Podcast Ep 67: Katie Halper fired over Israel criticism

On episode 67, Nora, Asa and Ali talk to journalist Katie Halper about how she was recently fired by The Hill – the latest example of corporate news censorship of commentators who criticize Israel.

Halper had prepared a monologue in defense of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s correct declaration that Israel is an apartheid state, after the lawmaker came under racist attacks by corporate news pundit Jake Tapper and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an Israel lobby group.

Bob Cusack, CEO at The Hill, told her that they were not going to run the monologue. Soon after, she tells us, the producers informed her that the show has “a policy against doing op-eds on Israel, either written or video.”

Halper adds that it “seems like a new policy. They were purchased recently by Nexstar,” a multi-billion-dollar corporate media and advertising conglomerate with shareholder ties to Israel’s weapons industry.

In August, Halper explains, Nexstar hired Jake Novak to be the deputy managing editor of NewsNation, its cable news channel.

Novak previously worked for the Israeli consulate in New York.

“Six days before the announcement of his hiring, Novak led a presentation at Bar Ilan University [in Tel Aviv] titled Defending Israel against media bias: how to fight news media and social media bias against Israel,” reported Branco Marcetic at Jacobin.

After she was fired, Halper released her video on BreakThrough News.
Halper says that her firing will contribute to the growing chilling effect throughout mainstream media around the issue of Palestine, but that she won’t stop talking about it.

“There is a large audience for this kind of criticism,” she advises other journalists. “It’s not highlighted or amplified by the mainstream media or corporate media, but people are very hungry for it because it’s so taboo.”

We also talked about the tactic by Israel supporters of accusing anti-racist activists of anti-Jewish bigotry in order to silence criticism of Israel.

“Given that we live in a world with actual anti-Semitism, conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, it takes away from the real fight against anti-Semitism and of course, it trivializes it,” Halper says.

“That’s the job of the ADL to trivialize the fight against anti-Semitism,” Ali Abunimah notes.

One of the most pernicious examples, he explains, is the “upsurge in right-wing, white supremacist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic attacks” in the US during the Trump administration.

“And every time one of these happened – this was in the context of Trump stirring up this white supremacist, anti-Semitic base – you had groups like the ADL, both sides-ing it, saying, ‘Oh, well, yes, there is anti-Semitism on the right. But there’s also anti-Semitism on the left in the form of BDS,’” Abunimah adds.

“I can’t think of a more cynical and trivializing and disgusting way of dealing with actual life-threatening anti-Semitism. Jews were murdered in synagogues in the United States by white supremacists, spouting neo-Nazi crap. And they’re using that as an excuse to attack students at UCLA or wherever it is, holding events in support of Palestine. It’s just horrible to me.”

Articles we discussed:

Video production by Tamara Nassar

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

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Full transcript

Lightly edited for clarity.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Welcome back to The Electronic Intifada Podcast. I’m Nora Barrows-Friedman with Asa Winstanley. Today we’re delighted to be joined by our executive director Ali Abunimah, and Katie helper to talk about how Katie was recently fired by The Hill over a monologue she prepared in defense of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s correct declaration that Israel is an apartheid state.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah, Katie’s firing – Sorry, go on. Katie.

Katie Halper: I was just saying thanks for having me.

Asa Winstanley: Great to have you with us.

Ali Abunimah: Thanks for having me, too, guys. It’s always like, thrilled to be on the podcast. And can I also say to Katie, thanks for almost having me. Because – can I break some news here?

Asa Winstanley: Yeah.

Ali Abunimah: Like, I think it was like a couple of days before Katie was fired from The Hill, she texted me to say, would you come on The Hill to talk about Palestine the next time I’m hosting, which I think was supposed to be like,

Katie Halper: Today.

Ali Abunimah: Today. Ok, so.

Katie Halper: Yesterday, sorry, it was yesterday. Yeah.

Ali Abunimah: Right. Yeah. So I so I guess, question. Did your – had you officially told them you were going to invite me like, am I somehow responsible?

Katie Halper: No, no, no. You’re not. No, they didn’t know yet. They didn’t know

Asa Winstanley: Unless, you know, someone’s inbox is being monitored.

Katie Halper: That’s true. It could all be because of you.

Ali Abunimah: So I was almost – So then I got the news. I was actually out hiking, and away from, you know, media all day, I got this terrible news that Katie had been fired. And I said, well, there goes my first appearance on The Hill, because I was like, how are they gonna let me on The Hill? And of course, they didn’t. So.

Katie Halper: That would have been –

Ali Abunimah: Yeah. So here’s the bright side, Katie. Well, I’m really sorry that you were fired, because it is, of course, a horrible example of this disgusting censorship, but you are going to be fired anyway, after you had me on.

Katie Halper: That’s the good news. Yeah.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah. Well, Katie’s firing from The Hill is just the latest in a long pattern of corporate news outlets in the United States and of course Europe, censoring, silencing and firing commenters for criticizing Israel or just talking plainly and factually about Israeli apartheid policies and then lawmakers who support it. In a recent piece in The Daily Beast, Katie writes, that quote, “I received a call from The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack, saying they were not going to run the monologue.” This is a monologue that you prepared for The Hill.

“My radar now killed, I asked the producers if I could cover the controversy on my weekly segment, which was scheduled to present the next morning, I was told to check my email and an executive at Nexstar media had written to inform me that they would quote not be needing me to appear on Rising, but she graciously encouraged me to feel free to submit any unpaid invoices and even graciously wished me all the best.” Right when I read that Daily Beast piece that you wrote, Katie, I thought it was – you were much more gracious than I would have been.

Katie Halper: Yeah, I mean, I was being a little sarcastic when I gave her props for her graciousness. But yeah, that was uh, you know, what, what happened was basically I was a weekly contributor for like three, basically for three years. So I would go there every week, and I would do a segment on the media and politics and then I had in addition to that started doing some guest co-hosting, and had scheduled some more. And I also had shot a pilot for a show that I pitched them which was basically like an all – like a leftist version of The View, so a panel of women. We shot that with Briahna Joy Gray and I were both in the studio and then Abby Martin and Rania Khalek joined. And that was really fun and did really well when they released a segment of it. So you know, The Hill was happy with my work. And people even in the YouTube comments liked my hosting, and it’s very rare as you guys probably know to get any positive feedback in YouTube comments, it’s almost always populated by negative feedback.

