When the moderates are radicals, you’re in trouble
LAST UPDATED: 02/05/2012 22:57
The hopes for moderation and real democracy in Egypt is limited; neither the Islamists nor many alleged moderates are moderate.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt Photo: Reuters
Dear readers, I’d like to share a secret. Every day I read articles, or some
form of writing, by people who claim to be experts on the Middle East. I have
read them on land; I have read them at sea; I have read them in the air. And
they will never surrender to reality.
Here are the two main causes of
• They think the Middle East is just like the West, so they can
extrapolate from their own experience.
When someone would say, “If I were
Yasser Arafat, I’d... ,” my response would be: stop right there. I must run out
to the corner store and get a pack of cigarettes.
I have never smoked a
cigarette. And I kept on running.
You are not Arafat or Khomeini or
Saddam Hussein or whatever, and unless you have some understanding of how they
actually think – and not your own Western idea of what they should think –
there’s no sense in discussing it.
• They think the Middle East is just
what they’d like it to be. Peace? Easy. They have a plan. My response: I’d love
to hear your plan but I’m all booked up to hear Middle East peace plans for the
next three years.
I’ll put you on the waiting list and get back to
By the same token, they sometimes lie to make things seem better.
You can’t criticize the Palestinian Authority – or the Muslim Brotherhood,
Hamas, Hezbollah, the Turkish regime, etc. – even by telling the truth about
them, because that would damage the cause of “peace.” They don’t understand that
not telling the truth is the best way to undermine any chance for peace, or any
understanding of why there is no peace.
THE MIDDLE East is so strange in
Western terms, so different, that unless you are really aware of those
differences, please pick something else to be an expert on.
brings me to a case in point that I have before me right now.
The Wafd is
a “liberal,” “moderate” Egyptian party, right? It is the biggest non-Islamist
party in Egypt’s parliament with 7.6 percent (pretty pitiful, huh?) of the
seats. So if you are a Western reporter, policymaker, or “expert” you would say
that it is one of the great hopes – perhaps the greatest – for moderate, liberal
Egyptian democracy, right? And the same people, of course, explain that
revolutionary Islamism isn’t really a threat because they are really just all
greedy people who’d rather have US aid than Allah.
But how many
“liberal,” “moderate” parties have had:
• A deadly shoot-out between two
factions over control of their headquarters?
• An alliance with the Muslim
Brotherhood – which might be renewed
• A deputy leader who explains that
September 11 was a US-Zionist plot; the Holocaust never happened; and Anne Frank
was a phony?
• And now this article, courtesy of the party’s official newspaper,
appearing on January 27, 2012.
Thanks to MEMRI for catching and
You can read the whole thing for yourself if you want,
but briefly the article charges that a small US Navy Medical Research Unit in
Cairo that conducts research on tropical and Third World diseases is in fact
engaged in plotting to send: “Medicines, pesticides, food products and seeds [to
Egypt], after these have been dangerously tampered with so as to harm the
Egyptians’ health” and handling “biological weapons which, if deployed, could
exterminate the entire Egyptian nation, or any other nation.... They can also
manipulate these Egyptian genes, alter their traits, and deform them by means of
American medicines or vaccines that are sold dirt cheap to the poor Egyptian
people, along with crop seeds and food products....”
It goes on to
suggest that various disease epidemics in Egypt were caused by the United States
and charges that the US installation “sees the Egyptian children as an
opportunity to test new medicines,” turning the country’s children into lab rats
and causing increases “in infertility, mental retardation and disability among
Egyptians born in recent years... as well as [instances of]
And all this is done “in accordance with America’s will,
which has Israel standing forcefully behind it” to develop biological weapons
for Israel against Egypt.
This one article is a rich source of knowledge
about Egypt and the Arabic-speaking world, not so much in terms of health issues
but in terms of political and intellectual structures. Of course, there are the
common conspiracy theories and the idea that the Zionists are everywhere, but
that’s only the beginning of the issue. Don’t be fooled into thinking that
conspiracy theories are silly, funny, archaic ideas that don’t mean anything
precisely because they are inaccurate.
Here are some of the implications:
• An American attempt to help Egypt (while also shielding itself from disease)
is portrayed as a harmful and aggressive activity
• The priority for the nation
is to fight foreign conspiracies, not to fix domestic shortcomings
internal problems are blamed on outsiders they are thus made impossible to
solve. Science and modernity are viewed not as solutions but with suspicion, as
attempts to destroy one’s own society through imperialist takeover, social
transformation, and atheism (or Christianity imposed on Islam)
• If Americans
are so evil then it makes sense for people to become terrorists and to slay or
drive out the horrible villains. Isn’t it reasonable to slay Americans in
revenge or in self-defense? Now important Egyptians are also claiming that US
embassy officials are running over Egyptians with their cars (apparently US
embassy vehicles were stolen by criminals).
Together these four symptoms
block progress, inflame hatred and extremism and produce conflict.
is a common pattern in the Middle East whether aimed against Israel, the United
States, or the West in general.
And guess what? Except for the last
sentence of the third aspect, these are also the talking points of hegemonic
Western leftism. It’s all there: the West is evil and wants to dominate;
underdevelopment is not the result of traditional society and thinking but
Western threat and conspiracy; fighting the West from outside and weakening it
from inside are justified.
So, in short, the Islamists are not
“moderate,” and many of the alleged moderates are not moderate.
the hopes for moderation and real democracy is limited by the small numbers of
those who hold them. We were told not so long ago that the young, social-media
using kids who made Egypt’s revolution would dominate the country
Question: What percentage of the vote in parliamentary
elections did the young, social-media using kids who made Egypt’s revolution
get? Answer: 1.3 percent.
The writer is director of the Global Research
and International Affairs (GLORIA) and a featured columnist at Pajamas Media.
His new book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University
Press in January.