Beck gets it right when it comes to the big picture issues

As Jews, and Israelis most of all, should know, to be falsely reviled is not proof of being wrong or evil.

By BARRY RUBIN
August 23, 2011 14:32
Glenn Beck Restoring Honor

Glenn Beck Restoring Honor 311. (photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

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.

Certainly, 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 been saying.

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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 combat it.

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.

3. The 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 dangers.

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 Bank.

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 means.

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 January 2009.

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 leftism.

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 allies.

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.

Many people 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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