By Franklin Lamb in Beirut and Ann El Khoury in Sydney
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? — Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy, April 1954
In a US Senate hearing just over fifty years ago, Boston lawyer Joseph Welch famously rebuked Senator Joseph McCarthy with these now immortal words. They have been immortalized because they have helped furnish what we understand McCarthyism to mean: extreme, mean and unreasonable persecution of people by means of witch-hunts and other tactics including guilt by association or through simple prejudice. This is done in order to achieve a political objective of silencing dissent and preventing the public from learning inconvenient truths.
In the human drama of Middle East theaters and in the wider context of the current Bush administration-spearheaded endless war, the New McCarthyism involves the mobilization of the global ‘war on terror’, in which we see once again the manipulation of fear and the corruption of public discourse in pursuit of narrowly partisan gain – chief among them, the Likudnik Israel-first hawks of the neoconservatives in the US and Israel.
The foot-soldiers of the Likud lobby around the world are applying pressure to stop people from attending academic and activist conferences. As with the McCarthyism of half a century ago, today’s Middle East Studies McCarthyism perpetrated by the Likud Lobby is also a threat to our liberty, to academic freedom, and to basic, fundamental democratic rights and responsibilities.
A network of right-wing Zionist activists has intensified its online campaign based on a melange of distorted or provably false charges against critics of Israel. Zionist media ‘megaphone’ the charges, stoking the furor. When mainstream media ultimately notices, it generally focuses its coverage only on the furor rather than investigating and reporting the truth about the false charges.
McCarthyism 2.0: The War on Terror
After the collapse of the USSR, there were expectations in many quarters that there would be a ‘peace dividend’. The military industrial complex had burgeoned during the Cold war, and vested interests therein were not going to give up their power, privilege and profit from war so readily, if at all.
Yet after the WTC attacks on Sept 11, 2001, a generalized ‘war on terror’ was sold to a stupefied electorate. Right out of the Red Scare playbook of the Cold War morphed the War on Terror playbook, with ‘terrorist’ substituted for communist as the new post cold war evil. With the scope widened, the demonization of the Arab/Muslim as the new monolithically conceptualized enemy commenced, and extended to the criminalizing of dissent and charity-giving: even social activists have been called terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.
Cynical campaigns to confound and confuse and whip up hysteria and ratchet up racism have abounded. Israeli-financed websites like Act of America, by their propagandist, the former Saad Haddad and Antoine LaHood operative, the Maid of Darkness, Bridgette Gabriel, spew obscene racist hatred against Americans and others of Arab or Muslim origin that would likely give even McCarthy pause.
During the current administration, Bush has amplified an explicitly anti-Muslim message by repeatedly using the term "Islamic fascism" to describe America’s purported enemies (including both the Hezbollah-led resistance in Lebanon and that of Hamas in Palestine).
The demonizing campaigns and venal ideological assaults of the Likudniks have involved bullying, intimidation and mistreatment of those who dare to contest the Israeli hawk worldview and version of the Middle East. In many cases they involve active government and lobby harassment to ensure a climate that is forcefully conducive to the Israeli version of events.
One method of silencing involves the all-purpose slander of the anti-Semitism accusation that has been elasticized to non-sensicality. A new ‘working definition’ promoted by some Israel lobbyists seeks to confuse anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, such that today it would also apply to Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, and Albert Einstein. According to Arthur Neslen in ‘When an anti-Semite is not an anti-Semite’, the definition would even apply to Israel’s own PM:
What do Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Ehud Olmert and myself all have in common? We could each be censured for racism according to the European Union Monitoring Centre’s "working definition of anti-Semitism" which was recently adopted by the National Union of Students as official policy.
Only recently, a Spanish forum launched in July last year from the Madrid Social Forum has been subject to a hijacking of its agenda by underhanded means as a result of Zionist pressuring of the Spanish government. Initially, the Spanish Foreign Ministry pledged organizational and financial support for Forum for a Just Peace, which was to be held in Madrid from the 14-16th December, enabling the participation of Spanish, Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Iraqi and Israeli civil society representatives who had endorsed the conference.