Ali Abunimah: I think we actually turn off the comments.

Asa Winstanley: No, we turned them back on now.

Katie Halper: I don’t read them either, it was like my mom and my friends telling me like, oh, everyone thought you did a great job. So, yeah, and I had not only had – I prepared the monologue, but they shot it, they recorded it. I read it and they’re called Radars at The Hill. That’s their name for them. It’s basically just a straight to camera monologue. So yeah, I even shot it and they actually made this silly mistake of forgetting to remove it from the podcast, so you could actually hear it on the podcast. They just refused to publish it on YouTube.

Ali Abunimah: I mean, is it still up?

Katie Halper: It was an an oversight – I think the podcast I, well no – so they never released on YouTube so then what I did was I reached out to BreakThrough news where great friend of my shows and friend in life Rania Khalek works and I basically no matter what I was like going to I really wanted to get the video out there because I want – I was like determined not to, if they were going to silence me or censor me at The Hill, fine, but I was going to get it out elsewhere. And I heard the news that they – it was Wednesday afternoon that they told me you know to pack my my things basically and Thursday morning we shot the video so that’s the you know, they’re because they’re actually an independent media organization and The Hill’s thing is that they realized it was – you know, profitable to have a show that kind of presents itself as outside the normal limits of acceptable discussion. And to be fair, I mean, they do let that happen I mean, I even spoke about Israel on their show a bunch – this is, it seems like a new policy. They were purchased recently by Nexstar.

And I think also there’s a difference between I guess what I was told right after I filmed it when I left I left that day after my hosting I was told that they didn’t do the producers like I didn’t know this but they don’t do – they have a policy against doing op-eds on Israel, either written or video. So that’s when I was kind of trying to figure out okay, and this – people may be disappointed because this is not as like black and white principled a stand but I was going to be – I was struggling with this. But even if they had cut it as a monologue, but if they let me do it as a segment because they distinguish between monologues which are – because I was told actually, okay, so they don’t let their – they have a policy against monologues on op-eds on Israel. But you can do a segment on Israel and a segment is when you have a discussion as opposed to straight to camera. So basically, once I was told by Bob Cusack, the editor in chief that they weren’t going to run the monologue, that’s when I texted, as I indicated in this piece, I texted the producer saying, Okay, can I do it for my segment tomorrow? Thinking that we would just have a discussion basically about what I’ve said.

And that’s when I was told, you know, your services are no longer needed. Because it is, I mean, it’s, it’s a hard thing to navigate, right? Like, I’m sure there’s some people who would have been like, if I can’t do this recorded monologue, it’s clearly a double standard. I’m not going to work with you guys anymore. My thing was kind of like, that’s really messed up. It’s clearly a double standard. But this is a big megaphone. So if I can still use this to get out this important story about Israel, in fact, being an apartheid state, I was willing to make that compromise. But then that wasn’t even that that was to just daring to ask that they follow through on the policy that they told me they had, which was a segment discussion on Israel, okay. Straight to cam monologue, not okay, I was fired.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: I mean, that’s, yeah, go ahead. Ali. Yeah, we’re probably gonna say the same thing.

Katie Halper: It’s just incredible. Yeah. I just wanted to ask Katie, were you aware about that policy banning monologues on Israel?

Katie Halper: No, I wasn’t.

Ali Abunimah: So that’s amazing. And then I want to – I want to hear more about what you think about that. And then the other question is, up to that point, or since then, have you learned if there are any other explicitly banned topics? Or is it only Israel that is the subject of this policy?

Katie Halper: I mean, I had done stuff on Ukraine there. I had talked about Aaron Mate getting smeared. So I kind of indirectly talked about Syria. I mean, I did talk about Syria, a bit, not as an expert, but more just talking about the fact that Aaron Mate had been smeared by a journalist at The Guardian, who didn’t even have the decency to ask him for a comment. You guys probably saw that. And he was kind of smeared as a conspiracy theorist, who was the– at first that headline suggested he was like, on Russia’s payroll, then they had to, you know, that was even for their low standards of not getting a quote for the person the story’s about, even they had to change that headline. So I had spoken about that. I think that those are probably like Ukraine, having a certain position on Ukraine and Syria, are the things that get you – can get you in trouble.

So I’m sure is, but I think they don’t have my sense is that you know, for them, the Israel question is the one that’s – who knows if maybe if I presented and one, it’s funny, because I I planned that I was going to be guest hosting an additional three times, including that Monday that I was fired, I guess hosted three times before then. Or four times before then four times, I believe, I can’t remember anyway. But I hadn’t done one of their Radars, the monologues, because I wanted to master hosting, I wanted to make sure I was, you know, covering just the hosting duties. So I was really excited to do these monologues. And I decided I would do one on Israel, one on Ukraine and one on immigration. And it’s funny, because I’m sure if I had done them in the reverse order. If I had started with immigration or Ukraine, I’d probably still be at The Hill until it would have been next week that I had done the Israel one.

Asa Winstanley: Lesson learned, I guess.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah, no kidding. But this was, I mean, talk a little bit about the impetus for you doing this monologue in the first place. This was after Jake Tapper, the you know, the the darling of CNN, accused Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of being an anti anti-Semite and an extremist after she correctly asserted that Israel practices apartheid. So what led to you wanting to do this monologue in the first place?

Katie Halper: Well, so I saw on Twitter that she was being smeared. Then Jake Tapper, I saw through a clip from CaseStudyQb and shout out to casestudyQB everyone should be following him on Twitter. He does amazing work, just constantly grabbing clips from the mainstream corporate media. But I saw then I saw the – So through that, I saw that Jake Tapper segment where he very carefully does this. Some are saying, you know, some of her Jewish colleagues are saying this is anti-Semitic, right?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: The way Trump does it. Right.

