A Dangerous Whiff of Anti-Semitism Can Be Smelt amid the Cordite
Cesarani, David, The Independent (London, England)
MUSLIMS AND Jews are still coping with the consequences of the terrorist assault on America. But while there has been intense scrutiny of anti-Muslim attitudes, British Jews fear that the focus on Islamophobia has overshadowed another phobia.
In the immediate aftermath of the atrocities, a laudable effort to stem the tide of anti-Muslim feeling was made on both sides of the Atlantic, and to a great extent it succeeded. The government is even contemplating a law that will make Islamophobic utterances an offence. Little has been said, however, about the lies and abuse directed at Jews, Zionism, and Israel.
While there is undoubtedly a connection between the hostility which many Arabs and Muslims feel towards America and Israel, the commonplace explanation for the atrocities in the United States of America and the animosity towards Israel have gone beyond the rational. The mythic narrative goes something like this. The upsurge of radical Islam is a protest aganist westernisation, American cultural hegemony, capitalism, and the State of Israel that only exists thanks to US backing. Terrorism will end when America ceases to impose its values on the world, helps to end poverty in poor countries, and compels Israel to give the Palestinian people what they want. This pre-conceived storyline bears little relation to actuality.
Islamic countries have historically been both pro- and anti- American. It is as false to suggest that Islam is automatically anti- Western as it is to assume that there is a monolithic "Arab world" or "Islamic world".
The resurgance of Islam began in the 1970s, in a variety of countries, each with its own context. In Egypt, President Sadat courted Islamic groups to help replace secular left-wing ideologies. President Nimieri in Sudan manipulated Islam to clothe his rule with legitimacy. In Pakistan in 1979 to 1980, Zia-al-Haq instrumentalised religion in his struggle with President Bhutto - who had himself in the 1960s attempted to mobilise Islam in support of his People's Party. In Iran, religion was a vehicle for opposition to the Shah and his western backers.
America and Israel had little to do with the radicalising dynamic within Muslim countries and Islam. Both later cultivated Islamic militants for their own purposes, but this added marginally to the resurgence. To blame the US for the horror in New York because it helped the mujahedin and the Taliban in Afghanistan is as irrelevant as it is perverse. Islam may have become a vehicle for expressing the rage of the dispossessed, but unless one subscribes to a grotesque conspiracy theory that sees globalisation as the US attempt to dominate the world, America cannot be held responsible for the economic plight of dozens of countries.
It is equally simplisitc to assume that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the mainspring for Osama bin Laden's murderous campaign. The massacre in America was planned while the peace process was at full throttle, long before Ariel Sharon set foot on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Bin Laden adopted the Palestinian cause years after he embarked on his career as an anti-American holy warrior. He is now being lionised by Muslims who are aggrieved by Israel's policies, but does this mean that to eliminate support for him the Americans must force the Israelis to meet Palestinian demands? …