Posted: 25 Mar 2011 06:40 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin
It's amazing how bad the public discussion of issues is nowadays. Here's a tiny example. Helen Thomas was fired for her anti-Jewish statements and was recently interviewed in Playboy where she made more such remarks that are--correctly--being interpreted as antisemitic.
But why does Thomas hate Israel so much, a hatred that spills over into antisemitism? I haven't seen a single person who's gotten it right. She's no neo-Nazi or nut case. Thomas is of Lebanese descent, albeit Christian, and basically views herself on this issue at least as an Arab. The important factor is not her eccentricity but her typicality.
What Thomas is doing, then, and has done for many years, is to express ideas common in the Arabic-speaking world which are becoming increasingly common in the West. That's why she's significant and that's where she's coming from. Her blend of anti-Zionism and antisemitism--using traditional anti-Jewish themes, sometimes applied to Israel and at times to all Jews--is just like what exists in a high percentage of households in the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority worlds.
We're not talking about a funny old lady but about a worldview held by millions of people in a lot of countries, by revolutionary Islamists and terrorists, and by a growing number of people on Western college campuses and in elite circles. This is not some joke but rather a "craziness" that kills and shapes the fate of whole nations and continents.
Western Media Discover Egyptian Revolution Not So Moderate; Muslim Brotherhood is Powerful, Still Deny That It's Radical
By Barry Rubin
It seems mere days ago that every reporter and expert on all television channels and newspapers was preaching that Egypt's revolution was a great thing, run by Facebook-savvy liberals, inspired by President Barack Obama and "universal values." Those silly, paranoid Israelis had nothing to worry about. Christians were backing the revolution and everyone was going to be brothers, but not Muslim Brothers because the Muslim Brotherhood was weak, moderate, opposed to violence, and full of great people.
Anyone who said anything different was screened out and vilified.
Now, with no soul-searching, apologies, or even examining what false assumptions misled them, places like the New York Times are starting to admit they were completely wrong.
You mean they helped foist a policy that is a disaster for U.S. interests and regional stability? You mean the result might well be new repressive regimes, heightened terrorism, wars on Israel, and discrediting the United States as reliable ally or enemy worth fearing?
Oh well, what are a few hundred thousand lives lost, a whole region destabilized, and entire countries taken over by anti-American radicals who sponsor terrorism, and a couple of wars, more or less?
So now the New York Times tells us such things as “religion has emerged as a powerful political force.” How do they cover their past mistakes? They erroneously add, “Following an uprising that was based on secular ideals.” They have discovered that a lot of army officers like the Muslim Brotherhood, which we knew about long before simply by watching how officers’ wives were transformed from imitators of European fashions to being swathed in pious Islamic garb.
The newspaper explains, “It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the non-ideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.”
Note how they again cover their mistakes. First, the revolution is based on “secular ideals” but then it is “non-ideological.” The Facebook kids are out but perhaps only for the “moment,” meaning they might be back on top next week. But we warned from the start that this was ridiculous because there are no more than 100,000 Facebook kids and tens of millions of Brotherhood kids.
Last month the Brotherhood was weak and disorganized, now it is “the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence.”
“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”
Funny, I didn’t have any trouble finding plenty of people in Egypt worried during the revolution. Yet the Times and the other newspapers only wanted to quote people who said how great everything was, even as Christians sent out desperate messages about how scared they were.
Incidentally, the only person quoted as an expert in the article comes from the left-wing International Crisis Group, headed by an anti-American who hangs out with U.S. policymakers. The analyst tells us that the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t want the revolution, despite the fact that every action and statement of the group said the exact opposite.
Whether or not the Times reporters are “useful idiots,” they are certainly idiots. It isn’t just political slant but the violation of the most basic concepts of politics and logic. Consider this passage:
“This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state. From the first days of the protests, Brotherhood leaders proclaimed their dedication to religious tolerance and a democratic and pluralist form of government. They said they would not offer a candidate
for president, that they would contest only a bit more than a third of the total seats in Parliament, and that Coptic Christians and women would be welcomed into the political party affiliated with the movement.
“None of that has changed, Mr. Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. `We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,’ he said. `We are not keen for power.’”
Now, why is this nonsense? Simple:
First, political groups—especially revolutionary groups that want to impose ideological dictatorships—do not always speak the truth. They say what will benefit them. And the Brotherhood benefits by pretending to be moderate.
So statements about tolerance don’t show us where a movement is going: its ideology, record, and longer-term goals show us where it is going.
Second, seeking to create an Islamist state next Thursday does not have to be the Brotherhood’s aim. What all this material shows is merely that they see the process as longer-term and that the basis must be prepared.
It’s sort of like saying: The Communists aren’t intent on creating a Communist state. Oh no, they only want to spread their ideas and values! They say they are happy to work with capitalists and would be happy with thirty-three percent of the seats in parliament. And anyone who wants can join their party. So there isn’t any threat.
Reporters who write things like "Israeli authorities claim that the killing of its civilians are 'terrorist attacks'" are quite willing to take the Muslim Brotherhood at its word. They never recount the fact that this was a Nazi ally whose words for decades have stressed virulent hatred of America, democracy, Christians, and Jews. They never explain that it is a pro-terrorist group that endorsed killing Americans in Iraq and only last October called for Jihad against the United States.
Why go on? It’s as if the most prized institutions of the Western world—universities and media—have forgotten their mission, lost track of their values, thrown away their principles, and dropped one hundred points in IQ. And when they are proven to be terribly wrong, they merely shift to a slightly different position.
This farce has gone beyond embarrassing through disgraceful and has ended up being both deadly and ridiculous.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.