Monthly Archives: October 2009

Palestine on the brink: only a quick de-escalation can prevent an explosion

We are facing a perfect storm of provocations, grievances, outrage and mutually reinforcing escalations that have pushed the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly Jerusalem, to the brink of an eruption. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to call the present situation uncannily and very disturbingly reminiscent of the build up to the unleashing of the second intifada, which created disastrous consequences for the Palestinian people. An explosion of violence at this stage threatens to be even more damaging and disruptive, and among other things might squander the Obama initiative, which may be the last serious effort at peace and ending the occupation for the foreseeable future. It could prove to be a catastrophe for all parties, and rapid de-escalation is required on all sides in order to avoid another appalling miscalculation.

The broadest context, of course, is sustained uncertainty about the intentions of the present Israeli government regarding peace negotiations in the minds of Palestinians, particularly following inconclusive negotiations between Israel and the United States on a settlement freeze. The determination expressed publicly by the Israeli government to continue settlement construction, particularly and especially in occupied East Jerusalem, set the stage for the current hair-trigger situation. This was greatly exacerbated by the fiasco of the mishandling of the Goldstone report by the Palestinian leadership, which was either unable or unwilling to explain not only why it took the actions it did, but who precisely was responsible for them. Generalized confusion led to generalized outrage, which could and should have been avoided.

Into this maelstrom came the series of reciprocal provocations engaged in by Islamist organizations and the Israeli government centered around the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Yet again the whole conflict is drifting further in the direction of degenerating into an all-out religious conflagration. Islamist and ultra-left Palestinian factions are clearly trying to use the situation to bring down the Palestinian Authority, and possibly even the PLO itself. This group most notably includes the so-called “Islamic Movement” organization and Hamas, whose attitude on the Goldstone report — which they angrily rejected when it was first issued and which accuses Hamas of serious war crimes — has been inconsistent to say the least. These groups and others, such as the Qatar-based preacher Yusuf Qaradawi, have been calling on ordinary Palestinians to mobilize to physically protect the Haram, a calculated recipe for escalation. The behavior of the Israeli authorities has played into this escalation at every stage, with excessive force used against protesters and various political provocations, including mysterious and very provocative excavations near the holy sites and the planned establishment of a new East Jerusalem settlement on Wednesday.

It seems clear that a collection of forces that are hostile to the PA are seeking to use the present crisis as a vehicle for bringing it down once and for all. Some Palestinians may be hoping this leads to another intifada in which the rival Islamist forces gain permanent ascendancy. Some Israelis may be hoping that it renders the Palestinians incapable of any serious effort at self-governance or coordinated diplomacy for the foreseeable future, allowing for no effective challenge to the occupation. Both need to be careful of what they wish for.

Let there be no doubt: as with past mutual miscalculations, in this instance neither society will benefit and both will be the losers in any such eventuality. Only self-interested political extremists and fanatics on both sides would wish and work for another explosion, and yet the groundwork for precisely such a conflagration has been rather precisely and deliberately constructed. The only thing that can prevent this from happening in the coming days is an equally precise and strong-willed de-escalation. Both Israelis and Palestinians, and all their friends around the world, should be doing everything possible to pull back from the brink of a disaster.

Credit Barack Obama with resolve on a Palestinian state

Under the administration of President Barack Obama, the United States has vigorously re-engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and made commitment to Palestinian statehood an American national security and foreign policy priority. Obama has said that it is “absolutely crucial” to US interests to resolve the conflict, and appears determined to persist despite all difficulties and obstacles.

There are several crucial reasons for this intensification. First, while the benefits to American interests of ending the conflict have been clear for many years, the substantial costs to the United States of failing to secure a peace agreement are becoming more widely understood. The conflict in the Middle East has become an exceptionally powerful weapon in the hands of fanatics throughout the region and beyond, fueling anti-American sentiment. The Obama administration has understood that ending Israel’s occupation would be a singularly effective counterattack against those manifestations of extremism.

Second, the Obama administration is taking a more holistic approach to retooling the American relationship with the region, when compared to its predecessors. Rather than viewing each regional relationship and problem independently, and dealing with it on a case-specific and usually bilateral basis, this administration understands that these problems and relations are both independent and interconnected.

Third, it has become increasingly clear to many American friends of Israel, including numerous prominent Jewish Americans, that a peace agreement with the Palestinians and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab land in general is not only in the United States’ national interest, it is also in Israel’s interest. If it persists with the occupation, Israel can be neither Jewish nor democratic in a meaningful way, and will not know either peace or regional acceptance.

