Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

Quote of the day

“The reality is that insane anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are the mother’s milk of political analysis in Egypt and in much of the rest of the Middle East. The emotional, visceral reaction against what is seen as Israel’s shaming, alien presence in the Arab world has fused with ugly and backward western anti-Semitism to create a turbo-charged fear and hatred of Jewish influence and Jewish power. A political and religious culture which cannot help but see the survival of a Jewish state in the region as a badge of humiliation and failure takes comfort in exaggerated ideas about Jewish power.

President Morsi didn’t think he was saying anything weird in claiming a Jewish conspiracy runs the American media. In the world in which he lives, this is like saying that the sun rises in the east. It is a cliche, not a smear.

Israeli policies can exacerbate the problem, but it is Israel’s existence not its excesses that are the heart of the problem. The Arab world will never prosper, and real peace in the Middle East will never come, until the mental disorder represented by anti-Semitism heals. That won’t happen soon—and until it does, a huge cultural gulf is going to keep Arabs and Americans apart.”

Walter Russell Mead, commenting on Egyptian President Morsi’s efforts to explain his antisemitic remarks documented in tapes from 2010 by telling a group of visiting US senators that “we all know that the media in the United States has made a big deal of this and we know the media of the United States is controlled by certain forces.”

As much as Mead’s forceful acknowledgement of the prevalence and importance of antisemitism in the Middle East must be welcomed, it inevitably also highlights how much this issue is neglected in the commentary and analyses provided by Middle East experts in the MSM. But Mead is right to argue that the “Arab world will never prosper, and real peace in the Middle East will never come, until the mental disorder represented by anti-Semitism heals.” It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that those who ignore this factor – and do so willfully if they are really Middle East experts – have an agenda that motivates them to hide or downplay a dynamic that shapes the region in important and negative ways.

Let me conclude with an excellent example illustrating Mead’s view “that insane anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are the mother’s milk of political analysis in Egypt and in much of the rest of the Middle East” – because it is very important to understand that this is not just a phenomenon that animates “the street.” In December 2008, the respected Egyptian Al-Ahram English Weekly published a lengthy analysis on the rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia that had developed into a very serious and costly threat to international shipping. The title of the Al-Ahram analysis was “Israel, piracy and the Red Sea.”

Israel piracy

In the ostensibly knowledgeable and sophisticated piece, long-time regular Al-Ahram contributor Galal Nassar suggested that

“Piracy of this magnitude make [sic!] it clear that the pirates are no longer a haphazard collection of opportunists or individuals with no other sources of income to turn to in their war-torn country. There must be a prime mover seeking to further its own agenda through operations that have grown increasingly sophisticated.”

Needless to say, the “prime mover” behind this evil was of course Israel (supported by the US), which sought to implement longstanding plans – going back to Ben Gurion – to dominate the Red Sea and East Africa.

I sometimes wonder if the US officials involved in granting Egypt’s requests for military equipment are aware of the kind of political “analysis” that informs these requests.

As noted above, the author of the “prime mover”-theory on Somali piracy was a long-time regular Al-Ahram contributor. His most recent piece, published a few days ago, is entitled “The revolution continues;” and he writes there:

“The Arabs are a people without a state because the states they have lack legitimacy that can only come from the people. Israel was planted in the heart of this region to drive them mad and warp their consciousness, and despotic governments were created to force them to love Israel. But the Arab people cannot be made to love their supposed masters — the West and Israel — and they rebelled when the punishment for their refusal to do so (despotic governments) proved too harsh and iniquitous. The Muslim Brothers stepped in to save the day in Egypt; they would convert the Muslims to another (more moderate?) Islam and the intelligence authorities that count every breath people take would be given a new name, in deference to and in honour of the faith. But…

The revolution continues. The Arabs have reached the point of no return. They can no longer accept having policies imposed on them against their will. […] the Arab people are at a crossroads and not sure what to do with their revolution, which is precisely the point where a counterrevolution can be most effective. Neoliberalism, by whatever guise or name it takes, is now the instrument of choice for defusing the revolution. Accordingly, Egypt must pawn its assets, including the Suez Canal, in keeping with the dictates of the World Bank and IMF, if it is to receive financial aid. This is what they call ‘moderate’ Islam. All you have to do is sell your belongings and love Israel in order to gain favour in the current international imperialist order.

