Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Book Reviews of
Mihesua, Sheehi, Boyle
By Eric Walberg
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 15, 2011
Three books recently published by the American radical publisher
Clarity Press reflect different aspects of racism in the US, which even
under a black president is unfortunately alive and well, promoted in US
policy at home and abroad -- if not officially.
American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities
Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia:
The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims
Francis Boyle, The Palestinian
Right of Return Under International Law
Top on the list of course is
the continued second-class status of African-Americans, who make up an
outsized proportion of prisoners, the unemployed and those living in
poverty. One's colour is enough to keep the black-and-white status quo
intact, despite the cosmetic boost that Barack Obama's election gave to the
But the endemic racism that Native Americans have
experienced despite more or less blending in with the increasingly Hispanic
and Asian mix of today's America (most Native Americans are of mixed race)
is a sad legacy that is equally endemic.
The irony is that Native
American culture is revered around the world and by many Americans,
especially by the young, as it appeals to the sense of unity of man and
nature, recognises and respects the mystery of life: the fact that humans
are one small part of a vast and beautiful world which is full of magic. It
is only as people "grow up" that they lose this sense of mystery and
accommodate themselves to a heirarchical, anthropocentric reality with no
use for the romantic animism that allowed the natives to live in harmony
with nature for thousands of years.
Devon Mihesua, a Choctaw from
Oklahoma, sets out the many distortions of the image of Native Americans
perpetrated by the mainstream media and demolishes them one by one in
American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities, already a classic, first
published in 1996 and newly republished this year by Clarity.
the many images that stand out to someone who grew up in North America and
which Mihesua corrects is "Cowboys and Indians", which should be "US Army
and Indians" since "cowboys and Indians rarely fought each other. Besides,
the first cowboys were Mexican Indians." The English language itself
reinforces the worst stereotypes, such as "Indian givers" (read: "US
government givers") and Columbus "discovering" America. Indeed, 1492 marks
not a step forward in mankind's history, but rather the beginning of the
first and most horrific genocide in mankind's history, with the
premeditating killing of at least 10 million in North America alone.
The history of Native Americans is full of ironies. War Department officials
maintained that if the entire US population had enlisted in the same
proportion as Native Americans in WWII, the response would have rendered
Selective Service unnecessary. As soldiers, they were respected as
disciplined and brave. Comanche soldiers were given the vital task of
encoding secret messages in the Pacific based on their native language. The
code they developed, although cryptologically very simple, was never cracked
by the Japanese; but they never received any special recognition from the
government after the war.
Mihesua's book is intended for the general
public but also as a school text, and though it deals with grim material, it
is full of fascinating details of native life. Living in earth lodges
(wigwams), longhouses, grass houses or thatched-roof homes much like
Europeans, most Indians never saw a tipi, for example. Indians were
"conquered" largely via biological warfare, as they lacked immunity to
European diseases. The European claim that they were "heathen" was a mere
tactic to condone their decimation. It was the Dutch who introduced
"scalping" to North America (to save transport costs for bounty hunters paid
per Indian scalp): a revered tradition dating back to ancient Greece.
More than 60 per cent of the food consumed around the world today comes
from the Indians, including corn, tomatoes, potatoes, many varieties of
beans, chili peppers, squash, pumpkins, avocados, cacao, raspberries and
strawberries. The main staple of the plains Indians, the 60 million buffalo
that grazed the open plains, were wiped out by Europeans eager to steal the
The Indians were just as "civilised" as the Europeans,
in terms of technology and culture, though no North Americans had a writing
system before the European invasion. Their societies were egalitarian, with
division of labour according to sex, where the sexes were considered equal
and each had their decision-making traditions. In fact the Iroquois
Confederacy was used as a prototype by the American revolutionaries in
writing the American Constitution.
The book has many illustrations.
It includes oral histories, discourses on religion, anthropology, politics
and economics of Indian societies. The author used the term Indian in the
first edition, and writes that she now uses Indigenous, since Native
Americans or First Nation are equally European in derivation. There are a
mere 2.1 million Indians today, and they refer to themselves by their tribal
name (the Navajos are Dinees, for example) -- over 700 tribes are still
extant. Mihesua's aim is to encourage teachers to demand history books that
truly reflect the country's heritage, not just "feel-good" books which "tell
more about the persons writing them than about the Indians".
Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims, Stephen Sheehi,
director of the Arabic Program at the University of South Carolina and
author of Foundations of Modern Arab Identity, deals with the most recent
manifestation of this social plague, which reached a crisis point following
9/11. The victimisation of Muslim Americans can only be called racism, since
the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are nonwhite, and the few
white Muslims are automatically considered even more suspect as potential
The Muslim experience brings the black and Native
American experiences together, though few Native Americans are Muslim. The
structure of Islam and native religions seems radically different on the
surface -- the former strictly monotheistic, the latter polytheistic;
however, the transcendence of spirit and the underlying unity of man and
nature are very much central tenets of Islam, as they are for Native
Americans. Muslims, like the Native Americans, live their spirituality and
find it inseparable from their daily lives and interactions with others and
nature, something that threatens the very foundation of secular capitalism.
