Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: The Other Problem with the Muslim Brotherhood

Jul 2, 2012 | Tzvi Fleischer

Tzvi Fleischer

The Other Problem with the Muslim Brotherhood

There are a lot of things to worry about following the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi in the Egyptian Presidential election. The Brotherhood is of course effectively the parent organisation and model for all radical Sunni Islamist groups – from al-Qaeda, through Hamas, to Somalia’s al-Shabaab, Nigeria’s murderous Boko Haram and Indonesia’s Jemaah Islamiyah. It also comes with a worldview which places absolutely no intrinsic value on democracy – to them, democracy is tactically valuable only as long as it helps achieve Islamist ends and the moment other ways of doing so appear to be better, it becomes an obstacle to be eradicated. Even if the Brotherhood allows relatively free elections to continue, its theocratic worldview makes it unlikely to encourage the development of the free public square which is essential for genuine democracy to flourish.

But there is something else to worry about which has not been adequately mentioned in most analysis. The activists of the Brotherhood are generally intelligent, tactically pragmatic and canny operators, but they also overwhelmingly see the world in utterly conspiratorial terms. Indeed, in their dedication to conspiracy theories, many of them antisemitic, Brotherhood members often make Western UFO nuts, black helicopter brigades, moon-landing deniers, and 9/11 “truthers” look boringly staid by comparison.

Richard Engel, the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the American NBC network described his experience when he sat down with a half-dozen highly-educated Brotherhood activists at Cairo’s lawyers’ syndicate building a few years ago:

“I remember the conversation vividly because I have had so many just like it. The Brotherhood members mostly talked about Israel. They were obsessed with the Mossad, Israel’s powerful spy agency. According to them, the Mossad ran everything in the Middle East.

“They also said America was at war with Islam. They told me Osama bin Laden was an American creation. They talked about how Jews ran the world, and how the only group as powerful as the Mossad was the ‘Jewish Lobby’ in Washington. Jews and Israel, they said, used America’s muscle to dominate the Arab world through proxy dictators like Mubarak. They told me how Israel was deliberately exporting chemicals that spread AIDS and cancer among Egyptians.

“They told me the Americans people, whom they considered decent and God fearing, were ignorant of the games played on them by Jews and their lobby. One Jewish-Israeli-American conspiracy rolled into the next.”

Now to be fair, as Engel makes clear, many Egyptians tend to believe in such conspiracy theories, not just the Brotherhood. But Brotherhood members rank among the most extreme in their dedication to conspiratorial thinking and are also a major source for spreading conspiracy theories among the general population.

This is yet another reason to doubt the often expressed belief/hope that the responsibilities of political power will cause the Brotherhood to embrace pragmatism. As Engel notes, “pragmatism seems unlikely to erase a [conspiratorial] mentality that is deeply ingrained and which will, especially in time of crisis, expose itself sooner or later.” And when it does, its hard to imagine the outcome will be good for Egyptians or anybody else.

No Truck with Reality

Sadly, a refusal to confront reality and a preference for myths that protect one’s worldview are not confined to Egypt or even to Islamist groups. The Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to also be guilty of refusing to acknowledge either truth or basic morality when it might detract from the goal of presenting Palestinians as always and solely innocent victims of a brutal Israel. Events that occurred on June 17 led to a particularly egregious and characteristic case.

On that day, a group of Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron called a tow truck from Israel. When it arrived, driven by a 52-year-old Israeli man from Ashkelon, he was set upon by three young assailants who struck him with iron bars and wrenches. Bleeding profusely, he pulled out a pistol and shot his assailants, killing two and wounding the third, who succeeded in escaping. He was then taken to hospital by Israeli security forces and the incident was investigated by Israeli police.

So how did the PA react to the tow-truck driver’s act of self-defence against an unprovoked assault by people he had come to help? PA President Mahmoud Abbas denounced how “settlers commit crimes under the auspices of the Israeli Government and the IDF.” Meanwhile, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA labelled the two dead assailants “martyrs” and reported that unidentified “speakers” had “denounced the crimes of the settlers under the continued support and protection of the Israeli occupation army… They stressed the importance of national unity and closing ranks and activating the popular resistance against the occupation and the settlers.” (Note that the truckdriver is from Ashkelon, inside pre-1967 Israel, and thus is not a settler.)

This is the same PA which, in late May, made a tremendous fuss over the bodies of 91 Palestinians returned by Israel, paying fulsome tributes to them as “martyr heroes”, even though most were killed carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Yet the PA had publicly condemned, at least to international audiences, the murderous suicide bombings which a number of these supposed “heroes” died committing.

As long as the PA cannot tell its own people that murderous acts against innocent civilians by Palestinian terrorists are beyond the pale, and continues to hold up even the most egregious murderers as role models – while simultaneously turning every Israeli action, no matter how innocent, into a crime – it seems difficult to imagine that peace will ever be possible.

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