Trending Topics:

Chicago Sun-Times censors theater reviewer’s case for racial profiling; theater seeks apology for Islamophobia

on 11 Comments

Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s play Invasion, now on stage in Chicago, “challenges and deconstructs the racial profiling of Muslim and Arab men in the West.” The Chicago Sun-Times’ theater critic Hedy Weiss reviewed the play three days ago–and stood up for racial profiling.

“The global terror alerts dominating the news in recent days certainly do not help the arguments,” she began her review.  And then:   

[D]espite Khemiri’s passion, those still thinking of the horrific terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon might be tempted to ask: What practical alternative to profiling would you suggest?”

The Chicago Sun-Times later removed the block-quoted argument from the online version with this disclaimer:

A previous version of this review contained language about racial profiling that may have been perceived as expressing a political opinion. 

Jamil Khoury, the artistic director of the Silk Road, declines the disclaimer. He wants to have the argument about “a racially paranoiac police state.” Khoury republished Weiss’s censored argument in PDF form and responded at length to her.

Note that in laying out the racism inherent in profiling, he bring in Weiss’s Jewishness and Jews’ experience of “collective guilt.”

In responding to Hedy’s review I am contesting neither her assessment of the play nor our production of it. I am contesting her support for racial profiling. … If anything, “the global terror alerts dominating the news in recent days” serve to bolster the play’s arguments, unless of course “Muslim” and “terror” are somehow synonymous.  Hedy’s support for racial profiling… turns more explicit when she declares “But despite Khemiri’s passion, those still thinking of the horrific terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon might be tempted to ask: What practical alternative to profiling would you suggest?” Well, not profiling for starters. Unless we’re willing to swap everything that makes this country worth living in for some false sense of security in a racially paranoiac police state. So why then is Hedy Weiss voicing support for a long discredited practice inextricably linked to our nation’s history of racist violence? Night after night watching plays and that’s the conclusion she arrives at? The murder of Trayvon Martin wasn’t compelling enough?

…As a Jew, Hedy understands racial profiling. I believe she understands racial profiling exceedingly well. She knows what it means to be assigned collective guilt. She knows what ascribing collective blame leads to. She knows the dangers of defaming an entire community. Said knowledge informs Jewish consciousness and Jewish ethics. And Hedy knows all too well the power of words. She’s a writer. She knows how words shape attitudes and perceptions and policies. Why then is the chief theatre critic of the Chicago Sun-Times using her position of power to advocate injury and harm against vulnerable communities of fellow Americans? And why in God’s name is she allowed to get away with it?

Sure, Hedy has every right to her opinions, offensive as they may be. Just as I have every right to challenge her opinions and shed light on their very dangerous implications. Apparently even her own editor agrees (in part). …As Hedy’s politics in the review are abundantly clear, I must dispute the [editor’s assertion that her statement] “may have been perceived as expressing a political opinion” disclaimer. And while I appreciate her editor making this change, it is woefully insufficient and downright offensive to Sun-Times readers, particularly readers from communities that are, or have been, racially profiled! A more appropriate response from the Chicago Sun-Times would be a formal apology to Chicago’s Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities, and a disavowal of Hedy’s Islamophobic and anti-Arab views.

Consider the first three paragraphs of Hedy’s review in which we are inundated with “terror alerts,” “U.S State Department,” “worldwide alert,” “planned attacks,” “al-Qaeda,” “horrific terrorist attacks,” and “Boston Marathon.” I believe the lack of subtlety here is deliberate, it is calculated. Hedy’s appealing to racial animus, to white nativism. She’s playing to base fears of Muslims and Arabs. She’s reminding me of Ann Coulter. She then follows it up with a few paragraphs praising the production, the direction and the performances, and concludes with “Polished, to be sure. But I still don’t buy it.” Her editor has since changed that last line to read: “But I still don’t buy the play’s arguments.” Ostensibly, that’s an improvement. Just to be clear, racial profiling is not a “tool” of law enforcement. It is not a “method” of collecting intelligence. It is not a “policy option” or an “instrument” of national security. Oh no. Racial profiling is a pernicious form of racism. Its intent is to humiliate, dehumanize and intimidate entire communities. The objective of racial profiling is to keep suspect classes “in their place.” It is state-sanctioned violence designed to make “the public” feel “safe.” Racial profiling operates under one overriding assumption: white people are innocent, law abiding citizens; people of color are suspect and criminal.

