen in Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub early on Sunday morning.

It is an agonizing list of predominantly young and Latino people who could not have imagined their lives would be cut short in such a horrifying manner as they went out for a night of enjoyment.

But even before all the victims are known, the US and Israeli far right are moving to exploit Mateen’s crime to further a narrative that indicts Muslims collectively and fuels hatred and confrontation.

This is despite the reality that factors other than religious motivation likely played a major part in Mateen’s horrific act.

One group with ties to Israel’s intelligence services is even trying to implicate Palestinians.

“As most Israelis know, terror attacks by Islamic radicals often benefit the right, especially when placed in the hands of a master manipulator such as [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu,” observed commentator Chemi Shalev, in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.

And the master manipulator wasted no time. “We are all shocked by the terrible massacre in Orlando,” Netanyahu said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. “Islamic terror threatens the entire world and all enlightened nations need to unite in order to fight against it.”

Even as the details were emerging on Sunday, Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US and now a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was advising presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on how to exploit the tragedy for political gain.

“If I was Donald Trump, I would have come out the minute that the FBI started to indicate this morning that we are talking about a guy who was operating from Islamic motivations,” Oren told Israeli television. “Just his name alone … a Muslim name, the son of Afghan immigrants who apparently maintained connections of some sort to extremist Islamic organizations, that in itself will greatly influence the presidential race.”

Trump needed no such advice and quickly seized on the killings to renew his calls for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Blaming Palestinians

Meanwhile, Shurat HaDin, the lawfare group linked to Israel’s spy agency Mossad, sought to implicate Palestinians in the Orlando attack.

In a message on its Facebook page, Shurat HaDin claimed that the Orlando massacre “is part of a series of attacks planned by the Hamas leadership together with ISIS to be executed in the month of Ramadan.”

Shurat HaDin claimed that the first in this series was a shooting that killed five Jordanian personnel at a security office in a Palestinian refugee camp near Amman last week, followed by the shooting attack in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis.

The Orlando massacre was allegedly the third in this linked series. But no credible source has drawn any connection between the incidents.

Jordanian authorities have called the shooting in Baqaa refugee camp an “individual and isolated act.”

The attack in Tel Aviv came as part of the escalated confrontrations between Israelis and Palestinians since last October. There is no indication that the alleged shooters, two cousins from the village of Yatta near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, were under the command of any armed group.

Even the mayor of Tel Aviv, as well as the father of one of the victims, linked the attack to Israel’s ongoing occupation that deprives millions of Palestinians of their basic rights.

And yet, Shurat HaDin is not only trying to draw direct connections between these incidents, it is even trying to implicate Palestinians in the United States in the Orlando attack.

“Orlando, the Florida town where the attack took place, is fertile ground for Palestinian terrorists like al-Arian, a Hamas activist who was sitting in an American prison, and came from there,” Shurat HaDin claimed.

This is a reference to Sami al-Arian, the former professor at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, who was indicted by the US in 2003 for alleged support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Despite the US spending millions on the lengthy trial, a federal jury could not convict al-Arian on a single count.

After a decade pursuing him in what the American Civil Liberties Union called a “pointless and vindictive” prosecution, US authorities finally dropped the charges against al-Arian and allowed him to leave to Turkey last year.

Al-Arian has no plausible connection to the Orlando shooting or to any of the other incidents.

Similarly, Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by casino billionaire, Republican financier and anti-Palestinian donor Sheldon Adelson, ran photos of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen alongside Neshat Melhem, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who killed three Israelis on New Year’s Day, with the slogan, “A chilling similarity.”

But as +972 Magazine noted, the only similarity is that the men had shaved heads and glasses, and that they came from Muslim backgrounds.

Israel Hayom pointedly did not mention what +972 Magazine called “the more obvious parallel – between Mateen and Yishai Schlissel, who attacked the Jerusalem Pride Parade in June 2015 and murdered a teenage girl with a knife.”

Schlissel, a Jewish extremist, had served time in prison for a similar attack a decade earlier.

Destroying the “grayzone”

The effort to tie Palestinians in particular and Muslims more generally to the Orlando massacre is part of a long-standing campaign by Israel and its supporters to present Palestinian resistance as part of a bigger “jihad” against “the West,” rather than being a response to Israel’s violent occupation and colonization.

Israel then presents itself as the vanguard of this civilized West faced with alleged Islamic barbarism.

This war of civilizations narrative suits Israel because it absolves it of any responsibility to change its behavior toward Palestinians.

But it is incredibly corrosive. Journalist Max Blumenthal has argued that it plays directly into Islamic State’s own declared goal of destroying the “grayzone” – the coexistence of multicultural societies – through such atrocities as those perpetrated in Paris and Brussels in recent months.

Disturbed individual

True, authorities say Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS, or Islamic State, just before his killing rampage.

But US authorities have not found any direct operational links between Mateen and any group.

The FBI revealed that Mateen has previously claimed to be a member of Hizballah, the Lebanese resistance group that is affiliated with the Shia branch of Islam, and which is a mortal enemy of ISIS. He had also claimed to have relatives affiliated with al-Qaida, but an 11-month FBI investigation in 2013 found nothing to back up his wild statements.

A disturbed person carrying out a horrific act is not necessarily the most reliable source.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has acknowledged that while Mateen may have been inspired by online propaganda, “We see no clear evidence that he was directed externally” by the Islamic State or any other group.

The picture that is emerging of Mateen is not of a person with any religious piety, but of a violent, abusive and deeply troubled man who had spewed racist and homophobic bile for years.

Mateen was licensed to own firearms and worked for the global security and incarceration firm G4S since 2007.

G4S has long been the focus of protests by the Palestine solidarity movement for its role in Israel’s human rights abuses. It has also been implicated in human rights abuses in other countries.