The Arab revolution that began in 2011 spread throughout the Arab world at once, as though the Arabs have a single united will. However, if such a single will exists, it must not be translated politically in institutionalised forms, such as unity in a federated system that would enable the Arabs to become strong and give them a sense of meaning and direction. The masters of the imperialist order cannot allow this to happen at all costs. Arab countries are sitting on too much oil. It follows that terrorism must loom in equal abundance, or that while international negotiations, agreements and arrangements are put into place around oil rich Arab countries, terrorism continues to lurk in nearby surroundings and rears its head on occasion. This is how Mali becomes a theatre of war.”

You see: Islamist terrorism doesn’t have anything to do with the failures of Arab and Muslim states, it’s simply one of the perfidious tools of western imperialism and its most evil creation, the Zionist entity…

 

Free Gaza tweets for terror and a world without Zionism

The still ongoing controversy about Free Gaza’s propagation of antisemitic material has revealed the for me somewhat surprising fact that apparently quite a few of the group’s supporters seem to believe that Free Gaza is somehow dedicated to promoting peace and coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

That is plainly not the case.

One of the most recent tweets from Free Gaza is a call to #NormalizeResistance. As I write, this hashtag seems to be primarily used to protest an invitation for Gilad Shalit by FC Barcelona, and the top tweet right now comes from an account set up under the name of Khader Adnan.

We know what Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan means by “resistance” – and as it happens, Gaza’s rulers understand “resistance” in pretty much the same way.

It is precisely this kind of “resistance” advocated by Islamic Jihad and Hamas that has led to the “blockade” that Free Gaza opposes: Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, more than 8,000 rockets have been fired from there by the “resistance,” terrorizing about one million Israeli civilians who live within the range of these rockets.

So let’s see what Free Gaza has to say about the “resistance”:

These tweets refer to an incident on June 1, 2012, when an armed infiltrator associated with Islamic Jihad from Gaza was discovered by IDF units near the Gaza border and managed to kill one soldier before being killed himself.

To sum up Free Gaza’s take on the event: an “operation” executed by “Gaza defenders” succeeded in killing one “IOF” soldier – though Free Gaza had apparently hoped the “operation” would result in three “dead Israeli soldiers.”

On the rockets raining down on Israeli towns, Free Gaza has this to say:

“Over 100 retaliatory projectiles and rockets including long-range Grad type have been fired from Gaza by Palestinian resistance groups.#Gaza

When it comes to Free Gaza’s – and certainly Greta Berlin’s – vision for the future, there seems to be no room for Israel as a Jewish state, and indeed, there seems to be no room for Jewish Israelis. In January, Free Gaza tweeted a link to a blog post entitled “Call me a Palestinian from Palestine.”

The post features a large photo of a mural depicting the widely idolized Leila Khaled, whose “fame” rests on her contribution to making airplane hijackings a successful terrorist tactic some 30 years ago.

The text of the post itself is fairly typical for the Palestinian “steadfastness”-genre that usually invokes the popular “blood-and-soil”-theme that self-described progressives apparently find deeply moving when it’s employed by Palestinians. In this case it’s an image often used on “Land Day”:

“My blood and sweat have since the dawn of history watered this land, kept it green and blooming and gave the poppies their colour.”

The main theme of the post is built on a much-used dichotomy: on one side are the unspeakably evil and cruel “Zionist racist” colonizers who are the real terrorist that “raped and continue to rape [Palestine] for over 63 years;” on the other side are the noble natives who patiently suffer, waiting for the day when their “home between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River … will be free of the Zionist colonists, the cowards and racists that … have no place in this land.”

Among the rapturous reader comments, there is one by Greta Berlin, linking to Free Gaza’s website, saying: “Heartbreaking and uplifting. As long as the young people of Palestine never forget, Palestine will always be remembered and will, one day. be returned.”

Yet another indication that Greta Berlin wants a “Zionist-free” Palestine “between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River” is the indignant tweet sent out by Free Gaza about a Huffington Post story with the somewhat misleading headline “Helen Thomas Denied Table For White House Correspondents Dinner.” However, as the report explains, Helen Thomas was given the privilege to get two tickets for this dinner even though she was no longer a White House correspondent. The Huffington Post report delicately alludes to “controversial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” that cost Thomas her status as a White House correspondent; the incident referred to is a clip showing Thomas voicing the view that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home [to] Poland, Germany… America and everywhere else.”

