Edward Luttwak, one of Ronald Reagan’s original Cold Warriors, has channeled Daniel Pipes in the N.Y. Times Op-Ed section today, claiming preposterously that a President Obama will be in danger because Islamists will view his as a Muslim apostate and try to kill him.
I’ve already written about this stupid line of argument when Pipes advanced it in that august journal of Islamic thought, Frontpagemagazine. It gave me a good laugh then. Now that it’s been bruited in the pages of the N.Y. Times it’s no laughing matter. How an editor judges this to be of interest to the readers of the Times is beyond me. This is an example of editorial lunacy. Why would you take a trashy rumor published in a David Horowitz shmate and transfer it to the N.Y. Times? I feel dirty just reading it there.
Of course, no Islamist has ever uttered a word about Obama’s alleged apostasy let alone advocated killing him nor does Luttwak claim as such. In fact, the McCain campaign has pounced on an endorsement from a Hamas spokesperson (so much for Islamists wanting to kill Obama). So the only morons propounding this line of reasoning are neocons who seek to plant the idea in Americans’ minds that Obama is a Muslim. And they kill two birds with one stone because while they’re making such an outrageous claim they can reinforce in readers’ minds the bloodlust that supposedly characterizes Islam.
Luttwak once again refers to Obama’s so-called “Muslim heritage,” which is non-existent. The author’s justification? No matter how Obama defines himself, Muslims define him as Muslim:
As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood.
So “universally understood” in fact, that I have never heard a genuine Muslim advance this concept. Another distortion of Islam inherent in this statement is that there is a unitary “universal standard” of Muslim belief. Besides, this notion that Obama is Muslim despite the fact that he is a believing Christian flies in the face of a sacred American tradition–that in this land of freedom and self-expression we define our own identity and refuse to allow others to do this for us.
Here is more smarmy innuendo:
…As most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian…
This should read “as all Americans understand it except Islamophobic columnists publishing their narischkeit in the pages of the N.Y. Times.” Note that Obama “chose to become a Christian” as if he wasn’t one before he did. Insinuating once again that he was Muslim. He no more “chose” to become a Christian than I chose to become a Jew. The only faith he has ever known is Christianity as he himself says:
My mother was a Christian from Kansas, and they [his parents] married and then divorced. I was raised by my mother. So, I’ve always been a Christian.
And the smears go on:
I would challenge Luttwak to produce evidence that Obama was ever “converted” to Chrisitianity.
I find it ironic that those excellent imams Pipes and Luttwak (I wonder where they could’ve earned those advanced degrees in Islamic theology?) have been telling Americans how Muslims will view Obama, while no Muslim has ever advanced the views they espouse. Could it be that their knowledge of modern Islam is deficient or that in their need to smear both Islam and Obama they have gone off the deep end?
Why would Obama’s alleged apostasy be specially dangerous?
[It] would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards.
As if the Secret Service during foreign trips relies on local security to protect the president. I’d prefer to believe that our own security will keep a President Obama safe and sound. Beyond that, the idea that Muslim security guards would assassinate Obama solely because he is an apostate is yet another far-fetched notion.
And more far-fetchedness:
…Most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity once it became widely known — as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House. This would compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad.
I’d prefer to believe that most citizens of the Islamic world won’t give a crap about what Luttwak is saying. Note a second reference to Obama’s imaginary “conversion” to Christianity. In Luttwak’s cloud-cuckoo land version of the Muslim world, these nations would refuse to cooperate with the U.S. in fighting terror. As if they’re running to us to do so now with the current Luttwak-supported Muslim-haters in the White House.
Whatever else we know about Luttwak from this column we can also add that he’s a very poor liar:
That an Obama presidency would cause such complications in our dealings with the Islamic world is not likely to be a major factor with American voters, and the implication is not that it should be.
Liar, liar pants on fire! The only true thing stated above is that the columnist’s ravings will have precisely no impact on American voters who could care less about such malarkey. There is a narrow cross section of Americans who will care about this: the author’s fellow neocons, Islamophobes, militant pro-Israel Jews, etc. This group would never have supported Obama to begin with.