G4S allegedly ignored complaints about Mateen’s erratic and threatening behavior.

An ex co-worker told NBC news that Mateen was racist and belligerent.

“I quit because everything he said was toxic,” the co-worker told media, “and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”

A major US government contractor, G4S said it vetted Mateen when he was hired in 2007 and again in 2013, but found nothing of concern.

The FBI had twice investigated Mateen, in 2013 and 2014, but found no basis to charge him.

Calling him frequently unstable and “obviously disturbed,” Mateen’s ex-wife described horrific abuse at his hands.

Mateen also appeared to idolize law enforcement and armed forces. He had posted pictures of himself online wearing NYPD insignia, though he had no connection to the New York police.

According to a neighbor, Mateen had US Marines stickers on his car, including one that read, “Semper Fi,” the armed service’s motto.

His ex-wife said that Mateen had even applied to be a police officer.

There appears to be more that ties the Orlando massacre to other US mass shootings: toxic masculinity, homophobia and easy availability of guns, especially assault rifles.

Separately, James Howell, a heavily armed Indiana man with firearms-related convictions, was arrested on Sunday as he headed toward the Los Angeles Pride parade with a car full of assault weapons and chemicals. Police were still trying to determine Howell’s motives.

Only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of mass shootings in the United States have been linked in any way to “radical Islam.”

Yet “radical Islam,” rather than any of the factors cited in other mass shootings, is considered to provide conclusive explanatory power whenever a perpetrator happens to be from a Muslim background.

Such assumptions make it harder to understand the phenomenon of mass violence and how to stop it. They also endanger whole communities as Muslims in the United States, and people of color more generally, fear a racist backlash.

By Monday evening, regulars at Pulse were reporting that Mateen was himself a habitual patron at the nightclub he later attacked, and that he used a same-sex dating app, adding to the complexity of the picture of him.

A former police academy classmate also told The Palm Beach Post that he used to go to gay bars with Mateen a decade ago, and that Mateen had once asked him out.

Unity

In Chicago, on Sunday, hundreds attended a vigil in the city’s Boystown neighborhood, where they heard an opening prayer, before community activists, people of different faiths and elected officials vowed to maintain unity in the face of violence and hatred.

“God send comfort and healing to those who were there last night, whose safe space to dance and be free became a massacre site,” the pastor said. “God provide safety for those in the Muslim community who will be targets of bigotry and violence, for something they did not do and do not condone.”

That sums up how many people are feeling, yet again, in the wake of horrific violence.

In Chicago and around the country, leaders of LGBTQ and Muslim community groups have expressed solidarity with each other.

At a San Francisco vigil for the Orlando victims, Dr. Suzanne Barakat recalled the killing of her brother.

Deah Barakat was murdered along with his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, in the Chapel Hill shootings in February 2015.

Craig Hicks, who has been charged with first degree murder for the killings, had a history of gun-toting harassment, violent threats and anti-religious statements.

Barakat said she sees the shootings as a symptom of “hatred, cruelty and intolerance.” The cure, she added, “is the medicine of love, kindness and compassion.”

In the meantime, far-right spin doctors are working overtime to exploit the Orlando attack and make sure that its poisonous legacy is more division and hatred.

This article has been updated as new information has become available.

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Comments

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It is strange how these zionists can re-write history. They are so desperate that they will blame the Palestinians for all the problems in the world, and connecting Hamas/Palestinians to what happened in Orlando, is such a joke. It is so ugly to see Israel and its shameless officials take advantage of massacres, just to peddle their propaganda, or pretend to be such non violent people, as they sympathize with others. After the killings in Paris their leader invited himself to the peaceful march, and elbowed his way to the front, showing no class, and politicizing his policies, over the deaths of civilians. He even took the opportunity to invite Jews who lived in France to come and live in the land of apartheid policies.
Whether it is Netanyahu, Michael Oren, or Shurat HaDin, they are all operate the same opportunistic way, but then they are used to disregarding basic rules, and taking advantage of other's misfortunes.

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When are we going to see the headline "G4S gunman in murder spree?"

The man was violent, demented, with no known religious affiliation and a history of attending the club he attacked. He was complained of at work and investigated by the FBI, yet he was able to acquire an arsenal of lethal weapons, going on to commit this atrocity unimpeded.

And what focus will the corporate media bring to it all? "Jihadi rampage in Orlando".

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Norwegian film-director Line Hlvorsen made a documentary on the Sami Al-Arian case. It's from 2007, the case was far from closed, but still it gives a good view of what is really under accusation here; solidarity with Palestine, and Al-Arian is a very intelligent, articulate and charismatic man
http://www.snagfilms.com/films...

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Ali Abuminah, as-sallam alykum.
As you have said many times and I heard you at the Auckland seminar on Gaza, the media are so biased towards Israel and the US, the use of words and visuals to promote the mantra, 'Israel good, Arab bad'. I am reading a book by John Pilger, 'FREEDOM, NEXT TIME'. He sets out plainly and verifiably the interference of America in Middle Eastern Affairs. The Democrat Presidential nominee, Clinton, addressed the AIPAC in May ( link here, http://ti.me/1LB7SDb ) which gave me deep concern once again. She said ....."."Indeed, at a time of unprecedented chaos and conflict in the region, America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle shared challenges and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace.
That’s why I believe we must take our alliance to the next level. I hope a new 10-year defense memorandum of understanding is concluded as soon as possible to meet Israel’s security needs far into the future.
CLINTON: That will also send a clear message to Israel’s enemies that the United States and Israel stand together united.
It’s also why, as president, I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge.""
Pilger is unequivocal in his censure of this alliance. So keep up the good work to isolate Israel by trading restrictions, boycotts and the like. It will happen, insha'Allah.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.