A refusal by the International Committee to accept the Foreign Ministry stacking of the Conference with ideological Zionists was met with the Spanish government response to shut down the conference venue and to send the police to evict the participants. This has effectively shut down the Forum for a Just Peace.
Challenging Censorship of Middle East Reality
Academia is an important and potentially powerful sphere within which to challenge power, and to posit alternatives. Successful, effective and popular academics are particularly targeted by the Israeli-hawk Likud Lobby in the USA and Europe because they succeed with bringing more people to ask why only one side of the Middle East conflict is being presented as the only side.
As Robert Fisk notes, the scare-mongering conveniently justifies occupation and feeds into war-mongering in service of resource theft and land expropriation in the Middle East:
Because it’s really all about shutting the reality of the Middle East off from us. It’s to prevent the British and American people from questioning the immoral and cruel and internationally illegal occupation of Muslim lands. And in the Land of the Free, this systematic censorship of Middle East reality continues even in the country’s schools.
Campaigns against academics are often coordinated or facilitated through such groups as Campus Watch, FrontPage, CAMERA and various think tanks (tank-thinks) that validate the Likudnik-Zionist doctrinal framing of the Middle East. They have been mounted with mixed results against Professors Nadia Abu El-Haj (she was granted tenure at Barnard College this year), Joseph Massad, Debbie Almontaser, Tariq Ramadan, Juan Cole, Rashid Khalidi, Norman Finkelstein, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, Hamid Dabashi, Sami al-Arian and Israeli academics Ilan Pappe and Tanya Reinhart, who both chose exile from Israel in protest to their former country’s policies.
"There certainly is a sense among faculty and grad students that they’re being watched, monitored," says Zachary Lockman, president of the Middle East Studies Association. "People are always looking over their shoulder, feeling that whatever they say–in accurate or, more likely, distorted form–can end up on a website. It definitely has a chilling effect."
Campaigns have typically involved intimidatory tactics and defamatory allegations, demonstrably proved baseless. The scurrilous attacks on Norman Finkelstein, for example, have laid bare the desperate lengths the Likud Lobby and such representatives as Alan Dershowitz are driven to smear and slander challengers. Finkelstein was ultimately denied tenure. Ultra-zionist Israel Lobby groups are attempting to intimidate publishers of Joel Kovel’s book Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine and to cripple its distribution. Tariq Ramadan, who Time magazine listed as one of the 100 most likely innovators of the 21st century, was repeatedly denied a visa for entry to teach in the US on spurious grounds.
Freedom of expression in media and even academe does not apparently include the freedom to duly and freely criticize Israeli policies. Zionist hijacking of these spaces, like the McCarthy trials, has all too often been dishonest and abusive. In the past year, lobby groups such as Campus Watch have been behind the so-called Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week (IFAW) from October 22-26. Other campaigns have included vitriolic smear campaigns against the Khalil Gibran International Academy. The slander and intimation ultimately worked: Debbie Almontaser resigned, all on the flimsy accusation of a t-shirt that had the Arabic word intifada on it—worn by someone else.
The Targeting of Dr. Ibrahim Mousawi
Recently the Zionists have been targeting Lebanon’s Ibrahim Mousawi, trying to prevent him from speaking or traveling to other countries.
Who is Dr. Ibrahim Mousawi?
Born in Lebanon’s picturesque and fertile Bekaa Valley village of Nabysheet, Mousawi is a student of Politics, English Literature and Religion. A former school Headmaster, Ibrahim received his MA in English literature from The Lebanese University, his BA in Journalism from The Lebanese University, and earned his MA in Political Science from The American University of Beirut in 2003. He earned his PhD in Political Islam from Birmingham University-Britain 2007. The title of his dissertation was Compatibility between Islam and democracy; Shiism and democracy under Wilayat Al-Faqih, Iran as a case study.
