[Previous] [Main Index] [Next]

Saturday, November 1, 2003


This is the second of a three article mini-series on Arab and wider Islamic Jew-Hatred: its nature, its variation across Islam, and the multiple causes of its fairly recent emergence and rapid spread . . . especially in the Arab world. The three articles are closely connected. They form a tightly knitted coherent argument, and to grasp its overall thrust and conclusions, you should read the articles in sequence.

PART I: Why The Extremist Message of Radical Islam and Its Conspiratorial Symbolism of Anti-Semitism as the Causes of Arab Misery and Backwardness Have Proved Increasingly Seductive

It's against this background of backwardness, failure to modernize, corrupt despotism, and constant humiliation and related mental dislocations set out and explained in the first article that the fast spread of radical Islam since 1970 in Pakistan, Iran, and the 22 Arab countries --- both as an ideology and in various concrete social movements --- has to be understood. In turn, understand its appeal here and you simultaneously understand the specific scapegoats who are singled out as behind the mountainous troubles and failures in Arab life: Jews, Israel, the US.


The Double-Whammy Behind The Spread of Fundamentalist Extremism

More concretely, the magnetic attraction for the masses and out-of-work university students and graduates with no future of fundamentalist extremism has been propelled in a double manner within Arab countries.

1. There's first and foremost a simpleminded harping on an imaginary, fully purified Islam as a solution to all the troubles that beset the Arab and wider Islamic worlds: economic troubles, political failures, pervasive sin and corruption, and Arab or Islamic weakness on the world scene: a return, in effect, to the fantasized harmony and well-being that supposedly prevailed in late medieval Islam, roughly the 12th century on, when the precursors of contemporary fundamentalism became dominant in Islamic life and ended the impressive intellectual and artistic life that had flourished until then in the conquering and triumphant Arabic empire that stretched from Persia across the Levant and North Africa into Spain, Portugal, and parts for a short while of Southern Italy.

2. And second, there's the diagnosis of the ills and misery: a simplistic conspiratorial explanation, charged with paranoid fantasy and diabolical symbolism, that traces these woes to the cabals and evil machinations of Westerners, especially Americans, and the alleged master-minds of these powerful, wealthy infidels: world Jewry, which is supposed to rule America, dominate Europe, buy off Hindu India, and use Israel as a Jewish outpost to undermine Arab and Islamic life and power. In demonizing Jews this way, Arab and other extremist Islamists can draw on 14 centuries of traditions in which tiny Jewish minorities were treated as subject-peoples, dhimmi . . . tolerated, but constantly subject to discrimination and humiliation within Islamic societies as long as they did not convert to the true-believing faith. See the impressive writings of Bat Ye'or, an Egyptian born writer who has studied dhimmitude and written about it for decades --- though always in exile in Europe. In Egypt, she would have been instantly killed by either enraged fundamentalists or by the secret police.
Remember here, there are currently 280 million Arabs. Half of the Arab peoples today are under the age of 15; their number will double in another generation. The population explosion alone will be unhinging enough on Arab life. Coupled with political failure and economic backwardness --- unemployment among Arab men alone is about 25-30% across Arab countries --- the appeal of extremist Islam is bound to continue to attract adherents among increasingly soured, disenchanted people. And no small part of that appeal is the blame-shifting for Arab failures --- economic backwardness, mass unemployment, political despotism and rampant corruption, not to forget all the mental dislocations inflicted on rigid, poorly educated societies --- onto foreign devils: powerful outside forces, world-wide in scope and full of animosity toward the Arab peoples: out in fact to destroy Islam and inflict humiliation on its true-believing adherents: the West, the US, and Jews . . . the latter dominating the former like an evil puppet-master.


PART II. The Fantasy World of Full-Tilt Jew-Hating Paranoia and Scapegoating: The Hard Evidence Such conspiratorial, hate-filled paranoia strikes us as wildly preposterous. Naturally. Its attractions to others, especially among the illiterate, semi-literate, and poorly educated Arab peoples, are nonetheless real and extensive and very easy to document. There's even good survey data available here.