Katie Halper: Exactly. Fox News, right, you know, developed that technique, but it’s often weaponized by others.

Asa Winstanley: Many say.

Katie Halper: Yeah, many say, yeah, some are saying, everyone’s saying it. So he did that. He showed a Debbie Wasserman-Schultz tweet. He showed a Jerry Nadler tweet. And what’s interesting is that a New York City Assembly Member pointed out that he had once asked Jerry Nadler who was like bragging about his progressive bona fides. He had once asked Jerry Nadler why he didn’t support a Betty McCollum bill that was gonna ban, prevent money from going to detaining children from Israeli detention – He was like teenagers can be terrorists, too. So much for his progressive bona fides.

But of course, the big the big attack, one of the biggest was of course, from our dear friends at the Anti Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, who misrepresented what Tlaib had said – she had said that progressives are – people are realizing more and more that you can’t be progressive while supporting the apartheid government of Israel, that you can’t be a progressive only on Palestine, which is a term, Progressive Except on Palestine, Pep squad. Yeah, the pep squad. Yeah. And he said it was anti-Semitic. And he said she was imposing a litmus test on American Jews. It’s like, Well, where is she talking about American Jews? That was just a totally fabricated smear about which we I guess, should not be surprised because the ADL is kind of that’s their lane.

Ali Abunimah: I mean, it’s, it was an outright lie. What our colleague at The Electronic Intifada, Michael Brown, did a really good write up of, of this story, really showing how Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL just, you know, outright fabricated what Rashida Tlaib said and then you have all these so called progressive Democrats or at least Democrats, I don’t know how many of them are even being marketed as progressive, putting out these sort of coordinated tweets, attacking Tlaib, like a clearly coordinated campaign. But the thing that is so striking because I mean, Asa can speak to this so well, from all his reporting in the UK, that it looks like what they’re trying to do is to equate support for Israel with Jewish identity, you know that to be Jewish is to support Israel, and therefore to criticize Israel is is to criticize Jews. That’s kind of what they’ve done in the UK. But I’m kind of curious to know how you feel about that. Katie is, you know, a Jewish woman who speaks about Israel and who’s often spoken up in support of Palestinian rights. How do you feel about Jonathan Greenblatt defining for you what it means to be Jewish?

Katie Halper: Right. I mean, it’s funny, I really – I’m realizing that this is the second attack on the squad that’s caused me to speak out in their defense – the other time was Ilhan Omar and I was invited on Laura Ingram’s show of all places. And I made a similar point then to what you’re saying, which is that it’s actually well, AIPAC and the ADL don’t represent most Jews. But it’s also ironically, an anti-Semitic trope, to suggest that Jewish identity is an inherent part of Jewish identity is supportive Israel. I mean, all these people are constantly finding anti semitic tropes and what critics of Israel say and they don’t realize that they’re actually perpetuating them. Like that’s the whole basis of the dual loyalty stereotype. Right?

That you’re, you know that any Jew is going to be loyal to Israel, before they’re loyal to the United States. And, you know, for a lot of Jews, they trace their opposition to Israel’s actions to their own Jewish kind of identity. You know, there’s this, there’s this principle called tikkun olam, which means in Hebrew, to repair the world. And that’s a guiding principle for lots of Jews, whether or not they’re religious. I think that certainly progressive Jews find that an expression of their Jewish identity. You know, there’s like two ways that you can incorporate the persecution of Jews into your identity, you can say never again to anyone, or you can say never again, just to us. And the people who say never again just to us are fine inflicting, you know, ethnic cleansing and ghettos and all these things that happen to Jews, they’re there they inflict that on others who had nothing to do with the Holocaust. So.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah, well, this kind of censorship and punishment is quite common practice in the corporate media, and it’s becoming increasingly common in recent years. Four years ago, there was the example of Mark Lamont Hill who was fired from CNN, over a speech he gave at the United Nations calling for Palestine to be liberated from Israeli occupation from the river to the sea, and describing it, you know, again, describing Israel as imposing apartheid rule on Palestinians. And there’s also the case of Deutsche Welle in Germany, which I know Ali has covered quite a fair bit. So I mean, I guess my question to you, Katie, is how does it feel to be part of this, or the latest victim I suppose, kind of censorship?

Katie Halper: I feel like I’m in good company, right. I think it’s interesting that I assumed that I had some more what I mean, for better, or for worse, and in many ways, I would say for worse, but you have like one more layer of protection as a Jew, to say this stuff, but not very much layer of protection. I mean, I think that people will call you a self-loathing Jew, as opposed to an anti-Semite. But also, part of the reason that I tried to speak out against this is because I know that well, first of all, it’s important to me, and I don’t want this to be done in my name. And I don’t want AIPAC and ADL to get away with claiming that they represent all Jews or speak for all Jews. But also I know that, you know, you get if you’re not Jewish, and you say this stuff, you’re just labeled an anti-Semite, which is a very damaging label. I mean, I mean, people are saying I’m an anti-Semite, too. So I don’t want to act like you get this like Jewish immunity shield. But I do think it’s that much harder for non-Jews to say stuff like this.

So I tried to do that, as well. Because you know, the more people, the more Jews who speak out, I think it just becomes that much harder to paint this as an anti-Semitic thing. Now, of course, it’s not fair to paint people who are Palestinian who are pointing this out as anti-Semites. But that happens, you know, and so you have to navigate again, that balancing act between, I don’t want to appeal, I don’t want to appeal – Like, I don’t want to cater to the idea that you have to be Jewish to criticize Israel. But I know we live in a world where that gives you some a little bit more legitimacy and it shouldn’t. So I try to do both things, which is like, say it’s anti-Semitic, but also obviously highlight the voices of people who are not Jewish and saying that also, because you shouldn’t have to be Jewish to be allowed to say that.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah, well, I think you do a good job of that.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah, again, it’s just stating the facts.