In any case, Free Gaza was clearly very upset that Helen Thomas wasn’t granted the extraordinary privilege of reserving a whole table at the glitzy White House Correspondents’ Dinner, tweeting:

“Helen Thomas denied own table at big D.C. dinner. http://huff.to/HdDf28 via @Gaza Please write to the organizers and express your disgust.”

Last but by no means least, it is noteworthy that in the ongoing controversy about the antisemitic material tweeted by Free Gaza, it is widely ignored that several of these tweets link to fringe websites that propagate bizarre conspiracy theories. Unsurprisingly, Free Gaza has also done this when it’s not really about Jews or Zionists: At the end of last December, Free Gaza posted a tweet about the “Engineered ‘Arab Spring:’” “2011 YEAR of the DUPE: One Year into the Engineered “Arab Spring,” One Step Closer to Global Hegemony.”

The article Free Gaza linked to revealed that “the US had been behind the uprisings and that they were anything but ‘spontaneous,’ or ‘indigenous;’” indeed, according to the lengthy piece, “the uprisings were part of an immense geopolitical campaign conceived in the West and carried out through its proxies with the assistance of disingenuous foundations, organizations, and the stable of NGOs they maintain throughout the world.”

Unsurprisingly, the site that published this piece also offers the “truth” about a whole lot of other dreadful cover-ups, including the terrorist attacks of 9/11…

Quote of the day

“One needs to look no further than the Hamas constitution to see the protocols of the Elders of Zion baked into the text verbatim. Egyptian TV shows profligate conspiracy theories thick with vast webs of shadowy individuals, often Zionist, who are responsible for every misfortune that befalls Egypt.

These beliefs should not be dismissed as fringe, or just explained away as cultural relativism. The public powerlessness at the hands of powerful conspiratorial others breeds victimhood, xenophobia and hate.

These beliefs are just as toxic and noxious as racism, yet they receive far less attention. While the ugliness of racism is spotted and condemned, these beliefs are often seen as kooky and tangential. This complacency is dooming generation after generation, whether in their countries of origin or newfound Western homes, to a culture of victimhood and irresponsibility. How can I be to blame for the misfortunes that befall me if there is always someone else, hiding behind a curtain of secrecy, to blame?”

Jewish conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism, an excellent guest post by Joel Braunold at Harry’s Place; also available at Braunold’s blog and at Ha’aretz.

I couldn’t agree more with Braunold’s view that the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories that are so popular in the Middle East are too often ignored, and the very real poisonous effects they are having are generally underestimated. I’ve repeatedly written on conspiracy theories; one of my older JPost entries, entitled “Ugly lies and ugly truths”, includes several examples of commentaries that do explain the crucial role of conspiracy theories – here are the relevant paragraphs:

“It has long been one of the Arab world’s favorite memes: whenever there is any criticism of anything Arab, respond with criticizing or blaming the US and Israel. One of the most memorable examples of this reflex was provided a few years ago in an interview conducted by a Swiss magazine with the editor-in-chief of Al-Jazeera. Back then, in December 2006, Jeff Weintraub highlighted this interview as an example for the widespread Arab view that Israel is really the root cause for all the Middle East’s problems.

Weintraub argued that “when mass delusions come to occupy such a central role in a political culture, they have real effects, and generally pernicious ones. Furthermore, by dint of endless repetition, this delusional world-view is coming to take on the status of ‘common sense’ in western discussions of the Middle East as well.”

Fast forward a few years to January 2011, and you have a choice of articles that read like a sequel to Weintraub’s observations.

In the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens commented on the various conspiracy theories that recently circulated in Egypt. He argued that “the ultimate source of Arab backwardness […] lies in the debasement of the Arab mind. When the only diagnosis Egyptians can offer for their various predicaments – ranging from sectarian terrorism to a recent spate of freak shark attacks at a Sinai beach resort – is that it’s all a Zionist plot, you know that the country is in very deep trouble.”

In Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith focused on the widespread tendency of Western media to uncritically report even the most absurd accusations leveled against Israel as if the charges were based on well-established facts. In his conclusion, Smith argued:

“[The] Arabs are not winning an information war against Israel, nor anything else for that matter. Rather, the stories and lies they tell to delegitimize the Jewish state are part and parcel of the war that they have been waging against themselves, and with stunning success. The tragedy is that everyone knows where the Arabs are heading, because the signs of failure and self-destructiveness couldn’t be clearer—poverty, violence, despotism, illiteracy, mistreatment of women, and the persecution of confessional minorities, like Egypt’s Coptic Christian population. The Western journalists and NGOs who repeat and credential these lies are doing no honor to either the values of their own society or those of the Arabs; they’re merely helping a culture kill itself.”

