Who are the main beneficiaries of misleading narratives like that of Ajami? He himself concedes, "It is never hard to assemble a crowd of young protesters in the teeming cities of the Muslim world. American embassies and consulates are magnets for the disgruntled."
So, does that mean the notorious video trailer is best regarded as a catalyst for the angry protests rather than the underlying cause? In other words, if the video served as the spark, who or what laid the kindling? Who profits from the narrative that neocons are trying so hard to embed in American minds?
Broad hints can be seen in the Washington Post's coverage over recent days -- including a long piece by its Editorial Board, "Washington's role amid the Mideast struggle for power," published the same day Ajami's article appeared online.
What the two have in common is that the word "Israel" appears in neither piece. One wonders how and why the Post's editors could craft a long editorial on the "Mideast struggle for power" -- and give editorial prominence to Ajami's article -- without mentioning Israel.
Presumably because the Post's readers aren't supposed to associate the fury on the Arab "street" with anger felt by the vast majority of Arabs over what they see as U.S. favoritism toward Israel and neglect for the plight of the Palestinians. The Israeli elephant, with the antipathy and resentment its policies engender, simply cannot be allowed into the discussion.
In the circumstances of last week, Israel may be less a centerpiece than the ugly Islamophobia that has found a home in America. But these factors tend to build on and reinforce each other. And the indignities suffered at the hand of Israel certainly has resonance in the larger context of Muslims who feel their religion and culture are under attack in a variety of ways.
"Why Do They Hate Us?"
On Saturday, during a live interview on Al-jazeera, I tried to inject some balance into the discussion. I noted that one key reason for the antipathy toward the U.S. among Muslims is the close identification of the U.S. with Israel and the widespread realization that support from Washington enables Israel's policies of oppression and war-mongering against the Palestinians and its regional neighbors.
As to "why they hate us," I had time to recall three very telling things I had mentioned in an earlier article on this sensitive topic.
1 -- From the 9/11 Commission Report of July 2004, page 147, regarding the motivation of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: "By his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel."
2 -- The mainstream-media-neglected report from the Pentagon-appointed Defense Science Board, a report that took direct issue with the notion that they hate us for our freedom. Amazingly, in their Sept. 23, 2004, report to Rumsfeld, the DSB directly contradicted what Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush had been saying about "why they hate us." Here's part of what the DSB said:
"Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."
The New York Times ignored the Defense Science Board's startling explanation (as it has other references to the elephant plopped on the sofa). On Nov. 24, 2004, the erstwhile "newspaper of record" did publish a story on the board's report -- but performed some highly interesting surgery.
Thom Shanker of the Times quoted the paragraph beginning with "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom'" (see above), but he or his editors deliberately cut out the following sentence about what Muslims do object to, i.e., U.S. "one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights" and support for tyrannical regimes.
The Times then included the sentence immediately after the omitted one. In other words, it was not simply a matter of shortening the paragraph. Rather, the offending middle sentence was surgically removed.
Equally important -- and equally missing -- there is never any sensible examination of the motives that might be driving what Cheney called this "same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers [who] are still there." We are left with Ajami's image of hypersensitive or irrational Muslims unwilling to confront their own cultural failings.