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November 21, 2014 0

ISIS Supporters Exploit Mixlr To Broadcast Extremism

Ter­ror­ist sym­pa­thiz­ers are exploit­ing the web­site and appli­ca­tion Mixlr to broad­cast and dis­cuss their extrem­ist views online. Their use of Mixlr par­al­lels pre­vi­ous efforts by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its sup­port­ers to find and uti­lize new online plat­forms for spread­ing their pro­pa­ganda.mixlr-isis

Mixlr is a plat­form that enables users to broad­cast live audio “to the world” and to “chat, engage and inter­act with your lis­ten­ers in real time.” Mixlr is avail­able online and for smart­phones. Users can also log in via Face­book and Twitter.

Sup­port­ers of the ISIS have cre­ated at least two pages on Mixlr for broad­cast­ing and dis­cussing pro-ISIS material.

The pri­mary account is called Khi­lafah (Ara­bic for Caliphate). The sta­tion some­times broad­casts mul­ti­ple times per day and has a con­sid­er­able fol­low­ing: The account began broad­cast­ing on Octo­ber 19, 2014, and had gar­nered 44,548 “total lis­tens” as of Novem­ber 20, 2014. Broad­casts cover a vari­ety of ISIS related top­ics includ­ing news updates on ISIS and reports from ISIS sup­port­ers around the world.

The Khi­lafah account has 665 fol­low­ers who reg­u­larly con­verse on the site dur­ing broad­casts. Although much of the chat is mun­dane (requests to fix the sound qual­ity, for exam­ple), some com­ments demon­strate the users’ extrem­ism. A con­ver­sa­tion on Novem­ber 21, for exam­ple, cel­e­brated ISIS’s alleged takeover of the Iraqi city of Ramadi with one com­menter writ­ing, “They are dri­ven to the death…we will feed the faith with the blood of their veins.”

This account also has Pro mem­ber­ship sta­tus on Mixlr, which enables it to broad­cast for an unlim­ited num­ber of hours per week. This is a paid membership.

The sec­ondary pro-ISIS page, AL7AQ, has only 134 fol­low­ers, and is likely designed to replace the Khi­lafah page if it is shut down. That said, there has been some con­ver­sa­tion on the AL7AQ page as well.

The pages have an asso­ci­ated Twit­ter feed that announces upcom­ing broad­casts and archives pre­vi­ous ones and pro­motes videos on YouTube that explain how to access the broad­cast con­tent. As of Novem­ber 20, 2014, the Twit­ter feed had 2,393 fol­low­ers, most of whom are appar­ently ISIS sup­port­ers based on their com­ments and account pictures.

The same broad­casts are also avail­able on Paltalk, a pro­gram that enables video, voice, and group chats. Paltalk has been exploited by extrem­ists in other instances as well. The Authen­tic Tauheed Paltalk chan­nel, for exam­ple, broad­casts extrem­ist and pro-ISIS mes­sages by rad­i­cal cleric Abdul­lah al-Faisal.

In the past, ISIS and its sup­port­ers have attempted to use alter­na­tive social media sites includ­ing Frien­dica, Dias­pora and Quit­ter in order to keep their infor­ma­tion online as their accounts were shut down by Face­book and Twit­ter. Frien­dica, Dias­pora and Quit­ter have removed all pro-ISIS pages from their sites, and Twit­ter and Face­book reg­u­larly delete accounts that pro­mote ISIS messages.

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November 20, 2014 0

Anti-Israel Activity Prevalent On Massachusetts Campuses This Year

With recent anti-Israel activ­ity at mul­ti­ple uni­ver­si­ties in Massachusetts,the state has become a hotspot for cam­pus events pro­mot­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns and the use of con­fronta­tional tac­tics to protest pro-Israel events.students-for-justice-in-palestine-2014-national-conference

Nine anti-Israel events have been held in Mass­a­chu­setts so far this aca­d­e­mic year, more than dou­ble the four events that took place last year dur­ing the same time­frame. This aca­d­e­mic year’s events fol­low the nine anti-Israel demon­stra­tions that were held in Mass­a­chu­settsover the sum­mer dur­ing Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, some of which fea­tured signs with slo­gans like “Not even the Holo­caust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a vic­tim? Zion­ism = Nazism.”