In fact, I believe precisely the opposite of Luttwak. Just as Ahmed Yousef of Hamas said he looked forward to an Obama presidency for the fresh new perspective it might bring to U.S. policy in the Mideast, many other Muslim nations and leaders will have similar hopes and expectations. Contrary to the neocon perspective, the vast majority of Muslims do not want to hate the U.S. And while no president realizes all the hopes that accompany him into office, Obama has more ability and willingness to breathe fresh air into U.S. foreign policy than any president since Bill Clinton.
Last December, Politico’s Ben Smith wrote presciently about Pipes’ assault on Obama:
Keep an eye on this one, because if Obama’s the nominee, this FrontPagemagazine piece by the conservative writer Daniel Pipes is likely to be the template for a faux-legitimate assault on Obama’s religion. But the political impact of the piece isn’t the tortured argument. It’s branding Obama a Muslim, by a subtler means.
It’s fun to see how the really shoddy “scholarship” that comes out of Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, or through their media network slowly creeps itself into more and more legitimate outlets like the New York Times. Didn’t the whole “Obama is a Muslim” rumor start from them too, a few years ago?
So far the ones who are mostly speaking about the potential murder of Obama have been pro-Israeli extrimists and supporters. The interesting and essential question is why are they so obsessed with the murder of Obama. Because the “man” is not under their control and might bring some long wanted / needed rationality to US Middle East foreign policy?
Why does an Israeli fashion designer produce “Who killed Obama? t-shirts? What if some Muslim nut would design “Who killed McCain? t-shirts or an Christian nut “Who killed Hilary?” bikinis? That would certainly stir more discussion as that Israeli’s “art design”.
As of Tuesday morning, it’s the #2 most emailed item in the NYT.
This electioneering smearing of an individual with stuff that no-one who’s rational gives a toss about is predictable and pathetic. Thankfully over here the ‘They’re a Muslim!!’ line hasn’t been trotted out during an election campaign, and the conservatives stalled after announcing that Kevin Rudd had gotten drunk in NY once and visited a strip-club. The general reaction, even from conservatives was ‘good on him!’ and ‘who cares?’
Bill Pearlman says
So what your saying is that Moslems are completely rational people and out of a billion moslems there aren’t going to be a t least a 100 million that consider Obama an apostate. Hell, i consider Phil Weiss an apostate.
Richard Silverstein says
And if you read the accompanying comment thread they’re almost universally negative. I was pleased with that. Almost no commenters found anything useful about the piece. But why did they commission it to begin with??
Richard Silverstein says
Do us all a favor, Bill. Before you decide to “off” Phil would you announce it here so I can alert the authorities? Besides, I don’t think your judgments about who is a good Jew & who isn’t are terribly respected outside of yr own circle of friends & fellow pro-Israel wingnuts.
Bill Pearlman says
come on Rich, the guy is intermarried, embraces Christian holidays, and is an avowed opponent of the existence of Israel, without question. What in your mind makes him Jewish except by some strange accident of birth.
Richard Silverstein says
Bill: I always enjoy it when you attempt to substitute yr own judgment for that of Jewish tradition & halacha. A Jew is a Jew no matter who they’re married to. Even if they convert they’re still considered Jewish acc. to halacha since there is a hope that they might return to the faith. Phil is NOT an opponent of the existence of Israel.
I should add that I find Phil’s assimilationist mantra to be galling & off-putting. But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to read him out of the race.
zhu bajie says
If Obama is in physical danger from anyone, it’s fans of Pipes, Luttwak, Rod Parsley.
Crian Padayachee says
Great article Richard, I never realized the NYT could publish such blatantly one sides garbage but I have been outside the USA for almost 2 years. Did you watch the daily show recently, one WV woman said she didn’t vote for Obama because he was “muslim”, maybe all these lies are spreading?
