Protest smearing of Occupy Wall Street, Palestine solidarity movements as “anti-Semitic”

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In a news segment broadcast Wednesday night by ABC 7 News in Chicago, reporter Chuck Goudie claims that there is “a vein of anti-Semitism flowing through the movement that has Jewish leaders concerned.”

I and other activists have responded to this vile smear attack on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, and the Palestine solidarity movement more generally. A call to action to protest this attack is below.

In his report, Goudie purports to expose the “ugly underbelly of Occupy Wall Street” and cherry-picks unrepresentative, isolated cases of anti-Semitic speech to make it seem that anti-Jewish sentiment is a pervasive problem in the OWS movement.

Goudie also attempts to prove his point by saying that Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian-American community leader in Chicago, gave a speech at an Occupy Chicago rally in which Goudie claims Abudayyeh “spoke about destroying Israel.”

The short broadcast includes a seconds-long clip from a YouTube video of Abudayyeh’s speech — which was actually given at a rally held on the anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, not at an OWS rally. Abudayyeh states in the clip “they [the Palestinians] will win their freedom and independence from Israel and from the United States” — a far cry from calling for the destruction of Israel, as Goudie states in his ad hominem attack.

Palestine solidarity conflated with anti-Semitism

Goudie also dangerously conflates Palestine solidarity with anti-Semitism by reporting that demonstrators brought a large Palestinian flag to a protest outside of Chicago City Hall on Wednesday. According to Goudie’s warped logic, a Palestinian flag is somehow a symbol of anti-Semitism because Rahm Emanuel is Chicago’s first Jewish mayor.

In a text report on ABC 7’s website accompanying the video of Wednesday night’s broadcast, Goudie writes, “The I-Team asked a spokesperson for the Occupy Chicago group why they displayed a Palestinian flag outside Mayor Emanuel’s office and why a Palestinian activist would speak about Israel at one of their events. They did not provide a response.”

To Goudie, it can be inferred, any Palestinian symbol of national liberation is inherently anti-Semitic and any Palestinian speaking about Israel an automatic offense.

Goudie also neglects to mention that he only asked Occupy Chicago for a comment less than two hours before his report was broadcast. He does not mention whether he made any attempt to interview Palestine solidarity groups or community organizations in Chicago.

Goudie finds “vein of anti-Semitism” where Jewish organizations don’t

Goudie claims that anti-Semitism in the OWS movement has “Jewish leaders concerned,” but the single representative of a Jewish organization interviewed by Goudie didn’t seem as concerned by the “vein of anti-Semitism” that is keeping Goudie up at night.

“There have been some isolated incidents throughout the country that have clearly alarmed us,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Chicago director Lonnie Nasatir tells Goudie in a tone best described as less than urgent.

No other Jewish community or organizational representatives are interviewed in the story; Goudie only references a Republication National Committee internal memo and Committee for Israel video which attempt to smear the OWS movement as anti-Semitic.

Indeed, major American Jewish organizations and Israel lobby groups are so far not terribly concerned by the OWS movement.

For example, in a press release for the American Jewish Committee entitled “Is ‘Occupy Wall Street’ anti-Semitic?” the group’s “specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism” Kenneth Stern addresses concerns that some anti-Semitic slogans have been spotted on OWS protesters’ posters.

Though he treats the presence of so-called “anti-Israel groups” who talk about “the issue of US aid to Israel” and advocate for boycott, divestment and sanctions as a potential problem, Stern takes to task fear-mongering reporting such as Goudie’s:

some recent complaints from partisan quarters and in the media alleging widespread anti-Semitism are unfair. They attempt to paint the episodic incident as routine and ignore both the repudiation in instances of anti-Semitism, as well as the hospitable environment for Jews. Yom Kippur and Sukkot were both celebrated at OWS.

Stern adds:

Still, one anti-Semitic sign is too many. We live in a world where an image or moment can be captured by a cell phone camera and put on the Internet within minutes. A picture may be the equivalent of a thousand words, but it should not be taken as reflecting the ideas of thousands of participants.

It seems that the “vein of anti-Semitism spreading to Chicago” is only in Goudie’s wild imagination.

Series of attacks on Abudayyeh

This is not Chuck Goudie’s first scare-mongering report on Hatem Abudayyeh — he has produced three such segments in approximately one year focusing on the Palestinian community organizer in Chicago.

Shortly after the FBI raided Abudayyeh’s home in September 2010 as part of a coordinated raid in multiple cities targeting anti-war and Palestine and Colombia solidarity activists, Goudie attempted to make shadowy connections between the raids and city grants received by the community organization Abudayyeh directs.