The problem is that it’s not about values: ugly lies about Israel will remain popular wherever it seems advantageous – ideologically, politically, or economically – to suppress ugly truths about the Arab world.

Bad taste at the Guardian: Coleslaw with a pinch of Polonium

Under the memorable headline “Making Cole-slaw of history,” Martin Kramer documented some years ago just how hilarious it is that Juan Cole calls his blog “Informed Comment” (and for “Cole-slaw”-fans, there is in fact a rich archive of additional helpings).  However, it’s apparently no joke that Cole, who is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, encourages the readers of his blog to send him money because “Informed Comment is made possible by your support.”

 In any case, it’s arguably hardly surprising that editors at the Guardian are fans of Juan Cole, and when the professor recently vented his displeasure at Mitt Romney’s visit in Israel, the Guardian secured Cole’s “kind permission” to cross-post the piece on its Comment is Free (CiF) site.

The Guardian made a minor change to Cole’s original title – which read on CiF: “Ten reasons Mitt Romney’s Israel visit is in bad taste” – and added a sub-title: “The Republican presidential hopeful is holding a fundraiser and playing war enabler in Israel – it’s wrong on so many levels.”

The astonishing claim that Romney was “playing war enabler in Israel” is taken from Cole’s reason #7, which reads in part:

“Romney is promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran. When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, destabilised the Gulf for some time, cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and damaged American power and credibility and the economy.”

Of course, Cole’s link to an AP report does not show Romney “promising his donors in Jerusalem a war on Iran” – indeed, why should this blood libel be different from all the other invented accusations against blood-thirsty Jews over the centuries?

What Cole is claiming here is plainly that Romney’s “donors in Jerusalem” want a war on Iran, just like the “pro-Israel supporters” of George W Bush wanted and got an incredibly costly and bloody war on Iraq. It’s really just another version of a paragraph from Article 22 of the Hamas Charter:

“They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. […] There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”

The day after the Guardian featured Cole’s fantasies about Israel’s insatiable appetite for bloody wars and its mysterious ability to get the US to fight them, it was time for a Guardian-sponsored rehash of Al Jazeera’s pathetic attempts to revive rumors about Yasser Arafat’s death.

Some four weeks earlier, Al Jazeera had announced with great pomp and circumstance that it had conducted an “investigation” that pointed to poisoning with radioactive Polonium; however, conspiracy theories about Arafat’s death have been around ever since he died in November 2004, and even the specific claim that he was poisoned with Polonium is nothing new. While Al Jazeera’s new program succeeded in unleashing a veritable “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing” – with Israel as a favorite target – the people behind Al Jazeera’s “investigation” are apparently hoping to get yet more mileage out of this story, and the Guardian seems only too willing to provide a platform to the assorted conspiracy theorists.

There have been already countless reports and commentaries refuting the Al Jazeera “investigation,” but it’s perhaps worthwhile to add one particularly interesting testimony on Arafat’s death from a long and fascinating Atlantic report that was published in September 2005 under the title “In a Ruined Country: How Yasir Arafat destroyed Palestine.” One of the people interviewed for this report was the Palestinian billionaire businessman Munib al-Masri; here are the relevant parts of the report:

“Talk of Arafat’s last illness makes al-Masri sad again. “Every morning I used to go see him and give him the medicine because he would not take it from anybody else,” he remembers, looking moodily out over his lawn. “Yeah, and I never thought he would die.”

“How long did you know that he was sick?” I ask.

“For the last year. Last year in September he told me he doesn’t feel well. So, and he felt that something was not right, and it looks like he had the same symptoms again, but the last time he had enough immunity. Yeah, he knew.”

I am struck by al-Masri’s use of the word “immunity,” which is a word characteristically associated with aids. Rumors that Arafat died of “a shameful illness” spread quickly through the West Bank and Gaza. […] The Palestinian leadership denounced reports that Arafat was a homosexual as lies spread by Mossad, the Israeli foreign-intelligence agency. Accounts also circulated that a secret agreement had been reached between the Israelis and Arafat’s heirs, stipulating that the truth about Arafat’s fatal illness would not be released, the Palestinian leader would be buried in Ramallah and not in Jerusalem, and the wanted men who had accompanied him in his captivity would not be pursued by Israeli forces.

“He knew that it was the same disease that he had a year ago?” I ask. Al-Masri nods his head.