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I enjoy reading both of you, and find very little difference in political views. From what you say here I might “suspect” you of being sort of anti-assimilationist. In what way will that differ from racist ?
In a few generations (10-15 ) we’ll all be dark tanned atheists’ with slant eyes..Maybe then we’ll have peace.
Richard Silverstein says
I’m not in favor of Jewish assimilation. I’m in favor of preserving cultural & religious traditions including my own, not collapsing them. I don’t believe these traditions must cause hate & bloodshed though they can do so.
I think you are wrong, seriously wrong. And you didn’t answer my question. “In what way differ an anti-assimilationist from a racist ?
It’s not a question of “collapsing” Jewish culture, ethics, religion or moral but a willingness to share and pass it on to other people..To include, not exclude.
I’m an ardent antinationalist, but love our tradition of dressing up in bunad or eating rotten food. I love even more to see people from other corners of the world taking up on that tradition. Jewish exclusiveness has been the main reason behind Europe’s “Judenfrage” for almost 2000 years, that enough…don’t you think? Talmud or not..Put it in a museum where it belongs.
Richard Silverstein says
I am not a racist nor is my tradition. There are elements of almost every religious-cultural tradition which are objectionable. THere are elements that are universalist & inclusive of all including those outside the tradition. THose are the elements I embrace. I have no problem w. sharing my traditions w. others. I am not a supremacist or exclusivist. But neither am I prepared to have my tradition evaporate in a melting pot.
I deeply object to yr statement that Jewish exclusiveness is behind the experience that Jews have had in Europe for 2000 years. If Jews had been willing to disappear as a culture, race & religion then of course there would not have been any anti-Semitism. But losing one’s heritage seems a very high price to pay for not being killed. The Talmud is a living book and belongs both in real, everyday life as well in museums. Sorry if that bothers you. It doesn’t bother me a whit.
First of all I said Jewish exclusiveness is the main factor behind the The Jewish Question
not behind religious and ethnic persecution.
Your anti-assimilationistic view reminds me of our national epos Peer Gyntby Henrik Ibsen
Of course you are not a supremacist. If you were I would not enjoy your writing. But the path you walk on is full of traps. When you think of the Straussians in Washington, the colonists in Hebron and IDFs actions at various checkpoints on the West Bank even more so. That’s why I disapprove of you criticizing Phil for his view, which I share. It would help if you once every blue moon quoted a “gentile” writer. On the other hand I understand that few non-jewish Americans dare to openly criticize Israel the way you and Phil does. Still Ethnocentricity is one of the traps.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t know what the “Jewish Question” means. But I don’t think it’s the responsibility of Jews to make things easy on European civilization by disappearing.
As for “traps,” yes indeed there are traps everywhere not just in being Jewish, but in being human. I recognize all the traps you mention. As I said every religion has such traps. Traps and the evil done in religion’s name do not mean religion should disappear or that religion has overall been more of a destructive than constructive force in human civilization. At any rate, I’d prefer not getting into such a broad debate anyway. I can only speak for myself & my own attitude toward my religion. I think I walk the path carefully & try to get my co-religionists to understand the pitfalls we face is we stray too far fr. “the good.”
And I do think we must distinguish bet. Jews and Israelis–bet. Judaism and Israel. They are 2 separate things & confusing or mingling them is very dangerous.
I don’t choose sources based on religion. If someone has something useful to say about the I-P conflict I quote them. If not, I don’t. There are Jewish sources I won’t quote and non-Jewish sources I won’t quote. But this is based on political attitudes & understanding, not on religious background.
The term “the Jewish question” originates from England around 1850, where King George lll wanted to reward a Jewish banker with knighthood for his service to his country, but the parliament refused because he was not a Christian. The essence of the problem was: should they ask the banker to convert to Christianity, or should they change the laws. What to do with exclusive ethnic and religious minorities in an emancipated society.
The Jewish intelligentsia in Germany (and elsewhere) was divided between integration and separation..Assimilationists and Zionists. Later Hitler found his own solution, the final.