Consider the evidence. There are three sorts.

(i.) Survey Data.

Start with the already visible spillovers for the West and the US that have emerged out of the long-term build-up of frustrations, resentments, and hostility that extremist Islam has easily tapped and made use of. Not least has been the stepped-up support for Islamist terrorist movements. Observe that this isn't just speculation. In Saudi Arabia shortly after 9/11, a secret government poll showed that 95% of men between roughly 20 and 40 --- 95%! --- admired bin Laden and Al Qaeda. 95.0%! A few months later, as conspiratorial fantasies of a paranoid sort continued to spread in the Arab world, a Gallup Poll undertaken in 10 Arab countries found that 60% --- practically two out of every three Arabs --- refused to believe that Muslims had participated in the attacks, finding that it was due to evil others: the CIA, Jews, or Israel. In September 2002 --- a year after the 9/11 terrorism --- a poll in Egypt found that over half the people surveyed denied that Muslims had participated in the attacks too. Who masterminded them? The same list of enemies, the usual suspects: Jews, Israel, the US itself.

And this majority outlook, mind you, was in a country that has received $2 billion of annual foreign aid yearly since the late 1970s from the US!


(ii.) The Arab Media.

Then too there is the lavish funding and support in the Arab media for the worst sort of racist filth --- the state-controlled, state-censored television networks showing stuff that rivals vicious Nazi propaganda to the tilt. We've already cited some of the standard-model lunatic stuff. What follows is just one more wildly hateful example as further evidence, nothing else.

Egyptian television, for instance, shows a lengthy dramatic series based on the Elders of the Zion, a hate-mongering conspiratorial set of lies that came out of Tsarist Russia and then was picked up by the Nazis to prove how the Jews controlled the world: simultaneously Bolshevik Russia and the international Communist movement on one side and Wall Street and America on the other. Syrian television has done the same, except that this time, for once, western diplomatic pressures had some impact:

SYRIA: After protests first made by the Wiesenthal Center, Western diplomats urged Syrian state television to cancel a new antisemitic TV miniseries based on the themes of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. While Syrian TV did not air the 26-part miniseries, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV did broadcast the first installment to coincide with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. The series claims to detail the evolution of Zionism and the creation of Israel with such "insights" that Jews forged the Torah and have created a world government. After Syria's decision to cancel the broadcast, the Lebanon-based Al-Manar TV attacked the Wiesenthal Center for allegedly mounting "an ugly Zionist campaign" to prevent the screening of the Al-Shatat (The Diaspora) miniseries. The Center has just released Dismantling The Big Lie: The Protocols Of The Learned Elders Of Zion, a book refuting the infamous antisemitic forgery.

Those who want more can find endless documentation at MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.


(iii.) Reports by Western Scholars and Journalists.

Informed analyses are abundant as well. Consider just two specimens among hundreds.

One is the demented notion that Israel and its Mossad Intelligence Agency --- with the help of the CIA --- attacked the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11, along with the Pentagon in Washington, and explicitly warned the Jewish workers at the WTC to stay home that day. The conspiratorial hokum here was quickly taken up by the Arab street and in other Muslim countries, and within a few days, had gained the stature of an unchallenged urban myth. One effort to trace this diabolical madness was undertaken not long ago, coming up with this summary:

Hale [an American Nazi, the first apparently to make the claim] may have had his finger to the wind. On September 17th, the Lebanese television station Al-Manar posted a story on its website claiming that 4,000 Israelis were absent from their jobs at the World Trade Center on September 11th, "based on hints from the Israeli General Security Apparatus," and that Israeli secret police prevented Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from traveling to New York City the day of the attacks.[7] The Anti- Defamation League (ADL) suggests that this number may have been plucked from the Israeli Embassy's statement of concern about the 4,000 Israeli nationals residing in New York City.[8] By the next morning, when the story reappeared on an obscure U.S.-based website, the Information Times, it had become 4,000 Jews. Within days, the rumor appeared in newspapers and on listservers around the world—in Russia's Pravda (later retracted), in papers in Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia,[9] even circulating within the American Left, in emails with such credulous introductory remarks as "interesting but unconfirmed information."[10]

