An old anti-Semitic slur that has been making the rounds for many years characterizes the Jews as "cosmopolites," a "fifth column" that knows no loyalty to their host country but owes allegiance only to itself. This, of course, is an ignorant smear, one that, furthermore, has such an ugly history that it no longer seems necessary to refute it: the simple statement of it, in its self-evident absurdity, is enough to discredit anyone who makes such an argument. It is passing strange, then, that another form of anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in wartime, one which bears a remarkable similarity to the old version, except for one thing: it is directed against Arabs, who are also Semites and it is being pushed, quite vigorously, by many of the very people who have, in the past, been victimized by anti-Semitic bullies.
A recent Los Angeles Times article noted that "pro-Israel or Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense League and the Middle East Forum think tank have provided news organizations with reams of critical documentation on Muslim leaders in recent weeks." Opportunistically taking advantage of the post-9/11 atmosphere in this country, these groups have launched a determined and concerted effort to scapegoat American Muslims. The purpose is to rationalize a new anti-Semitism, directed not against Jews but against Arabs. The irony is that this new bigotry looks, smells, and acts just like the old version….
A number of commentators are emerging as the chief ideologues of the new anti-Arab anti-Semitism: there's Christopher Hitchens, who coined the term "Islamo-fascism," although he doesn't draw this analogy to its logical anti-Islamist conclusion. The author of No One Left To Lie To, as well as a much-discussed (and little-read) tirade against Mother Theresa, Hitchens is the resident Deep Thinker at Vanity Fair, the literary embodiment of a dying breed: the leftist glitteratti. His post-Marxist pretensions are tolerated because he almost always signs on to the latest crusade of his ruling class masters. In a debate with Noam Chomsky in The Nation, Hitchens manages to extol the Muslims of Bosnia whose crimes, he claims, were less onerous than those of their Christian opponents while descrying "fascism with an Islamic face." That this felicitous phrase succinctly describes the state of Kosovo under the rule of his friends in the KLA is an irony of which Hitchens seems honestly unaware, but at least he is entertaining. Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, is merely foam-flecked….
In his increasingly dreary "weblog," Sullivan delights in quoting the most absurd snippets from Arab newspapers and then holding them up as somehow emblematic of Islam per se: of course, if someone shows a snippet of, say, the Gay Pride Parade, with a drag queen and a leather "daddy" leading the semi-naked throng, Sullivan is predictably outraged, although the proportional strength of leather daddies in the gay community is arguably higher than the percentage of Bin Ladenites in the Muslim world. Bullies come to the fore in wartime, and, for once, he gets to play the bully, and clearly relishes the opportunity: "Is it un-Islamic to kill women and children?" asked a subhead. Sullivan's answer: probably not. Other examples of the inherent evil of all things Muslim abound in his interminable weblog, which has become a daily compendium of anti-Muslim hate.
For most of us, the recession has hardly begun: but for a chosen few, it's already over. A whole mini-industry has grown up in the wake of the 9/11 atrocity dedicated to the proposition that Islam is the root of all evil in the world. Just as anti-Communism employed and otherwise elevated a whole cadre of professional witch-hunters and witch-doctors so the rise of anti-Islamism opens up a whole new frontier for those thrown out of work by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war. With untold billions of tax dollars being thrown into the "war on terrorism," the market for anti-Islamists, once severely restricted, has expanded exponentially, and this field of expertise is no longer quite so rarefied. The war has made formerly obscure figures, such as New York Post columnist and author Daniel Pipes, familiar to news junkies, and it is in Pipes that the anti-Islamist ideology takes on its purest, most extreme form.
In an interview with Salon, Pipes flat out declared that "Islamism is fascism," and accused "a substantial body" of the Muslim population in this country of "shar[ing] with the suicide bombers a hatred of the United States." When Salon asked him what percentage fitted this description, Pipes was elusive: "The numbers are fluid," he averred, and "I can't offhand give you numbers," while claiming that he had seen a poll "cited today on National Review Online that shows really quite a substantial proportion feeling alienated from the country."
Oh, how I would have loved to write the questions for that particular poll!
Question: "Your people have been beaten up, shot at, and even murdered on occasion, including a large number of Sikhs, Mexicans, and perhaps even a few New York Italians, mistaken for Arabs. You've got Peggy Noonan following you down the street with her camera, and Ann Coulter demanding that you be forcibly converted to Christianity. Charles Krauthammer and Norman Podhoretz have labeled you potential fifth columnists, and your wife and children are no longer safe in the streets. Now, tell me, do you feel somewhat alienated?"
Answer: "Well, now that you mention it…."
