Sookhdeo vs White Update

Since writing yesterday’s blog entry, a couple more details about the Sookhdeo-White spat have come to my attention. As I noted yesterday, White recently wrote a critical review of Sookhdeo’s book Global Jihad for Fulcrum, which he brought to the attention of an apparently harmless Muslim blogger who made a mocking pun on Sookhdeo’s surname (“Sookhdevil”). Sookhdeo is now claiming – baselessly and shamelessly – that this has endangered him and his family, and his Barnabas Fund has distributed an email alleging a sinister plot by certain evangelicals to use Islamic extremists against missionaries and “non-white” converts from Islam to Christianity.

I also now see that two of Sookhdeo’s supporters, David Zeidan and Tawfik Hamid, have published a reasonable reponse to the review on Fulcrum, to which White in turn replies here. However, White also notes that there a far more inflammatory version of the same piece being distributed by the Barnabas Fund – the longer text is on the Barnabas Fund website here (a version somewhere between the two was sent out by email and is reproduced on White’s blog). This version attacks White in the most extraordinary and intemperate manner as someone who

seems to accept the racist Islamist view that anything said or written by Jews or Israelis, no matter how scholarly, cannot be credible simply because of who they inherently are

and who

glorif[ies] Bin Laden and…present[s] him in a heroic light as a political freedom fighter and leader of a liberation movement with no religious motivation whatsoever.

In fact, White, following some scholars, simply put Bin Laden into political context. So, the Barnabas Fund describes White as a anti-Semite who celebrates mass murder, yet a joke about Sookhdeo’s surname from a Muslim blogger is beyond the pale. It seems that Sookhdeo and his outfit can dish it out but can’t take even a fraction of it.

Inevitably, the Nazis also get dragged in:

White and his like remind one of those in Britain in the 1930s that were sympathetic to Hitler and the Nazi party, claiming they were merely reclaiming the lost German honour and rebuilding German confidence after the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty. They totally ignored Mein Kampf and all other clear Nazi racist and anti-Semitic statements and actions, or else applauded them. Hatred of America, of Israel, and of Evangelical “fundamentalists” seems to blind White’s eyes to any possible defects in Islam.

Well, two can play the hackneyed historical parallel game: Sookhdeo “and his like remind one” of a certain US Senator who identified a real threat, but who then undermined the fight against it by using the danger to whip up hysteria for self-aggrandizement and to smear anyone whom he disliked or who dared to criticise him. Patrick Sookhdeo: have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?

(Hat tip: Andrew Brown’s Blog)

18 Responses

  1. Ben White:
    “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.”

  2. […] caused something of an uproar in the blogosphere, even reaching the echelons of Comment Is Free. Richard Bartholomew has chosen to defend Ben White, the journalist who understands why some people are antisemites. […]

  3. I’m not a Counterpunch fan, but nothing in White’s article there amounts to a defence or promotion of anti-Semitism. And even it did, while that would reflect badly on him his criticisms of Sookhdeo’s book would still have to be answered by engaging with the points he has raised.

  4. Of course, which it has been. I do think White’s claim to understand antisemites is rather disturbing – regarding your point about the criticisms of White’s book which need to be answered, I agree, and I think Zeidan and Hamid have.

    However I’ve noted on my blog that White has previously described Hezbollah (and also Hamas) as national resistance movements and not as jihadist groups, which questions the wisdom of inviting White to review Global Jihad.

  5. The fact that he disagrees with the thesis makes him a poor choice to review the book? Seriously?

  6. no! the fact he is on record as having claimed that a jihadi group (hizbullah) was nationalist and not Islamist – that’s not ‘disagreeing with the thesis’ it’s denial of fact:

    Hezbollah = “Party of God”, etc…

  7. What does “rather disturbing” mean? Do you mean that White has written his article with the covert aim of encouraging people to become anti-Semitic?

    As for the “Hezbollah” issue, the quote White uses tells us that that a number of suicide attackers were Communists or Christians rather than Islamist fundamentalists. That’s interesting information and it needs to be addressed. Simply reiterating that Hezbollah means “Party of God” in English – which we all know anyway – and affecting moral outrage that someone has raised the subject doesn’t advance understanding.

  8. If someone claimed to ‘understand paedophiles’ would you not be disturbed? Surely understanding hatred of one’s fellow human classifies as ‘rather disturbing’?

    I certainly don’t think White’s articles discourage anyone from being antisemitic, indeed, in his article on antisemitism, he suggests that ‘the racist state of Israel’ and ‘widespread bias and subservience to the Israeli cause in the Western media’ have provoked the rise in Jew-hatred.

    Thirdly, given Hezbollah’s treatment of Christians, is it really likely that Christians signed up to join Hezbollah to ‘liberate Palestine’? What was in it for them?

    Here’s the Hezbollah charter:

    The motives of individual Hezbollah members do not stop the group from being an Islamist/jihadist group.

  9. Also, note Ben’s title: “Hizbullah: nationalist or Islamist?” if Hezbollah were a nationalist group, or its had members had nationalistic aims, shouldn’t they be trying to organise a revolution within Lebanon rather than attacking Israel?

  10. I think you’re implying that someone who “understands” something therefore sympathises and/or condones. White also writes that

    …European culture has a history of anti-Semitism (as it has also been guilty of racism to other peoples) that has been, and probably still is, embedded in collective consciousness. Its roots can be traced, at least to some extent, to the shameful teachings of many in the Church.

