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Thursday, January 04, 2007

2006 top Middle East conspiracy theories

The highly anticipated annual list from MEMRI (see last year's here and the Spring 2006 edition was classic):
"I think if the U.S. did not exist some of us would have invented it. … It is because we are used to hanging all our problems and catastrophes on America. … We add Israel to America." — A former Kuwaiti oil minister, Ali Baghli, Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah, March 30

On her winter vacation to Saudi Arabia in December, a professor at Brandeis University whose work has been promoted by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., Natana DeLong-Bas, gave an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat.

"I do not find any evidence that makes me agree that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack on the twin trade towers," she said of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

To any observer of the Middle East, such a statement comes as no surprise, even from a university professor.

In an article for the September 10 edition of the New Sunday Times, "Did the U.S. Stage a Lie on 9/11?" the vice chancellor of the University Sains Malaysia, Dato Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, also questioned the official version of the attacks. And the Malaysian cleric Hussain Ye appeared on Peace TV on November 1 and said there was no proof Muslims were involved in the attacks and that Jews are guilty.

An article in the November 22 edition of the Syrian government-controlled newspaper Tishreen said a former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was connected to the September 11 attacks.

The article also criticized those who blamed Syria for the assassination of a Lebanese government minister, Pierre Gemayel. The Syrian minister of expatriates, Bouthaina Shaaban, instead blamed American Embassy employees in Beirut, as well as Israel, for the Gemayel assassination in the October 12 issue of Asharq Al-Awsat.

Conspiracies surrounding Darfur also abounded in 2006. In an address before the U.N. General Assembly on September 19, President al-Bashir of Sudan said that what was really happening in Darfur was a Zionist plot to dismember Sudan and plunder its resources.

The "American-Zionist interest in Sudan" is not to prevent genocide in Darfur but to get control of oil and uranium, Muhammad Salahuddin wrote in the Saudi daily Arab News on August 10. And "American-Israeli" "fabricated lies" about Darfur are part of a Zionist conspiracy to control the "Nile basin to the Euphrates River," the Sudanese writer Muhammad Keshk wrote in the Syrian government-controlled daily Al-Thawrah on December 14, while America is "encouraging the Christians of south Sudan to break away from Sudan," Hassan Tahsin wrote in the Arab News of June 23.

Anti-Semitic conspiracies also continued unabated in 2006 in the Arab press. In the Iraqi magazine Al-Shabaka Al-Iraqiyya of March 13, the article "Look for the Jews" blamed Jews for the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad published in Europe and for the destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Samarra mosque in February.

The Egyptian cleric Hazem Sallah Abu Ismail, a former Islamic lecturer in America, appeared on Saudi Al-Risala TV on April 14 and discussed U.N. documents that purportedly showed that "82% of all attempts to corrupt humanity originate from the Jews." Six weeks later, Uwe Frisecke of Lyndon LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review said on Lebanon's New TV that Jews spread AIDS, SARS, mad cow, and other diseases. The children's Web site of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood devoted a section of its April issue to "murdering children — part of the Jewish religion."

Conspiracies about Guantanamo Bay were also common last year. Following the suicide of a Saudi man at Guantanamo, the man's father told the Arab News on June 19 that Zionists and neoconservatives in the American administration had masterminded his death.

"In countries and cultures where governments and the media have regularly colluded to hide the truth from their citizens, mistrust of authority is pervasive," the British foreign and Commonwealth office minister for the Middle East, Kim Howells, wrote of the Arab press in the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat on October 19. As 2007 begins, one can only hope that the conspiracy theories from the Arab press will lessen. This, however, is unlikely.