July 21, 2003


FISKING CHARLOTTE: I've never met Charlotte Kates, the second-year Rutgers law student who is spearheading this fall's anti-Israel conference at that New Jersey university. Several friends of mine, active in campus affairs, have, and they inform me that she's a hostile, short-tempered backbiter. But that's irrelevant… what's important is that the Paper of Record, the New York Times, has assigned its most notoriously anti-American reporter to write a glowing, Page 2 profile of Ms. Kates, drawing a picture of a committed youngster drawn to the political causes of the downtrodden- but hey, she drinks Dr. Pepper just like the rest of us.
A woman so committed to solidarity with the Palestinians that she wears a red kaffiyeh everywhere she goes (despite her status as a white girl from New Jersey), Ms. Kates has according to the article been a committed Communist since the age of 13- yet a quick Google search reveals her onetime association with yet another shadowy organization. Kates was once a member of the Church of Scientology, before breaking with them, and adding anti-Scientology to her laundry list of activist causes. Strange that such a committed Marxist-Leninist could not only support an Islamic holy war movement but also join the Church of Scientology; stranger still that Mr. Hedges saw fit to omit this pretty crucial fact from his elaborate description of Charlotte's life story.
There's been much talk that since Joseph Lelyveld returned to succeed deposed Executive Editor Howell Raines, the Times has continued its former habit of underhanded Israel-bashing- but in the two months since Raines quit there hasn't been anything as egregious as this Kates valentine. Forget Jayson Blair- this piece may be "a low point in the 140-year history of the newspaper."
Anyway, on with the fisking:


Of course, one of the most problematic parts of the story is its byline. Hedges is the same reporter who stood up in front of the graduating class of Rockford College and gave a rambling, anti-American speech that had little to nothing to do with graduation or the students.
Hedges, of course, is not a columnist or editorial writer, but merely a reporter- and conferring glory upon an admitted Communist who vocally supports terrorism is apparently his idea of a human interest story. Kind of like Bill Ayers, the 1960s Weather Underground member whose many plots included an attempt to blow up the Pentagon. The Times decided to promote Ayers' autobiography with a glowing profile- which ran on the morning of September 11, 2001. Oops.

WHEN Charlotte L. Kates was in elementary school, she devoured a series of books on foreign countries. One nation, however, captured her imagination. She was in the family car on her way to a children's arts festival in Philadelphia, when, she said, the utopian vision of a communist society in the Soviet Union leapt off the pages and inspired her to be a revolutionary. She never looked back.

That, I'd say, is the problem. Even though, as she got older, Kates presumably learned all about the tens of millions murdered by Stalin, the religious discrimination, the Hitler/Stalin Pact, the gulags –not to mention the ultimate failure of communism worldwide- she never looked back.

The governor met with the Rutgers president, Richard L. McCormick, yesterday to discuss the conference, among other things. According to the governor's office, Mr. McGreevey left the meeting supporting Dr. McCormick's decision to let the conference take place.

Hedges, of course, leaves out the fact that, in a strongly-worded letter to the student body that went beyond usual college-president mealy-mouthing, McCormick wrote that he "strongly disagrees" with the message put out by Kates' group and refused to endorse the conference. (Full disclosure: I briefly worked on McGreevey's 2001 campaign).

Ms. Kates also stirred up the campus in March when her organization reserved banner space for two weeks at the Douglass College Center. The banner read: "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free" "It was a call for all land between the Jordanian River and the Mediterranean to be returned to the Palestinians," she said.

Hmm, and how does Kates suggest getting all those Jewish people out of Israel? By asking nicely? Ethnic cleansing? Genocide? And Kates also forgets that unlike in any Arab country, Arabs in Israel enjoy both the right to vote and the right to serve as elected representatives.
And also, "The Jordanian River"?

Such a call also meant Israel would be wiped off the map. The Israel Action Committee of Rutgers organized a sit-in at the center demanding that the banner be removed. It was not.

So she somehow managed to thwart the will of the International Zionist Conspiracy and keep the banner up. Way to go, Char!

New Jersey Solidarity takes a hard line in its support of the Palestinians.

