What's in a Name

Posted in Broader Middle East | 07-Jul-08 | Author: Barry Rubin| Source: GLORIA Center

We all know--though the Western media often doesn't--that radical Arab nationalists, Islamists, and terrorists lie all the time. They then slander and threaten those who point out the truth.

Yet often, governments, journalists, and academics split the difference or even find the liars more credible since they are not governments, Westerners, or Jews.

There is one case after another of this situation. Some make global headlines like the Dura case, where French television covered up its staged broadcast claiming that Israel killed a boy in Gaza even when a French court found it was phony, or the supposed Jenin massacre, reported on the basis of one unknown Palestinian witness and maintained by many even after the UN found it phony.

And then there are the every-day frauds perpetrated. Yet it is always nice to have the proof.

One category is, as explained by the blog "Harry's Place" recently, when "Islamists in the West habitually say one thing to their English-speaking audience, and another thing to their Arabic speaking audience."1

The specific item in question is a statement made by Muhammad Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, to Al-Jazeera about a big pro-Israel celebration in London:

"We, the Arab and Islamic community, gather here today to express our resentment at the celebrations by the Jewish community and the [evil Jew/Jewish evil] in Britain"

Sawalha is a powerful man in British Muslim circles: founder of IslamExpo and a trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque, formerly the center for recruiting terrorists and inveighing against the Jews.

According to the "Harry's Place" article, Sawalha is a key figure in the Muslim Brotherhood and a Hamas supporter and fundraiser. But when writing in the British media, Sawalha and his cohorts try to sound moderate, and no doubt many British elite members see them in such terms.

As so often happens, however, the response of Sawalha and company was neither to affirm proudly their views--which are typical of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood propaganda in the Arab world--nor to back down but to fabricate and attack.

It reminds me of the time that a BBC stringer in Gaza made a pro-Hamas speech which appeared on that group's site. When Israel complained, the speech was quickly taken down. The BBC then said it could not investigate the issue since there was no remaining evidence. The fact that a "screen shot" existed of the article did not move them from that stance.

Or when Islamist terrorism leads to criticism the response of Muslim individuals, institutions, and regimes is to put a far lower priority on rejecting or reitnerpreting the specific texts used by the Islamist terrorists than to claim "Islamophobia" on the part of the critics.

And so Al-Jazeera simply changed the wording of the interview's text to read: "Jewish lobby" instead of the "evil Jew." As an aside, note that "evil Jew" is a far more vicious statement than "evil Jews." After all, the latter implies opposition to those Jews who support Israel while the former pushes the idea that Jews are innately evil, an idea that is usually or almost always present in Hamas, Islamist, and a great deal of general Arab discourse.2

At any rate, the British Muslim Initiative then issued a press release they put on the "Harry's Place" site but not on their own. (As so often happens with the language switcheroo, the radicals don't want their own supporters to know about their moderate pretenses or understand that they know it is all a con-game.

The release basically called "Harry's Place" a bunch of, well they didn't quite say it but a prime example of the "evil Jew." It states:

"Zionist Racist website lies in order to justify its hate-rhetoric

While ‘Harry's Place' may not be known as a bastion of truth and balanced comment - not even in the remotest sense of these words - its latest blunder shows it as an entirely incompetent source of information."

Well, the source of information was al-Jazeera but I guess that isn't what they mean.

The release continues:

"It is of course possible that... the moderators of this vile blog-space - which has made it its mission to attack Islam and Muslims in whatever underhand methods it can get away with - deliberately skewed the word ‘Lobby' to turn it into some other word and make it seem as though it means ‘evil/noxious', in order to portray not only Mohammed Sawalha, but BMI and all the projects that Mr. Sawalha is linked to, as ‘Jew-haters' and ‘anti-Semitic.'"

Now of course the Initiative knows that the article was quoting al-Jazeera but they never mention the actual text there. Note also how the criticism of a specific individual's statement turns into an "attack [on] Islam and Muslims." And the cute touch that the site is trying to "get away" with something when it is actually the Initiative that is doing so.

And also, if the statement was so innocent than why did al-Jazeera change the wording without stating it had made a correction?

But Anas Altikriti, a spokesman of BMI, let's the cat out of the bag--though that might not be an apt phrase given such group's attitudes toward lovable animals--by saying:

"This particular blog-space and its moderators are nonentities and insignificant. However, its danger lies in that in the past some corners of our mainstream media have picked up on its drivel and used it as fact."

Yes, that's it: what is the mainstream media started reporting on the antisemitism of Islamists instead of harping on blaming Israel for everything.

Taking a line from Seinfeld's description of Newman, the spokesman calls the site, "Pure evil."

As "Harry's Place" responds, in the framework of Western democratic civilization, they could have just said that al-Jazeera made a mistake and its been corrected. But no, because their side must be completely right and the other side must be "pure evil."

The actual examination of evidence is not a big thing in Arab nationalist or Islamist circles. Come to think of it, not so popular in Western academic, intellectual, and media circles either any more.

And, of course, that which is pure evil--especially pure "Jewish evil" must be exterminated. Funny, you-know-who, the guy with the little moustache, used to say the same thing.

I have an idea for a new word and I hope that governments, universities, international institutions, and the mass media take it up with the same enthusiasm as they have "Islamophobia." Let's call it: Judaeophobia.

Oh, by the way, here's a screenshot of the al-Jazira site showing the quote: http://www.hurryupharry.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/15gqs91.jpg

1 http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/07/02/british-muslim-initiative-we-resent-the-evil-jew-in-britain/#comments.

2 According to "Harry's Place": The original text contained the word evil. It means "evil" or "noxious" or "dreaded" or "disasterous". We've asked other Arabic speakers, and they've confirmed that, combined with the word "Jew", the sense of the phrase is "Evil Jew" or "Jewish evil". That word has been replaced with "lobby", The words don't look at all similar. So this isn't a spelling mistake. If we wait a little bit longer, I bet they'll change it to "the Zionist Lobby".

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). Prof. Rubin's columns can be read online.

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