Fighting Religious Extremism and Intolerance... By Promoting Religious Extremism and Intolerance
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon May 17, 2010 at 10:52:41 AM EST
How have some Israeli and Jewish leaders become convinced that they should partner with right wing extremists, including many who would certainly have been considered virulently anti-Semitic only a few years ago?  Has anti-Semitism been redefined only to apply to those who criticize Israeli policy?   Is promoting Islamophobia really beneficial to Israel's cause, or to the American Jewish community?

These are difficult questions that I was trying to address in my recent ZEEK article in which I focused on the role that Jewish feminist Phyllis Chesler played in the Rifqa Bary controversy, a drama which turned into a national platform for promoting Islamophobia and Lou Engle's brand of Christian supremacism.  Within hours of the publication of my article, the pages of American Spectator, David Horowitz's RealNews Blog, and the blog of Robert Stacy McCain, were attacking me.  This response perhaps tells us more about what Chesler now represents than anything I could have possibly written.

Link to Part Two of this article, on the role of Lou Engle and Christian dominionists in the Rifqa Bary saga.

Chesler, a professor of Psychology and Women's Studies, and the author of The New Anti-Semitism and  The Death of Feminism is one of a vocal minority of Jewish leaders, authors, and politicians who appear to believe that promoting Islamophobia and empowering the most aggressive stream of Christian supremacism around the globe is an effective way to fight Islamic extremism and support Israel.  In her interview with National Review Online about her book The New Anti-Semitism, Chesler claims describes the new anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism and added that "Arafat has done as much evil in the world as Hitler did."  In David Horowitz FrontPage in a symposium titled Leftist Anti-Semitism  Chesler states,

What is "new" about anti-Semitism is that it is now "politically correct" on the presumably anti-racist and feminist Left to hate Jews and especially the Jewish state.

The Public Eye of PRA featured a review of The Death of Feminism in which Eleanor Bader states "Chesler, a frequent contributor to David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine and an unabashed fan of George W. Bush, sees domestic feminists as wildly anti-American." Bader continues, "Chesler's biases are blatant. She rails against progressives and gratuitously criticizes feminists." Bader points out that Chesler misses the point that all religious fundamentalism threatens justice loving people and adds that Chesler's "rant against the Islamization of the West" does nothing to advance women's rights.

In recent years Chesler has become part of the David Horowitz, Pamela Geller (Atlas Shrugged), Robert Spencer (Jihad Watch), and Brigitte Gabriel circle of promotion of xenophobia, including having participated in Horowitz's "Islamofascism Awareness Week," held at dozens of college campuses around the nation.

Chesler's "Islamofascism Awareness Week" speech at Columbia in 2007 was described by Esther Kaplan of The Nation as, "that if the jihadists win, they'll impose a Muslim caliphate on the United States and we will all become veiled `sex slaves.'"  As Kaplan noted, this event was part of a larger campaign to expand the war on terror and she also referred to John Hagee's use of the term Islamofascism in his 2007 CUFI Summit in lobbying for war with Iran.

During the height of the Rifqa Bary controversy Chesler wrote about her involvement on her blog stating,

Hats off to all the warriors who fought in this battle. First, to Rifqa's lawyer, Rosa Gonzalez - and Blake and Beverly Lorenz, the pastors who initially sheltered her; to the on-the-ground team of activists and bloggers (Andy Bostom, Brigitte Gabriel, Pamela Geller, Jeffrey Imm, Robert Spencer, Dr. Rusty Shackleford, and Tom Trento) who got the word out; to all the blog readers who sent letters to the Florida Governor; to the experts, such as Nonie Darwish and Wafa Sultan who issued statements; and to those whose Rifqa's lawyer asked to send letters to the judge (that would be my friend and colleague, Ibn Warraq, and myself).

(Ibn Warraq is the founder of the Institute for the Secularization of Islam and author of Why I am Not a Muslim.)

Chesler blogs at Pajamas Media along with Victor Davis Hanson and Iran-Contra participant Michael Ledeen, among others.   Pajamas Media was co-founded by Charles Johnson of the popular site Little Green Footballs, who has since disassociated himself from Pajamas Media, as well as the Right.  Johnson's Little Green Footballs rocketed to blog fame in the aftermath of 9-11, but this past year Johnson warned about, "anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide." Johnson adds,

The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff.  I won't be going over the cliff with them.

