One of my major criticisms of Israelis in general and Israeli media in particular is that they do not understand America. They don’t understand our politics or our society. In some cases, Israeli media completely misrepresent this country to their viewers/readers. Such is the case with a long TV news segment aired yesterday on Channel 2. In it, reporter Shai Gal parachuted into Dearborn, MI from God knows where, did a series of ambush journalism interviews, and fabricated the claim that the city is a hotbed of Islamism and the home of radical terrorists. His interviews included one with a heavy-set, chain-smoking Arab-American “producer” who told him anti-Semitic jokes, and another with a professor who regaled him with ‘scandalous’ stories about local Arab residents who actually waved Palestinian flags in town.
Based on such anecdotal evidence, the reporter spins a tale of terror, violence and extremism. The truth is quite different. Of all the arrests of all the suspected Islamist terrorists in the U.S., none have taken place in Dearborn. No suspected Islamist terrorists have their roots in Dearborn as the U.S. attorney for Michigan has confirmed. There is no such threat known in Dearborn. It is a town just like thousands of others like it. The only difference is that instead of Irish, German, Polish, Russian or Chinese immigrants, 40% of Dearborn’s residents hail from Arab countries. And for that, just as William Jennings Bryan inveighed about Americans crucified on the Cross of Gold, Channel 2 has ‘crucified’ Dearborn residents on the Crescent of Islam.
In the course of the news segment, Gal intones in that serious bass-profundo news anchor tone, that while the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus is peaceful on the surface, “some” are nervous that they’ve been singled out. Then he notes a report from The Intercept (he neglects to name the source) that, in his words, Dearborn is the American city with the second largest number of suspected terrorists under surveillance. This account is wholly fabricated. In truth, the investigative report Channel 2 refers to, discusses the U.S. terror watch list. It is highly critical of the watch list. Further, those on the list are not necessarily surveilled or watched by the U.S. government. They’re often not even terrorists or even suspected of being terrorists. This is how The Intercept describes it:
Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.
In other words, no one knows how many of the names on the list got there. Almost half, the compilers of the list themselves admit, have not connection to any terror group. It quotes a former intelligence official:
“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent. The watchlisting system, he adds, is “revving out of control.”
A local Dearborn imam adds this critical perspective to the charges levelled against Dearborn:
At 96,000 residents, Dearborn is much smaller than the other cities in the top five, suggesting that its significant Muslim population—40 percent of its population is of Arab descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—has been disproportionately targeted for watchlisting. Residents and civil liberties advocates have frequently argued the Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities in and around Dearborn are unfairly targeted by invasive law enforcement probes, unlawful profiling, and racism.
“To my knowledge, there have been no Muslims in Dearborn who have committed acts of terrorism against our country,” Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Intercept. Walid added that the high concentration of Dearborn residents in the watchlisting system “just confirms the type of engagement the government has with our community—as seeing us as perpetual suspects.”
So much for Dearborn as a hotbed of American terror.
Though many in Dearborn refused to speak with Gal, one imam agreed. And the reporter says about him: “He is considered moderate and willing to engage in dialogue.” This appears to be the watchword among Israelis. If a Muslim or Arab is satisfied to talk rather than get his rights, then he’s moderate.
In another portion of the news segment, he speaks of 100 Muslim-Americans who have traveled to Syria to engage in jihad. He makes no reference of course to the hundreds of U.S. Jewish citizens who made aliyah to fight in Israel’s own national war against Islam (as the prime minister himself has described it on more than one occasion). Nor does he note that none of those Americans who are fighting in Syria are from Dearborn. Oh well, they’re American, they’re Muslim, who cares where they’re from?!
Gal turns to one interesting figure to guide him through the maze of Islamism in Dearborn: one of America’s leading anti-Muslim legal activists, Robert Muise. He is a right-wing Catholic, the “senior counsel” and co-founder of the American Freedom Law Center. It is laughably described as the “first Judeo-Christian public interest law firm.” It is the spearhead for Islamophobe legal activism in the U.S., spurring legislation outlawing sharia law and protecting our nation’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.” They take cases offered by evangelical and other right-wing religious interests alleging suppression of “religious liberty.” Clients include anti-abortion leaders and Islamophobe activists like Pamela Geller. Muise represented “Pastor” Terry Jones, who sought to burn a Koran on the streets of Dearborn on day of the city’s Arab-American festival. His other legal partner in AFLC is David Yerushalmi, a Jewish white supremacist well-known to readers of this blog.