Zionism is by definition a racist movement, and all you have to do is to add militarism into the equation and you have a full-blown fascist state. Israel has an “Arab question”. Their solution so far has been to avoid drafting a constitution…to close their eyes to the problem ,and hope for special treatment from the outside world i.e. exceptionalism.
The very idea of nonintegration in a modern society is an anachronism, and you my dear Richard walks backwards into the future. You might be tempted to argue that assimilation is not the same as integration. I beg to differ, but if you embrace Jewish exceptionalism it might work, at least for the moment and for you.
PS. I indeed agree with your statement:
But it is getting harder and harder. Every time you voice your opinion on Israel policy you have the jackals Pipes, Dershowitz, Foxman , Horowitz & al. snapping at your heels and screaming “bloody anti-Semite.”
The problem is of course not what they say. The problem is that the media are giving those fruitcakes too much attention.
Is wide off the mark. At least in European history. Religion was the driving force behind endless wars, inquisition , persecutions , auto de fé’s , scientific stagnation and a lot more sorrow and grief. The only constructive I can think of is the judiciary system built on the ten commandments and christian/jewish ethics and education..
Richard Silverstein says
Zionism is not “by definition a racist movement,” unless yr definition is extreme and ideologically motivated or ill-informed (not that YOU are, but some anti-Zionists are). Some Zionists are racist, some elements of the ZIonist movement have been racist. But Zionism itself is not ipso facto racist. Saying Israel is a “fascist state” shows I think where yr ideological position lies.
Yes, Israel most definitely has an “Arab Question.” And I’ve campaigned in this blog for a long time for the idea of an Israeli constitution or Bill of Rights & for the notion that Israel should be a state of all its citizens with rights of the minority AND majority (whether the majority be Jewish or Arab) guaranteed.
Those “jackals” don’t represent all of Judaism or Jews. They’re a loud, shrill minority. This blog exists to deny them the opportunity to lay claim to the mantle of “Jewish values.” I’m in a long-term political-ideological war w. them which they won’t win.
Richard Silverstein says
“Scientific stagnation???” Aren’t you forgetting the medieval Christian monks who preserved the Greek scientific manuscripts which served as a basis of European technological & scientific innovation? W/o those monks we would have no record of Greek contribution to science, philosophy, etc. That’s a pretty damn important contribution.
Yr. account of religion tells only half the story. How can you talk about religion reasonably & lv. out the other half?? Leaving aside other religious traditions which have made important contributions–w/o Judaism (Maimonides, Halevy, Heine, Ibn Gabirol, Hillel, Yochanan Ben Zakkai, Abraham, Moses, Buber, Rosenzweig, Kafka, Spinoza, etc.) the world would be a much poorer place.
Of course Zionism is racistic. It is a political organization for one exclusive group of people. If they allowed anybody to convert to Judaism, it wouldn’t be so.
Racism in itself isn’t that bad, and it was common and accepted in academia until Hitler came along and brought the concept into a new dimension.
When I call Israel a fascist state it is because it is, not because of anti-Semitism, or whatever ideology you think might possess me. Fascism is merger of corporations, military and political leadership. Mussolini said “fascism should rather be called corporatism”. Add to that Neocon’s and Likudnick’s embrace of Machiavelli’s political view and Strauss / Nietzsche’s philosophy and what you have is fascism.
And yes. I appreciate your fight for Judaism’ and it’s values against those relative few but in these days powerful who seem intent on dragging it into a moral and ethical abyss.
Ad religion effect on European culture and science.
It is possible that a few monks saved some manuscripts, but the bulk part of our Hellenistic heritage was kept in Arab translation and at the beginning of the Renaissance translated to Latin and Spanish in places like Toledo (convivance), Padua, Venice and Palermo.
“Eppur si muove” means And yet it moves . The Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei muttered this phrase after being forced to recant in 1633, before the Inquisition, his belief that the Earth moved around the Sun. He was but one of many scientist facing the wrath of the Catholic Church for speaking against Aristotle or Galen. So I think you are wrong, the net effect of religion on our culture and science was to slow it down.
