It has been just about a decade since Islamophobia exploded in
this country. That was the moment that the World Trade Center and Pentagon were hit
by al Qaeda terrorists. It existed prior to 9/11, but the losses that day and
the general terror it inflicted upon this country made many, many Americans
much more wary of Arabs and, fairly quickly, fearful of the religion the
The first sign that 9/11 would be exploited to advance
various agendas came from Binyamin Netanyahu, who was quoted
in the New York Times as saying the
attacks would be good for Israel:
Asked tonight [September 11, 2001]
what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel,
Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, ''It's very good.''
Then he edited himself: ''Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate
sympathy.'' He predicted that the attack would ''strengthen the bond between
our two peoples, because we've experienced terror over so many decades, but the
United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror."
Netanyahu subsequently reiterated his views about 9/11,
And, of course, ever since 9/11 the "pro-Israel" lobby has
successfully used it to build support for right-wing Israeli policies in the
But the lobby isn't alone.
It is just one of the components of an orchestrated and
well-financed effort to make Americans fear and hate Muslims and Arabs.
I have to admit, however, that until I read a report
published today by the Center for American Progress (CAP), I had no idea just
how orchestrated and well-financed this movement was.
The report, "Fear Inc: The Roots of The Islamophobia Network
in America," demonstrates that a small group of self-proclaimed experts (Frank
Gaffney, David Yerushalmi, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, and Steve Emerson)
backed by a host of foundations and donors (many of which also fund the lobby)
have put Islamophobia on the map.
To put it simply, without these "experts," their donors, and
Fox News (their media mouthpiece) you would never have heard that a Muslim community
center (the "Ground Zero Mosque") was being constructed in New York City. And
the center certainly would not have become a major news story. Nor would
Republican (and even a few Democratic) candidates for president, Congress, and
even village councils be called upon to condemn Islam and "Sharia Law" or face
being labeled a supporter of terrorism. Nor would Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain
and Rick Santorum make hatred of American Muslims such an integral part of
It all starts with the money. According to CAP:
group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia
network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think
tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam-in the form of books,
reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam
grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda
for their constituency.
of these foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to
anti-Islam grassroots groups. According to our extensive analysis, here are the
top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our country:
- Donors Capital Fund
- Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
- Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
- Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust
- Russell Berrie Foundation
- Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund
- Fairbrook Foundation
Most of these are new to me, although when I worked at AIPAC
it was hard to miss the fact that some of them supported both AIPAC and its
think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The amazing thing about the CAP report is that it exposes
people who try very hard to cover their tracks. It is one thing to be known for
supporting AIPAC, but it is quite another to be identified with the likes of
Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes -- and the truly unhinged Pam Geller, who appears in the CAP report as
only a second-tier hater but whose anti-Muslim vehemence is nothing short of
disgusting. (She rationalized
the killing of the kids in Norway by pointing out that the camp they attended
was associated with Norway's Labor Party, which she claims is anti-Israel!)
The hate funders are particularly determined to
lay low since the Oslo slaughter by a self-described
Christian conservative named Anders Breivik, who said that he was influenced by
Robert Spencer, Pam Geller, and David Horowitz (another prominent propagandist
against Muslims and beneficiary of the various anti-Islam foundations).
But CAP followed the money, went behind the innocent-sounding
foundation names, and cross-referenced them. And now we have it: the hate
It's pretty ugly. Jews whose main concern is Israel align
themselves with Christian rightists who don't like Jews. There are even a few
Muslims who are dispatched by the network to tell audiences at churches and
synagogues just how bad their people are. It's weird.
But it's also very dangerous, as the Norway slaughter
The strangest thing about the killings is that it happened in
Norway. Reading this report, you have to wonder why it hasn't happened here.