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 terrorists professed.
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, quoted here in Haaretz.
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 United States.
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 their campaigns.
It all starts with the money. According to CAP:
A small 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.
Some 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 network exposed.
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 attests.
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. Yet.