Following an uproar on social media, a viciously racist blog post was removed from The Times of Israel. Titled “Nine Parallels between Palestine and Ferguson,” the post attacked African American protestors in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and Palestinians as violent, “savage,” irrationally “angry” and deserving of the institutionalized state violence wielded against them.
(A web cache of the article can be found here. A copy is also included at the bottom of this post.)
In the now-deleted post, the writer, Robert Wilkes, a member of the advisory board and media response team at StandWithUs, embraces the increasingly popular comparison between Ferguson and Palestine. But Wilkes does so by proudly likening anti-Palestinian Jewish Israelis to American police, the real victims according to him.
The post was removed despite its author being defended as an “amazing guy” by a staffer at StandWithUs, a right-wing group that works closely with the Israeli government.
This is at least the second time in recent months that an offensive article has been deleted from The Times of Israel after coming under fire on social media. A similar scenario played out during Israel’s summertime assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, after The Times of Israel published an item titled ”When Genocide is Permissible.”
“Anger defines them”
Wilkes’ piece is as remarkable as it is vile in its appeal to anti-Palestinian and white American racism.
On African Americans and Palestinians, Wilkes writes, “Anger defines them, and anger keeps both mired in failure. Rather than make better choices they prefer to ride the ‘victim’ train to nowhere.”
He continues, “Both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression.”
Mocking Black American leaders as “con artists” and “race-hustlers in a ‘business’ fueled by anger,” Wilkes decries supposedly irrational Black and Palestinian anger as a product of inferior cultures that teach hate.
“Black problems in America,” he argues, “derive from the breakdown of family and unhealthy aspects of black culture.”
These are some of the most pernicious and cliché tropes long employed by liberal and right-wing racists to blame and pathologize people of color as being responsible for their own oppression and disadvantage.
“In both places, the innocent pay the price” for the supposed Black and Palestinian lust for violence, Wilkes claims. “The businesses destroyed in Ferguson belong to hard-working citizens who had nothing to do with the incident in which a policeman shot a robbery suspect in self-defense,” he says, justifying Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s August killing of Black youth Michael Brown.
But, Wilkes allows, “The Palestinians are, tragically, far more bloodthirsty.”
Wilkes ends his screed by praising the Israeli army and Missouri police for exercising restraint: “Authorities in both places have their hands tied by their high standards of human rights and reverence for the rule of law.” Of course this last point makes sense given that St. Louis-area police departments have received training from the Israeli security apparatus in recent years.
StandWithUs director of Israeli education Hen Mazzig initially praised Robert Wilkes and his article in a tweet that was favorited by the official StandWithUs Twitter account.
Mazzig then proceeded to lob insults at those who drew attention to the racism in Wilkes’ article. He called The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah a “racist pig,” and author Max Blumenthal, who is Jewish, a “shame to his people.” Mazzig also tried to deflect criticism by referring to himself as an “African-Iraqi Israeli.”
A short time later, in a sudden turn of attitude, Mazzig and StandWithUs distanced themselves from Wilkes’ article, presumably due to the humiliating backlash it prompted on Twitter.
In response to a request for comment, Mazzig told The Electronic Intifada that he and his organization disagree with Wilkes’ analysis.
“We do not endorse the article. Neither do I,” insisted Mazzig.
Asked why he initially tweeted praise for Wilkes, Mazzig replied, “It was not an endorsement. I didn’t read [Wilkes’ post] all the way through.”
Mazzig went on to disassociate his organization from Wilkes, saying, “We had no prior knowledge that he was going to publish it. He is on the advisory board of Seattle. He is not on our board. We are not responsible for the actions of our board members.”
It appears to be unprecedented for StandWithUs to publicly distance itself in this manner from one of its insiders.
Wilkes is close to StandWithUs
Based out of Seattle, Washington, StandWithUs Northwest is perhaps the most active of the national organization’s chapters, maintaining a close working relationship with the Israeli government through the Israeli consulate in San Francisco.
It was in collusion with the Israeli government that StandWithUs Northwest helped launch a frivolous years-long lawsuit against the board members of the Olympia Food Co-op, the first US grocery store to endorse a consumer boycott of Israeli products.
As for Wilkes, he is hardly a marginal figure at StandWithUs. The chapter’s website includes links to at least fourteen articles written by Wilkes promoting and spreading Israeli government propaganda. Wilkes has also given public presentations about media activism together with StandWithUs Northwest director Robert Jacobs.