During the July 2006 War with Israel, Mousawi held the position of editor in chief of Al-Intiqad (Criticism), a weekly Hezbollah newspaper, and was much sought after by international reporters for information and his insights. He appeared widely in the international media and was critical of the destruction of Lebanon and the Bush administration providing Israel with a green light to continue the slaughter while the international community was calling for a ceasefire.
Following the cessation of hostilities, the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) invited Mousawi to address peace activists in Belfast, Dublin and Galway about the summer conflict. This October he was invited back but was refused a visa without explanation.
When Irish Justice Minister Brian Lenihan denied Mousawi entry to Ireland, it followed Lenihan’s meeting with a delegation from Ireland’s Zionist lobby. In addition, the Bush administration had pressured Ireland into rejecting his visa application, according to reports in the Irish media.
The IAWM issued a statement last month denouncing the decision as "an outrageous act of political censorship" and a "disgraceful attack on the anti-war movement" in Ireland.
"The ban makes nonsense of the frequent claims by this [Irish] government that they favor dialogue and international diplomacy to resolve the problems of the Middle East," Richard Boyd Barret, the head of the IAWM, said at the time.
"Anyone even remotely concerned with free speech and the right to engage in open political debate in this country should be very alarmed that the US government is now deciding what viewpoints can and cannot be heard in Ireland," he added.
"I’m only involved in academia and media," Mousawi avers, adding that the only "crime" he has ever committed is to openly express his political views, which he insists remain within the boundaries of legitimate intellectual discourse.
"We should allow for open debate," Mousawi told the Daily Star. "After all, I come and I only say words. If my words are worth hearing, people should give me the opportunity to speak. If my words are rubbish, it’s worth the opportunity to refute what I say, and to undermine my logic if what I say is not logical."
"I’m a staunch defender of political freedoms and freedom of speech," he adds.
In February 2005, just one week after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he invited five Rabbis to a conference in Beirut and hosted them as guests on his political talk show.
He also points out that Hezbollah was among the first to condemn the 9/11 attacks as ‘terrorism’ as well as to condemn the murder of Lebanon’s PM Rafik Hariri.
"I believe governments and politicians have failed to address the problems of the people," he explains. "I believe there is another role that we have to play at the grassroots level, as NGOs and as members of civil society. There is a lot of diplomacy that could go on at this level. We don’t have to wait for officials to take the lead; we have seen what they have brought: nothing but disasters. So I want to highlight the need to interact at this level."
Mousawi rejects the notion that there is a ‘clash of civilization’. "I believe that all over the world, people want the same things. We all want to be with our families; we all want to come back to our kids at the end of the day and bring bread to their tables and give them a good education, to live in harmony and peace." Addressing the World Against War International Peace Conference in London last December, Mousawi told the 1200 delegates from 26 countries that he had a two month old son named Issa (Jesus), and one named Muhammad. "If I have another one I will name him Moses", he added.
Mousawi occasionally writes for Beirut’s English language Daily Star and has been a commentator for CNN, ABC, and CBS. For many years, Mousawi has also worked extensively with Americans and Europeans arranging and interpreting interviews and is considered one of the best-informed people on political events in Lebanon and Palestine.
"I would say that we are in the midst of a war of terminology," Dr. Mousawi asserts. "It is a war of definitions that we should pay attention to."
Next Stop England
The Lobby next moved to bar Mousawi from England, with Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews as point man to lead the attack. Following the Zionist Lobby’s advisory to its affiliates, apparently without bothering with fact checking, Grunwald repeated the error that went out internationally to pro-Zionist media outlets that Mousawi is ‘Director of Al Manar, the Hezbollah News Service’, or as the Jerusalem Post claimed, "a senior official of the Al Manar Channel". He in fact was never in that position and ceased working in the English language office nearly two years ago.
The Lobby also lined up Baroness Neville-Jones, the Shadow Security Minister and former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. The Baroness, who has yet to criticize any of the atrocities committed by Israel in Palestine or Lebanon, apparently knows a threat to England when she is told by the Lobby about one–never mind the quality of her supplied facts.