This understanding has allowed many prominent Jewish Democrats, including key members of the US Congress, to support Obama’s push for an Israeli settlement freeze.

Indeed, Obama’s initial strategy for advancing the peace process was to secure Israel’s implementation of its commitment under the “road map” to peace, issued under former President George W. Bush, to freeze settlement activity in the Occupied Territories. Obama was also trying to secure diplomatic gestures from Arab states as a reciprocal move.

The US president met with only partial success on both sides, with Israel reportedly agreeing to a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank, but not in occupied East Jerusalem. At the tripartite meeting held at the UN headquarters between Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders on September 22, Obama made it clear that he did not accept this proposed compromise on settlements by Israel, but was setting the issue aside for now and moving forward on permanent-status talks.

While previous US administrations would almost certainly have embraced the proposed Israeli compromise, Obama continues to reject the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity and has left the issue unresolved. At his UN General Assembly speech the following day, Obama laid out a number of stipulations for the negotiations that strongly favor the Palestinian position, pledging to “end the occupation that began in 1967.” The president insisted, above all, that the status of Jerusalem was to be addressed in new talks.

Including Jerusalem in the talks runs directly counter to Israeli positions and strongly reinforces the Palestinian view that the city must be the capital of any future Palestinian state. It is, indeed, a central question that cannot be ignored. Perhaps even more than settlements, the issue will prove extremely challenging for Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, especially given his coalition partners’ uncompromising stance on the future of Jerusalem.

Ultimately, the main message senior administration officials, including Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are sending is that the administration is “determined” to achieve a two-state peace agreement.

This determination, a willingness to take political hits and keep on going, was evident in Obama’s words at the UN General Assembly meeting. There, he declared: “[E]ven though there will be setbacks, and false starts and tough days – I will not waiver in my pursuit of peace.” Any party counting on wearing down, waiting out or chasing this administration away from negotiations must now seriously reconsider its strategy.

Israeli incitement cannot be ignored

In his speech at the UN General Assembly meeting earlier this month, President Obama acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority had made great headway on security issues, which is their main responsibility under the Roadmap, but added that they should do more to combat incitement. This is a reasonable request, especially when incitement comes from PA-funded or subsidized institutions, as it sometimes does. However, the persistent concerns about incitement in the Palestinian media, which are entirely reasonable and valid, in this case and as usual, come in the absence of any recognition of the serious problem of incitement in the Israeli media.

In the past week, both of Israel’s most important newspapers, Yediot Ahronot, the largest circulation daily paper in the country, and Ha’aretz, the most respected and sophisticated Israeli paper, featured commentaries by Jewish Israeli extremists that denied the existence of the Palestinian people, implied the need to remove them from their country, and sought refuge in the absurd fantasy of "Jordan is Palestine." Incitement to violence comes in many forms, including this one. The wholesale denial of the existence, national identity and history of the Palestinians is not morally or intellectually superior to Holocaust denial. Support for the occupation and the denial of the most fundamental not only national but even civil and human rights of the Palestinians and labeling them "the occupiers" is plainly supportive of a political agenda that is nothing if not violent and that can only lead to countless instances, and an entire brutal and hideous system, of quite extreme violence.

Because this kind of incitement, which is not extraordinary enough in Israel to be rejected as legitimate commentary by either of the country’s major national dailies or to provoke any evident outcry, is distressingly familiar to all of those who follow the discourse of the Israeli right wing. That it receives less attention in the United States and from the international media generally than even fairly marginal instances of Palestinian incitement as meticulously catalogued, and occasionally fabricated, by propaganda organizations such as MEMRI, does not make this Jewish Israeli incitement any less dangerous or worthy of attention and condemnation.

In today’s edition of Ha’aretz, a familiar figure on the Israeli racist ultra-right, Ron Breiman, who was chairman of the extremist group "Professors for a Strong Israel" from 2001 to 2005, provides a perfect example of what I mean. On his bizarro side of the looking glass, the Palestinians in the occupied territories are an "army of occupation" and "the occupier," and under Oslo "liberated territories became occupied territories" by allowing the Palestinians a small measure of self-rule in extremely limited areas. All of this, of course, is because only the Israeli national project is legitimate and the Arab presence in Palestine is a temporary and recent usurpation and fraud.