Pamela Geller is a self-described "anti-feminist" (who describes feminism as Marxist), devotee of Ayn Rand, and well known right wing blogger who site is website is titled Atlas Shrugs.  On her website she describes how she met Chesler who Geller states, "addresses how the left destroyed this nation, destroyed academia."

Geller is a leading internet promoter of "birther" and other conspiracy narratives about President Obama's parentage (including being fathered by Malcolm X) and compares Obama to Hitler.  Geller has applauded a U.S. soldier for using a Koran for target practice and in the same post called journalist Christine Amanpour, Christiane "Imamwhore."

Geller and Chesler both wrote about their participation in the April 25, 2010 Stand With Israel rally in New York at which Geller spoke along with Michael Ledeen, Joan Peters, Morton Klein, and others.  Chesler reported the participation of her organization, Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam, including one member who stated "You cannot appease Muslim people." Chesler described signs held by the participants, including "President Obama:  Your Recklessness is Endangering America, Israel, and World Freedom." (See Max Blumenthal's video of this event.)

Geller's speech is posted on the Stand With Israel site:

"I ask you to join the new organization that I started with Robert Spencer, called Stop Islamization of America. Go to Facebook. Go to Facebook. SIOA. Because frankly, what you have, is you have an Islamicized President. And it's just one man, and we have righteousness on our side. So as I leave you today, I implore you: go to my blog, You cannot trust the corrupt, criminal media, who demonize Israel at every turn."
Geller has formed ties with the European xenophobic Right including promoting last year's visit to the U.S. by Dutch MP Geert Wilders of the PVV party.  Wilders has called for outlawing the Koran in the Netherlands.  Geller and Robert Spencer brought Wilders to CPAC in 2009.  At the 2010 CPAC Geller and Spencer launched the Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI) with a presentation titled Jihad: The Political Third Rail -- What They Are Not Telling You.

The strange political alliances that are forming, and the inherent contradictions in these alliances, could be seen this past March when Geller and Robert Spencer cancelled the premiere of "Islam Rising," a movie about Geert Wilders, because of the virulent anti-gay stance of the organization producing the movie, Christian Action Network.  The movie premiered in Washington D.C. on May 1, at the Congressional Canon Caucus Room on Capitol Hill in conjunction with the prayer rally Mayday 2010:  A Cry to God for a Nation in Distress.  Billboards advertising the movie have been placed on I-26 in South Carolina.

The New Jersey Jewish News has heralded the European far Right as becoming philo-Semitic.  The article was subtitled "Old hatreds fading as nationalists turn anger against Muslims."  The article cited as study done by Matthew Bunzl which included examples of the far Right embracing Jews and becoming "pro-Israel" in Austria and Belgium.  Bunzl clarified that he "could not stomach that the far Right has come to love Jews because they hate Muslims."  

I would argue that the belief that the far Right now loves Jews is delusional. However, they are quite happy to use those Jewish leaders who are shortsighted enough to help destroy secular democracies and religious pluralism due to their fixation on Islam.

Phyllis Chesler, (and also Brigitte Gabriel and Robert Spencer), has been a contributor to Family Security Matters, including the article "The Islamization of America."  According to Source Watch, FSM is a front for the Center for Security Policy formed in 2003 to appeal to American women.  FSM was also the source of a August 2007 article on the drawbacks of democracy by Philip Atkinson, removed after an outcry from both conservatives and liberals.  

"The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead...

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestige while terrifying American enemies."

Brigitte Gabriel, founder American Congress for Truth, has participated in John Hagee CUFI events including the Summit 2007 where she was videotaped shouting to a cheering audience.

"The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It's the difference between good and evil [applause].... this is what we're witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no SOUL !, they are dead set on killing and destruction."

Bruce Wilson, co-founder of Talk To Action, commented,

"With a few quick rhetorical strokes, CUFI speaker Bridgette Gabriel had stripped the soul from Muslims across the whole Middle East, casting them as collectively subhuman."

I have used Gabriel's comment juxtaposed with another video clip from the 2008 Summit at which a CUFI member warns that "hardcore Jews will get what is coming to them, and that is the anti-Christ."  My point is that if one group of people can be labelled as subhuman, so can another, precisely the reason that Jewish leaders should not be partnering with John Hagee or other leaders of the Christian Right.