Katie Halper: And pointing out obviously, that like Palestinians have been saying this, you know, I point out that Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have declared this apartheid, of course, B’Tselem, and but I also remind people that this is something that Palestinians have been saying Palestinian rights organizations and just Palestinians on the ground, obviously, for a lot longer. But I don’t know if they just like, I do bring up the B’Tselem example. Because it’s like, are they just according to people who say it’s anti-Semitic, to call it apartheid? I guess they just think that they’re like a cabal of self-loathing Jews, like, a cabal –

Nora Barrows-Friedman: That’s about right.

Ali Abunimah: Yeah. Yeah. B’Tselem, for listeners who may not be aware, is an Israeli human rights group, perhaps one of the best known, and they issued a report, I think it was last year anyway, within the last two years you’ve had B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. So these three major human rights organizations that have issued these sort of big reports, you know, 200-page reports, documenting how Israel perpetrates the crime of humanity, crime against humanity of apartheid against the Palestinian people as a whole. But as you point out, that’s a finding that Palestinians have been, or something Palestinians have been describing for decades.

So I think in the context of a group like B’Tselem being Israeli, on the one hand, they are more privileged, I see this all the time. You know, there’s sort of more mainstream politicians or journalists, who will be comfortable quoting B’Tselem because it’s Israeli, whereas they would not be comfortable quoting a Palestinian human rights organization like Al-Haq, which is, you know, just as rigorous, if not more so than B’Tselem. So that, you know, that kind of speaks to the kind of really racism in a way that frames who is allowed to attest to what Israel does, you know, and it’s a double edged sword, because even for us is, you know, as – you know, whether you’re a Palestinian journalist, or you’re, you know, you’ll say, you’ll say, well, even B’Tselem is saying this as if that gives it more credibility than, you know, Palestinians speaking to their own experience. So yeah, that can be tough to navigate. But I think it’s important just to lay all this out, as you’ve been doing.

Katie Halper: Yeah, I mean, because I do think that, like, there are – I think that you want to do like two things at the same time, you want to point out that you shouldn’t have to be Jewish to point that out. Or you shouldn’t have to be Jewish to have legitimacy when you’re saying that. And also, the truth is that there are people who are whether it’s because they’re racist or paranoid, they will see anti-Semitism in places it doesn’t exist. And I think that so I want to do both things. I want to reach people where they’re at, even though I wish they weren’t at that point. And also point out that you shouldn’t have to be Jewish, but I do think that it’s a way to reach people who may otherwise again, it may be for me, it’s not a good thing, but they may otherwise dismiss people as anti-Semites.

So I think once you reach them on this, then I do think that these things can be kind of teachable moments, where once you I think once you I feel like once you penetrate certain truths, people it can ship be it like a paradigm shift. And I think one of those things happens when people are forced to look at the human rights violations that Israel perpetuates. And another thing that I found actually really useful is when you point out how much Israel cozies up to anti-Semitic authoritarians because I I think that’s another moment where people are like, wait, what?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right. Right. And then you get to the core, or the crux of what Zionism actually is, a political ideology of settler colonialism and supremacy of one group over another.

Katie Halper: And there were people who were like, You can’t ask if you just say that out the gates. And that is a useful thing to say. And it has to be said, I do feel like we have to cover all bases. There are people for whom if you just say that out, like, outright started, if you start with that, right, they’re just not going to listen. Right. But it’s right or with other ways, they may be reachable, right?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right. What can you say about more around this, like, you know, everyone talks about, I mean, it’s, I hate to use the term but cancel culture, right, like cancel culture, like, you know, people are always getting canceled for something. But there’s complete silence and just kind of an acceptance of the fact that news anchors, that reporters, politicians, anyone, activists, students, anyone who speaks out about Israel’s human rights violations are fired, they’re silenced, they’re harassed or threatened. You know, we see this at universities all the time, where students, you know, organize an event around Palestine, and Palestinian human rights, and they’re brought into the dean’s office, and they’re threatened with academic punishment. And no one in the, you know, the very loud like, you know, cancel culture sort of crowd is ever looking at. –They don’t – I mean, you know, thinking about Bari Weiss, for example, right, yeah. And, you know, the so-called champion of free speech, you know, they’re nowhere to be found when it comes to critics of Israeli policy.

Katie Halper: Well, she, of course, was practicing her own canceling right, cancel culture at Columbia with –

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right, with Joseph Massad, yeah.

Katie Halper: I mean, I think a lot of people are focused on cancel culture when people are – it’s really cancel culture, anti-cancel culture warriors are, are ideologues for the most part, I would say there’s some people who I think are principled kind of across the board and free speech fundamentalists and are consistent, but the ones who really make their names on it are people who have an ideology, and they’re not against cancel culture, they’re against the cancellation or the criticism of people who say certain things, and they’re fine with the with the, with the censorship, or firing of people who say other things. I think. Right.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah. And it seems to be primarily on this issue. Yeah.

Katie Halper: Yeah. When I had you on Ali, to talk about that letter, that Harper’s letter, which I think everything it said was, in principle, great. But the problem was that it was clearly motivated by people with a certain ideological framework, and including people like Bari Weiss, and also what’s his name, the guy who also had tried to get Palestinians – I don’t, it was either defenders of Palestinians or an actual – Peter Carroll. No, that’s not his name. Cary something Oh, yeah.

Ali Abunimah: What’s his name? Cary. Cary Nelson.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yes. Oh, yeah. From the Steven Salaita debacle.

Ali Abunimah: Yeah. He’s the, he’s the former professor at the University of Illinois, who was instrumental in getting Steven Salaita, a Palestinian professor, fired for criticizing Israel while Israel was murdering Palestinian children in Gaza in the summer of 2014. And Cary, yeah, I think it’s Cary Nelson. And so you know, you have all those people signing a letter complaining how they’re not allowed to be racist on the pages of the New York Times, well, they are allowed to be racist on the pages of the New York Times, but they’re still complaining, you know, they’re given these mega platforms to spout the most noxious ideas, and yet they constantly whine about how they’re being censored.

Katie Halper: And they try to get others censored.