This man clings to the delusion that the Palestinians are merely interlopers who entered the country following Zionist colonization in the early part of the 20th century (a particularly preposterous and completely discredited absurdity). At best, Arabs in Palestine were place-holders for distant imperial rulers, so how could they possibly have any legitimate or natural national sentiments? And the Arab presence in Palestine certainly has no history predating the emergence of Islam:
Most of the Arabs in the Land of Israel immigrated here after our waves of aliyah. In other words, Zionism and the prosperity it engendered spawned "the Palestinian people." Since the Arab occupation of the Land of Israel in the seventh century, and throughout the centuries of Muslim occupation, not one of the occupiers viewed this land as anything more than a distant imperial outpost.

But, this is a generous and kind-hearted extremist. Not for him the slightly excessive siren song of ethnic cleansing:
In contrast with the critics who espouse a racist transfer of Jews from Judea and Samaria, I reject any forcible transfer of any population group.

But this massive concession leads him to a certain despair, that without further ethnic cleansing and mass expulsions, perhaps there is no way to resolve the conflict (since Palestinian nationalism is, after all, a hoax and ending the occupation simply unthinkable):
Perhaps there is no solution to the problem. There is certainly no solution at this point. But this is no reason to commit suicide or sacrifice the Zionist vision on the altar of "peace."

You will be relived to learn that the "professor" has a brilliant solution, albeit temporary. He imagines that the Israeli occupation can continue to function and become permanent without allowing the Palestinians any political rights whatsoever, by somehow securing for them Jordanian and Egyptian citizenship:
If there is a solution, it cannot be found within the confines of just the western Land of Israel. In the long term, the solution will be a regional one that combines democracy, demography and geography. The Arabs of the Land of Israel will continue to live in their present homes and will hold Jordanian and Egyptian (for Gazans) citizenship, voting for their respective parliaments.

Of course he does not consider why or how Egypt and Jordan could possibly be compelled or convinced to impose their citizenship on millions of Palestinians living in territories to which neither has any claim of sovereignty and which would be regarded as an existential crisis by both states and undoubtedly rejected by the Palestinians themselves. And, what would be the point of voting for parliaments that have zero political influence and authority in the territory in which one lives? It would be entirely too generous to call this nonsense.

The ultimate solution, of course, is the same old idea: Jordan is Palestine. The Palestinians will and should take over Jordan and, it is impossible not to conclude from his text, leave "western Israel" and go to the new Palestinian state there:
In the long term, citizens of Jordan who comprise an overwhelming majority in eastern Transjordan will gain power in Amman. It is there that a solution will be found for their brothers who live west of the Jordan River.

While waiting for the realization of this racist wet dream, however, "we must end the occupation. The Arab occupation in the Land of Israel." This apparently means absolutely cancelling any Palestinian authority, national organizations or infrastructure. Anyone who fails to see the depth of not only the hatred and racism, but also the clear incitement to violence, in these words does not know how to read.

In last Wednesday’s Yediot Ahronot, someone called Moshe Dann, who is identified as a former assistant professor of history, wrote another outstanding screed denying that the Palestinian people even exist and insisting that they have no legitimate or historically-rooted national rights in their own country. Again, the Palestinian identity is cast as a myth and an anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic plot to destroy the Jewish state.

There is no such thing as the Palestinian people because in the wake of the 1948 war, he claims, "This heterogeneous population was called ‘Arab refugees,’ not ‘Palestinians,’ because at the time there was no such group, or people." Of course there was indeed a rhetoric by that time that identified the Arabs of Palestine as Palestinians, but more to the point, before 1948, what and who were the "Israelis?" This is not a term that would have been recognized by anyone, and had no meaning until then. Before the 1948 war, the Israeli identity was unknown and the Palestinian identity was nascent, and referred in many instances to both Jews and Arabs in Palestine, and also to elements of the British mandatory structure.

I never cease to marvel at the number of Israelis and Zionists who seem to feel that their own national identity, which at least in terms of the "Israeli" identity does not predate 1948 (up to the eve of the Israeli declaration of independent statehood there was an ongoing debate over what, precisely, to call the new Jewish state, with Judea a major contender until almost the last minute), is somehow an ontological category of being, eternal, transcendent and beyond historical contingency or interrogation. Both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict readily recognize how recent and contingent the national identity of the other side really is, but completely fail to see that much the same applies to their own (I think a more thorough consideration of this mutual misrecognition is required on the Ibishblog at some future date).

Having established that Palestinian identity does not exist, Dann writes that, "It took a crafty Egyptian, Yasser Arafat, to create the PLO with his friends to promote the destruction of Israel and the return of Arab refugees." Obviously, we are here in the presence of the most moldy and putrid Israeli propaganda, which, no matter how many times it is staked by the facts rises again from the grave to walk among us, thirsting for credulous and fanatical victims.