And in December 2010, Goudie and ABC 7 produced a similarly shallow report, repeating the non-story that Abudayyeh’s Arab American Action Network has received city funding, and “revealing” that White House visitor records show that Abudayyeh attended an event there described as “a large Arab briefing.”

In the same report, Goudie makes several lazy errors that are indicative of the quality of his work.

Abudayyeh is repeatedly described as a “Muslim community leader,” which while certainly not offensive, is not an accurate characterization of Abudayyeh’s work, which is community- rather than faith-based. Goudie also claims that individuals subpoenaed as part of the same federal grand jury investigation targeting Abudayyeh include a pair of women who traveled to the “West Bank of Israel” over the summer and their grand jury subpoenas compel them to testify on 5 January 2011 when in fact the grand jury summons was for 25 January 2011.

(Full disclosure: I am one of the now 24 activists whose homes have been raided and/or who have been served grand jury subpoenas — for more information, see stopfbi.net. I also have organized with Abudayyeh in Chicago for several years, and yes that’s me sitting next to him at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee panel in the ABC 7 December 2010 report. I have also interviewed Abudayyeh twice for EI — after his family’s bank accounts were inexplicably closed by TCF Bank and for this special report I co-authored with my colleague Nora Barrows-Friedman on the criminalization of the Palestinian national movement in the United States.)

Avoiding talking about the real issues

As a statement put out by me and several others yesterday makes clear:

By smearing the OWS movement and Palestinian community and solidarity activists, Goudie blatantly avoids discussing the real issues that are bringing tens of thousands of Americans to the streets in cities and towns across the country.

True journalism is about holding those in power accountable, not drawing grotesque charicactures of those speaking truth to power, as Goudie did in his report.

Full call to action below

The following call to action was released on 27 October 2011:

Dear friends and supporters:

We are calling on folks to take a few minutes to respond to ABC 7 reporter Chuck Goudie’s inaccurate and irresponsible reportage on OccupyChicago, OWS in general, and the Palestine support movement, as well as his continued attacks on Palestinian community organizer Hatem Abudayyeh. The link to Goudie’s report: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=8407349

Below is a letter you can send to Goudie and others on the ABC 7 news team. Or draft your own letter. If you would, please b.c.c. defend.dissent@gmail.com so we can get an accurate estimate of the movement’s response to this alert.

Take action!

Email: chuckgoudie@gmail.com Carleen Mosbach, assignment editor, carleen.r.mosbach@abc.com Jeff Marchese, night-side assignment editor, jeff.a.marchese@abc.com Assignment Desk, wls.desk@abc.com Jennifer Graves, news director, via news desk, wls.desk@abc.com

Fax: general news assignment, 312-899-8019 general assignment, 312-750-7381

***ALSO—Call in day to WLS TV / ABC 7 Chicago Assistant News Director Joyce Fisher Friday, October 28th, 2011, 9 AM to 7 PM Central, 312.750.7380

See the letter below and demand that she pull the piece off the web and apologize for the inaccurate statements and borderline libel against the OWS and Palestine support movements.

Thank you,

Shirien Damra (Coalition for Palestinian Rights)*, Joe Iosbaker (Committee Against Political Repression), Maureen Murphy (Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago), Rocky Pyskoty (OccupyChicago), Shira Tevah (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network)

* organizations listed for identification purposes only ____________________________________________________________________ October 27, 2011 WLS-TV / ABC 7 Chicago 190 North State Street Chicago, Illinois 60601

To Whom It May Concern:

Last night, you broadcast an irresponsible and uninformed report by Chuck Goudie (http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=8407349). Goudie asserted that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has a “vein of anti-Semitism flowing through [it],” and used the presence of Palestine solidarity activists in the movement to “prove” his argument. The Occupy Wall Street movement has the support of tens of thousands of Americans in cities across the country, and is growing rapidly, because Americans are suffering from an economic crisis brought about by Wall Street and big banks. As the OWS movement describes it, the “99%” experience extreme economic inequality, where millions are unemployed without meaningful help, while bankers in trouble are bailed out.

While there have been unfortunate anti-Semitic statements made by individual protesters at OWS actions that should and have been challenged as dangerous and divisive, the vast majority of the movement does not espouse these opinions. Media reports, including Goudie’s, have inflated these unrepresentative views for the purpose of discrediting two movements — OWS and Palestine solidarity. Instead of substantiating his false claim that anti-Semitism is a pervasive problem in the OWS movement, Goudie uses the presence and involvement of Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists at OccupyChicago and elsewhere to “prove” the movement anti-Semitic.

By smearing the OWS movement and Palestinian community and solidarity activists, Goudie blatantly avoids discussing the real issues that are bringing tens of thousands of Americans to the streets in cities and towns across the country.