Pipes believes that the international Islamist conspiracy there is no other way to phrase it is out not to destroy America but to subjugate it. Asked by Salon whether the goal of the Islamists is to create a Muslim state in America, his answer was "without a doubt." One can only wonder if he said this with a straight face. Pipes went on to explain that this meant a state prohibition on converting out of Islam, as well as the banning of pork, criminalizing adultery, and "doing away with the equality of the sexes." How does he know this? Well, you see, he kind of divines it:
"Now, they don't say that in black and white in their writings. I can't prove that to you. I can tell you that there are all sorts of intimations of it. I can tell you I can sense it. I can make this case, but I can't make it specifically for CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations]. But you asked me, do I think that's what they want? Yes."
He can "sense" it! US intelligence agencies are employing the services of psychics in the search for Osama bin Laden, according to reports, but Pipes' extrasensory powers are even more valuable to the war on the home front. For Pipes and his ilk are the attack dogs of the New Inquisition, whose job it is to sniff out "intimations" of treason. Pipes was vague when it came to the evidence for his outrageous claims, but very specific in singling out a particular organization the Council on Islamic-American Relations, whose leaders met with President Bush and other Arab and Muslim figures at a mosque. But Bush, at least according to Charles Krauthammer, "is hardly an authority on Islam," i.e. he's too stupid to comprehend that all Muslims are just plain evil.
The view of the anti-Islamists coincides perfectly with the perspective of the Israeli foreign ministry. What they want is the sort of "war on terrorism" the Bush administration is laboring mightily to deny: a war on Islam. A war in which the US and its faithful ally, Israel, take on the entire Muslim world and US military power is utilized, albeit indirectly, to further the dream of a Greater Israel. This goal is actively aided and abetted by the weird leftist-sounding smear concept, "Islamo-fascism," which means, as Pipes puts it, that "Islamism is fascism." So much for Bush's grand "anti-terrorist" coalition, including Egypt, Jordan, and even Iran, as well as Russia and China. For how can we ally ourselves with fascists, all of them incipient if not actual Bin Ladenites?
The whole anti-Saudi campaign being whipped up by this same crowd is yet another front in the neocons' anti-Islamist jihad. Stephen Schwartz, writing in the Weekly Standard and the British Spectator, has made it his personal mission in life to define Saudi Wahabism as an ideological threat on a par with the old Soviet Union. A lot of the same newspaper columnists and neocon publicists who demanded that we go to war in the Gulf in order to defend Saudi Arabia are now pointing to the House of Saud as the real epicenter of evil in the world. Go figure. Looked at from an Israeli perspective, however, this weird reversal makes a certain amount of sense. After all, if even the Saudis are not our allies in the region, then that leaves only Egypt to get rid of and that may be easier than anyone now imagines. It may not serve the national interest of the US to plunge the Arab world into chaos and revolution, but there is one country that might conceivably benefit that is, if Armageddon in the Middle East can be considered a "benefit."
The Saudis certainly have a lot to answer for, but the reality is that they are less responsible for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda than the US. If Saudi intelligence had links to Al Qaeda, then so did our own CIA; we financed and gave political support to the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and helped build the framework on which the vine of terrorism grew and blossomed forth in all its malignant evil. We are constantly reminded that most of the hijackers were Saudis, but so what? In the 1970s, the Japanese Red Army, whose members were Japanese nationals, carried out a number of terrorist attacks worldwide. Did we blame Japan? Of course not. Al Qaeda aims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy, and replace it with the rule of the mullahs. That is a prospect the Afghan war has brought much closer to the realm of possibility, and one that many American supporters of Israel would welcome, as it would effectively end the "Arabist" influence in US governing circles.
The President has, rightly and nobly, made a point of condemning in advance any hate campaign against Arab-Americans or those of the Muslim faith a fact even opponents of this war, such as myself, should publicly thank him for. He visited a Washington mosque, an event that had the neocons howling with anger: but Bush has bravely ignored their vicious sniping and kept on message by making Arab unity against Al Qaeda the diplomatic and political linchpin of the war effort. The President is a goodhearted man, which is largely why the American people elected him, and, in these days of the imperial presidency, that means a lot.
It means that he can block the worst designs of the opportunistic bullies who want to target and perhaps intern all Arab-Americans, even US citizens. It means maybe that he can at least ameliorate, if not prevent, the worst effects of the general roundup of Arabs and others, and (again, maybe) block the consolidation of a full-fledged police state. It means he can overrule the hotheads who would start World War III in the Middle East. It's all in God's hands, at any rate and that's true whether you're Muslim, Christian, or Jew. As for me an unreconstructed atheist, albeit hardly a militant one I think that's the same as leaving it all to chance….
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