After meeting with leaders of the British Chamber of Deputies, she felt "Mousawi’s presence is not conducive to the public good," and that he might "preach hate" if he were allowed in. Yet the Baroness claimed not to know much about Mousawi except that he was (once again!) the fantasy non-Director of Al Manar Television—hardly a promising basis for an informed decision to bar someone from a country!
Unwilling to correct her misinformation, the Baroness’ press release cascaded into headlines for other Zionist outlets internationally who were quite prepared to repeat it.
The Jerusalem Post ran a headline which blared ‘Hezbollah television station editor’s entry into Britain angers Jewish leaders’ and the Jewish Chronicle and Forward followed suit with the Jewish Chronicle of 11/16/07 headlining ‘Ban Hezbollah man from UK!’
The Baroness is known in Britain for her persistence. She enlisted her fellow Zionist Conservative Party Chairman David Cameron, who was already under Zionist pressure, to ask England’s new Prime Minister Gordon Brown to deny Mousawi entry to Britain, apparently because he did "not trust the ‘Arabists’ in the Home Office to do a proper job".
"Are you aware that the Irish government recently refused entry to Ibrahim Mousawi, head of Hezbollah’s viciously anti-Semitic TV station, Al-Manar?", Cameron tsk tsked to the British premier during Question Time in the House of Commons.
"And just what approach will Her Majesty’s government take when Mr. Mousawi attempts to enter the UK to speak at a conference?" Cameron demanded. Brown demurred, apparently sensing that Cameron, not for the first time, had his facts wrong.
In 2002 AIPAC member and advisor Jeffrey Goldberg appeared in Beirut and interviewed Mousawi among others. Cloaking his extreme Zionism, Goldberg posed as a journalist and wrote a substantially false article for the New Yorker issue of October 14, 2002, implying that Mousawi was anti-Semitic. Caught in his lies, the record was clarified and Mousawi vindicated but the New Yorker never did apologize nor retract Goldberg’s allegations.
Answering the Lobby charges of anti-Semitism, Mousawi categorically denies the accusation that he has even thought of promoting "anti-Semitic" views. "I would challenge anyone to provide evidence of any word that I have said that is hateful or anti-Semitic," he says, adding that he himself has been a victim of discrimination and has therefore made a special effort to eschew any form of prejudice.
"I have nothing against Jews. I have nothing against any human being, whether because of religion, gender or political affiliation," he explains. "I’m a human being who believes in dignity, independence and freedom. I’m a bridge-builder and I’ve always been an advocate of dialogue and discussion."
Mousawi affirms the view that in the Middle East the struggle is not with Judaism but with Zionism. Zionism is understood in much of the Middle East as an ideology that is the enemy of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and an ideology that informed the theft of Palestine from its rightful inhabitants who are overwhelmingly Christians and Muslims.
And what of the views Cameron and his Zionist marionettes so strongly felt would not be conducive to the public good?
Mousawi at the London Conference, as reported by the Daily Star:
Yes, we believe in religion, but this does not bring us to a place where we do not respect others or we do not recognize others If religion is not going to make me a better human being who cares for any human being, I don’t need it. … [Religion] is not to make me fanatic, irresponsible, or feel that I’m deemed to salvation while others are going to hell. No, this is not what we want. If you are really a true believer, you should care for any human being, whoever he is, wherever he lives.
During his speech, Mousawi also had a response for those who would question the idea of inviting a Hezbollah media man to an anti-war event.
Who can talk about [the need to] stop the wars and [achieve] peace more than those who are suffering from the occupation and the atrocities and the massacres and the aggressions? We want genuine peace. We don’t want compromises and we don’t want to go again and again to the same vicious cycle every 10 years or five years, where you make a temporary settlement and you end up with another war coming. The roots of the problem, the roots of the cause of the problem, should be addressed.
Affirming Hezbollah’s right to resist occupation and denying that the group engages in terrorism, Mousawi argues:
Hezbollah is a legitimate resistance group that is fighting to regain occupied land like the Shebaa Farms and to secure the return of prisoners held by Israel.
Many people try to demonize the resistance, but resistance is the right of people under occupation.