“Same symptoms,” he answers. “But look how strong he was. I mean, when Abu Mazen came,” he says, referring to Arafat’s longtime deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, “we brought him from one bed in his small room to a bigger room where we could sit. I sat on the bed. Abu Mazen sat in front of him and Abu Alaa sat in front of him. He said, ‘Ah, Mazen.’ His face was very red, and you know that he was very sick, but he wants to show that he was still in control of the details with Mazen, you know? He said, ‘I have this flu, ah, ah. I have this flu. Came and went to my stomach.'”

There is another very interesting part from the meeting with al-Masri in this report:

“The money he [Arafat] spent to buy the loyalty of his court, al-Masri gently suggests, could easily have paid for a functioning Palestinian state instead.

“With three hundred, four hundred million dollars we could have built Palestine in ten years. Waste, waste, waste. I flew over the West Bank in a helicopter with Arafat at the beginning of Oslo, and I told him how easy we could make five, six, seven towns here; we could absorb a lot of people here; and have the right of return for the refugees. If you have good intentions and you say you want to reach a solution, we could do it. I said, if you have money and water, it could be comparable to Israel, this piece of land.”

But if you don’t have good intentions and don’t really want to reach a solution, you can always blame Israel – as is regularly done on Al Jazeera, the Guardian, and Juan Cole’s blog…

Al Jazeera unleashes an ‘orgy of conspiratorial theorizing’

In a brilliantly titled – “Arafatuous” – and scathing commentary on Al Jazeera’s recent attempt to revive old conspiracy theories about Yassir Arafat’s death in late 2004, Hussein Ibish notes that the network’s sensationalist report prompted a predictable “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing.”

Here are a few glimpses of the orgy:

Let us remember that just a few months ago, MJ Rosenberg was a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the progressive Media Matters Action Network (MMAN). He didn’t behave much more respectable back then. By now, he has “resigned” and apparently enjoys his new-found freedom to ignore even minimal professional or ethical constraints.

Another eager orgy-participant is the notorious blogger Richard Silverstein. Under the entirely expected headline “Did the Mossad Murder Arafat?” Silverstein writes:

“Next, we should turn to speculation about who might have been able and willing to kill the Palestinian leader. There are many who fit some of those criteria but few that fit all. The Israelis leap out in that regard. Not only does Israel have a highly developed research capability in chemical and biological warfare, its scientists and intelligence services would have the technical abilities to mount such an attack. It also has the nuclear reactor in Dimona necessary to produce the poison. In fact, the Al Jazeera article notes that two Israeli nuclear technicians are rumored to have died from accidental polonium exposure. […]

Polonium, though rare, is used in some industrial processes. So it’s possible to secure such material. Once you have it, you only have to get access to the victim through poisoning his food or some other material that he might ingest. Israel would, of course, have any number of means to gain such access, as would some Palestinians, though the latter wouldn’t have the technical ability to make, secure, or administer polonium. Israel could have had a double agent within Arafat’s entourage or it could’ve introduced the poison without any Palestinian knowing what it had done.”

It turns out that Silverstein is a real expert when it comes to speculating about Arafat’s death: as documented on IsraellyCool, in November 2004 Silverstein opined that “Arafat died of AIDS”– but amusingly, Silverstein will now denounce anyone who thinks this is a plausible theory as “pro Israel scumbags.” In an apparent attempt to substantiate this new-found view, Silverstein links to a lengthy Electronic Intifada post by Ali Abunimah who rants about how “Israel’s PR hacks revive lies that Arafat was gay and died of AIDS.” Abunimah’s post is another amusing read, because he accuses “Israel’s PR hacks” of trying “to provoke homophobic [sic] reactions and marshal this homophobia to produce hostility and revulsion at Arafat, and to deligitmize [sic] him in the eyes of an Arab audience that is presumed to always be disgusted by such behavior.”

In the world of Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada, this is presumably a wrong presumption – instead, I guess, we should all presume that the vast majority of Arabs couldn’t care less whether or not Arafat was gay…

Of course, that makes it a bit strange that Ali Abunimah gets so upset about rumors that Arafat may have been gay and died of AIDS.

By contrast, Abunimah has apparently no problem with the kind of speculation Silverstein is peddling now – after distancing himself from “pro Israel scumbags” and giving up on his AIDS theory:

Oy – even the Huffington Post…

Well, you’ve probably heard about the far-reaching powers of the “Israel Lobby”, and you might even have heard the rumors about Jews/Zionists/neo-cons controlling the media. But rumors are one thing – hard evidence is something else altogether, right?

