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Why ‘Holocaust Denial’ Graffiti Matters

Early Friday morning, March 10, 2017 Holocaust graffiti was discovered by an off-duty Seattle police officer on the façade of a major Reform Jewish Temple in the Capitol Hill District of Seattle, Temple De Hirsch Sinai.

According to a Buzz Feed report, the graffiti read:

“Holocaust is fake history!” A dollar sign appeared to be used in place of the letter S in the graffiti.”

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) undertook an immediate bias crimes investigation and established patrols for both the historic sanctuary on Capitol Hill as well as a companion one in Bellevue, Washington.   Later that morning, a thoughtful neighbor in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle hung a sign over the anti-Semitic graffiti with a comforting statement expressing community support for the temple, “Love wins.”Because of the heightened security, a suspicious box left at the door of the temple Friday afternoon was investigated by the SPD and found to contain a donation of old books.

Comments of the anti-Semitic incident by the  Seattle Temple Rabbi

holocaust denial graphitiA CNN report noted what Rabbi Daniel Weiner wrote on the Facebook page of Temple de Hirsch Sinai regarding the security precautions that this latest anti-Semitic incident prompted and its occurrence on the cusp of the Jewish festival of Purim:

And as we take all of these precautions, we are also adamant in our conviction that we will not allow the toxicity of intolerance and growing climate of hate to define who we are, how we live, and what our nation can be.

We take courage from the upcoming celebration of Purim and its story in the Book of Esther, as our people triumphed over the evil plans of those who seek to diminish and destroy us, and as we stand shoulder to shoulder with all who are vulnerable and in need, placing our faith in God to inspire us to perfect a broken world.

Condemnation of Anti-Semitic Seattle incident  by Washington Governor Inslee and U.S. Representative Jayapal

Washington Governor Jay Inslee condemned this latest act of anti-Semitic vandalism, saying: “It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to condemn any and all acts of hate and intolerance.”   US Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, whose 7th Congressional District  covers Seattle  tweeted:

“I condemn the anti-Semitic vandalism against Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle in the strongest possible terms.”

The Seattle anti-Semitic incident reported on Friday was not the only occurrence that day.  CNN noted:

The graffiti is the latest in a wave of anti-Semitic vandalism and threats made to Jewish institutions all over the country.

Earlier in the day, staff at a Jewish community center (JCC) in Las Vegas received “suspicious communications,” according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, prompting them to evacuate the area and investigate. Police reported the property safe a short time later.

In Tucson, Arizona, police were investigating the second threat in two weeks sent to a JCC. Sgt. Pete Dugan, a spokesman for the police department, said a bomb threat was received via email.

There have been more than 148 reports of anti-Semitic bomb threats, calls against Jewish Community Centers across the US and several Jewish cemetery desecrations in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, New York. These occurrences have been condemned by both President Trump and Vice President Pence. The FBI has a task force currently investigating these occurrences and at least one arrest has been made in St. Louis of a suspect, Juan Franklin who made a string of 8 hate bombing calls. Franklin was a former staff journalist for on-line journal The Intercept, ironically fired for producing fake news stories.

Governor Inslee in a statement drew attention to this latest occurrence of intolerance in the State of Washington:

Yesterday’s act of vandalism at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle is the latest in a wave of anti-Semitic threats against our state’s Jewish community.

We can’t ignore the reality that these threats have increased in recent months. Right here in Washington — a state known for being tolerant, open-minded and forward-thinking.   We are seeing an increase in reports of harassment, vandalism and attacks against Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics and Latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ individuals and other minority groups. I continue to stand with the Jewish community as I have stood with all Washingtonians. Regardless of one’s faith, color or orientation, Washington welcomes all.

2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooter Naveed Haq. Source: Seattle Times.

The 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation lethal attack

The Seattle Jewish Community is acutely aware that anti-Semitic attacks can be lethal.  In 2006 there was a shooting attack on the Seattle Jewish Federation offices by a Pakistani – American Muslim that killed one staffer, maiming and wounding others.  We reported  a second trial and conviction  to multiple life sentences of  a Pakistani American  in December 2009 in a New English Review/Iconoclast blog post,  .“Seattle Jihad Naveed Haq found guilty in Second Trial.” 

Remember the infamous Seattle Mass shooter, Pakistani American, Naveed Haq?  He was convicted by a Seattle Jury in a second trial.  The AP report noted what he did in 2006:

Haq made several trips to gun stores in the weeks prior to the attack, wrote two documents on his father’s computer criticizing Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East, and used MapQuest to find directions to the center from his family’s home in Pasco, 180 miles east of Seattle

Haq drove from his eastern Washington home to Seattle the day of the attack and forced a teenage girl at gunpoint to let him into the Jewish Federation. Once in the second-floor office, he opened fire, shooting some people in their cubicles, some in the hall and one, Pamela Waechter, fatally as she fled down a stairwell.