If there wasn’t an occupation, there wouldn’t be resistance. I would support any nation or people if they were occupied and exercising their right to resist an occupying force.
I don’t believe anyone wants to have wars. But in this part of the world, we have for decades been the victims of occupation and war."
A durable peace, Mousawi argues, "cannot happen unless the core issues are addressed in a just way." This is the same message Mousawi has presented to journalists and conferences all over the world.
More than a decade ago at an international conference in Stuttgart, Germany in 1997, Mousawi demonstrated a grasp of the essence of the major religions and drew applause from the international audience when he spoke about what being a Muslim meant to him:
When I say that I am a Muslim, I am saying that I am a Christian and I am saying that I am a Jew, for we all believe in the same God, we are all the sons and daughters of Abraham and we are all of the Book and revere the wisdom of all the Prophets.
Mousawi tells his audiences that war is the biggest terrorism and that the central teachings of the three Abrahamic religions admonish all to build bridges not walls. His ideas are in the tradition of a long line of Shia scholars and human rights advocates including the Shia clerics Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine, Imam Musa Sadr, and Sayeed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah — all known for their life’s work for social welfare and their calls for dialogue and ecumenism work with Christians and all sects.
Challenging the bias (at best) and disinformation of the presented univocality of the Zionist narrative serves justice. In 1954 the tipping point came with Welch’s rebuke. In our own era, Zionism is increasingly being criticized and spurned even by former adherents, with more Israelis questioning its ideological underpinnings. As has often been noted, debate is often freer in Israel than it is in the United States. Most notably, some of the children of the high-profile Zionist founders of the state of Israel have turned their backs on this legacy, including the grandson of the right-wing PM Menachem Begin, 32 year-old Avinadav Begin, seen regularly protesting at the West Bank side of the Apartheid Wall over the past few years. In addition to Menachem Begin’s grandson, we also have no less than the Irgun-steeped Ehud Olmert’s daughter Dana attending a rally during the war on Lebanon.
Avrum Burg, a former Knesset speaker, Shimon Peres’ protégé, and Israel Agency director has also recently had his bombshell book released, Defeating Hitler, and left the country to take up French citizenship. Burg is in favor of abrogating the Law of Return, compares Israel to Germany and sees the end of the Zionist enterprise.
Many prominent international figures outside of Israel have been moved to speak up for Palestine and argue for sanctions. South Africans Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils and British doctor Colin Green, for example, cogently make the case for boycotting apartheid and supporting justice for all who live in the land of Canaan.
Yet this free debate among advocates of peace and justice in the Middle East such as Mousawi is being muzzled. While European law keep some Israeli generals and Ministers from visiting or grounded on runways lest they be arrested for war crimes upon alighting, visiting Lebanese, Palestinian and other scholars from the Arab and Muslim world are being denied entry, their voices stifled.
Howard Zinn has recently lent his support to set up The Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism http://www.codz.org/ , formed in response to the active stifling and suppression of alternative views on Israel/Palestine and Zionism in the United States and beyond. CODZ sees the IFAW as:
… a well-organized campaign to silence dissent on campus and to get people to look at all Muslims as "Islamo-Fascists," creating a dangerous atmosphere for Muslim students who have sustained so much hate and abuse since 9/11. IFAW seeks to solidify the "you’re either with us or you’re against us" call of the Bush administration, to equate any questioning of Zionism with support for terrorism, and to further beat the drums for war on Iran.
The Zionist attack on Mousawi in part of the general Zionist campaign against Hezbollah and its supporters, institutions, staff, as well as anyone who seeks discussions with the movement. It is not only about Dr. Mousawi. Many scholars who work for Hezbollah affiliated institutions has been subjected to harassment and campaigns to deny them the right to speak at Conferences, to hold interviews, engage in dialogue and to travel to the US and sometimes England and parts of Europe.
In the pursuit of justice, the growing debate on Zionism, both in the Middle East and beyond, is a much needed, urgent and legitimate one." All people of good will should support Dr. Mousawi’s right to free speech, not least so that, in the words of John Berger, "Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one."