Ali Abunimah: And they try and and, you know, Bari Weiss, who, who didn’t, who you know, who tried to deny it, but the record is just so clear about, you know, she had been an instrumental part of the campaign that is now almost, has been going for almost 20 years to get the brilliant professor Joseph Massad fired from Columbia University. She was a part of that, you know, and these campaigns against Palestinian professors are routine, you know, Joseph Massad being one, Steven Salaita being another and there are others earlier Asa mentioned, Deutsche Welle, the German government broadcaster that — where there’s been a witch hunt since February against Palestinian and other Arab journalists and six or seven were fired. And in just the last couple of months, German courts have overturned those firings in two cases, two cases that have come to court.

But in all those cases, those journalists were fired after just, you know, disgusting, defamatory smear campaigns, falsely accusing them of anti-Semitism, basically, for being Palestinian, or for having critical opinions about Israel. And there’s just no, you know, no outcry about that, of course, I mean, in a way we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t expect it because we know that none of this is really about free speech. I mean, just the way US invasions of other countries are not about democracy, the, you know, the whining about cancel, cancel culture is also not about free speech. It’s about monopolizing speech for those who already have powerful platforms, and ensuring that no one else gets platforms. So it’s about — it’s about ensuring unfree speech by claiming that powerful people are being censored, I think it’s important to understand that, you know, these things are never about what they claim to be about. Just like, sorry, just like, sorry, you know, all you know, just the way 99 percent of the discussion about anti-Semitism has nothing to do with anti-Jewish bigotry. It’s all about, you know, shielding Israel from criticism.

Katie Halper: Right. And, you know, even Bari Weiss, you know, presents herself as a victim – she resigned from the New York Times, she wasn’t fired. You know, no one pushed her out. She’s given pages in the New York Times. But um, yeah, and Ali, Ali, you’ve pointed out so eloquently and passionately, how what a disservice it does to the fight against anti-Semitism to conflate — given that we live in a world with actual anti-Semitism, conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, I mean, it just it is to take away from the real fight against anti-Semitism and of course, it trivializes it.

Ali Abunimah: Well, that’s the job of the ADL to trivialize the fight against anti-Semitism. I think one of the most pernicious things that we’ve seen in the last few years, especially during the Trump years, although I don’t have any reason to think this would change, you know, when we saw this real upsurge of right-wing, white supremacist, neo-Nazi anti-Semitism in the United States, that translated into real violence. I mean, you had the Pittsburgh synagogue attack in 2018. And then, six months later, you had another murderous attack that killed I think, three people at the Poway synagogue in California.

And there were other incidents and every time one of these happened, you know, this was in the context of Trump stirring up this white supremacist, anti-Semitic base. Every time this happened, you had groups like the ADL, both sides-ing it, you know, saying, ‘Oh, well, yes, there is anti-Semitism on the right. But there’s also anti-Semitism on the left in the form of BDS,’ the nonviolent Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. So, I mean, I can’t think of a more cynical and trivializing and disgusting way of dealing with actual life-threatening anti-Semitism. You know, Jews were murdered in synagogues in the United States by white supremacists, supremacists, spouting neo-Nazi crap. And they’re using that as an excuse to attack students at UCLA or wherever it is, holding events in support of Palestine. It’s just horrible to me.

Katie Halper: It really is.

Asa Winstanley: It really is so cynical it’s infuriating.

Ali Abunimah: But I had a question. Like, I just wanted to ask Katie something more kind of coming back to sort of the media aspect, I’m curious to know, you know, because Katie, you have your own, you know, you developed your own independent platforms as a podcaster and as a writer, and you know, that’s how I got to know you through your livestreams, and then you – you’ve kind of, you became known that way. And you sort of migrated to, you know, tell me if this is an unfair characterization, but then you were sort of getting into kind of a more kind of mainstream is the word for like, corporate — The Hill and Rising, which presented themselves as kind of an oppositional and counter, but at the same time, they are part of like, more corporate media. And that’s a great thing that you are getting a bigger platform. I don’t see anything wrong with that, provided you’re able to speak freely, which clearly you obviously weren’t. You were immediately censored when it came to Israel.

But my question is, what do you think, like, have you heard from other journalists? Have you heard from, like, what do you think the impact of this is on other journalists who would look at what happened to you, or look at what happened to others? Do you think that they were just like, oh, yeah, she’s gonna be a problem if she talks about Israel, so we need to get rid of her? Or do you think it’s also about in a sense, making an example of you or making an example of Marc Lamont Hill, or others, so that they so that others won’t step out of line? Like, how do you see, how do you see that?

Katie Halper: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t, of course, the thing is that I’m not going to — probably journalists who feel like okay, I’m gonna avoid this issue now, aren’t going to write to me and say that, but I do think it does have a chilling effect. I don’t see how it could not have a chilling effect. I will say that Briahna Joy Gray, who stayed at The Hill did something which I think was pretty brave, which was that she said she disagreed with what they did, she basically kind of like called bullshit on, on what they did, and said that she’ll be talking about Israel. Now, as she herself has said, it’s not an area of intense focus for her, she has talked about the BDS stuff, because she has a legal background, she was a lawyer.

So she has focused on that aspect. I think that maybe what will happen is that they’ll let her talk about Israel, and that — so maybe like the silver lining for this is that now that I’ve exposed this, they will be forced to let it, because I just think it would be such a bad look for them to fire another person over it. I do think though, you know, there is probably it’s like probably in some ways useful for them to not have a Jew saying it. Because of what issues that we spoke about before, it probably is something that again, for better or for worse, and I think we’d all agree for worse, but it probably has more — for many people has more legitimacy when it comes from a Jew, like we were talking about earlier again, for better for worse. So I think that it’s probably a little bit less problematic for them if they have a non-Jew saying it because it’ll be easier for people to just dismiss it.

Ali Abunimah: I don’t know if Briahna Joy Gray will watch this. But if she does, maybe she could have you on to talk about this?