According to Asghar Ali Engineer, a Bombay-based progressive scholar and activist who is an expert on communal violence in India, a version that the Mossad was responsible for the attacks was circulated broadly on e-mail networks in India and was widely believed, "especially among Muslims."[11] Another version, accusing "Zionists" of plotting the attacks, was posted on a website linked to a ministry of the Qatar government.[12] The rumor made its way to jihad recruitment rallies in Peshawar (the capital of Pakistan's Pashtun-dominated North West Frontier Province) in late September, where Allama Noorul Haq Qadri, the Naib Amir of the Ahl-i-Sunnah Wal-Jamat called the attacks "a conspiracy of Jews to pit America against the Muslim world,"[13] and in Rawalpindi (in Pakistani Punjab) in October, where Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman explicitly blamed "the Jews" for the September 11 attacks and urged a U.S. probe into why 4,000 Jews were absent from the towers and why Sharon cancelled his U.S. visit.[14] The Ahl-i-Sunnah and the JUI are two of the numerous jihadi groups that first gained ground in Pakistan during the regime of Gen. Zia ul Haq in the 1980s.[15] The JUI repeated these tales at several other rallies in the following weeks, including one in Hyderabad (in Sind province) where according to the Pakistani English-language daily, the Dawn, a leader called on JUI workers "to eliminate the American commandos and Jews."[16] The rhetoric of Jewish conspiracy had indeed found receptive audiences around the world.

Finally, it was adopted by the Taliban itself—in late November 2001, a Taliban security chief charged that the attacks were "the work of Jews trying to blacken the name of Islam;"[17] an unsurprising development, given that Osama bin Laden had long before dubbed his forces "The World Islamic Front against Jews and Crusaders.[18]

As a second specimen, consider the rife rumor --- charged with similar conspiratorial dementia --- that has swiftly gained currency in Iraq that it has been Israel, not Arab terrorists or Saddamite loyalists, who have been carrying out the attacks on Iraqi sites and civilians the last few months. For a revealing story of this conspiratorial theory, now rampant apparently in much of Iraq, see this article in the October 30th issue of the Los Angeles Times. As it notes,

the reasoning goes like this: The people who masterminded the bombings wanted to hurt Iraqis, the vast majority of the victims. Who are Iraq's enemies? Israel is the one nearest at hand and the one that, it is widely assumed here, urged the U.S. to remove President Saddam Hussein. Who will benefit if chaos weakens Iraq? Again, Israel, because it will feel safer. And if Iraq is chaotic, it may force the Americans to keep troops in the country longer. Who wants American troops on Arab soil? Again, the answer is Israel.


PART III. The Reaction of the Arab Despots and Their Family-Clans and Cronies to the Fundamentalist Spread

There is one other transmission mechanism for the rapidly spreading appeal of Islamist paranoid Jew-hatred in the Arab countries and beyond. It is the double-dealing behavior of the despotic Arab tyrants in the face of the mushrooming fundamentalist upsurge among the masses of their populations the last three decades or so.

To understand this reactive double-dealing --- towards their masses and towards the West, especially the US on whose support most of the corrupt, tyrannical regimes depend for diplomatic support and even in the case of the Saudis and the other Gulf State military protection --- recall what the fundamentalist advance means to the despotic rulers and their tribal-clan and other cronies monopolizing power and wealth and prestige in their societies. Essentially, the advance challenges their traditional monopoly of power --- political, legal, economic, and financial: witness what happened to the Shah of Iran and his cronies when Shiite revolutionaries toppled the regime with mass support in 1979. That challenge has led to the double-barreled effort to defuse it.