The mouthpieces of Islamophobia -- fear and hatred of Islam -- in the US
today include both academics like Bernard Lewis, Fareed Zakaria, Thomas
Friedman, David Horowitz, and many politicians, with John McCain, Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama in the vanguard. Their theories and opinions
operate on the assumption that Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, suffer
from particular cultural lacuna that prevent their cultures from progress,
democracy and human rights. It is no surprise that such ex-Muslims as Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, the Somali feminist-turned-Islamophobe, and revisionist Muslims
such as Indian-Canadian feminist Irshad Manji are feted by Western media, as
their antics reinforce the Islamophobes' arguments.
Islamophobia is not new, Sheehi demonstrates that it was refurbished as a
viable explanation for Muslim resistance to economic and cultural
globalisation during the Clinton era. Moreover, the "theory" was made the
basis for an interventionist foreign policy and propaganda campaign during
the Bush regime and continues to underlie Barack Obama's new
Following 9/11, the ceiling of acceptable
hate-speech against Muslims, particularly Arabs, was blown off. "We should
invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to
Christianity," wrote Ann Coulter two days after 9/ 11. "We carpet-bombed
German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war." Since
9/11, Muslims, Arabs, Iranians and Islam itself have been the objects of
derision and hatred in public, on TV and radio, and in print.
demonstrates how such bigotry was translated into a sustained domestic
policy of racial profiling and Muslim- baiting by agencies such as Homeland
Security and the Department of Justice. It condoned widespread surveillance
by the government, profiling in the street, at airports, in mosques and
universities. Muslims have their movements tracked, their associations,
finances and charitable giving monitored. They are systematically spied on,
coerced and persecuted.
And not only Muslims. Once it's ok to do this
to Muslims, it becomes ok to suspend basic civil liberties of all suspected
"terrorists". Peaceniks and ecological activists are given the same
treatment more and more. Pastor Martin Niemöller's reflection on the descent
into fascism in Germany -- "First they came for the communists ... Then they
came for the Jews ... Then they came for me and there was no one left to
speak out for me" -- is as true as it was in 1946.
institutionalised US government violations of international law, such as
freezing habeas corpus, torture, renditions, extrajudicial kidnappings and
assassination, even total war against and occupation of sovereign countries.
They are all justified using Islamophobic stereotypes, paradigms and
analyses as well as foils such as Hirsi Ali and Manji.
examines the collusion between non-governmental agencies and lobbies and
local, state and federal agencies in suppressing political speech on US
campuses critical of racial profiling, US foreign policy in the Middle East
and Israel. While much of the direct violence against Muslims on American
streets, shops and campuses has subsided, Islamophobia runs throughout the
Obama administration, serving an ideological function in the age of
economic, cultural and political globalisation.
Liberals such as
Democratic leader Howard Dean argue that it would be "a real affront to
people who lost their lives" on 9/11 to build an Islamic Center two blocks
away from the World Trade Center. "I think it is great to have Mosques in
American cities; there is a growing number of American Muslims." But Dean
says they should "become just like every other American, Americans who
happen to be Muslims... I hope they will have an influence on Islam."
Translation: co-opt and assimilate Muslims into American culture, so as not
to pose a threat to US hegemony, and work within Muslim communities globally
to bring them into the American fold a la the Christian missionaries of old,
willing handmaidens in the imperial project, what black Americans referred
to derisively as "Uncle Toms".
The rampant Islamophobia of the past
decade and the liberal answer of assimilation makes clear that Islam is the
remaining enemy after the defeat of Communism. It too must be conquered to
ensure US world hegemony, with revisionist American Muslims in the front
lines. "Fight fire with fire," so to speak.
There are voices in the
West that try to fight back. Tariq Ali counters in response to the
"civilization-mongers" that there were a range of political possibilities in
Muslim countries, that western civilization itself had prevented the
exercise of Western-style democracy in the Muslim world, leading their
citizens to find political expression through Islam: "After WWII, the US
backed the most reactionary elements as a bulwark against communism or
progressive/ secular nationalism. [In Iran] the secular opposition which
first got rid of the shah was outfoxed by British Intelligence and the CIA.
The vacuum was later occupied by the clerics who rule the country today. ...
The 70-year war between US imperialism and the Soviet Union affected every
single 'civilization'." We are all victims of imperialism, all losers, our
cultures distorted and perverted rather than merely anachronistic, including
American culture and Islam itself.
Sheehi points to an important
difference between the manifestation of Islamophobia in the US and Europe.
Muslim communities in the US eagerly assimilate and have a high median
income and education level compared to other American minorities, while many
European Muslim communities tend to be more insular.
version is grounded in anxiety arising from the colonial past. The colonial
centres have always been uncomfortable with interacting with brown people as
equals, compounded by the transposition of feelings of resentment, and anger
over the loss of imperial power while still having to bear the social,
cultural and economic consequences of their colonial past.