He shot and seriously injured five others. One of the shooting victims a woman who was pregnant was shot in her arm shielding her unborn fetus. Her child, a boy was born unharmed seven months later.

Here is the Seattle Times ‘harrowing testimony’ of Layla Bush in the first Haq trial in 2008. She has not been able to walk again:

As Layla Bush lay bleeding from a gunshot wound on the floor of her boss’s office, her thoughts were a jumble.

Against a backdrop of gunfire and screaming coming from other parts of the building, Bush thought about how, as the receptionist, it was her duty to call 911 and report the rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

But the pain in her side anchored her to the floor.

“I realized that I couldn’t move, so there was nothing I could do even if he was reloading,” she said.

Suddenly, the gunman, Naveed Haq, returned.

“We made eye contact, and he shot me again. I believe he was trying to kill me,” she testified.

According to the AP report on the second  trial outcome:

Haq was found guilty of all eight counts against him. The 34-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Haq’s first trial ended in 2008 with jurors deadlocked on whether he was legally insane during the shooting spree on July 28, 2006, that left one woman dead and five others injured.

The eight counts against him included one count of aggravated first-degree murder; five counts of attempted first-degree murder; one count of unlawful imprisonment; and one count of malicious harassment, the state’s hate-crime law.

Jurors rejected Haq’s defense that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers acknowledged that he committed the shooting but said his mental illness kept him from understanding what he was doing.

They also conceded he poses a danger to the public and should never be free, but asked jurors to send him to a state mental hospital rather than prison. They declined comment after the verdict.

Prosecutor Don Raz said he was pleased the verdict would bring closure to the victims.

Raz argued Haq wasn’t insane – just angry – when he stormed the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

“He was tired that no one was listening to the Muslim point of view. He wanted that point of view heard,” Raz told jurors as Haq’s second trial opened in October, 2009.

A major difference between this trial and the first was the playing of jailhouse phone calls.

In a recorded phone conversation after the shooting, Raz said, Haq told his mother, “I did a very good thing. I did it for a good reason.”

She said, “I know you’re not well,” to which Haq replied: “Whatever, Mom.”

One of Haq’s lawyers, John Carpenter, argued that his client believed he could change the course of wars by attacking the Jewish Federation.

Conclusion

The 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation attack was a wake-up call to Jewish communities across the country to undertake robust security precautions. Now, with this latest anti-Semitic graffiti incident in Seattle, the fear is palpable about whether this might be a prelude to another possible shooting  incident or a temple bombing like the historic one in Atlanta in 1958.   We only have to look at the March 3, 2017 shooting by a gunman wounding a Sikh  in the driveway of his  home in a Seattle suburb.   The attacker shouted: “go back to your own country.” That is why this Seattle anti-Semitic incident matters both there and throughout this country. Violent intolerance kills.

Seattle Times’ Gates-funded Education Lab Blog Experiment

Bill Gates lives in Seattle.

His money buys experiments there, too.

In October 2013, the Seattle Times announced that it had “sought” a grant from the Gates Foundation for a year-long “project” in partnership with Solutions Journalism Network– a blog called the “Education Lab”:

Education Lab, a partnership between The Seattle Times and Solutions Journalism Network, will explore promising programs and innovations inside early-education programs, K-12 schools and colleges that are addressing some of the biggest challenges facing public education.

The yearlong project is funded by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

As part of a “Q and A” on the grant money and the project, Seattle Times offers the following:

The project has received $530,000 in foundation funding — $450,000 from the Gates Foundation and $80,000 from the Knight Foundation, a foundation that supports journalism excellence and media innovation.

The Seattle Times will receive $426,000 during an 18-month period. The bulk of its funding will pay for the salaries of two education reporters, allowing us to expand our education team; an editor and photographer primarily dedicated to the project; and a newly hired community-engagement editor. The funds will also be used for community outreach and public forums, creation of a blog and design and data work. …

The Seattle Times would neither seek nor accept a grant that did not give us full editorial control over what is published. Generally, when a grant is made, there is agreement on a specific project or a broad area of reporting it will support. … The foundation had no role in deciding which stories we choose to pursue or how we report those stories. It also does not review stories before publication. … 

Beyond agreeing to fund the project, the foundations have not asked for and will not have any input into the reporting of stories or into any of the content that will emerge from the project. The foundations will not be aware of specific stories we are working on or review them before publication. …

There will be no direct relationship between the foundation’s education advocacy and the reporting for Education Lab. It is possible the project will analyze and report on efforts that the Gates Foundation supports and those it does not. In determining the focus of the reporting in the project, the support of the Gates Foundation, or lack thereof, will play no role. Throughout the duration of the project, we will be transparent about funding for Education Lab. …

For this project, the [Gates] foundation has a strong desire to test and learn whether this solutions-oriented approach would help promote deeper engagement on a complex topic like education. [Emphasis added.]

