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Bloomberg defends Muslim surveillance program: ‘We’re supposed to do that’

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In an interview with PBS Newshour last night, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the Muslim surveillance program that the city implemented after the 9/11 attacks.

“All of the people came from the same place and all that came were from a place they happened to be one religion. And if they’d been another religion, we would’ve done the same thing,” Bloomberg told PBS anchor Judy Woodruff, “It does not, incidentally, mean that all Muslims are terrorists or all terrorists are Muslim. But, the people that flew those airplanes came from the Middle East and some of the imams were urging more of the same.”

Bloomberg’s comments were immediately criticized by a number of Muslim organizations and civil rights groups.

“Today, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was finally required to address the discriminatory surveillance of American Muslims and Arab Americans by the New York Police Department under his tenure,” said Arab American Institute Executive Director Maya Berry in a statement, “As Mayor, Michael Bloomberg surveilled where American Muslims ate, socialized, gathered, prayed and studied. The NYPD literally mapped our communities across three states, causing systemic self-censoring, distrust of any interaction with the government, and untold harm to our communities.”

“This is an insulting attempt to rewrite the history of an unconstitutional surveillance program that left Muslims, particularly in communities of color, devastated,” National Security Project director Hina Shamsi told NPR, “It took brave Muslims and their supporters to go to court before the NYPD finally agreed to reforms to safeguard communities in New York and beyond. And no court ever said that the NYPD’s discriminatory surveillance program under Bloomberg was lawful.”

“In the course of six years, the NYPD’s now-disbanded and incredibly illegal surveillance program of infiltrating and spying on Muslim communities, houses of worship and student clubs, generated zero criminal leads,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement, “CAIR believes that in addition to costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, the NYPD’s illegal spying program under Bloomberg’s leadership damaged the Muslim community’s trust in law enforcement and made it difficult for the NYPD to maintain open lines of communication.”

Bloomberg has been continually asked about his administration’s Stop & Frisk policy and allegations of workplace sexual harassment, but up until this point the issue of Muslim surveillance has not come up. During this week’s Democratic debate in South Carolina, Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan tweeted, “The CBS moderators are asking Bloomberg about his policy on sugary drinks and trans fats in New York. They won’t ask him about spying on Muslims in New York. Muslims have less value in the US media than sugary drinks and trans fats.” 


Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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15 Responses

  1. Misterioso on February 28, 2020, 3:03 pm

    Attention Michael Bloomberg!! Call out the authorities immediately!!

    “US Athletes Kneel Down during Israel’s National Anthem, Draw Accusations of ‘Anti-Semitism’ “(VIDEO) The Palestine Chronicle, Feb. 27/2020

    “The politically-symbolic act of two young American athletes has been dubbed ‘antisemitic’ by Israel’s supporters on social media and among the various organizations that promote Israel’s interests in the United States.

    “The controversy started when two volleyball players from Brooklyn College decided to kneel down during Israel’s national anthem, ahead of a match against Yeshiva University.

    “The symbolic act by two athletes, Hunnan Butt and Omar Rezika, was meant as a political protest against the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies in Palestine.

    “The kneeling gesture is a common act of political protest in sports, made particularly popular by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The African-American athlete, along with many others, has repeatedly kneeled down during the American national anthem to protest racism, police brutality, and the mistreatment of African-Americans and other minorities in the US.

    “Butt and Rezika attempted to use that form of protest as a way of raising awareness of Israel’s racist, apartheid policies in Palestine.

    “Pro-Israel individuals and institutions, however, immediately dubbed the symbolic act as one of ‘antisemitism’ and ‘hatred’.

    “’Brooklyn College strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism and hatred,’ a Brooklyn College spokesman told the YU student newspaper, the Observer, adding that ‘the two students who knelt during the national anthem did not refuse to shake hands with players from the other team.’

    “Writing in the Palestine Chronicle, Palestinian author and journalist Ramzy Baroud said that ‘while anti-Jewish racism is a real phenomenon that must be confronted, ‘antisemitism’, as defined by Israel and its Zionist allies .. is a smokescreen, with the ultimate aim of distracting from the real conversation, that being the crimes of military occupation, racism, and apartheid in Palestine.’”

    • wondering jew on February 28, 2020, 4:59 pm

      Did the players publish a statement? Which reporter heard their statement and quoted it verbatim in which publication or web site?

    • RoHa on February 29, 2020, 1:05 am

      As I understand it, Brooklyn College and Yeshiva University are both US institutions, and the game took place in the USA.

