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Charlie Hebdo, the Terrorism 'Fear Factory' and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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By Donald Sassano
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

For consumers of In Homeland Security, and all others interested in international security issues, three disparate articles appeared recently that require attention. I say disparate although all three flow from Middle Eastern travails, specifically perceptions of Muslim hostility toward the West. Each in different ways sheds light on an inattentive crusader news media, and outright distortions used in some quarters to further dubious political objectives. Thank goodness correctives like them appear from time to time, although their wisdom will likely get ignored during the current hot house atmosphere.

First up is political scientist John Mueller and “America’s Terrorism Fear Factory Roles On.” For those unfamiliar with Mueller’s work, he specializes in debunking, or at least placing in realistic perspective, the threat of Islamic terrorism. In it we learn of an ABC News account of an FBI sting that “prevented” a radicalized young man from carrying out a terrorist attack in Washington DC.  The story merely noted in passing that the plot occurred three years ago. The FBI had placed the young man on its payroll and also offered to send money to his struggling Moroccan parents, but only after the deed (an improbable suicide bombing) was completed. Mueller notes our government alone procured the weapons needed to carry out the improbable attack — there were no accomplices.

I’m no attorney, nor do I play one on TV, but entrapment seems an appropriate term of art to describe this crackpot scheme. In Mueller’s opinion, the case is emblematic of the rise of what embattled New York Times reporter James Risen has called our “homeland security-industrial complex.” It is also illustrative of a news media that irresponsibly trades fear for ratings, enabling politicians predisposed to such ravings room for maneuver.

Next, Scott McConnell over at The American Conservative takes aim at the recent Paris march and concludes President Obama was correct not to have attended given the blatant hypocrisies on display. Similar to the aftermath of 9/11 when President Bush asserted the U.S. was attacked because of “who we are” (as opposed to what we do), French intellectuals and politicians were quick to interpret sordid crimes in the name of Islam as an affront to French values, specifically freedom of expression. But as McConnell points out, expansive French hate laws are rarely (if ever) used to curb the sort of anti-Muslim sentiment often on display at Charlie Hebdo. But they have been employed to ban public demonstrations and social media commentary during the Gaza crisis, and block an Israeli anti-Zionist from speaking on French soil. So much for sacred freedoms. Instead, McConnell persuades us that storied French egalite is likely to be meted out according to “what group one belongs to.”

Also discussed is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s behavior. We know President Hollande requested Netanyahu stay home, fearing he would exploit the occasion to paint France as anti-Semitic and rally French Jews to leave. He had, after all, previously done so while on French soil in 2012. Apparently, Netanyahu initially took the hint. But learning two political rivals would attend he made a beeline to the French capital and literally elbowed his way to the front of the line. As Hollande suspected, Netanyahu offered up financial incentives to French Jewish citizens, no doubt in part because Israel is fighting a demographic Palestinian tide. McConnell predicts Netanyahu is now likely to conflate the type of Sunni extremism that occurred in Paris with the Iranian (Shia) challenge that’s almost certainly at the top of his agenda.

Finally, over at Mondoweiss David Samel assesses the legacy of the late Joan Peters, author of From Time Immemorial, an accounting of the origins of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In it, Peters argued Palestine was a thinly populated land when Zionism took root in the late 19th century, and only after Jewish settlers brought prosperity did neighboring Arabs stake a claim. Therefore, ethnic cleansing by a nascent Israel in 1948 and beyond was fair, or at least excusable. A rebuttal here is not warranted because her thesis has been thoroughly debunked, and not only by the likes of Norman Finkelstein and Edward Said, but a whole host of professional Israeli historians (Peters was an American journalist and television producer). But her thesis lives on, bubbling under the surface, no matter how outrageous in retrospect. According to Samel even Peters’ Times obituary, feigning impartiality, lends credence to what amounts to half-baked hasbara.

I wish it weren’t true, but a repeat of the mistakes of the past is more likely to occur when the news media both here and abroad is given free rein to stoke a Gallic version of the U.S. failed war on terror, an American garrison state, and crackpot racial theories. Be it ABC, The New York Times, or the recent voices lauding Je Suis Charlie, readers deserve a dose of reality now and again.

About the Author
Donald Sassano is a businessman with strong interests in Middle Eastern politics, U.S. Grand Strategy, and political theory. He completed his Master’s Degree in International Relations and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Comparative and Security Issues at American Military University in 2013.

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