For example, some OWS protestors, including American Jews, have brought to the protests Palestinian flags and signs condemning US military aid to Israel. The US gives $3 billion a year in aid to Israel, which is used to carry out its policies of military occupation, inequality and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.

And in an ad hominem attack, Goudie also falsely accused Palestinian-American community organizer Hatem Abudayyeh of advocating for the destruction of Israel because he spoke in support of Palestinian freedom and self-determination at a Chicago anti-war rally earlier this month.

Holding a Palestinian flag and advocating for Palestinian human rights, civil rights and equality should never be equated with anti-Semitism. By doing so, Goudie attempts to smear a just movement and evade discussing the real issues: unequal economic policies in the US and unrestricted military and diplomatic support to the human rights-abusing state of Israel.

Finally, Goudie also claimed last night that OccupyChicago did not provide a response to his emailed questions, but as an example of how disingenuous and unprincipled his whole process behind this piece has been, the questions were not sent to OccupyChicago’s spokespeople until after 8 PM, less than 2 hours before the broadcast. OccupyChicago did eventually respond, and WLS-TV posted the statement on the page linked above.

We call on Goudie and WLS-TV/ABC 7 Chicago to immediately apologize for the story’s false statements about Hatem Abudayyeh and mis-characterization of the Palestinian flag and struggle for freedom as symbols of anti-Semitism.

Sincerely, Your Name City, State

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Comments

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Asan American Jew I was raised to believe that Jews understand the suffering of others, because we ourselves have suffered. Not many of my family were Zionists because they saw it as UN Jewish and they saw themselves as Americans and proud of t. For you now to claim that anyone who criticizes Israel for its brutal occupation and apartheid practices is a deliberate liar or someone who knows nothing of the actual history. How vile of you to suggest that people who speak out against injustice and racism, are anti semetic!

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It was only a matter of time before somebody started connecting the dots to see where the buck stops. If the the shoe fits, wear it, zionists. There is nothing more anti Semitic than zionism.

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The racists who support Israeli colonialism and apartheid completely misunderstand Americans if they think this will be a winning strategy. The more people learn about the Occupation of Palestine, the more they will naturally support and sympathize with the oppressed Palestinians. This is because, as propagandized as we Americans have been regarding Israel, we are even more 'programmed' to root for the underdog, and to recognize and hate injustice when we see it.

I am under no illusions that educating the masses of Americans who remain ignorant---of this and so many other issues---will be easy. But Zionists like Goudie are fools to think aligning themselves with the 1% against the 99% helps their cause in any way. Indeed, as more and more Americans find themselves being implicitly branded as 'antisemites,' they are being jarred awake to a whole host of lies and nonsense we have been force-fed by our government and media for decades.

Not to mention, by clearly associating Israeli interests with those of the Wall Street 1%-ers, these rightwing propagandists risk stirring up REAL antisemitism among those who would see an evil Jewish conspiracy/cabal behind the extreme wealth/income disparity the OWS movement is protesting.

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I got a email from Chuck responding to the letter. Just in case you haven't got it yet.
Izumi
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Thank you for sending a copy of a letter to ABC7 News concerning the I-Team’s report.
If you saw our broadcast on the 10pm news Wednesday night, you know that it focused on Jewish leaders who are concerned about the presence of anti-Semitic signs and some disturbing statements made at Occupy protest events in Chicago and elsewhere.
The report wasn't intended to be a panacea of what Occupy demonstrations are about or any of the issues associated with the continuing protests. Those events have been duly documented on ABC7. Our report was aimed at the narrow issue of anti-Semitic conduct resulting from fringe individuals using Occupy gatherings for their venues.
As we stated in our report, the issue was “from small but vocal segments of the movement whose hatred on the picket lines is being magnified on the Internet…Now, anti-Semitic sign bearers and speakers who have latched onto the Occupy demonstrations have Jewish leaders in Chicago concerned.”
Just because the instances of anti-Semitism have been small and scattered though, we chose not to turn a blind eye to them especially when the Anti-Defamation League and others have expressed concerns that they could multiply.
To ignore the presence of hateful behavior at largely peaceful undertakings would have been irresponsible and could have contributed to an escalation of anti-Semitism at Occupy events in Chicago and elsewhere.
Shining a light on intolerance is a regular motivation of much of our reporting.
I hope this helps you understand what went into the process. Thank you again for taking the time to express your opinion.

Kind regards.

Chuck Goudie

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

@Izumi,

Thank you for sharing this. This seems very similar to the responses that others have received from Chuck Goudie. In none of the responses, as far as I know, does Goudie even acknowledge let alone defend his attack on Abudayyeh, which one could argue is libelous.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.