The reformation, where and when the Vatican lost its grip on Northern European culture brought about an enormous upswing in these countries.
Richard Silverstein says
@Daga: Since when is a ‘political organization for one exclusive group of people racist??’ I’m not sure what you mean by allowing “anybody to convert to Judaism.” Anyone who wishes to CAN convert to Judaism. Am I missing something? Christians can be Zionists as well though they’re some of the “fascist” types you decry.
Calling Israel fascist means you’re using some vague theoretical construct that has no bearing on any reality I know. Not to mention that your rhetoric isn’t shared by 99.9% of the rest of the world. That would place you somewhere in the .01% of extreme anti-Zionists.
The monks were the ones who translated those manuscripts into Latin & preserved them. They didn’t preserve some of the manuscripts. They preserved virtually all of it. They passed from Arabic into Latin via the monks.
Yes, there was an Inquisition & the Crusades. But then again there were these monks.
You clearly don’t know much about the important Jewish figures I mentioned who made massive contributions not just to Jewish thought, but world thought. Before you condemn Judaism, you should research some of their contributions.
How much time have you spent outside your ivory tower, Outside US or Israel? How much time do you spend reading European or non US/Israel news?
More than 20 000 Norwegians have served in UNIFIL UN’s peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. All but a few ardent supporters of Israel when they left, All but a few extremely critical of Israel and IDF when they came back-to put it mildly. My wife was one of them, and she changed her and my mind on Israel.
Are Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein extremists? In 1948 they signed an open letter in NYT.
The majority in UN general assembly?
UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 that Zionism is racist passed 72 to 35.
What about Jimmy Carter, Mahatma Gandhi and Desmond Tutu…all extremists?
I understand that it is hard to witness somebody or something you hold dear turn into a monster, but that is what war does to people.
From Ha’aretz 1923:
This is fascism…and a prophecy of what has happened.
And Jabotinsky was, as we know, the founder of rightwing Zionism, aka Revisionist Movement-Herut-Likud of today
Your dream of a one state solution is but a naive dream. A kind of democracy where “two lions and a lamb are voting on what’s for dinner” can hardly be called a real democracy.
At least you didn’t call me an anti-Semite, but settled for an extremist. I thank you for that. When the World is going crazy normality will appear extreme.
I don’t understand why you are mentioning Jewish contribution to European culture. It is huge. Perhaps facilitated by the fact that they were outside control by the Vatican. We were discussing the Catholic Church and a few Monks. Try to stay focused on the topic.
And yes in theoryanybody can convert to judaism. Reality tells another story. Just as Israel is a nuclearfree democracy..in theory. It is neither
Richard Silverstein says
@Daga: I have lived outside the U.S. and I have travelled extensively abroad. I read English language media wherever I can find it. More importantly, I read widely about the Israeli-Arab conflict both from the right, left and center. I also try to read material from the extreme right and left. Why should any of this disqualify my point of view about Israel and Zionism?
The fact that Hannah Arendt & Albert Einstein said that Menachem Begin was a fascist in 1948 does nothing to advance yr argument that Zionism or Israel as a whole is fascist. I’m no supporter of Menachem Begin. I’ve always been a strong critic of Herut/Likud.
The UN passed a resolution saying Zionism equalled racism & if I’m not mistaken it repealed it later. At any rate, the General Assembly isn’t my idea of an ideal arbiter of this question.
Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu have never said that Israel or Zionism were fascist.
Jabotinsky is not Zionism. He is a founder of one wing of the Zionist movement, not the entire movement.
We were discussing the contributions of RELIGION (not necessarily Catholicism) to civilization. You claimed that religion as a whole was more destructive than constructive. I pointed out Jewish contributions to civilization because w/o Judaism these contributions could never have existed.
I have no idea what you mean by “reality tells another story.” I know quite a bit about both Judaism & conversion so it’d be better if you spoke directly rather than in riddles.
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