In the course of the interview, Muise notes that he spent 12 years in the Marine Corps and knows how to defend his family and is “more than prepared to do that.” He also notes that the threat to his family is “twenty miles away”…in Dearborn. This is clearly an implicit threat that Muise is willing to use violence against the Dearborn Muslim community. So why is Shai using this militant Muslim hater as an authority on anything?
Gal next takes a drive with a leader of Detroit’s Jewish community to Dearborn, where they enter an Arab market and find–surprise–there are no Israeli products on the shelves. “The Israel boycott extends even here,” Shai intones. What does he expect? Signs out front advertising the community’s pride in featuring Israeli products on the shelves??! Next they pick up a copy of the local Arab-American newspaper which, ‘shockingly,’ features a headline saying Gaza was “resilient” in the face of war and “emerged victorious” from it. I suppose he would’ve preferred the newspaper reprint the front page of the Jerusalem Post instead? The news that 500 “pro-Palestinians” demonstrated in Detroit’s downtown against the war also seems evidence of an Islamist cabal orchestrating trouble.
The report returns to the Arab-American producer who tells him that the entire community is against the Gaza war. One of the reasons he notes is that Israel uses horrendous weapons which he characterizes as “plutonium” and “phosphorus.” The reporter then intones, off-camera, that some of the charges he makes are “intolerable.” He means to deny that Israel used plutonium weapons, but in the context of the conversation he actually denies that they use either plutonium or phosphorus weapons. This, of course, is false. Israel’s use of white phosphorus is well-documented. His Arab interlocutor meant to say that Israel uses uranium-depleted weapons which are, like plutonium, radioactive. It also uses carbon-tungsten bombs called DIME, which the man may also have been thinking about.
Yet another shocking development the report documents is an Israeli student attending UM-Dearborn who published a photo of herself brandishing an Israeli flag on Facebook. She tells Gal that another Arab student who supported Hezbollah told her: “we beat you in 2006 and we’ll eventually destroy your whole stinking country.” So in the middle of a war when her nation has killed 2,100 Gazans, she flies an Israeli flag proudly in the midst of an Arab-American community and is surprised when she meets hostility?! It should be noted that the report doesn’t document her claim or show the offending Facebook post.
When he asks her why she lives in America and not Israel, she says “professional opportunities, quality of life, and my fiance can’t live in Israel.” “Why,” she’s asked. “He’s Lebanese.” Of course that’s why she’s living in Dearborn. Because she wants to marry an Arab! He’s Christian, which somehow makes things better. At least he’s not Muslim. Talk about cognitive dissonance!
When Gal asks her whether the fear of Islamist terrorism in Dearborn is exaggerated, she responds “not at all.” It’s “a dangerous place,” she warns. A place “totally different” than Israel. She figuratively sees terrorist under every bed. This, despite the fact that she claims to have Muslim and Arab friends, a development she admits she never would’ve thought possible when she was growing up in Israel.
I should note that I’ve received 100 times the level of harassment that this woman has. Yet Channel 2 has never come calling to document the troubles that Israeli hackers and hooligans have caused me. There seems to be a big blind spot here.
As the segment concludes, Gal warns that there are “those who are planting seeds of hate under the American flag.” He then shifts to his interview with the local imam who he gets to say that “hate can lead to violence.” And that violence is “near.” The editing of the shots and interviews has the religious figure saying that Islamist violence is “near” in Dearborn. This is undoubtedly nothing like what the subject intended. But Gal has in effect gotten him to say something he, the interviewer, wanted him to say. But the claim is again, totally fabricated. No terrorists, no violence, no Islamism (except for a single radical cleric living there, who was thrown out of two local mosques). A story made up out of whole cloth. Shameful journalism.