* From one side, there's been a violent crackdown by the rulers and their secret police and militaries on any direct challenge to local rule and the economic and political status quo.

This can be lead to ruthless repression, assassination, or outright military assaults: witness here the Baathist regime's slaughter of the civilians in Hama, after a few Baathist Party officials were killed there in the early 1980s. Or the attack on the fundamentalist movement and political candidates that won the first general election in Algeria in the early 1990s, followed by a brutal campaign by the forces of the status quo to annual the election and destroy the movement . . . a resort to violence that then set off waves of even greater violence by the fanatical fundamentalists in terrorist attacks throughout the country. The resulting civil war was waged for a decade. Even today, it continues to smolder on. Or think of Mubarak's Egypt, which exterminated local Egyptian fundamentalist groups who attacked European tourists and murdered several dozen of them, part of the extremist struggle to terrorize and overthrow the Mubarak regime. Within a year or two, ruthless repression and assassination of the leaders and members of the particular groups ended all challenge domestically to the existing dictatorship.

Not that this savage repression ended the spread of fundamentalism anywhere. What it did do was end only any efforts by fundamentalist groups to assault their own governments and rulers, not the spread of radical extremist messages, symbols, and new recruits to the Islamist cause.

* From the other side, there's an explicit effort by the despotic governments in the 22 Arab countries --- yes, even in Saddamite Iraq the last few years until the regime was defeated in war last March --- to tap and divert the frustrations and other emotional energies of mobilizing fundamentalist ideology and symbols outwardly. How to do this? By a simple, straightforward ruse: encouraging a conspiratorial outlook directed at the West, the US, and above all Jews as being responsible for all the troubles of the bewildered and resentful masses.


The Latter Point Again

What precisely are those troubles and the related psychic dislocations? We've mentioned them before; despite the repetition, they're worth cataloguing again.

Start with pervasive political despotism --- universal in the Arab world and in neighboring Iran, save now for post-Saddam Iraq --- and the power-monopoly wielded by the wonderous ballyhooed dictator and his tribal-clan and their cronies that dominate political life, economics, finance, law, and the military. Almost all major social advancement up any hierarchy, including education, depends on family background and personal contacts in these interwoven clientele networks, not on qualifications and performance. Aside from Iraq, the 21 Arab countries differ here only in the degree to which violence and vicious repression are used to maintain the corrupt small groups in power, plus the existing economic status quo. Then there's economic backwardness. In 2002, as we noted, the total GDP of the nearly 300 million Arab peoples in the 22 countries is smaller than that of Spain with its 40 million people --- the Spanish economy itself about 10% poorer in per capita income than the EU average (around $24,000). Only tiny Tunisia, which has 10 million people, has come close to matching Turkey's per capita income of around $7000 and build a large urban middle class who own their residences. (Turkey, strictly secular, has 70 million peopple).

And it gets worse. As the UN's Arab Human Development Report 2003 has recently stressed, educational problems and failures also abound. Illiteracy among the Arab peoples --- who, at one time, a 1000 years ago, led Europe in mathematics and philosophical work --- is now the worst in the world: yes, worse even than in far poorer tropical Africa. Unemployment among men runs anywhere from 20-30% across the 22 countries, and the population explosion among the Arabs means that 50% right now are under the age of 15 and that in another 20 years the total number of Arabs will be close to 500 million.

All these failures and teeming problems in Arab life --- a failure to modernize effectively at bottom --- are set out at length and documented in the UN Arab Human Development Report 2002. See the ranging remarks on it with some links in an earlier buggy article. More recently, the UN's Arab Human Development Report 2003 scathingly criticized the poor quality of education in Arab countries, along with the severe censorship and other controls over intellectual freedom and civil liberties. See this interpretation.