The incriminating piece of “evidence” is a post by Arianna Huffington about a meeting she had with Israel’s President Shimon Peres in September 2009.

While the post does convey admiration for Peres, Huffington makes sure to signal very clearly that she remains faithful to the popular slogans of Israel’s “critics.” Indeed, she even manages to sneak in a comparison with Nazi Germany when she recounts her response to Peres’s vision for Israel:

“But, I countered, brains without heart and empathy are never enough. After all, Germany in the 30s was a highly educated country.”

Peres responds by pointing to efforts “to express our empathy in practical terms” and he cites the example of the work of the Peres Center for Peace:

“We’ve brought 5,500 gravely ill Palestinian children and their mothers to be treated in Israel. We’ve also trained Palestinian doctors in — and provided equipment for — fighting cancer.”

In turn, Huffington asserts:

“There is an enormous amount of philanthropy in Israel but the horror of what happened to civilians, especially children, in Gaza continues to overwhelm the good that’s been done.”

Obviously, Israeli children traumatized from growing up under the rocket barrage from Gaza or having suffered personal loss from Palestinian terror don’t figure here, and the question if Palestinians should perhaps be expected to show in any way “heart and empathy” would apparently never occur to Ms. Huffington.

Yet, the fact that she seems impressed by her encounter with Peres is apparently enough to justify – for the so inclined, anyway – the suspicion that “Huffington could possibly be an agent of Israel, working in the shadows.”

This kind of crap is quite common on the anti-Israel left – which is arguably a great gift to those who try to counter the ceaseless efforts to bash Israel: while it is of course not really possible to argue with somebody who thinks the Huffington Post has some “kind of agreement” with “Israel’s ministry of propaganda,” exposing this kind of loony fantasies reveals a lot about the swamp that gives rise to the fervent anti-Israel campaigns.

Quote of the day

“The country’s military rulers would have Egyptians believe that ongoing protests are the work of “foreign agents”, “hidden hands”, and other mysterious third parties bent on driving a wedge between the Egyptian people and their beloved army and/or destroying the institutions of the state — even suggesting that activists are paid 200 Egyptian pounds (about $33) a day to protest in Tahrir. The SCAF’s recent crackdown on several pro-democracy NGOs, including the criminal indictments of 19 Americans on charges related to illegal funding and fomenting public unrest, is the direct if unspoken ancillary to this fanciful conspiracy.

Such conspiracy theories may strike a populist chord, but there is no shortage of actual reasons for Egyptians to feel unhappy — even angry — at their current condition. With foreign investment and tourism in sharp decline and youth unemployment hovering around 25 percent, the country’s economic crisis is edging toward disaster. This is on top of the SCAF’s gross mishandling of the transition at virtually every stage and in nearly every respect — from its erratic decision-making to its brutal repression of all forms of dissent to its blatant manipulation of the political process.

Khaled Elgindy, Egypt must look back before it can move forward. Elgindy’s observations reminded me of an article by Bret Stephens, published in the Wall Street Journal in early January 2011 under the title “Egypt’s Prison of Hate” (subscription required; but some of the relevant passages are quoted here). Stephens wrote about the popularity of conspiracy theories in Egypt, arguing:

“The ultimate source of Arab backwardness lies in the debasement of the Arab mind. When the only diagnosis Egyptians can offer for their various predicaments is that it’s all a Zionist plot, you know that the country is in very deep trouble.”

While it seems that by now, Egyptians have broadened their list of scapegoats far beyond the “Zionists,” conspiracy theories have apparently remained as popular as ever. Indeed, following a tweet by Omri Ceren, I chanced today on this short blog post aptly entitled “conspiracy cab” that offers a glimpse of the amazing conspiracy theories of a Cairo cab driver – who still seems very focused on blaming Israel. As blogger doctorzamalek notes in conclusion:

The common element in all of his theories, I was disappointed to note, was the assumption that no Arab person is capable of doing anything wrong at any time. At least conspiracy theories in America usually blame Americans.