For Dann, every aspect of Palestinian identity and national aspirations are a "fraud":
As the proportion of anti-Israel countries in the UN grew, "Palestinians" were given more and more recognition, support and legitimacy, unlike any other group. And the fraud worked! It worked so well because the world’s media accepted the Palestinians’ self-definition and their cause. Even the Israeli media, politicians and jurists adopted this myth. Academics promoted "Palestinian archeology," "Palestinian society and culture." Every time someone writes or speaks of "Palestinians" it reinforces this myth.

To debunk Palestinian national identity, Dann proposes the following masterpiece of insight: "This amalgam of national identity is possible because ‘Palestinian’ is not a separate, unique linguistic, cultural, ethnic, religious or racial group." Whereas, of course, the Israeli identity… oh, sorry, that’s right. Never mind. As noted above, the simplest self-awareness, let alone any effort at metacognition, are not qualities typically found on either side of this conflict.

Like almost all of the rhetoric of the extreme Israeli right, Dann’s ridiculous assertions are all marshaled to deny the legitimacy or the prospects of Palestinian national rights, and like Breiman, he insists that Palestinians have no national rights and no future in any part of their country and must ultimately somehow become Jordanians. He even suggests that Palestinians are not entitled to civil and human rights in Israel or the occupied territories:
Arabs of Palestine are entitled to civil and human rights in the countries in which they have resided for generations. That there needs to be a second Arab Palestinian state, in addition to Jordan, which was carved out of Palestine and whose population is two-thirds "Palestinian," and whether such a state will resolve all the attendant problems is extremely doubtful. That the State of Israel should commit suicide to accomplish this goal is unthinkable.

This is the essential stance of the Israeli extremists: the occupation is Israel, and any talk of ending it is national suicide and "unthinkable." In order to rationalize this fanatical position, which is not any less extreme than that of Hamas, Palestinian identity, history, and basic human, civil and national rights must be absolutely and absurdly denied. Of course it is perfectly true that one can readily find an analogous discourse among some Palestinians, and that has become a matter of international concern and diplomacy, even reflected in Obama’s UN speech. But the persistent and malignant incitement in the Israeli media (not to mention by some of the Israeli military rabbis, as witnessed during the Gaza war, radical politicians and many others) must become more widely recognized as a major part of the problem if both societies are to overcome their wrath and move towards a reasonable peace agreement. Within the context of a respect for freedom of speech, counteracting incitement is a responsibility not only for Palestinians, but for Israelis as well.

Brigitte Gabriel is a vicious and probably deranged Islamophobe

A lot of readers seemed to benefit from and enjoy my evaluation of Irshad Manji from yesterday’s Ibishblog posting, and I have been asked to give my views on another charmer, called Brigitte Gabriel. I argued that Manji is not an Islamophobe as has sometimes been alleged, but that she is an anti-Arab racist and an ignoramus to boot. About Gabriel, there can be no doubt. She is one of the most vicious, venemous and possibly deranged Islamophobes and bigots presently active in the United States.

As one reader pointed out, Manji is taken more seriously than Gabriel, who is widely regarded as a kook and fanatic. But she certainly has her audience on the far right, especially among bigoted and/or ignorant Christian right and ultra-Zionist circles. And she has produced two well-selling if preposterous books published by St. Martin’s Press, a very (otherwise) respectable publisher, and has been on Fox and other news outlets too often for the comfort of any sane or sober person. Therefore, no doubt my readers who wanted a small review of her activities are right. Here goes.

In 2008, Gabriel was described by the New York Times Magazine as a “radical Islamophobe,” which is probably the gentlest way to put it. She appears to be the scion of a South Lebanon Army (SLA) family, the SLA being the mercenary force set up by Israel in southern Lebanon, run first by Major Saad Haddad who died in 1984 (the same year her biography has Gabriel “moving” to Israel) and then by Antoine Lahad (who now runs a Lebanese restaurant in Tel Aviv). Her book, Because They Hate: a survivor of terror warns America (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) purports to be, among other things, the story of her life. At varying times she has claimed to have lived for either seven or ten years, depending on the source, in a bomb shelter with her entire family.

Her account of the Lebanese civil war is nonsensical and completely incoherent, holding that the war in the 1970s was a “jihad” by a non-existent “Islamic army” against the Christians of Lebanon. On the other hand, her career began with Pat Robertson’s “Middle East Television” which pioneered this fictionalized version of the conflict in Lebanon during the war itself, and this association might help explain her bizarre characterizations of the war. The SLA was the host of “Middle East Television” from 1982 until the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the concomitant collapse of the SLA in May 2000, when the station relocated to Cyprus.