Update: This piece identified the Sun-Times as the Tribune originally. 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

11 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    August 9, 2013, 3:08 pm

    ● RE: “[D]espite Khemiri’s passion, those still thinking of the horrific terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon might be tempted to ask: What practical alternative to profiling would you suggest?” ~ Hedy Weiss

    ● IN THE WAKE OF THE BOSTON BOMBINGS, a “National Security Expert” on Fox Faux News said that the U.S. is like a 14-year-old teenager going through “security puberty”; and we must demand that our government “get on the Israeli page”! ! !
    On the Wish List from the Boston Bombings – The Israelization of America [VIDEO, 00:25] –

    ● HEIDY WEISS APPARENTLY WANTS THIS “ISRAELI-STYLE” SECURITY: “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12

    [EXCERPTS] Security officers at Boston’s Logan International Airport have come under fire for the widespread racial profiling of Arabs, Muslims, Blacks and Hispanics in their zeal to ferret out terrorists.
    The ‘New York Times’ broke the story over the weekend after officers who requested anonymity came forward;
    some officers have complained internally to the Transportation Security Agency as well. A Massachusetts lawmaker has called for congressional hearings on the racial profiling allegations.
    The ‘Times’ reports that officers estimated that “80 percent” of passengers “searched during certain shifts” were people of color. What’s more, the Boston airport “is the testing ground for an expanded use of behavioral detection methods at airports around the country.”
    But what’s not touched on in the ‘Times’ report is the fact that Logan International’s security procedures are modeled on Israel’s policies at their own airport–policies that are blatantly racist. . .

    . . . The Israel connection is integral to understanding Boston’s racial profiling problems. In 2009, according to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jerusalem Post reported that “Boston’s Logan Airport has tapped the Israeli company New Age Security Solutions to help secure the facility using Behavior Pattern Recognition.” . . .
    . . . It took until August 2011 for the Israeli-inspired model to be operationalized. That was the date when the “behavioral profiling” became an official model at Boston’s airport–and this was “a direct result” of “Israeli influence” on security procedures at the airport
    , according to the Associated Press.
    Fast-forward to the New York Times story. The ‘Times’ reports that one anonymous TSA officer complained that this “behavior detection
    program is no longer a behavior-based program, but [rather] a racial profiling program.”

    To observers of how Israeli security works at Ben Gurion Airport, the allegations of racial profiling will come as no surprise. Palestinian and Arab travelers at Ben Gurion are guaranteed to be harassed by Israeli security. . .


    • RoHa
      August 10, 2013, 2:10 am

      So from August 2011 Boston airport was using these brilliant Israeli security procedures. But didn’t something inconvenient happen at the airport the following month?

  2. American
    August 9, 2013, 4:42 pm

    ”Why then is the chief theatre critic of the Chicago Sun-Times using her position of power to advocate injury and harm against vulnerable communities of fellow Americans? And why in God’s name is she allowed to get away with it?

    Why? You know why.
    Because Jews like Hedi think they are allowed to be racist–the holocaust privilage and all that dont ya know means to them everyone except Jews are racist..OR ..everyone but them can be accused of racism.
    It comical that every time we see a racist Jew people go into the sob story/lament of …….’oh how could they, Jews of all people, chased from country to country by racist, be such racist”?
    I use to do that ‘oh how could they’ lament/question about racist Jews myself until I realized a racist is a racist is a racist……..with or without a holocaust to their name…doesnt make a bit of difference….some people are racist period.
    I vote to rake her over the coals just like any other racist.