Wilson continued with the question of posed by a BBC interviewer to John Hagee,

You know, some people listening to your beliefs will be concerned that such as the black and white, good against evil; the global confrontation that you're talking about, it's inflammatory. It's dangerous.

In another ZEEK article titled Loving Israel, Demonizing Jews I quoted the Jerusalem Post on Dmitri Radeshevsky, head of Jerusalem Summit, an organization which works with politicians around the globe to promote viewing Israel's future through a biblical rather than political lens and to support Christian Zionists.

"Radyshevsky, a Moscow-born Harvard Divinity school graduate, noted the irony that an Israeli Jew was calling for Christian revival in Europe, but said that it was part of a common struggle against radical Islam which required both Jews and Christians to believe in the moral right of their Bible-based values. `Either it will be a fundamentally Christian Europe or a Europe of Islamic fundamentalists,' he opined."

Curiously Radyshevsky has warned in some of his speeches  about the anti-Semitism that he encountered before leaving Russia where he heard locals make claims of a "Yid-Masonic plot."  Radyshevsky appears unaware that he has now partnered with a Christian Zionist movement which is increasingly dominated by a sector that is so consumed with Masonic (and often Rothschild) plots that they "spiritually map" towns and cities locating Masonic locations in preparation to engage in "spiritual warfare" against the demonic forces.  

I have personally been told by a number of national Jewish leaders, "Who cares?"  Why should they care about what they view as outlandish supernatural end time beliefs when there is a real Islamic threat?

In Tikkun Magazine, Tony Krug has questioned the partnership of Jewish leaders with right-wing politicians in Europe, some of whom have reputations as virulent anti-Semites, stating, "There was a time when Jews and official Jewish bodies would not go near such people with a bargepole."

Krug adds,

"There may be a parallel here with the posture of the chairman of the far-Right British National Party, Nick Griffin, who, when he appeared on BBC Television's Question Time in October 2009, disavowed his anti-Semitic past by claiming that his party was "the only political party which, in the clashes between Israel and Gaza, stood full square behind Israel's right to deal with Hamas terrorists." In all of these cases, professed support for Israel or Israeli actions is employed to relieve the charge of anti-Semitism, even by an avid anti-Semite with a record of Holocaust denial.

Krug continues by describing the partnership with Christian Zionists in the U.S. who teach deeply anti-Semitic narrative, but whose "purveyors are sought out and serenaded by many of the influential pro-Zionist Jewish lobbies in America and by the Israeli government.

This reminded me of French elections in which some Jews have supported Jean Le Pen, founder of the Front National, because of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stance.  Le Pen is described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as right wing extremist anti-Semite who claimed that (former) President Jacques Chirac was "in the pay of Jewish organizations."  In a perverse irony, the more threatened French Jews feel, the more likely they are to vote for right wing extremists.  Le Pen had everything to gain by heightening tensions between French Jews and Muslims.  If his own thugs had gone out and vandalized synagogues, it would have likely won votes for him.

Some Jewish leaders view the Israeli and Palestinian conflict as a propaganda war and a zero sum game in which anything negative said about Islam must be good for Jews and Israel.  I disagree.  In prophecy books written over the span of more than a century, including many recent New Apostolic prophecy books,  demonization of others and the devaluation of human life is not limited to Muslims.  A populace that believes that an ethnic or religious group somehow carries the virus of evil, can easily transfer that fear and hatred to others, particularly the "other" who happens to be defined as the source of rebellion against God in many thousands of pages of end times prophecy media.

In Christian Zionist narratives Muslim and Jewish lives only have value as pawns in a cosmic end times drama - pawns with different roles, but pawns just the same. (The same can be said for everyone else including Christians who do not adhere to a particular belief system.)  Hacking away at the foundation of tolerance and religious pluralism in this country can only be damaging for Jews.  Likewise, the current growth of Christian nationalism in this country may be camouflaged as Christian Zionism, but it is no friend to Israel, unless we are talking about trying to advance the wars expected to usher in the end times.

Coincidentally there were others who wrote about Chesler this week and the damage that her Islamophobia does to her efforts to fight honor killings and these authors were actually less restrained than I was in my ZEEK article.  A Dutch blogger who is a self-proclaimed conservative and member of the the VVD party (fiscal conservative party) has a website titled "Blootsellen" in which he explores radicals of all types.  This week he posted an article "Phyllis Chesler - A Context Killer Who Sold Her Soul?" questioning Chesler's article "Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings."