Tweeting the century-old Al-Aqsa libel

Friday night, I discovered that on his Electronic Intifada blog, Ali Abunimah had put up a post claiming that Likud leaders were planning to go to Al-Aqsa early Sunday morning and that they were calling for “cleansing” Jerusalem and building a Jewish temple instead of the mosque. At the bottom of the post, Abunimah added an update that half-heartedly acknowledged that there was no basis to the story, but he nevertheless concluded by claiming:

“There’s certainly no doubt that whoever published this flyer […] is tapping into a history of calls and growing support for destroying Al-Aqsa. Feiglin’s supporters too are clear about their desire to take over the Temple Mount.”

In response, I wrote a post pointing out that spurious claims about Jewish threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque had been used by Arab agitators for almost a hundred years: it was the notorious mufti Haj Amin al Husseini who first used this libel in the 1920s. In the almost 100 years that have passed since then, it was of course only sites sacred to Jews that were desecrated and destroyed in Jerusalem.

When I wrote this post last night, I noted that Abunimah’s post had about 100 tweets and some 150 Facebook endorsements. Some 24 hours later, it had 381 tweets and 523 Facebook “likes”, and there were the beginnings of a Twitter intifada: word of the evil designs of the wicked Likudniks had reached the popular Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy, who send out a tweet about it – and she has more than 100 000 followers…

Luckily, by that time, Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department and professor at Princeton, had also gotten word of the story and found out that it was a hoax. Realizing that it was a very dangerous hoax, she sent out multiple tweets to alert her more than 20 000 followers.

Mona Eltahawy quickly deleted her original tweet and also helped to get out the message that it was a hoax, but by that time, the Al-Aqsa libel was already spreading like wildfire. As one tweet by a professor of sociology put it: “Scared of all the fake rumors about Al #Aqsa. First rule of sociology is if enough people believe something, it will have real consequences.”

Maybe Ali Abunimah will be pleased by the thought that just like with his #IsraelHates- campaign, he once again managed to cause a stir in the Twittersphere – and this time around there was even the specter of going from a merely verbal “Electronic Intifada” to a real intifada of senseless violence and bloodshed.

* * *

This is a slightly different version of a post at my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Elder of Ziyon quotes my post and adds several examples documenting the relentless attempts to incite hatred and violence against Israel with fabricated stories:

The Al Aqsa Heritage Foundation and various Muslim firebrands are well-known for creating false rumors about supposed Israeli designs on the Temple Mount. They do it practically every week on their website, and many of those make it into the mainstream Palestinian Arab press. Here are just a few I have documented over the years:

November 2008: Israel Antiquities Authority drawing up plans to build the Third Temple

April 2009: Israel is building a subway to the Temple Mount

June 2009: Netanyahu is planning to build the Third Temple

September 2009: Israel will give exclusive access to Jews to the Al Aqsa Mosque for 50 days a year

February 2010: Cracks on the Temple Mount is from Israeli construction and plans to destroy it

March 2010: Israel will start construction of the Third Temple on March 16, 2010

UPDATE 2:

Some very interesting additional material can be found in a post with the great title “Liar Liar, Mosque on Fire” by Zionist Shark at IsraellyCool: There is a very useful aerial view of the Temple Mount, and a link to an article by Mordechai Kedar who explains how Jerusalem came to be seen as holy by Muslims.

The broken Egypt ignored by the media

On his blog “Felix Arabia”, Sultan Al Qassemi has posted some utterly depressing observations on life in post-revolutionary Cairo – the kind of life the majority of Egyptians live away from media crews looking for stories that fit the latest news trends. The post is simply entitled “Observations from Cairo,” but at the end of the piece, there is a line that would provide a fitting subtitle: “Broken souls wither away in the useless drag of another day.”

Below a few excerpts – but the full post is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how dire Egypt’s situation is.

Living in Cairo for most of 2011, I discovered that the political revolution alone is cosmetic in significance relative to the underlying dysfunction within society. Walking through the streets of Cairo or sitting by its riverbanks one comes across a plethora of garbage. Littering has even infected the upper class. I saw a young man tossing his empty box of cigarettes into the Nile while on a yacht cruise. In allegedly upscale neighborhoods such as Zamalek you find no relief from the sea of accumulated trash on the street. Rubbish, dirt, broken poles, parked cars, trees, and fragmented bricks can be found obstructing almost every sidewalk. […] Crossing the country you notice the problem is not Cairo’s alone. Garbage is a permanent fixture in the landscapes of other cities and towns. Desensitization to uncleanliness is endemic across the country.

