Monday, October 30, 2017

By Petra Marquardt-Bigman

Most of you have probably already heard about Michael Chikindas, a professor at Rutgers’ Department of Food Science. His research interests sound professional and include “Bacillus subtilis and lactic acid bacteria spp. as a host for overproduction of biomolecules,” but the professor’s problem is an acute and apparently untreated overproduction of bigotry. His numerous vile posts on Facebook were first exposed on Israellycool and then reported by many other sites, including The Algemeiner and Tablet. The writer John-Paul Pagano, who authored the Tablet piece, also posted an archive with screenshots of the Facebook posts Chikindas shared with the world – though he apparently didn’t have many Facebook “friends” who noticed. (As I am writing this, I see that John-Paul Pagano keeps finding more.)

While most of the material is shockingly vile, I was particularly struck by one image – because it could have served as the perfect illustration of one of Linda Sarsour’s tweets that I documented earlier this year. As I noted back then, Sarsour wrote several tweets with a similar message, but the one I immediately recalled when I saw the Chikindas post is: “Homeless on the streets, Americans who haven’t recovered from natural disasters, unemployment, and we have extra $$$ for Israel. Smh. [Shaking my head].”




The interesting thing is of course that the image Chikindas posted will be recognized by most people as antisemitic, while the text Sarsour posted will be widely justified as legitimate criticism of US support for Israel. Some people will also argue that Sarsour didn’t blame Jews – not even “Zionists” – for the “extra $$$ for Israel” and that it is therefore entirely unfair to compare her tweet with the vile image posted by Chikindas.

However, this argument works only if you look at this one tweet in isolation, because Sarsour posted plenty of tweets suggesting that Israel was either controlling or corrupting US lawmakers. As I pointed out in my documentation, Sarsour repeatedly insinuated that American politicians who back strong bonds between the US and Israel must be suspected of dual loyalties or corruption. Echoing the “Israel-firster” slurs – which caused much controversy a few years ago and were widely considered as reflecting antisemitic tropes – Sarsour suggested in July 2014 that “Israel should give free citizenship to US politicians. They are more loyal to Israel than they are to the American people.” She also asserted that there was an “awkward moment when the White House goes off AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] script and says ‘Israel must end the occupation;’” according to Sarsour, this meant for the White House that “#theyareintroublenow.” Sarsour apparently also believes that AIPAC lobbies to get the US to “revolve around Israel;” she therefore demanded in 2012: “Our country’s future should not revolve around #Israel. #aipac2012.” Referring to Hillary Clinton, Sarsour wondered last year, “What was in Hilary’s goodie bag at AIPAC. Had to be real nice after that speech that almost bought her a prime minister seat in Israel.” And at the end of last year, Sarsour reacted to a statement by Senator Lindsey Graham with the question “Are you a US Senator or do you work for Israel?”

It is hard to imagine that someone who is as hyperactive politically as  Sarsour would not know that US support for Israel enjoys broad backing among Americans because Israel is widely regarded as “a clear strategic asset to the United States,” and the bilateral relationship is therefore widely seen as based on “tangible, steadily increasing security and economic interests.”


Seen in this context, the message conveyed by Sarsour in her repeated efforts to suggest [http://archive.is/kZpAj] that US military assistance to Israel comes at the expense of health care, education funding and various other social benefits for US citizens is not that much different from the message Chikindas tried to convey with the vile image of a greedy Jew stealing money from an American family begging on the streets.




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