She claims that:
I was raised in the only Christian country in the Middle East, Lebanon. A lot of people think the Middle East has always been made up of Moslem countries. That is not true. There once were two non-Muslim countries in the Middle East. One is a Jewish state called Israel which is under attack for its existence today and the other was a Christian country called Lebanon now under a Moslem majority controlling influence. When Lebanon got its independence from France in the 40’s the majority of the population was Christian. We didn’t have any enemies.

At no time in her life was Lebanon in any meaningful sense a “Christian country,” having not had a Christian (or any other) majority for many decades, let alone having ever been a “non-Muslim country.” In fact, Lebanon was and is a mixed society without any majority population, including large and diverse groups of both Christians and Muslims. The spirit of sectarian chauvinism and mythology that pervades all her thinking about Lebanon and the Lebanese is distressingly familiar and can only be profoundly depressing to anyone who understands the delicate balances between the myriad sectarian and ethnic communities that make up a very small country which has no majority population.

Gabriel quite extraordinarily casts the Lebanese civil war that began in 1975 as a “jihad” launched by Muslims against Christians:
When the Moslems and Palestinians declared Jihad on the Christians in 1975 we didn’t even know what that word meant. We had taken them into our country, allowed them to study side by side with us, in our schools and universities. We gave them jobs, shared with them our way of life. We didn’t realize the depth of their hatred to us as infidels. They looked at us as the enemy not as neighbors, friends, employers and colleagues. A lot of Muslims pored in from other Muslim countries like Iran — the founder and supporter of Hezbollah, one of the leading terrorist organizations in the world today. They came from Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The Lebanese civil war was not between the Lebanese, it was a holy war declared on the Christians by the Muslims of the Middle East.

Again, for anyone with any experience of Lebanon and the Lebanese not only is the complete disregard for reality in favor of the most shameless and self-deluding sectarian chauvinist myths disturbingly familiar, but so is the tendency to blame the largely self-inflicted wounds of the Lebanese civil war (in the worst instances often self-inflicted by sectarian groups themselves through vicious periods of infighting) on foreigners. It is not clear if this is a manipulative sleight-of-hand or if she really doesn’t know the most basic Lebanese history herself, but Gabriel’s contention that the founding of Hezbollah is part of a jihad declared in 1975 does not square with the fact that the organization was founded in 1982 as a direct consequence of Israel’s invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, not in 1975 and not as a consequence of the conflict between Lebanese groups.

There are many strange interpretations and characterizations of the civil war in Lebanon available from various quarters, but this must be one of the most fanciful and least convincing, not to mention tendentious, of them all. In another striking passage, Gabriel claims that “Syria shelled Israel along with Hezbollah the Iranian financed holy warriors” and that because of the shelling, “by 1982, Israel was fed up with Syria’s repeated attacks on its northern border” and therefore invaded Lebanon. In fact, Syria was not engaged in shelling Israel prior to the 1982 invasion, and Hezbollah did not even exist until after it. Again it is hard to know whether Gabriel is deliberately deceptive or amazingly ignorant.

Her Islamophobic hatred being very extreme, Gabriel frequently resorts to the bestiary and other classic racist tropes to denounce Islam and Muslims:
America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam… If you want to understand the nature of the enemy we face, visualize a tapestry of snakes. They slither and they hiss, and they would eat each other alive, but they will unite in a hideous mass to achieve their common goal of imposing Islam on the world.

Gabriel vehemently denies that there can be such a thing as a moderate Muslim, only a “non-practicing” one:
I call it a practicing Muslim and a non-practicing Muslim. I think it is a better description than “moderate” and “radical.” A practicing Muslim goes to mosque, prays five times a day, doesn’t drink, believes God gave him women to be his property – to beat, to stone to death… He believes Christians and Jews are apes and pigs because they are cursed by Allah. He believes it is his duty to declare war on the infidels because they are Allah’s enemies. That is a practicing Muslim.

She goes on to state that this kind of evil, “practicing” Muslim constitutes 98 percent of all Muslims world-wide. It is hard to know if Gabriel has any sense of how preposterous she sounds, since she appears to be consumed with hatred and completely unable to grasp how her words might appear to a rational person: “The difference between the Arabic world and Israel is a difference in values and character. It’s barbarism versus civilization. It’s democracy versus dictatorship. It’s goodness versus evil.”