  3. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    August 9, 2013, 4:58 pm

    Shorter Hedy Weiss: “First they came for the Muslims, but what the hell did I care? I’m not Muslim.”

  4. PeaceThroughJustice
    August 9, 2013, 5:03 pm

    This is the same Hedy Weiss who called Tony Kushner a “self-loathing Jew” and attacked his work as “stock anti-Israel diatribes”.

    Another full-time tribalist, it appears.

    • ritzl
      August 9, 2013, 10:39 pm

      Wow. How do people like that get these assignments? She’s a known “Israel in a sea of Islamic Terror” propagandist, sent to cover a pushback event to the very policies and practices that support that/her particular area of Israeli neediness.

      What editor worth their salt would do? … oh nevermind, I think I just answered my own question.

      The background arrangements requited to perform Weiss’s type of political diatribe/hatchet job are becoming less and less background.

  5. miriam6
    August 9, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Racial profiling is a controversial topic in America but it should be discussed openly without resort to censorship or calls for censorship on the basis of hurt feelings.

    Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s riposte to Hedy Weiss’s review of his play makes some solid points challenging the effectiveness of racial profiling in America , but then he goes on to spoil the argument he makes in his rebuttal piece by unnecessarily upping the ante and forcing poor Hedy Weiss’s altogether slender review of his play to bear the weight of ,not only America’s post – 9/11 alleged history of racial profiling against its Muslim citizens, but guilt for America’s entire history of racism!

    Khemiri also drags the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death into the fray by stating the following;

    The murder of Trayvon Martin wasn’t compelling enough? Surely Hedy’s not parroting the FOX News verdict on Muslims and Arabs, guilty by virtue of being Muslim or Arab?

    Here , if Khemiri is referring to and basing his presumption of Zimmerman’s alleged use of racial profiling against Martin on other media reports , then in fact , he must remember the that both NBC and CNN falsely claimed Zimmerman used racial insults, and falsely attributed racial profiling to Zimmerman on the basis of their doctored evidence.

    What’s more , Khemiri in his riposte to Weiss , accuses Hedy Weiss of , in her position as chief theatre critic of the Chicago Sun-Times

    of using her position of power to advocate injury and harm against vulnerable communities of fellow Americans?

    which seems an hysterical allegation unsupported by evidence.

    He then admits;

    -Sure, Hedy has every right to her opinions, offensive as they may be. Just as I have every right to challenge her opinions and shed light on their very dangerous implications

    But then he changes his position and argues against her right of free speech/ opinion..

    And why in God’s name is she allowed to get away with it? he screams.

    I.e. how DARE she exercise her right to free opinion!

    Worst still both Philip Weiss and Khemiri then go on to use the controversial review to attack the right of freedom of speech by appealing on the basis of identity politics and its concomitant self pitying call to false solidarity on the unedifying basis of shared self-pitying victimhood , – hardly an empowering stance to take.

    Philip Weiss ;
    Note that in laying out the racism inherent in profiling, he brings in Weiss’s Jewishness and Jews’ experience of “collective guilt. “

    John Hassen Khmemiris :
    As a Jew, Hedy understands racial profiling

    Khemiri , finding the Sun Times censorship and lack of faith in one in its own writers insufficient , demands that the Chicago Sun Times apologise to a whole host of Muslim American communities regardless of whether they feel offended or not by Weiss’s theatrical review of his play !

    And Regardless of the issue of free speech.

    Let ‘s be quite clear about this – Showing solidarity with Muslim Americans subjected to unfair infringement of their rights by American institutions such as the police is one thing.
    However, if any harm/ hurt has been done to Muslim American individuals/ communities’ by American institutions engaging in racial profiling , such as the police , then it is THEY who ought to be called to account for their actions.

    The media is a different case.

    It is NOT the job of a drama critic or a newspaper like Hedy Weiss and the Chicago Sun Times to have to consider the hurt feelings of those offended by her reviews/words/.
    To suggest otherwise constitutes an attack on free speech and the notion of a free press/media.