[…]

The level of religiosity is surreal. Virtually the entire population possesses an unshakable conviction and belief in supernatural powers. There is no conversation around whether an alternative perspective may exist. The average citizen has never met an atheist or a Jew, and most have never had someone meaningfully press them on their beliefs or suggest that their beliefs might be wrong or contain fallacies. This goes for all segments of society. The most progressive try to develop liberal interpretations of religion that make life more manageable, but none are able to shed themselves entirely of religious belief. In fact, religious ideas are so engrained that it is virtually impossible for anyone to view them as a burden.

Even when you look at the Christian communities, where you might expect to find more relaxed or diverse views, you discover the same fierce religiosity and unequivocal belief in the supernatural. The unchecked conviction has little to do with the underlying content of the ideas but with the unquestioned way by which religious ideas are formulated. There is a clear intolerance to Jews, atheists, homosexuals, or anyone who stars as an antagonist in the various vivid conspiracy theories that most buy into. […]

Life in Egypt could be very different if its military hadn’t pretended for the past 30 years that it needed to be ready for war with Israel, and if its elites had not so eagerly opposed any “normalization” with Israel. Sadly, there is no reason to hope that things will change in the wake of the “Arab Spring”: Ikhwanweb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English website, has an article from last January entitled: “Of course, Israel is Egypt’s enemy.” Here are some excerpts, but the whole thing is worthwhile reading for anyone ready to give up illusions about Muslim Brotherhood “moderation” – the vicious ideological hostility that is expressed in the piece can only be compared to attitudes found on the far-left and far-right fringes in the West.

Some Israeli officials have voiced surprise at revelations published by Wikileaks showing that the Egyptian military continues to view the apartheid Israeli regime as the primary strategic threat facing Egypt.

This is despite the passage of more than 30 years since the signing of the Camp David peace treaty between the two states in 1979.

According to the revelations, American diplomats have been frustrated as the Egyptian army continued to retain the erstwhile military doctrine which viewed Israel as the enemy. […]

Well, it is an expression of daring audacity on the part of these arrogant American diplomats to expect the sons of Egypt to morph themselves into Israel lovers and forget the tens of thousands of Egyptians, civilians and servicemen, who were murdered by Israel.

The Egyptian people are not about to forget the massacres of Bahr el Bagar school, the Abu Za’abal factory, and the massacre of Egyptian POWs at the instruction of Ariel Sharon in addition to the indiscriminate bombings of Egyptian civilian areas during the so-called war of attrition prior to the 1973 war.

It is true that Egypt , mainly due to economic and other reasons, had to sign the infamous peace treaty at Camp David, which only formally ended the state of belligerency between Israel and largest and most powerful Arab country. But it is also true that the vast majority of Egyptians continued to hate Israel as a hostile and criminal entity despite all American inducements and bribes to create good chemistry between Egyptians and Israelis.

In the final analysis, it would be a form of morbid imagination to expect Egyptians, who nearly on a daily basis watch Zionist thugs and terrorists murder, terrorize and savage their coreligionists and brethren in Palestine and destroy their homes, bulldoze their farms, and expel them form [sic!] their places of residence.

It is morbid imagination to expect members of the Egyptian armed forces to fall in love with the killers of their fathers and forefathers who fell in battle with Zionism on Palestinian and Egyptian soils.

It is even more morbid to expect the Egyptian armed forces to abandon their old doctrine and adopt a new one based on the unnatural and mendacious assumption which views other Arabs and Muslims, not Israel, which usurped Palestine and expelled its people to the four corners of the world, as the enemy.

Egypt and its kind-hearted people may not be going through the best of times. But what is in the heart is in the heart, and no amount of Kafkaesque metamorphosis would succeed in deviating the needle of the Egyptian people’s compass away from its natural direction. […]

It seems quite “morbid” to me to imagine more of the same old, same old for the “new” Egypt, but apparently, Egyptians can’t imagine anything else.

What really matters in Egypt…

“Members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc focussed [sic] all their attention to national security issues and vital issues of the nation, such as the cause of Palestine, the issue of SouthSudan and Darfur, the headwaters of the Nile, and the problems of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, believing that Egypt’s national security will only be achieved by carrying out its role in the Arab and Islamic region, in response to the Zionist and American plots and plans.”

From the Election Program of Egypt’s “Freedom and Justice Party,” summarizing some of the achievements of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc 2005-2010.

Egyptians will be voting for more of the same – and they will get more of the same… It won’t feed them, it won’t educate them, it won’t help them to build a brighter future – but who needs all that when you can always blame your problems on “Zionist and American plots and plans”?!?