The Double-Dealing Summarized

Hence, to emphasize the key point here in this section again, the calculated , double-dealing decision by the Arab rulers across all 21 Arab countries save for Iraq now:

* to repress and destroy any explicit fundamentalist opposition to the existing rulers and their cronies and henchmen within each country

* yet simultaneously to exploit the high-pulsating mentality of paranoid and extremist radical Islam for their own purposes, as a way of diverting disillusion and resentments outward.


Seen in this perspective, no better way exists for the rulers to further defuse any fundamentalist challenges --- apart from brutally repressing and destroying any direct ones at home --- than to control and manipulate the ideological messages of radical Islam and divert the tapped resentments and frustrations of the masses outward onto foreign scapegoats. For that purpose, with only a little variation across countries, despotic rulers everywhere in the Arab world have calculatedly opened up their state-controlled media and educational systems to fundamentalist mouthpieces for propagating their verbose, hyped-up groupthink --- however wildly preposterous and hate-filled they happen to be --- provided its contents and symbolism blame the high-coiled misery and mental disarray of the masses on foreign devils and their endlessly nefarious conspiracies against the Arab peoples and Islam. In these endlessly repeated gabfests shot through with paranoid fantasies and scapegoated imagery, what more specifically is allowed by the censors and secret police? Nothing --- nothing --- about how the sources of any Arab country's economic backwardness, depotism, illiteracy, and rampant corruption reside in home-grown causes. However disguised, references that even hint at this will likely bring immediate retaliation: it can vary from loss of access to loss of a job or threats or informal beatings or arrests or a bullet in the head. Everybody in Arab countries knows, essentially, what is allowed here and what isn't. That leaves full leeway for only one thing: all the troubles and misery of the masses have to be blamed on powerful outside forces --- evil, shadowy, full of hostility to the Arabs and Islam, and beyond the ability of the local national leaders to cope with on their own.


PART IV. Enter The Jews, Israel, and the US

The preferred evil scapegoats?

By now, it's fully evident: 12 million Jews world-wide, their use of Israel as a Trojan Horse in the Middle East, and --- through their dominance in American life and politics --- the ability to tap and manipulate vast American power if need be for their heinous ends. Jews, one way or another, control and dominate the world; they see Islam and the Arabs as their last victims. Only Arab vigilance and a return to true Islam will stave off these nefarious,bloodsucking miscreants, sons and daughters of pigs and apes. So far, the fundamentalist message goes, vigilance hasn't been vigorous enough. The Arab peoples have allowed themselves to lapse into indifference, apathy, and wicked imitations of western-ways. Hence the otherwise inexplicable backwardness of Arab countries. Hence the mysterious and repetitive victories of tiny Israel against 280 million Arab people in warfare. Hence the failures of oil-rich countries in the Gulf and North Africa to develop successfully despite the huge windfall in wealth since 1973. Hence the plunging prestige and influence of Arabs and Islam generally in world affairs.


For two decades or so now --- with only slight variation across the 22 Arab countries (Tunisia and Jordan more moderate here in what the fundamentalists can say, along with Algeria whose brutal military-run state was in a vicious civil war with home-grown fundamentalists for a decade) --- this raw snarled-out paranoia has been disseminated lavishly in the censored, state-controlled media and for that matter from pulpits. Anyone who wants some detailed documentation can find it here at MEMI, the Middle East Media Institute. We find such snarled-out racist fantasies crackpot and full of hate. Naturally. Not the Arab peoples. The paranoid style is rife in their media and their lives.

That is why 60% of Arabs, almost two out of three, could deny that Muslims caused 9/11 massacres on American soil. It's also why 95% of Saudi men between 20 and 40 could admire bin Laden after those attacks. And why it's now almost a belief laid in granite that Jews not only masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center but had warned several thousand Jews working there not to show up for their jobs that day. Or are behind the attacks on Iraqis in Iraq. Or control all international finance. Or run the CIA and the Pentagon and all the US media, not to mention running all the candidates for president and determining who the victor puts into office as Cabinet Secretaries and the policies toward the Middle East.