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The U.S. Government and the Continued Policy of Denigrating Muslims (Part 1)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Interview with Ralph Schoenman (Part 1)
By: Kourosh Ziabari

The offensive movie "Innocence of Muslims" which has pejoratively insulted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and portrayed Islam a retrograde, corrupt and repressive religion is still drawing international condemnation, even though it seems that the wave of protests and demonstrations against this blasphemous movie across the Muslim world has calmed down.

People with different political viewpoints and religious belongings have expressed their dismay and consternation at the movie and called it an effort to sow the seeds of discord and conflict between the Muslims, Christians and Jews and pitting them against each other.

In order to further investigate the motives behind the production of the film and the background of its producer, Iran Review conducted an in-depth and elaborate interview with the American author and activist Ralph Schoenman.

Schoenman is known for being the secretary of the British philosopher, historian and social critic Bertrand Russell who started working with him in 1960s. Schoenman is the author of several books including "The Hidden History of Zionism," "A glimpse of American crimes in Vietnam" and "Death and Pillage in the Congo: A Study of Western Rule."

Schoenman traveled to Iran when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was still in power in order to raise the public awareness of the atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed monarch.

A strong critic of the racist and expansionistic policies of the Israeli regime, Ralph Schoenman runs the "Taking Aim" radio show with Mya Shone and regularly appears on Press TV to comment on different international issues.

What follows is the first part of Iran Review's exclusive interview with Mr. Schoenman to whom we have talked about the anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims" and investigated the controversy around this sacrilegious movie.

Q: Mr. Schoenman; what do you think are the motives behind the production and release of the blasphemous anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslim?" Just a few days after the release of the movie, the French magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons ridiculing Prophet Muhammad. Can we say that these provoking acts are aimed at radicalizing the Muslims and forcing them to show an angry response?

A: The origins of the production and release of the film and video of "Innocence of Muslims" are very murky. The film first appeared as an "independent movie" in a broken-down theater long out of use in an abandoned part of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was reported that the film had been written and produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, using the pseudonym Sam Bacile.

He denied this at first until the Associated Press reported that Nakoula was the same person as "Sam Bacile." Nakoula's claim that he was "creating an epic two hour film" was belied by the fact that no such film was located. Video clips of 14 minutes were uploaded on You Tube on July 12, 2012 under the title "The Real Life of Muhammad" and "Muhammad Movie Trailer."

Videos dubbed in Arabic had been uploaded in early September 2012 and promoted by Morris Sadek on the blog of the National America Coptic Assembly.

As the response in the Islamic world unfolded, it emerged that Nakoula had been in federal prison for a series of financial and bank frauds. He had been released after agreeing to become a federal informer and to testify against his former associates on behalf of the U.S. government. With the storm of publicity, U.S. federal authorities stated that Nakoula, who had been freed from federal prison, was again arrested in Los Angeles for "violating the terms of his probation." These violations included "making false statements regarding his role in the film and the use of the alias Sam Bacile."

The actual origins and identify of the film were revealed to be as untrustworthy and they were corrupt. The Los Angeles Times reported on September 12, 2012 that "the acting was amateurish, the dialogue clunky and the costumes no better than those sold for Halloween" (a children's holiday in which children dress up in outlandish and grotesque and crude costumes, travel to neighbor homes and receive gifts of candy.)

The Los Angeles Times reported further that "even with a pretty young woman beckoning pedestrians inside, fewer than ten people attended."

The film was reported to have been released first in Southern California, but, as the Los Angeles Times wrote, "its origins remain a mystery."

Only after a video of this crude film was placed on You Tube and distributed did a man identifying himself as "an Israeli-American filmmaker" claim, in phone calls to news outlets, "that he made the movie with backing from wealthy Jewish donors." By the next day the Los Angeles Times reported: "the name and story he gave are false. The movie was tied to a group of Middle Eastern Christians who live in the U.S. and hold extreme and anti-Islamist views."

Soon different marginal groups sought to take credit for this film. "A man from Riverside County told the newspaper that the film "was produced by naturalized Americans who came from Arab countries.” Another man, Steve Klein, stated that the film was called originally "The Innocence of Bin Laden" and was shown at a small theater in June.

It was reported in the Los Angeles Times that "the movie was notable for its terrible acting but did not seem anti-Muslim."

One crew member who told the Los Angeles Times he had worked on the film, revealed that the actors who were asked to take part in it "were told that the film was to be a war drama called Desert Warrior."

A crew member, who asked not to be identified, contacted the Los Angeles Times by email, stating that "the dialogue that makes specific attacks against Islam was recorded after the actors left the set."

This statement was further amplified by email: "The original actors said one word and then the producer and editing team (whom I do not know) dubbed. It is unmistakable that most dubbed portions are in a different voice than the original actor."

The Los Angeles Times added: "A statement released on behalf of the cast and crew deplored the movie. ...We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose."

The film had been produced in June and the trailer in July of 2012. Only in September was a second version of the trailer posted and this time in Arabic. A man named Morris Sadek, "an Egyptian-American activist who has been a virulent critic of Islam, began promoting this trailer on his Facebook page claiming it revealed the 'truth' about Muhammad's life." Sadek, on his own initiative, placed it on the blog of the National American Coptic Assembly.

Huffington Post would confirm on September 17 that "the original film was Desert Warrior and told the story of "tribal battles prompted by the arrival of a comet on Earth. Though the story had no religious references, anti-Islamic content was added in post-production by overdubbing without the actors' knowledge."