The author asks, "What is the motivation behind the ugly Islamophobic rhetoric of Phyllis Chesler?" and adds,

"This particular article on honor-killing disturbed me, simply because the issue is very important and to have the reality distorted so badly by Chesler is ugly and unconscionable.  It distracts from the real issues and thus its importance." 

I was not previously aware of Blootsellen and know nothing about this blogger, but I share the sentiment that Chesler's Islamophobia is damaging her own causes - not only the cause of fighting honor killings, but also that of Israel.

In another blog, Hussein Ibish, head of the Foundation for Arab American Leadership and Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine wrote this past Monday about Chesler's participation on a Fox News panel commenting on an interview just given by Ibish.  He titles the article "Phyllis Chesler's Stupid Hatred" and describes Chesler as an "anti-Muslim hate-monger."  Ibish closes,

"The point of her intervention is transparently to promote fear and hatred of Muslims and Islam, and to cast me -- a skeptical, rational agnostic -- preposterously in the role of someone who is surreptitiously justifying Muslim violence in a very crafty manner and in duplicitously good English. Her clear-cut and unavoidable message is: nothing has changed, all the Muslims were always evil and bad or at least extremely dangerous, and they're all the same, so fear and hate them. She would have made a fantastic Christian or Muslim anti-Semite."

Chesler's interviews in the Rifqa Bary case are telling.  She stated to Fox News,

"Anyone who converts from Islam is considered an apostate, and apostasy is a capital crime. If she is returned to her family, if she is lucky, they will isolate her, beat her, threaten her, and if she is not `persuaded' to return to Islam, they will kill her. They have no choice."

Part Two of this article (posted momentarily) is a description of how Rifqa Bary "saviors" turned her into the poster child for Christian dominion over Islam in the end times, which they believe to be imminent.

Despite the fact that Chesler's move to the xenophobic right is apparently widely known in some circles, Chesler seems shocked that this could be exposed in a Jewish publication.  I think this was my crime, as we are supposed to still view Chesler as the progressive that she wants the Jewish community to see.  In her response to my Zeek article "The War on Tolerance," Chesler states,

"I don't know why this author is so committed to portraying me as a right wing zealot."

Why? Because I believe in secular democracy, religious pluralism, and peace in the Middle East, and I don't believe that this can be accomplished by fighting religious extremism and intolerance by promoting religious extremism and intolerance.

Link to Part Two "Lou Engle's Exploitation of Rifqa Bary."

Also see Phyllis Chesler Complains About Critical Article at Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.

Yet from what I've seen, they've driven many people into the arms of that religion with their hate and rules and regulations and CONTROL.  I personally do not see any real difference between fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam- except that fundamentalist Christianity IMO is more of a threat to freedom and equality in this world than any form of Islam (especially the moderate ones).

Indeed, from what I've read, Christians were treated far better under Islam than Muslims have generally been treated under the more fundamentalist Christian regimes in this world.  The problems came from the fundamentalists (dating back to the crusades)... and I've even heard that in those days, fundamentalists went out of their way to offend Muslims- and the real Christians sometimes requested that their Muslim rulers would execute the offensive parties because they were causing so much grief.

While I would never become a Muslim and have some strong disagreements with some of their beliefs; I think life would be far better under an Islamic regime than any Dominionist one.  Far far better.  (For one thing, it would become far less likely that I would get proselytized and even harassed when I went into the public.)

I think that this whole situation illustrates the power of propaganda and the lengths to which some people will go in order to further their own personal agenda.  I would remind some of those jack*sses that being friends means having the right and even responsibility to disagree with the other if the other is perceived as doing wrong... and that applies for nations as well as individuals.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon May 17, 2010 at 12:46:54 PM EST

My personal opinion is that all the Abrahamic religions in all their myriad compositions are a disaster waiting to happen. And I disagree that living in an Islamic society would be better than a dominionist (not that the latter would be any better). I have lived in an Islamic country and I will take godless society over theocracy any day. We need to cast off every clinging vestige of bicameralism and move on.

by kaori on Wed May 19, 2010 at 05:23:05 PM EST

I am not impressed by Lou Engle and the various causes he champions, especially the death penalty for gays in Uganda. I have every reason to think he would want to do the same thing here, but there is now too much public opinion against him.

by khughes1963 on Mon May 17, 2010 at 09:42:44 PM EST

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