In Octo­ber, the fourth annual National Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) Con­fer­ence took place at Tufts University.SJP, a stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion with over 110 chap­ters at Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties, held the con­fer­ence so that stu­dents from around the coun­try could unify for a week­end to learn about SJP’s stance on the con­flict. The con­fer­ence was titled “Beyond Sol­i­dar­ity: Resist­ing Racism and Colo­nial­ism from the U.S. to Pales­tine,” a ref­er­ence to SJP activists’ efforts to con­nect vary­ing strug­gles and move­ments to the Pales­tin­ian cause, and it fea­tured work­shops such as “Noth­ing Nor­mal about It: Coun­ter­ing Nor­mal­iza­tion of Israeli Oppres­sion on Cam­pus,” and “Israeli Apartheid: Real­ity on the Ground after the Pro­tec­tive Edge Mas­sacre and End­ing Geno­cide in Gaza.”

Open Hil­lel, a student-run cam­paign call­ing on Hil­lel Inter­na­tional to alter its “Stan­dards for Part­ner­ship,” held its first con­fer­ence at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, call­ing on Hil­lel Inter­na­tional to allow “free dis­course” on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Orga­niz­ers claimed that the con­fer­ence would allow cer­tain view­points to be voiced that would be excluded from a Hil­lel build­ing because of Hil­lel International’s “Stan­dards for Part­ner­ship,” which do not allow for speak­ers that dele­git­imize Israel or deny its right to exist. The Open Hil­lel con­fer­ence fea­tured dis­cus­sions such as “Unpack­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions,” and “Anti Nor­mal­iza­tion Work­shop: Open Dis­course in the Con­text of Power Dif­fer­en­tials.”
Both the SJP and Open Hil­lel con­fer­ences focused on top­ics such as BDS cam­paigns and the tac­tic of anti-normalization, which advises stu­dents against dia­logue and rejects any attempt to engage in a debate of the con­flict with pro-Israel students.

Speak­ers at the con­fer­ences rep­re­sented a net­work of groups that have worked to demo­nize and dele­git­imize the Jew­ish State. Those speak­ers included Rebecca Vilkomer­son, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Jew­ish Voice for Peace (JVP) who spoke at the Open Hil­lel con­fer­ence; Rashid Kha­lidi, Edward Said Pro­fes­sor of Mod­ern Arab Stud­ies at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity and an Advi­sory Board mem­ber of the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion who also spoke at the Open Hil­lel con­fer­ence; and Sara Ker­sh­nar, a cofounder of the Inter­na­tional Jew­ish Anti-Zionist Net­work who has made false alle­ga­tions includ­ing that Israel uses “Nazi tac­tics” against Pales­tini­ans, spoke at the SJP conference.

Other recent anti-Israel events in Mass­a­chu­setts orga­nized by stu­dents include:

  • A panel dis­cus­sion about the BDS move­ment took place dur­ing the Har­vard Arab Week­end, which is spon­sored by the Har­vard Arab Alumni Asso­ci­a­tion and sev­eral cor­po­rate spon­sors, includ­ing Bank Audi, Shell, and the Boston Con­sult­ing Group. The BDS dis­cus­sion, which took place to “high­light recent suc­cesses from the BDS move­ment, dis­cuss approach, and exam­ine its tra­jec­tory,” fea­tured Noam Chom­sky, an Amer­i­can scholar who has a his­tory of mak­ing anti-Israel state­ments; Andrew Kadi, a mem­ber of the US Campaign’s Steer­ing Com­mit­tee; and Yousef Munayyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Jerusalem Fund; as guest speakers.
  • On Novem­ber 1, at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT), Omar Bargh­outi, a co-founder of the Pales­tin­ian Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (PACBI), a group that works to bring about a com­pre­hen­sive eco­nomic, cul­tural and aca­d­e­mic boy­cott of Israel,delivered a pre­sen­ta­tion about BDS cam­paigns to stu­dents. In past state­ments, Bargh­outi has used sen­si­tive Holo­caust imagery to con­demn Israel and its sup­port­ers and has alleged that an “Israel lobby” con­trols U.S. pol­icy and sup­presses debate.
  • In late Octo­ber, mem­bers of var­i­ous Boston SJP chap­ters protested a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) fundraiser out­side of the Westin Boston Water­front Hotel where the event was tak­ing place.  Pro­test­ers led chants and held signs that read, “The IDF is GENOCIDAL,” “From Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine racism is a crime,” and “Friends don’t let friends com­mit war crimes.”
  • At Smith Col­lege in Northamp­ton, the “Fes­ti­val of Resis­tance” fea­tured an anti-Israel rally out­side of Northamp­ton City Hall that led directly into a day-long teach-in about the BDS move­ment in late September.