Katie Halper: We were joking, saying that someone was saying she should just read my monologue. Yeah. But, you know, I wasn’t my — I mean, I wasn’t my — I didn’t leave my show behind. Like I was doing my show and Useful Idiots. This was just an additional presence. And you know, it’s frustrating because like, I remember going out like, for — to a restaurant and some guy was like, Oh, my God, I love your stuff. And I was excited. I thought he liked, you know, the Katie Halper Show or Useful Idiots. He’s like, I see you every week on Rising. I was like, okay, cool. And then he gave me a free bottle of wine. So, you know, those are the types of privileges you get from corporate media. But I always, you know, I always knew that I wanted to have like one foot in the independent media world, and I didn’t plan to have one foot in the corporate media world, but I certainly saw I knew that they weren’t like that they were corporate, that they were influenced or motivated by the bottom line. And of course, now we know by a certain Israel position. I never really, you know, but I was being a realist. So I was like, Okay, well, this is a big, you know, audience and I wasn’t selling out to get onto it. So I think it was like a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ali Abunimah: But that’s actually — sorry. Yeah. But that’s actually an important lesson because you — the point is, I mean, I think it sucks that you, you were fired, and particularly that you were censored, because you wanted to talk about Israeli apartheid. But the fact that you have your independent base that you built up by yourself. And again, that’s how I know of your work, you know, long before you’re ever on Rising, means you could afford to do that, you know, you could afford to say, ‘I’m not gonna, you know, it’s more important to me to be able to speak about the issues I want to talk about, than, you know, ultimately to, you know, make a deal with the devil to be on a corporate show.’

I think that’s an important lesson for all of us is that, that ultimately, I mean, ultimately, you know, this is most people are probably going to watch this on YouTube or on one of the other — I mean, we try to put a show on multiple platforms, like, you know, like you do, like we all do, and yeah, they can all censor us. We all have no illusions about that. But at least we decide what we put out, you know, there isn’t some corporate overlord who’s gonna, you know, call us up and say, you know, check your email, you, you’re fired. And I just think that’s so crucial.

Katie Halper: No, it’s true. And Briahna Joy Gray, we, you know, I think one of the reasons that she was able to do that is because she has her own podcast, Bad Faith, and she also does call-ins and I do call-ins, and I have the Katie Halper Show, and I have a Patreon and then I have a substack for Useful Idiots. But that’s definitely true. I mean, this was not my only first — so my weekly appearances were not paid, but they were great for exposure. And then the hosting was paid. But this was not my only source of income. Had that been, I mean, I don’t know what I would have done, I guess, I mean, I don’t think I would have been, I think I would have been okay, had I just shut up about it after. I don’t think recording it per se was fireable.

I think it was my pushing back on them censoring it, or pushing back on them, not running it — but I also want to point out that Branco Marcetic, who is a great journalist, wrote a piece about this at Jacobin. It’s called, in case people want to find it, “Left-wing journalist Katie Halper has been fired for calling Israel an apartheid state.” “The Hill has fired Katie Halper from its morning show Rising for describing Israel’s policies as tantamount to apartheid. It’s a blatant act of censorship to silence a pro-Palestinian journalist,” and then he points out, so, “in August, The Hill was bought by Nexstar Media Group for $130 million. And then in September Psagot Value Holdings Limited, an investment firm in Tel Aviv, bought 6100 shares in Nexstar to the tune of more than $1 million. Also in late August, Nexstar filled the position of Deputy Managing Editor of NewsNation, its cable channel, with Jake Novak, a journalist who spent the preceding year and a half as the media director of the Israeli Consulate General in New York. He’s also written approvingly of Donald Trump’s dropping of US support for the two-state solution, and has advocated for Israel to build more illegal settlements, saying it would, quote, bring more peace, prosperity and freedom to both Israelis and Arabs and, quote, six days before the announcement of his hiring, Novak led a presentation at Bar Ilan University titled “defending Israel against media bias, how to fight news media and social media bias against Israel. The best defense is a good offense.”

Nora Barrows-Friedman: That says it all right there. Yeah.

Katie Halper: And even that is like, I hate saying that stuff. And you sound like you’re saying like, Oh, Jews run the media. No, it’s not. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there are people who have certain interests in Israel and certain positions on Israel, and are very loath to allow for any criticism of Israel.

Ali Abunimah: Well, in some cases, it’s actually quite explicit. For example, Deutsche Welle, who we talked about, the German state — international broadcaster that’s funded by the German state, so its main audiences, you know, sort of the equivalent of the BBC, BBC World Service or something like that. They’ve actually just issued a new sort of the new kind of handbook that sets out their binding rules for their journalists. I mean, it’s explicit that it’s binding, that says we support Israel. So all journalists are required by Deutsche Welle, which also gives out an annual prize for free speech, journalists are required to support Israel. Then you have Axel Springer, which is a major German publisher and media company that recently bought Politico. And they have, they are also Politico Europe. And then there’s Politico in the US too.

And they also have explicitly stated that, you know, support for Israel is one of their principles. So, I mean, that it couldn’t be, it couldn’t be clearer. It’s like, you know, you toe this line or you lose your job. And in the Deutsche Welle handbook, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, there wasn’t a requirement to support any other country, like there wasn’t the policy that you have to support Germany, or the United States, it’s only Israel. And why, you know, that’s, that’s odd. You know, it, you know, and of course, there’s no, the German state broadcaster doesn’t have a policy that you have to support Namibia, which, which is the site where the Germans first committed horrifying genocide against, you know, the Herero people and the Nama people, and, you know, 50 years before they then took those same methods and applied them to European Jews. But there’s no requirement that you have to be nice to Namibia if you work for Deutsche Welle. So, this is something that is odd, to say the least.

Katie Halper: Yeah.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Is there going to be any pushback from within The Hill, or Nexstar around this exception to the Palestine exception to free speech on The Hill?

