Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Role of AIPAC in Supporting Islamophobia

The Center for American Progress has come out with a very important report that should be required reading for Americans working for a peaceful and just future. It's called Fear Inc, and it is about the well-funded and well-organized campaign to spread fear and hatred against Muslims in America and around the world. A small number of donors and "charitable" groups do much of the heavy-lifting in making possible this campaign, supporting key groups and pseudo-intellectuals that in turn create hate and division in the US, promoting myths and ignorance.

We believe that the report should have given significant credit to AIPAC in its efforts to spread Islamophobia in the US. We also believe that we need to look to the motivations of those that are supporting this campaign of hate.

Here is a summary of the report from one of the authors:

The Center for American Progress is a large organization that has the ear of at least a segment of the US establishment, especially within the Democratic Party. So we are happy that the well-funded anti-Muslim disinformation campaign is exposed in this venue. The Center is getting attention and in return they are getting flak from the Extreme-Right, which means must be doing something right.

We do believe that this report did leave something important out, namely the support AIPAC has given to the anti-Muslim movement in America. The report lists the key "scholars" who create the myths and those media and religious leaders who promote the myths. Not mentioned is the support they have received from aipac, an organization that helps these players gain credibility they would otherwise lack. For example, it lists Rev. Hagee and his Christians United for Israel organization and its responsibility for promoting anti-Muslim hate themes, but it does not mention the symbiotic relationship of this organization and aipac over the years, starting especially with providing Hagee with an opportunity of being a keynote speaker at the 2007 AIPAC policy conference and continuing even now, as several AIPAC leaders were present at the CUFI conference (that featured Glenn Beck, a key media backer of Islamophobia listed in Fear Inc report). Several other major players identified in the Fear Inc report were prominent in the CUFI event. (I wrote about it here, and you can see a chilling account of the event right here) Not only did aipac leaders featured prominently at the event, but so did the Israeli government, with the presence of Michael B. Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States and Prime Minister Netanyahu via satellite.

The "scholars" listed in the report have also found support from aipac. For example, Steve Emerson was one of those whose extremism was part of the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference. As a final example of many, just this year the aipac policy conference featured Douglas Murray, a British supporter of the "English Defence League", a fascist group of anti-Muslim street thugs.

Lacking in the Fear Inc report is any real analysis of the motivations of the players in creating fear and hatred of Muslims and Arabs. We know the consequences of this campaign will result in random acts of violence against Muslims or those that are perceived to be Muslim. We know it may even lead to great acts of violence, such as what transpired in Norway. But that is probably not the actual goal of the institutional funders of the campaign. We believe that many of the institutional backers of Islamophobia have a clear goal: Making War and Oppression of Muslims, and Arab people in general easier for the American public to accept. A prerequisite for making war possible has always been to create fear and hysteria among the general populace. Support (or at least general indifference) for Israeli oppression of Palestinians among US public is only possible because of the relative success of the propaganda campaign in dehumanizing Muslims and Arabs.

Another report well worth reading on Islamophobia is Max Blumenthal's "The Great Islamophobic Crusade". He talks about the Israel Lobby and its central role in funding this crusade.

An excerpt:
Besides providing the initial energy for the Islamophobic crusade, conservative elements from within the pro-Israel lobby bankrolled the network's apparatus, enabling it to influence the national debate. One philanthropist in particular has provided the beneficence to propel the campaign ahead. He is a little-known Los Angeles-area software security entrepreneur named Aubrey Chernick, who operates out of a security consulting firm blandly named the National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination. A former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has served as a think tank for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a frontline lobbying group for Israel, Chernick is said to be worth $750 million.

Our work is vital then in exposing the relatively small number of key players involved in anti-Muslim organizing and exposing their extremism and dangerous agenda, including groups like aipac, that has the facade of being a "moderate" mainstream organization. We can then delegitimize and marginalize these individuals/organizations that wish to foment hate and work instead to create a future that values all people of all religious and non-religious traditions as equal and valued members of society. Part of that work will be to Stop AIPAC. (Do you really think your congressperson should be supporting an organization that supports organized hate in America?) This report from the Center for American Progress is an important step, despite its shortcomings, so it should be widely promoted. What is clear is that we need to see many more on the streets as we protest at AIPAC and other such events around the country.

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