Bernard Lewis’ op-ed piece in the May 16, 2007 issue of the Wall Street Journal deserves swift rebuttal. This is the same man who advised President Bush prior to the Iraq war that the only language Arabs understood was the language of force. While Presidents may self-select advisors who tell them what they want to hear, these advisors bear as much responsibility, specially when they pose as “experts”.
Lewis is an octogenarian Zionist, an “expert” author of numerous books purporting to explain Islam and Arabs. His political agenda is thinly veiled, and along with his neoconservative cohorts he has been one of the lead propagandists advocating military action in the middle-east. A card-carrying member of the Israel Lobby, his situational analysis consistently deflects attention from Israel’s primacy in US policymaking where the Mideast is concerned. The Lobby, of course, cannot afford to have an open discussion around the difference in what is good for the US, versus what is good for Israel.
Lewis’ op-ed article is a call to arms against Islam. Like the skilful propagandist that he is, he weaves his story using metaphors carefully planted in the American psyche since 9/11, to painstakingly rekindle the fire of fear.
1. Lewis conflates Islam and Arabs, events in the Middle-East with Muslim reaction worldwide. He says, for example that “in the Muslim perception there has been, since the time of the Prophet, an ongoing struggle between the two world religions, Christendom and Islam”. In a simple sentence, he claims to express the perception of more than a billion people over 15 centuries. This is not a necessary simplification for a short article, but a calculated attempt to catalog all Muslims as the “other”, the enemy, and a threat to all Christians.
In actual fact, the Muslim world is diverse and global. Muslims in the US are no more likely to live their lives in this (largely discredited) Huntingtonian view than they are to worry about getting their kids into college. Lewis draws these battle lines, and supports them with false choices, in order to provoke a warlike stance between Muslims and Christians, with Zionism lurking in the background. Given Israel’s penchant for self-destructive violence (such as its cluster-bombing of Lebanese civilians after the last war) one has to wonder whether Lewis’ real agenda is to focus attention away from the extent to which the Israel Lobby has succeeded in diverting our attention away from America’s self-interest. The real issue is the divided loyalties of Zionists like Lewis, who are trying to catalyze a war between Muslims and Christians to divert attention from Israel.
2. Lewis portrays the jihadists as being organized, focused, and calculating. He projects an Osama Bin Laden as representing the Muslim world, with a multi-stage blueprint for attacking the United States. Faced with such an existential threat, should not the US be excused for any and all extreme actions it takes in response, including Guantanamo, denial of civil liberties to Muslims, and perhaps even the electronic tracking and roundup of all Muslims in America as potential suspects?
These hoary tactics were applied by Christians against Jews barely a century ago. The Catholic Church issues circulars that condemned Jews for using the blood of Christian children for Passover rites. All Jews (whether secular, converts, or intermarried) were marked and identified as sinister and worthy of apartheid. This state of apartheid allowed the organized evil of the Holocaust to be implemented. Lewis would have all Muslims be subject to a similar apartheid, based on his imaginative storyline laced with generalities. Is here really unaware of the history of such tactics, or mere a student thereof?
3. Rather than educate an American audience about distinctions within the Muslim world, Lewis is a Svengali who seems intent on misleading American policy. He has succeeded in mesmerizing the born-again Christian policymakers in today’s Washington with simple tales of friend and foe. In this particular article, he talks about how the collapse of the Soviet system was seen by Bin Laden as a “Muslim victory”. Really? Given that Bin Laden represents such a tiny sliver of all Muslims, how can his perception be any more real than that of Don Quixote de la Mancha? By elevating Bin Laden, Lewis seeks to strike fear in Americans, and continue the push to turn the so-called “war on terror” into a “war on Islam”because, as he would spin it, they declared war first!
The translucent elephant in the room that appears to energize Lewis and the rest of the neoconservatives is, of course, Israel and its survival as a Jewish-only statedemocracy for Jews, apartheid for the rest. The real question he should address is, how much damage are he and his cohorts willing to inflict on the US, to support Israel’s unsupportable policies?
BADRUDDIN KHAN lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org