    Both Weiss and Khemiri share a curiously paternalistic, not to say patronising view , whereby they both feel the need to protect others from hearing or reading speech which might offend them.

    How childish and reactionary.

    Perhaps both Weiss and the playwright have such contempt for the masses and their ability to form an independent opinion about Ms Hedy Weiss’s review by themselves that they both seek to deny the masses access to Ms Weiss’s review on account of the harm/ hurt that might be done to their tender sensibilities.

    The movement to censor speech deemed offensive and hurtful to presumptively vulnerable or historically oppressed groups is also a triumph for the most regressive tenets of contemporary progressivism.
    Campus speech, civility, and harassment codes reflect and reinforce the now-conventional “progressive” view that speech rights should yield to some imagined right not to be insulted or offended

    “Free speech does not include hate speech,” adherents of this view often explain absurdly.
    In fact, guarantees of free speech exist to protect unpopular, offensive, or “hateful” speech that many people would rather not hear.
    Liberals and self-identified progressives bear much of the blame for popularizing this dangerous nonsense about the regulatory limits that may be imposed on speech in the interests of civility or inoffensiveness.
    It should be obvious, but apparently isn’t, that the right to speak is nullified when made contingent on the willingness of people with opposing views to listen.

  6. Citizen
    August 10, 2013, 5:21 am

    She could never write what she does on this subject if she was not Jewish.

  7. seanmcbride
    August 10, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Hedy Weiss wrote:

    Kushner, in the classic style of a self-loathing Jew, has little but revulsion for his own roots. You can hear it and feel it throughout, most notably when the Gellmans, modestly successful first-generation Jews, sing their Hanukkah songs.

    Tony Kushner replied:

    Ms. Weiss previously tossed an accusation of anti-Semitism at the dance company Pilobolus when reviewing a dance commissioned by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (which has awarded me a Jewish Cultural Achievement Award). I suppose I should be consoled by the fact that I am in good company. I am not consoled.

    In every religious or ethnic group one finds irascible people who arrogate unto themselves the job of policing who is and who isn’t a good and loyal member of the community. Such people rarely contribute anything to the community other than pain, and always fail to understand that it is the heterogeneity of any community of people that gives it life.

    I am immensely proud of being Jewish — a sentence I should not have to write in response to Ms. Weiss’ ugly and baseless charge. I have written extensively about being Jewish. Nothing makes me prouder than hearing, as I often do, that my work is identified as Jewish-American literature. My anger at this critic and her editors for accusing me of hatred for the Jewish people — for my people — exceeds my abilities to express it.

    How will Hedy Weiss feel if Western governments (and governments worldwide) begin profiling Jewish nationalists and pro-Israel activists for signs of potential subversive activities on their territories?

    (There are rumors that the US government already has systems in place for uncovering people who fit Jonathan Pollard’s profile.)

  8. Krauss
    August 10, 2013, 3:36 pm

    I’m disappointed that the Tribune censored her.
    The only way to win on these issues is to let the opposition use the full breadth of their arguments, such as they are.

    Otherwise they get to play martyrs(“they can’t handle the truth!”) without being debunked. This has happened in Europe, where the left favoured censorship and their opponents nailed them on process, not arguments, so all of a sudden the left were smeared as standing up for all kinds of behaviours.

    It’s interesting that Khemiri has set up the play in America and as well as in Sweden, where he was born and raised. Probably seeking a more internationalist audience, and looking towards going the same route as Edward Said.
    These people do tend to get smeared though. I remember Tariq Ramadan, who’s now attacked as an islamist extremist. He used to be the moderate intellectual, or at least that’s how he was perceived to be.

  9. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    August 10, 2013, 6:11 pm

    If Mondoweiss would have been an unrestricted web site, without the restrictions of every single entry being monitored/censored/watched/banned, etc., this article could’ve carried some weight. For now, it’s just another hot air balloon pointing fingers everywhere, but inward.

Leave a Reply