A Vast Anti-Arab Conspiracy: The same right-wing forces that tried to scuttle Bill Clinton’s presidency have found a new target: Arabs. Or so argues leading Arab-American activist James Zogby in the August 18 Gulf News.
Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, writes of an “organised multi-pronged effort targeting a variety of Arab leaders, institutions and Islam.” This “anti-Arab campaign is winning,” he warns, and it threatens to lay “the groundwork for more widespread hate crimes than occurred in the aftermath of September 11” and deepen the rift between the United States and Arabs by “pushing U.S. policy-makers to take even more negative positions towards Arab nations.”
And who, specifically, is behind this “campaign of hate”?
Zogby fingers “leaders of fundamentalist religious groups, a collection of so-called ‘terrorism’ and Islam experts (who more often than not are old-line anti-Arab polemicists dressed in new garb), a bipartisan group of pro-Likud politicians and the same assortment of right-wing TV, radio and print media outlets that campaigned against the White House a decade ago.”
He laments invitations to testify before Congress extended to former Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, author of “Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism,” and “equally reprehensible ‘experts’ whose only knowledge of Islam and the Arab world is the result of their life-long work as anti-Arab (and not coincidentally, pro-Israel) advocates.”
Zogby also points to the controversy surrounding a donation to Harvard University’s divinity school by the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who, he complains, “has been vilified and become the subject of a national media debate with a campaign pressuring Harvard to reject the donation.” (Incidentally, the campaign was based upon complaints that an Arab League think tank bearing the sheik’s name, the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, promoted Holocaust denial and peddled antisemitic conspiracy theories. As a result of the international pressure, the sheik shut down the center last month.)
While Zogby’s article makes no mention of the Zayed Center’s bigotry — or, for that matter, the very real problem of extremism in the Arab and Muslim worlds — he does accuse his right-wing nemeses of engaging in something “quite similar to traditional anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish incitement.”
He writes that “the animus of anti-Semitism directed against Jews and Arabs has been one phenomenon,” calling it a “by-product of the Western struggle against the two Semitic civilisations which were identified as threats.”
“It is, therefore,” Zogby concludes, “especially disturbing to see that today some of the major proponents of these evil stereotypes against Arabs are those who ought to have learned the lessons of what can happen when a people are systematically vilified and dehumanised.”
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Triumph of the Tramp: With Mel Brooks’s spoof of Nazism having taken Broadway by storm, Philip Kerr pays homage to an earlier comic foe of the Third Reich: Charlie Chaplin. Writing in the September 1 issue of Britain’s New Statesman magazine on the occasion of the British re-release of Chaplin’s 1940 classic “The Great Dictator,” Kerr suggests that the “Little Tramp” was destined to take on his “shadow self,” the tramp-turned-tyrant Adolf Hitler.
“Chaplin and Hitler had much more in common than just their moustaches. Both men were born in April 1889, within four days of each other; both had difficult childhoods, with violent or alcoholic fathers and ailing mothers, and both men left their native countries to make it big somewhere else.”
Kerr writes that Chaplin went ahead with “The Great Dictator” — his first “talkie” — despite a hostile Hollywood and threats by a fearful British government to ban the film. “Where a lesser, poorer man might have decided it best to forget the project, Chaplin carried on regardless,” he argues.
In the film, Chaplin plays a Jewish barber who loses his memory, is mistaken for the dictator Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Chaplin) and winds up addressing a mass party rally, which, Kerr writes, Chaplin uses as “the opportunity to make a very personal speech about liberty and democracy which some have compared to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”
“In a more cynical age,” Kerr writes, “where wishing out loud for world peace has become something of a trope for the weaker-minded, the speech still manages to move, and amounts to nothing less than an extraordinary cinematic artefact that deserves greater currency.”