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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fisking an Arab News editorial

Normally, I see articles like this drivel in the op-ed sections of Al-Jazeerah.info or similar sites that pretty much publish anything anyone wants to say as long as it fits their agenda, facts be damned. But this is slightly more interesting because it was written by the Editor-in-Chief of the Arab News, which styles itself as a real news source. As such, it is important to, yet again, point out the half truths and outright falsehoods that characterize reasoned debate in the Arab world.
Arabs Can’t Be Anti-Semites
Khaled Almaeena, almaeena@arabnews.com
Last week I wrote about the phone call from an Italian friend who asked me whether Islam and Muslims were characterized by fascist tendencies or beliefs. His query came as a result of US President George W. Bush’s unfortunate and ill-considered use of the phrase “Islamic fascists.”

Inaccurate and incorrect as the phrase is, it was not born from the brain of Bush — or even from the brains of his speechwriters. It was first used soon after Sept. 11, 2001, by Christopher Hitchens, a former diehard Marxist who is now a mainstay of the American neocons.
As anyone with a passing familiarity with English knows, saying that a group of terrorists are "Islamic fascists" does not mean that all Muslims are fascists. calling the phrase "inaccurate and incorrect" is nonsensical, unless the author is saying that the terrorists themselves have no desire to subjugate the world to Islam.

Also, the phrase was not first used by Hitchens, but was used as early as 1990 by historian Malise Ruthven and also before 9/11 by Muslim historian Khalid Duran who was criticizing extremist clerics and was in turn denounced by Muslims for that.
As a neocon, Hitchens enjoys great privileges and is a member in good standing of the media group which regularly attacks Muslims and Islam. His popularity is great in both neocon and Zionist circles. Included among those he is close to are Daniel Pipes, Richard Perle, David Horowitz — all closely associated with the American administration and its destructive and internationally unpopular policies over the last few years.
By sheer coincidence, I'm sure, Almaeena only mentions "neocons" who happen to be Jewish.

The word “fascist” seems to have been used because the Bush administration and its sycophants (the neocons, evangelists, extreme right-wingers and the Zionist lobby) have this false and preposterous idea that Islam wants to take over the world. They are convinced that Muslims want to conquer the entire world by force and convert everyone to Islam by the sword!

Have they drawn this conclusion based on what they know of the terrorists’ beliefs and practices or on the beliefs and practices of the 99.99 percent of Muslims who are not terrorists? And while, as always, our Arab media focuses on trivialities, their media is slowly and insidiously planting negative ideas about Arabs and their alleged anti-Semitism.



The author says that 99.99% of Muslims are not terrorists. That may be true - there may be only 160,000 real, active Muslim terrorists on the planet out of 1.6 billion total. Perhaps he does not think that is a problem for Islam.

However, what Almaeeda is purposefully ignoring is the fact that a significant number of Muslims do support terror. One in four British Muslims felt that the 7/7 bombings were justified. If that is the number in a Western nation that was the victim of terror, it is not too hard to imagine that the numbers in Muslim nations go over 50% (or much higher.)

And, finally, can the author honestly say that the idea of re-establishing an Islamic caliphate is not seen as desirable in most of the Muslim world? Perhaps this caliphate would not take over the entire world, but the idea that people who support terror and have nuclear weapons want such sweeping political power is indeed a clear threat to the entire world.

Now we get from the naive to the stupid:

How, I wonder, can Arabs be anti-Semitic? They are in fact themselves Semites; the word derives from one of the sons of Noah — in English Shem — who was the ancestor of both Jews and Arabs. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Semite” as “people who speak a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs.” In other words, it would be highly unusual for Arabs to be anti-Semites though they might well be anti-Zionists. But that is not the same thing.
It is a pity that this editor could not trouble himself to look up the meaning of "anti-semite" in the same Oxford English Dictionary:

anti-'Semite,

one who is hostile or opposed to the Jews;
anti-Se'mitic a.

Other dictionaries say (since the author apparently believes in proof by dictionary definition):

Random House Dictionary:
an‧ti-Sem‧ite, -ˈsimaɪt/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[an-tee-sem-ahyt, an-tahy- or, especially Brit., -see-mahyt] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun
a person who discriminates against or is prejudiced or hostile toward Jews.

[Origin: 1880–85]
American Heritage Dictionary:
an·ti-Sem·ite (nt-smt, nt-)
n.
One who discriminates against or who is hostile toward or prejudiced against Jews.
Is the author clueless or lying?

A recent Pew Research Center study showed that in most countries, Muslims had an unfavorable impression of Jews. That is prejudice, plain and simple - which means that most Arabs are, by definition, anti-semitic, notwithstanding the etymological calisthenics that the author goes through.
In order to combat the lies and half-truths about Islam and Muslims, we need our own researchers. And we have very few indeed. We Arabs, for whatever reasons, are not known for funding or encouraging research unless we are fairly sure what the end result will be. Nor do we have enough people who are fluent in other languages. For example, how many Arabs are fluent in Hebrew? Nowhere near the number of Israeli Jews who are fluent in Arabic.