Gabriel regularly accuses Muslims of not recognizing the civilian status of non-Muslim civilians. However during the 2006 Israeli war in Lebanon, she dismissed any concern for Lebanese civilians killed in the fighting, declaring, “These ‘civilian casualties’ are terrorists and terrorist families and terrorist sympathizers. Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists!” As with so many bigots, racists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes, projection is a primary symptom of her psycho-pathology.

Her second book, They Must be Stopped: why we must defeat radical Islam and how we can do it (St. Martin’s Press, 2008), is a virtual compendium of all the themes and tropes of contemporary American Islamophobia. Virtually no element is missing, with a special emphasis on the dangers posed by ordinary Muslims living in Western societies.

She even goes so far as to insert, not once but twice, the same absolutely fabricated quote from the Quran, claiming that it commands “all Muslim women” to ensure that they are “screening themselves completely except for one or two eyes to see the way,” and falsely attributing this nonexistent command to Sura 33:59. Her citation for this is two ludicrous sources that transform into Quranic text an interjected and extremely debatable explanation which was clearly marked as an insertion into their translation by Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali.

Her first use of this fabrication is cited to a hate-mongering website called “Prophet of Doom,” while her second reference to it, oddly enough, is cited to a different, and apparently related although hardly more reliable source, a book subtly entitled Prophet of Doom: Islam’s terrorist dogmas in Mohammed’s own words (CricketSong Books, 2004). This use of the same fabricated quote from two different, although possibly related, sources calls to mind the image of Gabriel and her staff haphazardly combing the blogosphere and hate literature for anything, no matter how preposterous, that she can use to incite negative sentiments against Muslims and Islam.

The fact that St. Martin’s Press would not only attach its name to such shameless bigotry, but would permit the bare-faced fabrication of a quotation from the Quran which is cited to two alternative sources, neither of them with the least credibility, speaks very poorly of the publisher and its editors, and of the tactics generally employed in Islamophobic rhetoric

Some newspaper reports suggest that Gabriel is furious that a group of Arab evangelical convert-extremists including “Walid Shoebat,” Zak Anani and others have been undermining her position as the most notable Arab Islamophobe in the United States, reportedly telling her staff, “Not only are these creeps Arabs, but two of them are Palestinians!” According to the same account, “Shoebat” gloated after a particularly extreme right-wing radio talkshow appearance, in which he called for either the conversion or extermination of all the 1.25 billion Muslims in the world, “let the spoiled brat from South Lebanon top that!”

Her extremism has been too much for a number of people who have regretted working with Gabriel. At a 2004 “concert against terrorism” at Duke University Gabriel referred to Arabs as “barbarians” and made many other patently derogatory remarks. The Duke Chronicle reported at the time that, “Junior David Gastwirth, who organized the event, apologized on behalf of the Freeman Center for Gabriel’s comment. ‘She went against what she was going to speak about. We by no means agree with what she said,’ Gastwirth said.”

In addition, in a letter to the Chronicle, the Duke students who led the groups which organized the concert — Gayle Argon, and Mollie Lurey, co-coordinators for Students Against Terror, and Rachael Solomon, Student president for the Freeman Center for Jewish Life — wrote, “Had we known Brigitte Gabriel’s speech would have been as inflammatory and offensive as it was, we would have unhesitatingly removed her from the speaker list. Despite her detestable aberration, the message of the concert and rally still came through, and The Chronicle failed to portray that adequately.”

All of this leads one inevitably to conclude that Gabriel is a nut whose hateful views are so extreme that many people who are initially attracted to her end up running as quickly as possible in the other direction sooner rather than later. She certainly has never had, and undoubtedly will never get, the kind of respectability or audience of Irshad Manji or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But, preaching to the choir of the fearful, hateful paranoiacs of the Islamophobic right, Gabriel certainly does harm, in the same way that the birthers, truthers, death panelists and teabaggers have been since the inauguration of President Obama. We are living in an era in which the extreme right, including and especially the racist right, feels completely sidelined by the results of the last election and is in a full blown hysteria (you lie, YOU LIE!).

This is a time in which the quivering, terrified, weepy panic of Glen Beck, who gives every impression of constantly being on the verge of a nervous breakdown, speaks to and for the sentiment of a large segment of the right. It is to this same sentiment, and this same apoplexy of fear and hatred, which Gabriel speaks. She may be marginal, but after our summer of town hall discontent, one can’t seriously think this kind of hysteria isn’t dangerous.