In addi­tion to orga­niz­ing such events, anti-Israel stu­dents also oppose pro-Israel pro­gram­ing through con­fronta­tional tac­tics. This past Mon­day, stu­dents from the Tufts Uni­ver­sity Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter, con­ducted a die-in to protest a pre­sen­ta­tion from a pro-Israel speaker. In a more extreme exam­ple of protest­ing against pro-Israel pro­gram­ming on campus,anti-Israel sen­ti­ment crossed the line to anti-Semitism when swastikas were drawn on fly­ers adver­tis­ing a pro-Israel event at North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity.  North­east­ern University’s swift con­dem­na­tion of the inci­dent was clear, timely, unam­bigu­ous, and served as an impor­tant reminder of effec­tive uni­ver­sity responses to acts of hate and intol­er­ance on campus.

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November 20, 2014 0

Good D.C. Circuit Ruling on ACA Contraception Mandate Opt-Out Rule

The influ­en­tial U.S. Court of Appeals for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia recently rejected legal claims by reli­gious non­prof­its assert­ing that even the min­i­mal require­ments for opt­ing out of the Afford­able Care Act’s (ACA) con­tra­cep­tion man­date vio­late their reli­gious free­dom rights.

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Building

DC Cir­cuit Court of Appeals Building

The ACA requires employer-provided health insur­ance to cover all FDA– approved pre­scrip­tion con­tra­cep­tion at no cost to employ­ees.  Houses of wor­ship and other sec­tar­ian insti­tu­tions are wholly exempted from this require­ment.  And religiously-affiliated orga­ni­za­tions may opt out of the con­tra­cep­tive man­date by merely sub­mit­ting a one-page form or oth­er­wise pro­vid­ing notice to its health plan issuer or the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS).  In that cir­cum­stance, the health insur­ance com­pany or a third-party admin­is­tra­tor pays for and admin­is­ters the coverage.

Despite this nom­i­nal require­ment, plain­tiffs in the case called Priests for Life v. U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices claim that it “sub­stan­tially bur­dens” their reli­gious exer­cise in vio­la­tion of the fed­eral Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (“RFRA”).  They assert that the opt-out notice require­ment “trig­gers” sub­sti­tute cov­er­age and thereby – makes them “con­duits” for pro­vid­ing con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age in vio­la­tion of their reli­gious beliefs.

The Court soundly rejected this claim.  It found that the fil­ing of the form excuses plain­tiffs “… from play­ing any role in the pro­vi­sion of con­tra­cep­tion ser­vices, and they remain free to con­demn con­tra­cep­tion in the clear­est terms.”  And it fur­ther deter­mined that the ACA  — not the opt-out notice –oblig­ates health insur­ance com­pa­nies or HHS through third-party admin­is­tra­tors to pro­vide con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age.  As a result, the Court cor­rectly con­cluded that:

Reli­gious objec­tors do not suf­fer sub­stan­tial bur­dens under RFRA where the only harm to them is that they sin­cerely feel aggrieved by their inabil­ity to pre­vent what other peo­ple do to ful­fill reg­u­la­tory objec­tives after they opt out.  They have no RFRA right to be free from the unease, or even anguish, of know­ing that third par­ties are legally priv­i­leged or oblig­ated to act in ways their reli­gion abhors.

The Court also deter­mined that the con­tra­cep­tion require­ment advances the com­pelling inter­ests of “pub­lic health and gen­der equal­ity” and the opt-out rule is the least restric­tive way to achieve these  inter­ests because it “requires as lit­tle as it can from the objec­tors while still serv­ing the government’s com­pelling state interests.”

The Court’s deci­sion appro­pri­ately ref­er­ences the real­ity of our nation’s reli­giously diverse work­force, stat­ing “[r]eligious non­prof­its like Plain­tiff orga­ni­za­tions employ mil­lions of Amer­i­cans — includ­ing indi­vid­u­als who do not share their beliefs.”   Given this diver­sity and our plu­ral­is­tic democ­racy, the Court’s deci­sion strikes the right bal­ance between reli­gious lib­erty and civil rights.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court’s dis­turb­ing Hobby Lobby deci­sion,  the Court in this case prop­erly rec­og­nized the true leg­isla­tive intent of RFRA: to shield to reli­gious prac­tice — not to serve as a sword to impose reli­gious beliefs on others.

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