Of people who say they have doctorates from this or that university, we have many. Unfortunately, the holders of such doctorates can do little except demand special consideration because of their alleged academic excellence.

We need researchers who are able to state — and back up the statement with facts and evidence — that “Zionists are often anti-Semites.” Because that is a fact. The Zionists, by and large, are Ashkenazi Jews which means they are of Central or Eastern European descent. The great majority of Israeli Jews today are Ashkenazi and it is they who control the country and, in the past, it was they who made the rules and regulations and government policies. They do not always consider their Sephardic brothers — Jews of Spanish, Portuguese, North African or Middle Eastern descent — their equals.
Since the real-world definition of anti-semitism has nothing to do with the definition of Semite, this entire section is a crock. However, it brings up a favorite topic of Jew-haters, namely, the theory that most Ashkenazic Jews are descended from Khazars, not Israelites.

There are many ways to debunk this, but I will choose two that are usually not mentioned: One is that traditional Jews have been very protective of their Kohanic/Levite status and the idea that a bunch of converts declared themselves to be Levites is absurd. The other one is that rabbinic literature, especially Jewish legal literature, is pretty comprehensive throughout the time period of the Khazar conversion to Judaism, and a mass immigration of Jews of questionable legal status would have resulted in a flood of responsa literature which simply doesn't exist. Every Jewish marriage and death in Europe would have been affected!

This is not to say that there hasn't been discrimination against Sephardim in Israel, and it is shameful. But to call it anti-semitism is a classic magician's redirection trick to distract from the serious amount of Jew-hatred in Muslim lands throughout the centuries, including their own versions of blood libels.

Also, Ashkenazim do not take up the "great majority" of Jews in Israel, though it is probably the majority. Up until the mass Russian immigration, I believe the Sephardim had a slight majority.

After World War II, the Ashkenazi Jews poured into Palestine, dreaming of a new life and brainwashed by traditional myths and legends; it was of no importance to them that the land they poured into was populated by Arab Semites who had lived there for thousands of years. At one point, during the British Mandate in Palestine, there was surprisingly only one Jewish family in Jerusalem.
This is simply a bald-faced lie. Jews lived in Jerusalem by the thousands continuously until Jordan made the Old City Judenrein in 1948. Jerusalem was majority Jewish since 1896.

Not surprisingly, he brings no source.
A British researcher, Tanya Hsu, who has done a great deal of work in this field and has suffered a lot in the process, believes that an approach using accurate information would go a long way toward opening people’s minds. “I am always surprised when talking with people in the West who do not understand that one cannot become Semitic by merely learning Hebrew,” she says. “If I speak Arabic, am I now a Semite also? Until the late 20th century, Hebrew was a dead language, revived by Zionists seeking to claim the land of Israel. Most Israeli Jews do not even appear to understand this fundamental flaw in their arguments.”
This is a red herring. No one says that learning Hebrew makes one Semitic.

And judging from at least one article, if Tanya Hsu is considered an expert in this field, then Arab scholarship is in far worse shape than Almaeena thinks.
Unless we have a credible research center to highlight all this and to focus on the forced demographic changes in Palestine because of transplanting people from the ghettoes of Europe, we will never convince the poor, gullible Americans who have fallen victim to this web of lies. As Dresden James said: “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”
Here is a classic Arab attribute of projection. I can back up my claims, Amlaeeda cannot (using his example of "only one Jewish family in Jerusalem," or his bogus definition of anti-semitism) Who is spinning a web of lies?
This unfortunately is what appears to have happened in America in the last 25-30 years. The media, Hollywood and any other means are used to create the picture of a country under attack, living in a “bad neighborhood” protecting its democracy “by having to suppress and kill women and children,” making the desert green (by stealing other people’s water) and a number of other things.
By putting the words "by having to suppress and kill women and children" in quotes, Almaeeda is implying that this is an actual quote from an Israeli. It is, of course, another lie. As is "stealing other people's water."

And, perhaps I am paranoid, but I would consider a country where rockets are being shot and terror attacks are foiled daily as a country under attack. I would not consider the 1.6 billion Muslims who can walk freely almost anywhere in the world as being under attack.

The latest attacks in Lebanon, the killing of 1,400 women and children, the callous destruction of property and infrastructure has all exposed these unsubstantiated claims and allegations for what they really are. Let our researchers do some work and expose them even more.
Wow, are we up to 1400 dead women and children already? Not a single male killed, not a single Hezbollah freedom fighter suffering a scratch? Those Israeli smart bombs must be remarkable to be able to target only women and children so accurately!

For any normal newspaper to publish such an absurd, provable lie would in itself make it lose credibility forever.

Keep in mind that this huge load of rubbish is being published in what would certainly be considered a moderate Arab publication!

So there we have it. An article directed towards an English speaking audience that is chock full of irrelevancies, half-truths and outright lies that all add up to a typical piece of Arab propaganda against Israel and (implicitly and so slyly) against Jews - for accurately accusing Arabs of hating them.