Katie Halper: Yeah, it’s free speech for — PEP, free speech except for Palestine. I don’t know. I mean, Briahna Joy Gray has already said she will talk about this issue. I don’t think that I mean, I think they’re, they’d be fine with just losing people over it quite honestly. I don’t think they’ll fire her over it. I think that people are you know, disgusted by — I think that some people are disgusted by what happened. But it’s also frustrating that The Hill and Nexstar probably won’t you know, face any — I mean, people have unsubscribed to Rising and they’ve written about Rising and they’ve written about The Hill and Nexstar. I should point out that the producers and I — every time I do an interview, and I say this I worry I’m gonna get them fired because I think trying to do the right thing seems like a fireable offense, but they did. They wanted to get this out. You know, they thought it was – they were trying to get it released. They’re not in any undermining sneaky backhanded way, but I know that they were advocating for releasing it. Yeah.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: And it’s the higher-ups that make those decisions.

Katie Halper: The higher-ups. Yeah. It’s just scary that they didn’t even think about the optics of it, or they didn’t care about, well, they don’t care. Yeah, like when they fired like, Okay, you’re gonna fire me. So I’ll — cool, I’m obviously going to tell the world what happened. Because I don’t think it’s — I think people should know what they’re really up to. Yeah, but I was shocked. I was fired. I really was. You know, another thing I should mention is that, again, I had been critical of Israel in the past. So some people are like, Oh, Katie, you did this as a PR stunt. You knew you get fired. No, I, I had said Israel had lied about murdering Shireen Abu Akleh. I had done lots of segments on Israel. Honest Reporting had done a piece on me entitled ‘What the Hill,’ which is so clever.

Ali Abunimah: That’s a — Honest Reporting, just so people know, is a very far-right, pro-Israel group.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah and it also has links to the Israeli state. Like it’s — I wrote about this some years ago that it’s, I think its founder, or one of his early directors was literally a spokesperson for the Israeli military. So these are not independent organizations.

Katie Halper: And of course, there’s so — the thing that’s so frustrating is that they’re so funded to put out all these talking points, and they have all these talking points, and they have all the, you know, they convince a lot of people, and then we don’t have anything on our side. No equivalent of that. I mean, you guys do that at Electronic Intifada, but you’re not — you don’t have the resources that Honest Reporting has and they just have constant nonstop barrages of trying to get people fired. So they also could have played a hand in this and which is pathetic for The Hill to care about —

Ali Abunimah: You know, one of the ways Honest Reporting functions and they go back, you know, at least 20 years if not more, because I remember this was very common during the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising that took place in the early 2000s. When I was sort of more able to get into mainstream media, believe it or not, I mean, things are much worse now than they were 20 years ago, you know, I would be interviewed by CNN and MSNBC, and even Fox, you know, and they’d call me up, and they’d have me on, you know, maybe for three minutes or whatever. But that wouldn’t happen now, for sure.

And, and I used to speak, I used to be sort of more in touch with mainstream journalists. And what I would hear and what their MO was, was that they would just harass people to the point where they didn’t want to talk about — I mean, that’s how it works. It’s like, yeah, you know, even if they don’t get you fired, they just make your life so miserable, that you’re just like, I don’t need that headache. And you just avoid the topic, or you start — or what I think happened also, in a lot of cases, is you self-censor. So a lot of journalists would adopt this kind of, like, very cautious both sides-y language and hope of avoiding, you know, a, a hurricane of, you know, smears and harassment by Honest Reporting and similar organizations.

Katie Halper: The ironically-named Honest Reporting.

Ali Abunimah: Yeah.

Katie Halper: Right. But I think that’s true that people will just, the thing is that when people just avoid it, then what you — what happens is you’re just, there’s un-countered, there’s like, just hasbara out there, because obviously, which is I guess, the means explanation, really in Hebrew, but it’s used to describe Israeli propaganda. And so when you when you avoid, if you’re someone who’s afraid of talking about it, there’s certainly people who are not afraid of talking about this who are in the mainstream media, you know, you have your Wolf Blitzers, and your Jake Tappers and and all, you know, and all these people in the Israeli who form part of the Israeli lobby, who appear on the media as guests or commentators or contributors.

And then what you have is the people who are afraid to talk about it are probably the ones who would say anything remotely critical. So you have a kind of, you know, homogenous monoliths of people with one view on this, because they’re certainly not going to stop talking. No one’s gonna harass them, like what like, oh, I mean, you’re very persistent, persuasive person, Ali, but you probably don’t have the time to call them constantly. And even if they did, they just probably put, you know, block your number. Harass them into firing someone.

Ali Abunimah: Right. Well, one question I, I mean, I’m curious to know, from your experience, Katie, as somebody who is like, you know, I don’t know that much about your background and your experience growing up and, and, and so on. But my sense is that, you know, let’s not kid ourselves, mainstream media, corporate media is still incredibly powerful. It’s an incredibly powerful propaganda force for shaping what we call public opinion, no doubt about that. But I do feel like its monopoly has been broken in the last few years, and there was a period in the mid-2000s, where it was really in crisis, because the internet was just this open platform. And now they’re kind of fighting back and reasserting control.

And that’s why we see all this kind of censorship on platforms and so on. But nonetheless, it’s my impression that that mainstream, you know, it matters less to get an op-ed in the New York Times, say, than it may have done or we may have thought it was a few years ago. I’m curious if you agree with that. And I’m curious in terms of your own experience, how do you feel you got educated related to this issue or other issues that are important to you? Like, where, what shaped your view of the world was it mainstream media was it, yeah I’m just curious to know what your experience is with that.

Katie Halper: Yeah, that’s interesting. Like how did, I mean — There are a lot of progressive, In New York City, there are a lot of radicals. My friend took part in something called Women of a Certain Age, I think it was called, they went to — they were Jewish women, and some of their daughters. So I guess it was a multigenerational thing, but went to – my friend to go with them. There was a group that I would hear report backs from who went to, to the occupied territories, went to Israel, would do, were very critical of Israel were, you know, one-state people, not two-state people, then I think I would also just see the censorship that happened. The way that people I mean, I guess it was also the responses to the, to the Gaza, assaults against Gaza, seeing how the mainstream media really minimizes it.