The Seattle Times sure is making an effort to convince those in Bill Gates’ home town that this is not just another Gates overreach.

Or is it?

In offering the above information up front, Seattle Times notes that it is being “transparent with readers about the source of the money.”

That’s $450,000 directly from Gates to the Seattle Times, right?

Not according to the Gates Grants search engine, which indicates no grant paid to the Seattle Times on or around October 2013 in the amount of $450,000. The search engine also indicates no $450,000 grant paid to either Solutions Journalism Network or Education Lab.

However…

…the Gates grants search engine does include this this July 2013 grant for $700,000, paid to New Ventures Fund of Washington, DC, for “communications” and “strategic partnerships”– specific to education journalism in the Seattle Times:

New Venture Fund

Date: July 2013 
Purpose: to test solutions-oriented education journalism that leads to problem-solving and positive outcomes with the Seattle Times 
Amount: $700,000 
Term: 18 
Topic: Communications, Strategic Partnerships 
Program: Communications 
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia 
Grantee Website: http://www.newventurefund.org

It seems that someone is not being “completely transparent,” after all.

Looks like Education Lab goes beyond being a Seattle Times idea. Looks like it is another Gates “strategic” education experiment.

Here is what New Venture Fund offers as its mission:

The New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, supports innovative and effective public interest projects. NVF was established in 2006 in response to demand from leading philanthropists for an efficient, cost-effective, and time-saving platform to launch and operate charitable projects. We execute a range of donor-driven public interest projects in conservation, global health, public policy, international development, education, disaster recovery, and the arts. More than half of the 50 largest US grantmaking foundations have funded projects hosted at NVF, including 8 of the top 10. 

NVF is overseen by an independent board of directors that has extensive experience in philanthropy and nonprofit management. NVF is managed under an administrative agreement with Arabella Advisors, a leading national philanthropy services firm that helps philanthropists and investors find innovative ways to achieve greater good with their resources. NVF has collaborated with Arabella on successful projects for many of philanthropy’s leading players and institutions, and the two organizations share a commitment to evaluation and measuring impact. [Emphasis added.]

Along the side bar of the Education Lab funding Q and A page, I noticed a number ofSeattle Times stories focusing on test scores (see here and here and here and here). And here, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are mentioned, and it seems that parents are fine with CCSS “perhaps because test scores are going up.”

Based upon its sidebar of education stories, the Seattle Times sure is promoting a sunny perspective on test-driven education reform.

Now, according to the Seattle Times, this is their agenda, not a forced Gates agenda.

So that makes it okay… right?

Nevertheless…

Note that Bill Gates has really pushed usage of high stakes test scores. Though Gates is only a “neutral party” when it comes to issues of American education (tongue in cheek), and though he might be willing to delay their high-stakes usage (and by sheer coincidence, the federal government “comes up with the idea” two months after Gates does), Gates clearly intends to promote test-driven education for the masses.

So, for both Gates and the Seattle Times: high test scores are the ultimate determinant of education “success.”

Based upon the sidebar of Seattle Times stories on the Education Lab site, one reads that the Seattle Times also pushes the message that the best outcome for all students is college.

College. For. ALL.

I didn’t see any sidebar stories about students who become successes in jobs requiring specialized– dare I write it– non-college– training or apprenticeships.

If such stories exist, they are not featured on this sidebar.

The Seattle Times does offer some unique stories– like this one about a school transformed into a STEM school with a focus on hands-on projects. Even here, the “college is best” and “higher test scores means it’s valuable” messages lurk in the background of a “learning for learning’s sake” story.

Let us now turn our attention to Education Lab.

Here is the curiosity:

In contrast to the Seattle Times sidebar stories, the two Education Lab blog writers, Claudia Rowe and Linda Shaw, write stories that appear to critically question test-driven reform, as well as stories on special interest, education issues not part of the test-score-driven, education privatization agenda. (Click links to see archived stories by Rowe and Shaw.)

So, one sees this Education Lab blog with some rather refreshing education stories– and at the same time, one sees the primarily test-score-measure-of-success, Seattle Times education stories along the Education Lab sidebar.

Part of the experiment, perhaps?

We might soon find out. That “yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest” will expire in a couple of months.

Perhaps then, the Seattle Times, or the New Venture Fund, or Solutions Journalism Network, or the Gates Foundation will have the word for us on what this “project” means for American education.

Perhaps Bill will address the matter himself. Perhaps Melinda will do it.

You’ll have to forgive me if I appear skeptical of Gates involvement in American education ventures– and especially in the “measuring impact” of Gates-funded “positive outcomes.” Only last month, for my upcoming book on Common Core origins, I wrote a detailed chapter about what Gates promotes as his “neutral” involvement in American education and the reality of his repeatedly and actively promoting his personal view of what American education should look like.

Then again, this Gates “venture” is taking place in Seattle, where people are familiar with his games.

Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public EducationNOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.