Islamophobia also finds its origins in anxiety about and hatred of its own
European "other", namely European Jewry. Pre-WWII Europe feared a Jewish
conspiracy to subvert Christian society. In the post-Holocaust era, this is
no longer politically correct, so Europe's traditional fear of Jews has been
displaced onto its newer Muslim immigrants, even by the traditionally
anti-Jewish far right such as Le Pen's National Front and the British
National Party, which are now Zionist and racist at the same time.
This phenomenon has repeated itself in every European country in the past
decade, with far-right parties gaining rapidly by exploiting fears of the "Islamification"
of Europe, the degeneration of institutionalised secularism, the bankrupting
of the welfare state, and the "demographic bomb". Most notorious has been
Holland's Geert Wilders with his Freedom Party. He has compared the Quran to
Mein Kampf and called for a "headscarf tax".
Such bigots are working
to form a Europe-wide International Freedom Alliance, even including the US
and Canada; an "Atlanticist Islamophobistan", according to analyst Pepe
Escobar. Considering that US and Canadian Muslims make up less than two per
cent of the population, this leads to "the surrealist American phenomenon of
Islamophobia without Muslims".
Tariq Ramadan is one of the few media
personalities given a chance to counter this slide towards a Euro-Reich; he
argues that forcing Muslim immigrants to abandon their traditions merely
reinforces racism. "What we need is a new narrative, a new 'we', a
mutlicoloured, multicultural European identity. Europeans need to
psychologically integrate that into their world view."
against Native Americans and Muslim Americans comes together in US Middle
East policy, with the victimisation of Palestinians. US domestic racism is
projected internationally on the Middle East in the unqualified support of
Israel as a Jewish state, as argued by University of Illinois law professor
Francis Boyle in The Palestinian Right of Return in International Law. Boyle
is both a brilliant academic and a controversial political figure, as
adviser to Provisional Government of the Palestinian Authority since 1988.
If Boyle has any bias, it is in favour of victims, especially Native
Americans and Muslims. He has served as special prosecutor in the
International Tribunal of Indigenous Peoples and Oppressed Nationalities in
the United States of America, as adviser to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
vs the Russian Federation, as counsel to Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Slobodan
Milosevic, and as adviser to American activists intent on impeaching both US
president George W Bush and US President Barack Obama. In all cases, he
charged the accused with committing genocide and crimes against humanity.
But he is no Don Quixote. He also drafted the US domestic implementing
legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological
Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which was signed into law by President
George H W Bush.
Boyle argues that the two-state solution for
Israel-Palestine would not only create an unviable Palestinian
Bantustan-type nation, but that the current state of Israel and its illegal
settlements already amounts to a Jewish Bantustan- type nation, and that
neither is viable. That one is Jewish and privileged and the other Arab and
poor and oppressed; it merely reflects the inherent racism underlying this
projection of US power in the Middle East.
The just resolution of the
Palestinian right of return is at the very heart of the Middle East peace
process. Nonetheless, the Obama administration intends to impose a
comprehensive peace settlement upon the Palestinians that will force them to
give up their well-recognised right of return, accept a Bantustan of
disjointed and surrounded chunks of territory on the West Bank in Gaza, and
recognise Israel as "the Jewish State", as newly demanded by Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and seconded by all US officials and mainstream
Boyle compares the current situation in Israel-Palestine with
the collapse of Yugoslavia which he observed and participated in. "The
correct historical analogue here is not apartheid South Africa, but instead
the genocidal Yugoslavia that collapsed as a state, lost its UN membership,
and now no longer exists as a state for that very reason." Boyle "played a
role in propelling this historical and principled process forward and
ushering in the final extinction of the genocidal Yugoslavia as a state by
debunking its legal, moral, and political right to survive and exist in
front of the entire world for all humanity to see".
settlements are "clearly illegal and criminal", and "all these so-called
settlers are committing war crimes, except the children, who are obviously
not old enough to formulate a criminal intent." Even before Operation Cast
Lead, Boyle proposed that the UN General Assembly set up the "International
Criminal Tribunal for Israel" as a "subsidiary organ" under Article 22 of
the UN Charter, a suggestion endorsed by Malaysia and Iran, and supported by
several dozen Arab and Muslim countries.
Boyle cannot be faulted for
his legal brilliance. He devastatingly exposes the underlying racism in
US-Israeli Middle East policy, portraying Israel as genocidal, and showing a
way for the world to bring it to its knees. Boyle is a maximalist, rejecting
any compromise with Israel. For him the endgame is "Sign Nothing, Win It
But Israel-Palestine is neither South Africa in the 1980s nor
Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Neither of these countries was created by and
became indivisible with the US empire. Israel is a much harder nut to crack.
Which is not to say that it won't crack. Frankly, I don't know where to
place my bets on how this last racist nation state will be dismantled. I can
only hope Boyle's optimism is warranted.
What can one conclude
from these very different studies about how to overcome racism, which is
alive and well not only in the US but around the world? The authors present
different approaches -- Mihesua concerned with education, Sheehi with
deconstructing the myths, Boyle with fighting in the international arena the
monsters responsible for inflicting their racist policies on the world.
Reviewed by Eric Walberg