      And yet Yeshiva University had the Israeli national anthem played.

      I must remember that it is anti-Semitic to even mention dual loyalty.

      • JWalters on February 29, 2020, 6:10 pm

        The sick arrogance of Zionists knows no bounds. It’s a good thing for those athletes the game wasn’t being played in Israel, where they use snipers to handle the disloyal.

  2. Kay24 on February 28, 2020, 7:18 pm

    I wonder how Mr. Money Bags would react if American Jews were under surveillance for 10 years in synagogues and temples in New York and New Jersey. The JDL is a banned terrorist group, has killed activists in the US, and Israel refused to cooperate with the CID when it investigated it’s members. Israel also bombed the USS Liberty, killed Rachel Corrie, has spied on us, including Pollard, who Netanyahu begged to be released (and we did), and killed civilians (including an American) on the Gaza Flotilla.

  3. Misterioso on February 28, 2020, 7:37 pm

    @ wondering Jew

    Here’s the complete original article as written by Dave Zirin, sports editor for the Nation:

    “Athletes Take a Knee Against Israel’s Occupation”

    “Two volleyball players at Brooklyn College are facing a torrent of abuse for protesting during the Israeli national anthem.”

    By Dave Zirin, sports editor for the Nation

    “In August of 2016, quarterback Colin Kaepernick began his NFL season by kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racism and state violence. He purposefully chose the space of the anthem to raise the issue of the gap between what this nation promises and what it delivers. It was a powerful, iconic act that inspired athletes from a variety of sports to do the same. From the pros to college, to high school, to even middle school, athletes were inspired to take a knee less to lend their solidarity to Kaepernick than to protest racist police killings where they lived.

    “In the tradition—and the extension—of this movement, two volleyball players from Brooklyn College went to one knee before a game this week against Yeshiva University. During the playing of Israel’s national anthem, which Yeshiva plays before every contest, they kneeled as a protest against Israel’s racism and state violence, most pointedly against the country’s apartheid policies of occupation that keep the 2 million Palestinians of Gaza in an open-air prison surrounded by checkpoints and walls. They weren’t just going to stand for Israel’s anthem, hand over hearts, and do nothing.

    “The two athletes, Hunnan Butt and Omar Rezika, were immediately slandered as anti-Semites because of their simple, silent gesture of dissent.

    “Yeshiva University President Ari Berman went on the attack, and in a shockingly irresponsible—not to mention dangerous—statement about two students, he said:

    “‘It is unfortunate that some members of the opposing team disrespected Israel’s national anthem. We are proud to be the only university who sings both the American and Israeli national anthems before every athletic competition and major event. Nothing makes me prouder to be an American than living in a country where our religious freedom, our Zionism and our commitment to our people will never be impeded and always be prized.’

    “Think about the irony of this statement. Berman prizes ‘living in a country where our religious freedom, our Zionism and our commitment to our people will never be impeded and always be prized,’ yet this educational leader is willing to demonize two teenagers for exercising our most cherished freedom: freedom of speech. Berman also doesn’t see the irony in the fact that this was the national anthem of another country during which the players kneeled, not the country in which the players were in fact living or playing.

    “Berman, by turning up the heat instead of seeking some kind of dialogue, opened the floodgates against these two students, who have since set their social media to private in the face of a tidal wave of attacks. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, to take just one example, described their actions as ‘this flagrant display of antisemitism,’ and demanded that Brooklyn College punish the students.

    “Not surprisingly, the story was also picked up by far-right Zionist Twitter feeds, none of which I care to give free publicity to. But suffice to say, these same feeds that praise a president who makes anti-Semitic comments and whose acolytes chant “Jews Will Not Replace Us” are slandering two young people in frightening fashion because they dared stand for the voiceless of Palestine.

    “Several of these feeds have also spread the lie that the athletes did not shake hands with their opponents following the game, something that both Yeshiva and Brooklyn College have denied.

    “I reached out to Noura Erakat, the author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. She said to me, ‘There’s a stark distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And though there has been a deliberate effort to conflate Jewish liberation with Zionism, that is neither universally accepted and hardly historically accurate. These students took a clear stance against a national symbol of the state in a manner that echoes protests among black athletes in the US. And just as black protest has been maligned in order to avoid the issues of racial injustice, so too is the students’ legitimate protest being unjustly attacked.’

    “I also talked to Yousef Munayyer, from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. He commented, ‘These young athletes demonstrated the courage of their convictions and chose to send a message of dissent with this simple act. At a time when activism for Palestinian rights is increasingly facing attempted repression, they stood tall for justice by taking a knee. They should be applauded.’