    That’s a reasonable point that indeed helps us to “understand” why some people are anti-semitic, but it is mischevious to suggest that this means he approves of it.

    And I’m not arguing about whether Hezbollah is or isn’t primarily Islamist or what that means (maybe “Islamist-messianic or Islamist-political” might be a better frame) – just that the subject requires more than denunications. Perhaps White wants to promote the idea that Hezbollah is “nationalist” because then it will be regarded as less appalling. That would be wrongheaded, but it’s another issue.

    And none of this explains why the Barnabas Fund has decided on its frankly bizarre course of action over the past few days: sending an edited review to Fulcrum and posting an inflammatory one elsewhere; sending out an email claiming a conspiracy involving the CMS and others; and seizing on an insult on an obscure Muslim blog as evidence of a threat against Sookhdeo and his family, when it’s obvious there’s nothing there. That’s done much more to damage Sookhdeo’s credibility than White ever could.

  11. Perhaps White wants to promote the idea that Hezbollah is “nationalist” because then it will be regarded as less appalling. That would be wrongheaded, but it’s another issue.

    I think there’s some truth in what you’re saying.

    As for my thoughts on Ben White’s antisemitism, I can’t add to what I’ve already written – it is definitely worrying when someone claims to “understand” why some people are antisemites, yet if he were going to write an article about understanding modern antisemitism, it is striking that he should blame Israeli policies and what he sees as pro-Israel bias in the media.

    I for one don’t think that Hamas’/Fatah’s policies nor a pro-Palestinian article in the Guardian should encourage anyone to hate Arabs!

    As for Sookhdeo’s article on Fulcrum, as I understand it’s ambiguous who actually edited the review, and as for the ‘conspiracy’, it’s apparently been confirmed by the director of All Nations Christian College. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, it seems.

    Regarding Sookhdeo’s “credibility”, let’s remember that he’s been drawing attention to totalitarian repression of Christians in Islamic states for years now.

  12. I think in the counterpunch article, White sails very close to the wind of anti-semitism.

    Having read his blog, he is very much in the all Israel does is bad, and the Palestinians can do no wrong camp.

  13. I recommend reading an interview with Paul Berman, which discusses anti-semitism and peoples problems with the Jews

    I know you might (I say might, as I know not the blogs views on this subject) find this offensive but I think this quote from Berman analyses the modern antisemite

    “And so forth. The unstated assumption is always the same. To wit: the universal system for man’s happiness has already arrived (namely, Christianity, or else Enlightenment anti-Christianity; the Westphalian state system, or else the post-modern system of international institutions; racial theory, or else the anti-racist doctrine in a certain interpretation). And the universal system for man’s happiness would right now have achieved perfection – were it not for the Jews. The Jews are always standing in the way. The higher one’s opinion of oneself, the more one detests the Jews.”

  14. This is a reasonable explanation for why some are attracted to anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, but it’s clear that Berman’s purpose is polemical and rhetorical rather than analytical – he just wants to apply this against anyone who criticises Israel.

    Hamas is anti-Semitic in large part because ethnic conflict tends to degenerate into this kind of thing, and there is an extensive European tradition of anti-Semitism that Hamas can draw from. Some Israelis are racist against Arabs – it seems to me that a lot of the racism on both sides would be best explained in terms of the dynamics and stresses of the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than trying to identify some kind of overarching “essential” anti-Semitism.

    As for Westerners who support Palestinians (of which I am one, albeit against Islamism and terrorism), you can find all kinds of motives and reasonings. I agree that some go on about a “Holocaust” in Gaza, which seems calculated to provoke Israelis as Jews and to trivialise the actual Holocaust, and some have bought into a “Jewish power” conspiracy theory promoted by the likes of Israel Shamir. This is anti-Semitic. The “Israel lobby” issue needs a more nuanced approach; I favour the way Walter Russell Mead has cut through the overheated denunciations on both sides – see here.

  15. Thankyou for your reply

    “but it’s clear that Berman’s purpose is polemical and rhetorical rather than analytical – he just wants to apply this against anyone who criticises Israel.”

    I am not sure that this is a fair criticism of Berman’s position, he certainly presented a reasoned argument, an represented both sides views on Hamas, while coming to his conclusion.

    I also didnt find him sayiny anyone who criticises Israel, that ironically would put Berman in that camp himself. I think that the argument that those of us who reject some criticism of Israel as grounded in anti-semitism, see all criticm as such is just a lazy argument which is not grounded in fact.

    I agree with Berman’s assesment of Hamas and other Islamitst groups. It is interesting that much of european anti-semitism was also present in the middle east prior to the World WW2.

    Read this link for more details

    Of course there are Israeli Jews that are racist, indeed it would be bizairre in any society if there were not, and that mean that their will be some in the Army, and I dont think that Palestinian Arabs are inherently racist any more than the rest of us, however I think there is a real problem with racist indoctrunation within Arab society that is not as present in Israel, that is making the peace progress more difficult and contributes to terrorism.

    I read the link from Walter Russell Mead, and agreed with a lot of his analysis although he seemed somewhat double minded on whether the Walt-Meirsheimer Book was a sophiticated protocols of the elders or not.

  16. […] thanks to Melanie Phillips’ thudding pseudo-journalistic piece in the Spectator. As I blogged recently, Sookhdeo wrote a book in 2007 called Global Jihad. White gave it a bad review at the website […]

  17. […] written when I was 18 years old. I am happy to admit that it is not very good, but, as others have noted, there is “nothing” there that “amounts to a defence or promotion of […]

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