StandWithUs also maintains a close working relationship with the obscure and newly formed Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI).
IBSI was founded by Christian Zionist preacher Dumisani Washington, who based on his social media posts seeks to prevent alliances between Black and Palestinian liberation struggles by maligning Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, as slave-owning anti-Black Jew-haters.
Washington fashions IBSI as the living legacy of Black Americans to Support Israel Committee, the organization founded by noted civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in the late 1960s.
Washington is also the diversity outreach coordinator for Christians United for Israel, a right-wing evangelical organization founded by John Hagee. Hagee, notorious for his homophobic and anti-Jewish views, has sermonized that Hitler was sent by God to hunt the Jews of Europe and shepherd them to Palestine in order to hasten the end of the world, at which point Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity would burn in everlasting fire.
Earlier this year, Washington wrote a blog post at The Times of Israel titled, “7 reasons why the Palestinian crisis & the Black struggle for freedom are absolutely nothing alike.”
Though packed with bigotry and factual errors, Washington’s piece contradicts the anti-Black message put forth by Wilkes.
I asked Washington if he is concerned by the racist attack against Black protesters by an insider at StandWithUs, an organization he often works with. He repeatedly deflected the question with denigrating claims about Palestinians and insinuations that I am a prostitute for Hamas:
As it turns out, Washington has expressed support for Darren Wilson and extreme hostility towards Ferguson protesters, who he believes are being controlled by an “an Islamic terrorist, anti-Zionist… rat,” possibly even ISIS.
Indeed, the views espoused by Washington on his Facebook page reflect a far-right worldview common among Israel’s most vociferous apologists.
Washington has opined that he is “sick and tired” of complaints about white privilege, “Two words that have been the most debilitating to an otherwise capable Black generation,” he says.
A leading African-American figure in the Christian homeschooling and patriarchy movements, Baucham preaches a misogynist vision that encourages and potentially coerces young women into becoming “stay-at-home daughters” who abstain from college to train as “keepers of the home” under complete control of their fathers, until marriage.
In February of next year, Baucham will take a break from his patriarchal duties to spearhead a Christian delegation to Israel. Though he has taken many trips to Israel in the past, this will be among the first since his endorsement of One for Israel, an evangelizing organization on a mission to “save” the Jewish people through conversion.
Rattled by Ferguson comparison
Zionist organizations are rattled by the growing displays of solidarity between people in Ferguson, Missouri, and Palestine, but until Wilkes’ outburst they generally focused on slamming the Ferguson-Palestine connection as inaccurate and offensive.
This has been the preferred strategy of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the anti-Palestinian advocacy group that operates under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Soon after the Ferguson uprising began, the ADL accused Palestinian rights activists who demonstrated solidarity with Ferguson and Michael Brown of “trying to rouse support for an anti-Israel agenda by attracting like-minded activists.”
The group went so far as to compile lists tracking events and protests promoting unity between Ferguson and Palestine.
Not long after that, the ADL accused the Students for Justice in Palestine national conference of hosting panels that “conflate social justice with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” citing as an example a panel titled ”From Ferguson to Palestine: Resisting State Violence and Racism.”
After a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson in a purposely defective process, Reggie Bush, running back for the Detroit Lions American football team, posted to Instagram a photo of a Palestinian man holding a sign that says, “The Palestinian people know what mean to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #Ferguson #Justice.”
Bush added the following caption below the photo: “No matter who you are, what color skin you have, where you live, we are all in this together! This isn’t a Ferguson problem it’s a global problem. We need change NOW! What happened to humanity? #JusticeForMikeBrown.”
In a remarkably arrogant response, the ADL blasted Bush’s comparison of Palestine and Ferguson, saying the football star “demonstrates a severe lack of understanding of both issues. He should stick to football.”
To the chagrin of the ADL and others, their dismay has not stemmed the growing expressions of solidarity between these two movements, connected if only by the sheer fact that US police and the Israeli occupation work closely together as part of the burgeoning multi-billion dollar “homeland security” industry in which Israeli arms firms are increasingly prominent.
By backing away from the Wilkes article, StandWithUs demonstrates an understanding that allowing its supporters’ racism to be out in the open will only strengthen Black-Palestinian solidarity.
Note: This post previously stated that Dumisani Washington had expressed support for the Ferguson protests. It has been updated to reflect that he stated views have been highly critical of the protests.