Gee, ya think? In refusing to recognize the state of Israel and dismissing out of hand the idea of a peaceful two-state solution, Kates is taking a position to the left of both Yasser Arafat and Edward Said.

Ms. Kates will not, for instance, condemn suicide bombings

Wow, how "brave" of her. Does this mean she volunteers to go become a suicide bomber herself? I'm sure not many at Rutgers would complain if she took that step, or if she went to Gaza and stood in front of a bulldozer. Because whenever I see dozens of people blown to smithereens in a pizza parlor, on a bus, or at a Passover seder, the first word that comes to my mind is "solidarity."

saying "it is not our place in the United States to dictate the tactics Palestinian groups use in the liberation struggle"

Then how is it her place, in the United States, to demand the Palestinians wipe Israel off the map?

"The book quoted the 1917 revolutionary slogan: peace, land, bread and freedom," she said. "This idea hit me. I had to find out more about socialism."

Judging by her subsequent life path, that must have been the last history book Kates ever read. The Berlin Wall fell when Charlotte was 9; apparently she wasn't paying attention when everyone from East Berlin crossed to freedom in West Berlin, and not the other way around.

She looked up the American Communist Party's local chapter in New Jersey, where she grew up. She rode her bike on Sunday afternoons to local party meetings. By age 13, she said, she had joined the party, paying monthly dues of 50 cents.

Chris Hedges obviously thinks it's "cute" that a 13-year-old girl would join up with the local Communist Party; I'd tend to think of such a thing as "child abuse."

Her decision to "side with the oppressed, liberation movements and the working class"

Before she personally wipes Israel off the map, maybe Charlotte should think about joining a Kibbutz- last I heard, those people were socialists too.

In the seventh grade, she agitated to loosen the dress code at her school and reduce the lunch fees. "It was called the `lunch costs too much campaign,' " she said.

Had Charlotte lived her dream of growing up in Soviet Russia, the cost of lunch would've been the least of her worries; I'd imagine she'd have been more concerned about the breadlines.

Her small dorm room at Rutgers, which she shares with three other first-year law students, is decorated with the requisite picture of Che Guevara, a hero of the Cuban revolution, along with a poster of Nabil Salameh, a slain radical Palestinian leader.

Of course, if Charlotte lived in Cuba, her anti-government activities (and wall decorations) would likely get her thrown in jail.

A poster on the wall reads: "Long Live the Proletarian Feminism of the Heroic Red Women Fighters of Peru."

Because if there's anything Palestinian society is known for, it's feminism.

She has a weakness for Dr. Pepper. There was a case on her floor.

Ha! And as we all know, Dr. Pepper is produced by corporate, imperialist, capitalist swine. How dare she drink it!

The day after being featured in an article in The New York Post this month with the headline "Rutgers gets `F' For Putting Anti-Semitism 101 on the Schedule," she lost her summer job as a customer service representative for an electronics company in Teaneck.

The "article" Hedges references was actually a column by Andrea Peyser which, unlike the Times profile, made no reference to Kates being a communist. Let's see her try to get a job now!

"They told me it was because they were doing financial restructuring," she said, her signature red kaffiyeh draped around her shoulders, "but I have my doubts."

Maybe it was the "signature red kaffiyeh" that got her fired. Seriously though, would you let someone who publicly supports suicide bombing work in your office?

In writing this, I come not to bury the Palestinian cause. While I consider myself a strong supporter of the state of Israel, I am not blind to the suffering of the Palestinians, and I believe that a peaceful, two-state solution is the only viable long-term option for either side. And while my friends close to the situation believe that October's conference should not take place, I say (as our president said), "bring it on." Let there be a massive counterdemonstration that thoroughly embarrasses and discredits Little Red Kaffiyeh Hood.
It greatly pains me that a demagogue such as Charlotte Kates, who has shown in her writings and public utterances both about the Middle East and about communism that she has little to no grasp whatsoever of history, is getting such a large amount of attention for her hateful, self-righteous, ill-considered cause. Especially when it comes from a "respectable" source such as the New York Times. Bill Keller, I'm counting on you to put an end to journalistic garbage like this.

Posted by Stephen Silver at July 21, 2003 06:03 AM
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