I mean, the hard thing about media is that like you don’t, you have to read a lot of other stuff to realize that they’re misrepresenting things. Because how else would you know, like, if they’re there, your source for information, you’re not going to know, it’s not like they’re like, you know, have in the chyron at the bottom, like, we are not mentioning all of the civilians who were killed here or we are calling these people militants. So you know, like, so it is a hard thing to do. And it’s a really good question. I don’t know. My family is very left — we actually have cousins in Israel who I have to talk to, I haven’t I know that my one of them she was dating a Palestinian guy, and then the wall went up. So that’s a major, I think that ended that relationship.

So but my family, I didn’t grow up with any Zionist historiography like shoved down my throat or anything. So there’s that. I do remember, it’s funny when I was like, maybe I was a preteen and I somehow must have internalized the both sides stuff. And my cousin was like, Are you kidding? Like, one side has rocks, and one side has all this military equipment. And that kind of woke me up from that momentary lapse in judgment when I guess I kind of swallowed this talk, the both sides-ism them talking points. And yeah, my parents are very sympathetic to you know, they’re very critical of Israel. I’m very sympathetic to the cause of Palestinian resistance and human rights. You know, I think that’s kind of their default. For some people. The default is to kind of like, side with Israel, their default is not that. Yeah, so I didn’t have to – I didn’t have to do an undo any education.

I did do, I have to admit, I did do Birthright as a kind of undercover project. And I came back and I did some standup about that. I actually did – I want to do a one-woman show about it. I still have to do that. But that was interesting. And that was very useful. I think, actually, because two things. One is I mean, it’s not that’s obviously a propaganda tour, birthright and I did want it the least kind of right-wing versions of it. I think it was called “Israel Experts.” But there was just no grappling with it at all. There were some nice, like human rights-y, you know, “we would love to coexist” type of thing. I think they actually had us talk — they did, we did speak to one Israeli Arab who was slightly critical, obviously not that critical. I’m sure he was like, you know, chosen very carefully. Even then I remember some prick on the trip was like, Why do you live here then? Why don’t you live in Palestine? Although I don’t think he would have said that. Because he doesn’t —

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Probably Jordan or something. Yeah.

Katie Halper: Yeah. But that was interesting. I don’t know, though. Yeah, I didn’t have to undo. I didn’t I don’t have to — with all my politics, my parents were very left. So I really never had to come to anything on my own. I really admire people who do but I didn’t have to do any of that work. Yeah, it’s true, though. I remember like, I remember where I was. I was in Brooklyn at my cousin’s house. And I remember I was kind of — she didn’t do it in a like, a chastising way. But it was kind of a wake-up call. And I was like, oh, yeah, you’re right. That is a really stupid thing to say that they’re both doing stuff. And she had friends, good, good Israeli friends who she disagreed on with politics. But yeah.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah. It makes a difference what your community is, when you’re young for sure. Katie, we only have a couple of minutes left but, you know, after you being fired from The Hill, but still maintaining, you know, your rightful place in independent media with your values and your principles intact, what advice do you have for students, for young folks who want to be, you know, a news person and a journalist in this landscape right now?

Katie Halper: Don’t talk about Israel-Palestine. Just kidding. Make sure — no, but I mean, Ali, you brought this up, but make sure that you are, try to have your work in multiple places. So if you do video, upload it to not just YouTube upload it to Rokfin or Rumble or the other ones, Odyssey, I haven’t done that I in fact, as I say this, I need to do this more myself. But you know, if you can do something so you’re supported by your readers, or viewers or whatever media you create, I mean, that’s a good way to make sure that you’re safe to say the things that you want to say. What else? Yeah. I want to keep doing, I’m actually going to bother you guys, because I want to ask you some questions about some video ideas I have. I want to I want to, like keep doing more of these. Yeah, I don’t know. What else, any other advice that I have? Keep on keeping on. There is a large audience for this kind of criticism. It’s not highlighted or amplified by the mainstream media or corporate media, but it’s — people are very hungry for it. Because it’s so taboo.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah.

Ali Abunimah: I think I think that’s right. And it’s, you know, I hate to put it in these terms. But that’s also an opportunity in the sense that there is important work to be done, work that needs to be done, people whose voices are not being heard that — I mean, we at The Electronic Intifada, we can’t keep up with everything that’s happening in Palestine and around Palestine, we, you know, after we record this podcast, we’re gonna go into our editorial meeting, and decide, you know, which stories we’re going to try and cover in the coming week, because we have very limited resources, we can’t cover it all. Which means there’s a lot of opportunity for people who want to do something, you know, who don’t want to be part of a pack and just be doing something that everything, that everyone else is doing.

And so there’s plenty of space for more people to get involved in doing independent journalism on Palestine, of course, you know, let’s take the opportunity to say, you know, get in contact with us at EI if you have ideas for stories you want to cover or write about, or, you know, videos you want to make, we’re always happy to, to talk to new people. So, but I think ultimately, you’re right, Katie, keep on keeping on. And if I can just say I think you do amazing work. And I always learn from listening to you. And one thing that I would say you do very well, which is you’re funny. It’s like I learn and I laugh when I tune into your shows. And that’s that’s also great because the world is miserable enough we’ve got to at least —

Katie Halper: You guys should do a list. Like you should publish, like, things we wish we could have gotten to this week. And then other people could pick up the slack.

Ali Abunimah: Yeah, we don’t have time to do that.

Asa Winstanley: We don’t have time to say the things we don’t have time for.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Well, Katie Halper, thank you so much. You are the host of the Katie Halper Show and the co-host with Aaron Mate and Matt Taibbi, of course, of Useful Idiots. And you’re a good friend of The Electronic Intifada. And yeah, you’re welcome on the show anytime.

Katie Halper: One plea is that if people would, I’d love it if people signed up for youtube.com/theKatieHalperShow just so we can grow our subscribers. The video that I did that we did was BreakThrough News has been doing really well. I’m almost at 100k views on my channel. And we’re almost at 100k at their channel, because we both posted it.

Asa Winstanley: We’ll embed the monologue in the post. Yeah.

Katie Halper: Great. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Thank you, Katie. And thanks, Ali.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).