Max Blumenthal on Anti-Islam Campaigning in the US

Max Blumenthal has written an overview of what he calls “the Great Islamophobic Crusade” in the USA, starting with the David Project’s opposition to Joseph Massad and culminating (so far) with the campaign against Cordoba House and with the Oklahoma “anti-Sharia” measure. He notes the role of one particular sugar daddy:

One philanthropist in particular has provided the beneficence to propel the campaign ahead. He is a little-known Los Angeles-area software security entrepreneur named Aubrey Chernick, who operates out of a security consulting firm blandly named the National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination.

…Through the Fairbrook Foundation, a private entity he and his wife Joyce control, Chernick has provided funding to groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and CAMERA, a right-wing, pro-Israel, media-watchdog outfit, to violent Israeli settlers living on Palestinian lands and figures like the pseudo-academic author Robert Spencer, who is largely responsible for popularizing conspiracy theories about the coming conquest of the West by Muslim fanatics seeking to establish a worldwide caliphate.

Chernick’s role was previously noted at Politico, first in a piece by Ken Vogel and Giovanni Russonello, and then in a follow-up from Laura Rozen.

Of course, talk of “pro-Israel” organisations and of an “Israel lobby” will be seized on gleefully (and in bad faith) by some as evidence that Max is propounding an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. However, while Max outlines the parts played by various activists, he doesn’t lay claim to a shocking revelation that reveals a hidden factor in political life. It’s in no way surprising that those who urge unconditional support for the Israeli hawks would like us all to fear Muslims, or that those who see themselves as activists in a general war against Islam would vicariously identify with the IDF and with Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The interesting issue – which Max attends to – is how this plays out through particular individuals.

As for the dynamics of anti-Islam activism, I’ve already made the point more than once (although my regular trolls tend to ignore it) that the demagogues and opportunists would be far less likely to gain traction without the acts and provocations of Islamic extremists. The general cultural context is also important; a 2007 review of Mearsheimer and Walt by Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs has some sensible insights about the Israel lobby:

One problem is that Mearsheimer and Walt decontextualize the activity of Jews and their allies. Attempts by pro-Zionist students and pressure groups to challenge university decisions to grant tenure or otherwise reward professors deemed too pro-Arab are portrayed as yet another sign of the long reach and dangerous power of the octopus. In fact, these efforts are part of a much broader, and deeply deplorable, trend in American education, by which every ethnic, religious, and sexual group seeks to define the bounds of acceptable discourse. African Americans, Native Americans, feminists, lesbian, gay, and transgendered persons — organizations purporting to represent these groups and many others have done their best to drive speakers, professors, and textbooks with the “wrong” views out of the academy. Zionists have actually come relatively late to this particular pander fest, and they are notable chiefly for their relatively weak performance in the perverse drive to block free speech on campus.

We are today very sensitive about prejudice and bigotry, and it is manifestly obvious that this means that false allegations can be deployed to shut down debate and vilify opponents. In turn, those who deserve to be called out for bigotry can dismiss criticism by pointing to bogus accusations. It’s not strange that the Israel lobby engages in this behaviour (although it’s often ignored by those on the right who complain when anyone else does it) – and the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Ahmadinejad, along with the grim history of anti-Semitism, mean that appeals to our sensitivity may be particularly effective.

Chernick’s National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination has a website here; Max is right about its ostensibly “bland” character, and it is quite a contrast to some of the other private security and intelligence organisations I’ve written about recently.