Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

When Harry Met Hugo

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Harry Belafonte — a man who’s given us great music, a man who put himself on the line during the civil rights era — is one of a number of celebrities to have spent the last several years shilling for the ruthless Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez.

Supporters of Chavez often argue indignantly that the man is no dictator, that he was democratically elected. But look around the world and it’s easy to see: being democratically elected does not mean governing democratically. According to Human Rights Watch, “[T]he [Chavez] government has systematically undermined free expression, workers’ freedom of association, and the ability of human rights groups to function.” HRW’s full 2012 report on Venezuela is here, and it’s grim.

Chavez is also a proud ally of the virulently antisemitic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’s given vocal and even material support to the Assad regime throughout its ongoing slaughter of Syrian civilians.

If any of this disturbs Harry Belafonte, or fellow Chavez dupes such as Sean Penn and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, they’ve yet to indicate it. And yet now, in 2012, we have Belafonte declaring that U.S. capitalism “is taking us to the doorstep of [a] Fourth Reich, I think.” A Fourth Reich.

Chavez runs Venezuela into the ground and backs some of the most heinous regimes in the world, and Belafonte gives him a free pass, even a big thumbs-up. “Viva la revolucion!” But oh, that Obama – better hold that man’s feet to the fire. Better call him out. No criticism is too harsh. Compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany? Why not.

Sorry, but when it comes to democratic advocacy, Belafonte’s credentials are in tatters. Not Obama’s.

In support of Cordoba House

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

I’m proud that the president of my country, and the mayor of my city, have spoken out forcefully against the bigoted campaign to block the construction of a Muslim community center on Park Place in lower Manhattan. This is a phony issue ginned up by the right, in fact part of a wider outburst of xenophobia that actually has little to do with the hallowed 9/11 site itself. And the fact that a demagogue like Newt Gingrich can now accuse President Obama of “pandering to radical Islam” gives you a good idea of what the game plan was from the beginning.

For Obama, this is not the time to back-pedal.

Ironically, Gingrich’s smear coincides with this extensive report, on Obama’s significantly stepped-up war against radical Islam. The facts are in front of us.

I’m saddened to know that a majority of my fellow New Yorkers disagree with Mayor Bloomberg, and my advice to them would be to look beyond New York’s borders — I know, it’s so difficult — and learn something about the internal divisions in the Muslim world. Jeffrey Goldberg put it most effectively: “If he could, Bin Laden would bomb the Cordoba Initiative.” Or as President Obama noted, “Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion.”

This is something I’ve said a thousand times before on this blog — and it’s something equally ignored by the Rush Limbaugh right and the Code Pink left: The chief victims of jihadi violence are Muslims. It’s time for Americans to get over their narcissism and understand what this means.

The Cordoba Initiative must go forward. It is an eloquent rejection of jihadi ideology, a powerful alliance of pluralist Islam and the Western democratic ideal.

As for the sensitivities of the 9/11 families: There are other 9/11 families who passionately disagree with the effort to demonize Cordoba. Why do their opinions not count? Muslims, too, were among the 9/11 victims. And in case you think that the ADL speaks for the entire Jewish community on this issue, please read this.