Having studied the Middle East professionally for 35 years, and with a PhD in
Middle East history, let me make it perfectly clear: Glenn Beck, who is holding
several rallies in Israel this week, has a better grasp of Middle East politics
than most Western experts, as well as some Western leaders.
Beck makes silly mistakes on factual details. Yet he comprehends the big
picture. I don’t say this based on a superficial view or on his support for
Israel. As part of the GLORIA Center’s project on understanding current American
politics and debates, I have monitored virtually every television and radio show
Beck has done over the past two years. When people voice absurd and slanderous
stereotypes about Beck, it turns out they haven’t actually listened to what he’s
Why has Beck gotten things right that so many others have
missed or distorted? There are five key reasons: Common sense; courage; knowing
the difference between right and wrong, a willingness to learn, and a readiness
to admit when one has been wrong. These are virtues often lacking among those
with more elegant reputations.
What has he gotten right? 1. The main
threat in the Middle East is revolutionary Islamism, and the United States must
Revolutionary Islamism includes: Iran, Syria, Hezbollah
(largely controlling Lebanon), Hamas (governing the Gaza Strip), and the Muslim
Brotherhood as well as al-Qaida and, more subtly, the regime governing Turkey.
It is an ideology innately hostile to the West, the United States and Israel. It
cannot be bought off or moderated. Revolutionary Islamists will either take over
the Middle East or be defeated.
2. The problem is not Islam as a religion
but revolutionary Islamism as a political ideology that draws on normative Islam
to produce its own plausible interpretation.
While falsely accused of
“Islamophobia,” Beck has correctly drawn the distinction between Islam and
revolutionary Islamism. Those claiming Islam is “a religion of peace” miss the
radicalism easily drawn from its texts, as well as the large and growing
Islamist forces. Those claiming Islam is inherently extremist miss most of its
actual history and the tremendous battle going on among Muslims.
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revolutionary Islamist side is winning. In the past year, revolutionary Islamism
has advanced in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Turkey, and potentially Syria,
Libya, and Tunisia.
4. The “Arab Spring” contains many
The unqualified Western enthusiasm for the “Arab Spring” ignores
the threat of growing Islamist power.
Those of us who warned beginning in
January about the Muslim Brotherhood’ radicalism were ridiculed, despite the
fact that its every statement for decades has proven this point. Even now, many
are in denial about the Brotherhood becoming Egypt’s strongest single party, and
thus critical in writing the country’s new constitution.
The regime that
emerges might not be Islamist but will be radical, anti-American, and
dangerously hostile toward Israel.
5.Israel just happens to be largely
right and deserves support.
Israel has been in a “Twilight Zone”
situation. Eighteen years ago, Israel took a tremendous risk for peace by
signing an agreement with the PLO, agreeing to establish an armed Palestinian
Authority, and negotiating toward the creation of a Palestinian state, Not to
mention later offering the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace,
withdrawing from south Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and much of the West
Yet the more risks Israel took, the more concessions it made, the
more restraint it showed, the more it was said not to want peace. The more
Israel sought a two-state solution, the more people in the West advocated a
“no-Israel” solution. Beck has cut through this nonsense to point out a simple
fact: Israel wants a negotiated compromise based on a two-state solution; the
Palestinian Authority – not to mention Hamas – doesn’t.
6. One Man’s
Terrorist… Is Still a Terrorist.
There is no romanticism in the
deliberate murder of civilians, systematic incitement of hatred, and in the goal
of establishing a totalitarian society. Bad ends hardly justify bad
7. The Obama Administration has messed up the Middle East to a
phenomenal extent. For details, you can read what I’ve written about this since
8. One should be fearless in facing intimidation and
politically motivated ridicule.
Yes, it gets tiring to be slandered and
misquoted, but a lot is at stake here. Popularity among current Western elites
and career advancement cannot be the main priority. We live at a time when
governments and intellectuals surrender at the merest hint of being called names
or faced with threats of violence.
9. We must reevaluate friends and
enemies in this new era of revolutionary Islamism and post-Marxist
In the past, Jews often saw conservatives and religious
Christians as threats. But we’re no longer in the nineteenth or even the
twentieth centuries. Conservatives and Christians aren’t drooling to convert,
kill, or use Jews to bring on the apocalypse. While doing everything possible to
work with liberals and social democrats, we must understand – whatever our
personal political views – that Israel and the Jewish people have a new set of
Why have these groups changed? With religion imperiled in the
West, they view Jews as fellow believers rather than – as in past anti-Semitism
– corrosive atheists and Jesuskillers.
They see Israel as an embodiment
of the nationstate, and admire its ability to defend itself, rather than
considering Jews to be cosmopolitan subversives and cowardly pacifists. Rather
than viewing Jews as imperiling Western civilization, they view Israel as facing
the same enemies they have today.
10. Whatever mistakes the United States
has made, it is a good country and the hope of the world.
everywhere are yearning for America to revive itself, change the current
administration’s policies, properly define friends and enemies, and take
leadership internationally once again.
Any criticism one can make of Beck
pales in comparison to all of the above points, on which he is quite correct.
But then, as Jews, and Israelis most of all, should know, to be falsely reviled
is not proof of being wrong or evil.The writer is director of the Global
Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. He is a featured columnist at
PJM (http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/) and editor of the
Middle East Review
of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.www.gloria-center.org.
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