Hussein Ibish, the Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), which functions as the two-man wing of the pro-Israel lobby, has a habit of lecturing Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Muslims. He’s given us lectures on everything from crackpot realism to political strategy, morality and proper social etiquette. It’s not unusual for establishment Arabs like Ibish to adopt and internalize the racist, condescending, and paternalistic behavior and attitude of the US political class. In his latest exploration of the Arab mind Ibish returns to an old orientalist cliché about the crazy Arabs and their crazy conspiracy theories.
Writing about the Arab public’s response to the declaration of a “Caliphate” by the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS), now renamed simply the Islamic State (IS), Ibish begins by saying:
“One of the most alarming features of Arab responses to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq is a persistent pattern of neurotic denial in the form of conspiracy theories and other escapist fantasies.”
Ibish does not speak Arabic, and has no understanding of Arab politics or culture. His almost daily Neocon bile masquerading as informed opinion pieces reveal that while he’s well-versed in the US State Department’s discourse on the Middle East he has no knowledge or training. The primary Arab response to the declaration of the “Caliphate” has been mockery and ridicule seeing it as a publicity stunt by a crazed, murderous gang of lunatics. And while the Arab world has its share of kooky conspiracy theorists, they do not represent a higher percentage of Arab society than kooky conspiracy theorists here in the US or in any other country or region. Ibish goes on to write:
“An astounding number and range of Arabs, in my own experience in recent weeks, embrace some version of a conspiracy theory holding that the IS and Baghdadi are not what they seem and are, in fact, the creations of Western or Israeli intelligence services.”
The question that comes immediately to mind is what “experience” has Ibish had with Arabs “in recent weeks.” In fact, what experience, if any, has Ibish had with any Arabs since moving from Lebanon to the US? The ATFP itself is unable to point to any relationship with the Palestinian or Arab-American communities and collaborates exclusively with non-Arab, non-Muslim Zionist groups. Even while in Lebanon Ibish must have been completely disconnected from his Arab surroundings to not have learned the language of the society within which he was born and raised. Ibish’s alienation from the Arab world, and his lack of language skills and knowledge of Arab politics and culture prevents him from placing kooky Arab conspiracy theorists in perspective. So while Ibish can readily identify and place in proper perspective a kooky American conspiracy theorist he’s unable to do the same with a kooky Arab conspiracy theorist.
Ibish does not stop here. For him the crazy Arabs need their crazy conspiracy theories because they serve a purpose, they are a form of “neurotic denial.” But what exactly are the Arabs in denial about? Well, according to Ibish, Arabs are unwilling to accept they are experiencing a “profound crisis in the culture and hierarchies of moral and religious values” which has taken root in their societies. And while Ibish makes sure to qualify his ignorance and bigotry by pointing out that not all Arab, Sunni Muslims are responsible for the savagery of IS he does insist that “one cannot exculpate these communities entirely either.”
Its true many Arabs have attributed the rise of IS to US policies, both direct and indirect. Ibish himself is forced to concede this point although he considers it an unintended consequence of an “ill-conceived” (not criminal or immoral) invasion of Iraq. This seems like a perfectly reasonable position given the history of US support for the likes of IS beginning in Afghanistan in the 1980s. There is ample precedent to point to of the US regime and its oil-rich clients in the region supporting such groups in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, and most recently Syria. In fact, it was US support and GCC funding that made possible the rise of IS in Syria and its eventual sweep across Northern Iraq. Ironically, Ibish himself has his own favorite kooky conspiracy theory when it comes to IS which is popular among his colleagues in the anti-Syria, Neocon and Zionist “think-tank” community. They argue the rise of IS was manufactured by the Syrian government with Iraqi and Iranian support. Other than pointing out that some IS terrorists may have been held in Syrian jails a few years ago, no real evidence is actually ever presented that shows any links, however remote, between IS and the Syrian government. The new “Caliph” himself was held by the US during its occupation of Iraq.
One can’t help but notice that the language Ibish routinely uses to describe Arabs and Muslims would not be employed to describe any other group of people, something we’ve written about previously. Since Ibish mentions his experience with Arabs the last few weeks, let’s take a look at his own inconsistent and contradictory reactions during this same period. The world has watched Israel go on a murderous rampage in Palestine, and claiming to do so in the name of the “Jewish state.” We’ve also watched as the overwhelming majority of Israeli society has not only approved of Israel’s mass slaughter but has been out in the streets drinking, dancing and celebrating as bombs are dropped on women and children trapped in the Gaza concentration camp. Would Ibish ever suggest that Jews are experiencing a “profound crisis in the culture and hierarchies of moral and religious values?” Of course not, nor should war crimes carried out by mass murderers that are Jews be attributed to the Jewish religion. Nor should Jews be held collectively responsible for the war crimes of other Jews or the criminal regime of the usurping Zionist entity. Of course, Ibish has not even condemned the ongoing Israeli pogrom in Gaza because condemning Israel for the slaughter of Palestinian babies with the full support of the US would upset the political sensibilities of Washington officialdom, an omission also driven by an internalized racism that does not value Arab and Muslim life.
Many Arab-Americans and Muslims are willing to confront the racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia of non-Arab, non-Muslim Americans, but we must also be calling out the racists and bigots within our own communities. Ikhras intends to do so.