    “Now, the two athletes are not making any comment, perhaps fearful that being put on ‘jihad watch’ by one website (seriously) could affect their lives. This is not Israel. If Yeshiva wants to play the anthem, that is their business. To expect athletes to stand with their hand over their hearts only demonstrates just how many inroads Trump’s brigade of Christian soldiers (who think we are going to hell come the rapture) along with their pro-Occupation allies have made in challenging basic freedoms of speech. Many rushed to Colin Kaepernick’s side in solidarity when he took the knee. We should do the same for Hunnan and Omar.”

    Major kudos to Dave Zirin!!

    • RoHa on February 29, 2020, 1:02 am

      “Nothing makes me prouder to be an American than living in a country where our religious freedom, our Zionism and our commitment to our people…”

      Whom does he mean by “our people”?

      • Mooser on February 29, 2020, 12:53 pm

        “Whom does he mean by “our people”?”

        Zionism Tourettes is a serious affliction.

    • wondering jew on February 29, 2020, 6:58 am

      So there is only the act by the students explained by the reporter without any quotes from the students. ( which is okay, but i was looking for a quote from the students, which apparently does not exist. It is a protest without words.)

      • Misterioso on February 29, 2020, 8:44 am

        @wondering jew

        No “words” were necessary:

        “In the tradition—and the extension—of this movement, two volleyball players from Brooklyn College went to one knee before a game this week against Yeshiva University. During the playing of Israel’s national anthem, which Yeshiva plays before every contest, they kneeled as a protest against Israel’s racism and state violence, most pointedly against the country’s apartheid policies of occupation that keep the 2 million Palestinians of Gaza in an open-air prison surrounded by checkpoints and walls. They weren’t just going to stand for Israel’s anthem, hand over hearts, and do nothing.”

      • jon s on February 29, 2020, 1:15 pm

        I would like to know who won.

      • Mooser on February 29, 2020, 2:00 pm

        “I would like to know who won.”

        Dave Zirin, by a mile.

  4. Vera Gottlieb on February 29, 2020, 10:16 am

    “We’re supposed to do that”…How did such an idiot became so rich???

  5. mla on March 1, 2020, 2:17 pm

    Why are you quoting someone as incompetent and unethical as Nihad Awad on such an important topic? When you are the national founder, national board member with no term limits, and national executive director, you have immense power on how your nonprofit’s money is spent- including buying yourself a brand new SUV (and paying monthly insurance payments on it), paying expensive DC lawyers to shut down staff efforts to unionize, hiring attorneys to harass and intimidate women who ask for equal pay and report abuse and sexual harassment, etc.

    CAIR is an organization that perpetuates injustice. There is a history of sexual abuse and exploitation, religious and gender discrimination, retaliation, union busting, hostile work environment, financial abuse and mismanagement (including losing 501c3 status and questions around international funding through their Washington Trust Foundation entity), board incompetence, and more.

    CAIR creates more victims than it helps. It does more harm than good, whether it’s the continuous negative portrayal of Muslims as victims in the media, lack of strategy, making serious mistakes on people’s cases, the all-male press conferences, providing inconsistent services, lack of transparency around international funding sources and agendas, the embarrassing media spokespeople, failure to build a legitimate nationwide infrastructure, being a laughing stock on Capitol Hill despite having an office a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, lack of community engagement on the national level, and, after 26 years, not having a seat at MANY tables (including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which brings together 200+ national civil rights organizations).

    CAIR Sexism Documentation Project

    Christian woman’s employment discrimination lawsuit:

    Former executive director on financial abuse: “Donors should definitely question whether their charity is legitimately being used to do civil rights advocacy, how this [board member “writing himself checks”], was allowed to happen, and whether the organization is being fully transparent.”

    As you’re considering which nonprofits to support and donate to, please be diligent- do your research and ask the tough questions. Is your money really helping to empower people in the community who have been discriminated against, or are you empowering a multi-million dollar organization that discriminates against its own community and further victimizes people who seek their help? Is your money going to pay an attorney to fight for people’s rights to practice their faith or is your money going to pay an attorney to suppress, silence, and intimidate those who have been treated unjustly? Are you supporting legitimate, sincere advocates for justice or those who support the status quo and cowardly look the other way when the injustice is committed by their own national leaders?

    #CAIR does not speak for American Muslims. A true civil rights organization would treat ALL people with the respect and dignity they deserve.

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