Crude, childish and offensive: Peter Beaumont criticizes Islamophobia of “paranoid” Israelis

The Emmy-Award winning U.S. television drama ‘Homeland’, based on the Israeli series Hatufim (Abductees חטופים), is the subject of Observer foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont’s latest column. (The Observer is the sister publication of the Guardian.)

While the Israeli series depicts the lives of Israeli soldiers who were captured seventeen years ago while on a mission in Lebanon, and their return home, the American series stars Claire Danes as a CIA officer who believes that a U.S. Marine held captive by Al-Qaeda as a POW was turned by the enemy and now threatens the U.S.

The show has received much acclaim by critics (including by several contributors at the Guardian), and has even received praise from President Obama.

Beaumont’s piece, ‘Homeland is brilliant drama but does it present a crude image of Muslims?‘, Oct. 13, contains this strap line:

The slick US drama, now into its second series on Channel 4, draws praise from critics and viewers, but its ridiculous view of Arabs and Islam is a distortion of Middle Eastern realities

Beaumont writes:

[The] fictional drama tells us truths about ourselves in ways that can be as uncomfortable as they are unintended. The Emmy-winning Homeland on Channel 4 is a case in point. Its plotting is as ridiculous as it is exciting. But what makes it difficult to watch is its treatment of Muslims.

In the first episode of the new season we were confronted with a new character, a glamorous correspondent with a cutglass English accent, a Palestinian family and access to both the CIA and the US Congress. Like the Saudi prince from the last series and the academic, behind the scenes these high-profile Muslims living in the US share a secret: both willingly or otherwise they are covert helpers of Abu Nasir, the al-Qaida terrorist leader.

In other words, it does not matter whether they are rich, smart, discreetly enjoying a western lifestyle or attractive: all are to be suspected.

I admit I have no idea how the story arcs in Homeland will develop and what surprises are in store. What I do know is how both Arabs and Islamists have been portrayed thus far as violent fanatics, some of whom are powerful and influential infiltrators.

As someone who has spent much time in the Middle East, I find the depictions not only crude and childish but offensive.”

Beaumont later adds:

“Should any of this matter in a fictional series? The answer is yes.

The reality is that what Homeland portrays is a peculiar view of the Islamic world, one rooted, perhaps, in its genesis as an Israeli drama, where the view of the surrounding neighbourhood is more paranoid and defensive. It matters for this reason. Popular culture both informs and echoes our prejudices.” [emphasis added]

Beaumont’s moral inversion is extraordinary.

He’s not only criticizing the U.S. show for engaging in anti-Muslim racism, but arguing that such a pattern of ‘Islamophobia’ may be rooted, at least in part, in Israeli “paranoia” about their Arab and Muslim neighbors.

While we’ve often argued that the most egregious antisemitic habit at the Guardian Group involves their continuing sins of omission – ignoring endemic Judeophobia in the Muslim and Arab world – Beaumont, in imputing irrationality to Israeli concerns about Arab and Muslim terrorism and antisemtism, seems to suggest that Jews are in fact the racists in the region.

To such Guardian Left commentators it is evidently paranoid of Jews to express concern over polls demonstrating that roughly 95% of the citizens in Arab countries neighboring Israel admit to disliking Jews, and not merely Israelis, and that, within such cultures, the demonization of Jews (and Judaism) represents not aberrant but normative behavior.

Additionally, it is apparently a sign of Islamophobia for Israeli Jews to fear a Palestinian political culture which incites terrorism against Jewish civilians and promotes extreme antisemitism.

Similarly, those who take it seriously when one of the most popular Islamist spiritual leaders in the world literally calls for Allah to kill every last Jew on earth are, no doubt, engaging in fear-mongering or cynical Zionist ‘hasbara’.

For such faux-liberals, Israelis who merely ask that the world remember the nearly 900,000 Jews ethnically cleansed from Arab countries – lands where their ancestors had lived for centuries – stand outside of their sympathetic imagination.

Finally, those who would characterize Israelis as paranoid somehow fail to recognize that non-Jewish Middle Eastern culture is dangerously susceptible to the most crude anti-Zionist (and antisemitic) conspiracy theories. 

What else other than paranoia would lead such a large number of Muslims to engage in Holocaust denial, believe that Jews were behind 9/11 or are even plotting to take over the world?

More broadly, the tendency of some on the left to ignore even the most conclusive statistics and reports – and the most chilling videos – attesting to the fact that the central address for Jew hatred in the world has clearly shifted from Europe to the Middle East represents more than merely a dangerous moral blind spot.  

Those who attempt to “contextualize”, or even excuse, such hatred towards Jews – sometimes masked by anti-Zionism and sometimes not – are making a broader point.  They seem to be suggesting that (unlike other times in history) this time those aligned against the Jews may be justified in their enmity; this time Judeophobic conspiracy theories could in fact be based on an understandable frustration; that, this time, it is the behavior of Jews, and not the Jews haters, that drives, antisemitism.  

“Is it possible to understand the rise of antisemitism?”, they seem to be asking.

This blog consistently attempts to provide a clear and unambiguous answer to various forms of such a maddening query: No, it is not.

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