Dan Murphy amplified on this intrigue in his article entitled "There May Be No Anti-Islamic Movie At All" in the Christian Science Monitor on September 12.

On September 13, it was reported that Sarah Abdur Rahman, a producer for WNYC's "On the Media" program in New York, concluded "that all the religious references had indeed been overdubbed after filming."

It now emerges that Nakoula started casting actors for "Desert Warrior" in July. The "original cut" did not include references to either Prophet Muhammad or Islam. When film permits were secured by a non-profit called "Media for Christ" in August, the company President, Joseph Nassralla Abdel Masih, disclosed that Media for Christ itself had been used without his knowledge and the film was edited afterward with their involvement.

Interestingly, when Sam Bacile was reported to be responsible for the film and the intrigue surrounding it, Steve Klein, who described himself as "an anti-Islam activist" identified Sam Bacile as "Jewish and Israeli."

There is no evidence for either.

The origins of this film are rooted in the petty intrigue attendant upon corrupt trafficking in the debased sub-culture of official ideology designed to terrorize the American people with fear-mongering claims that attacks may occur at any time.

Schemers and petty criminals are spawned in such a climate, but the force driving this sordid sub-culture is fueled by the need for public acquiescence in the drive for global dominance and the dictates of the enormously powerful if tiny ruling class that commands the apparatus of the State.

A study prepared for the U.S. Defense Department's Advance Research Projects Agency in 1978 documented 215 times between 1946 and 1975 in which U.S. armed forces were deployed in other countries "for specific political objectives." U.S. military force was used an average of 7.2 times a year.

In a study indicative of U.S. corporate and military plans entitled "Oil: The Issue of American Intervention" Robert Tucker concluded in Commentary in 1979: "Without intervention, there is a distinct possibility of an economic and political disaster bearing more than a superficial resemblance to the disaster of the 1930's." The study prioritized "the Arab shoreline of the Gulf: a new El Dorado waiting for its conquistadores."

By 1979, Lawrence Mosher "formulated the plan circulating in many Washington corridors… what military forces call the U.S. 100,000 man Quick Strike Force rapidly deployable anywhere." (Middle East International, January 19, 1979).

Mosher cited a top Defense Official as follows: "One needs a real bogeyman to come in and have to be stopped. ... It may turn out that that bogeyman may not be defined in Arabic as it is in English."

These were the plans of U.S. rulers on the eve of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, whose collapse removed from them the principal ideological rationale for U.S. capitalism to wage wars for imperial control of global resources, cheap labor and subordinate regimes. It could no longer be presented to the peoples of the United States and the world as a defensive response to the "menace" of the Soviet Union and the presumptive "specter" of communism.

The state policy of U.S. rulers requires continuous crimes and humiliations inflicted upon the peoples of region. Over one million Iraqis died and its entire economy and social fabric were destroyed in an orgy of destruction. Yet greater numbers of Iraqis and Iranians were killed through the U.S, coordinated invasion by Saddam Hussein, whose own advance to power in Iraq reflected his role as a CIA operative undertaking the assassination of Abdel Karim Qassim following the Iraqi revolution of 1958 which had brought Colonel Qassim to power.

The invasion of countries with hundreds of thousands of troops and the expenditure of trillions of dollars in continuous war requires the conversion of working class and poor Americans into cannon fodder for these wars of conquest and occupation.

Thus, with the collapse of the Soviet Union a new ideological rationale was imperative if U.S. rulers were to impose successfully on the American people ever larger and more protracted wars.

As we shall discuss later, the events of September 11 were designed to create this rationale in the form of the "war on terror." Inasmuch as the principal region in which the war for oil was pursued was the Arab East and Central Asia, the demonization of its peoples as agents of terror engendered a propaganda campaign to caricature the people of the region and their political culture. Imperialism has assailed Islam and subject peoples of the Arab East and beyond to create a new imperial rationale for permanent war to seize resources, destroy national sovereignty, fragment nations and subjugate populations to be exploited.

These are the underlying social and economic conditions that underlie the unseemly origins of this crude film and its pursuit of vulgar formulas of denigration of an entire culture and its complex history.

If is important to note that not Muslims alone but people of other religious convictions as well as non-believers across thirty countries demonstrated and declared their will to resist.

In Tahrir Square, workers mobilized and began a series of strikes protesting the assault upon living standards by the government of Muhammad Morsi. Indeed, even as Morsi sought to give lip-service to popular anger, his government was exposed in these demonstrations as in league with the repressive forces that operated under Mubarak and their American masters that remain in place today.

The response to this video evokes deep anger over imperial arrogance and abuse of vivid recent memory, including torture at Abu Ghraib, burning by U.S. soldiers of the Koran and urination by U.S. soldiers on the bodies of slain Afghanis.

The outrage reflects a lived experience at the hands of U.S. and European imperialism ¬¬– an ongoing assault that reminds people daily of drone attacks that wipe out families and villages – all components of the insult of foreign subjugation.

The destruction of the Palestinian people and the wars of aggression by the Zionist State are well understood by the peoples of the Middle East and beyond to proceed under the direction of imperialism.

In this sense, these mobilizations are a harbinger and prelude to mass struggle that foretell the sweeping away of country-selling regimes that oppress their own people.

Q: The extremist Western politicians and media justify their offensive behavior toward Prophet Muhammad in the light of "freedom of expression." Ignoring the sensitivities of millions of Muslims around the world and ridiculing their religious beliefs and sacraments are rationalized under the guise of free speech. Is this a logical and compelling excuse? Is it permissible to insult the beliefs and sacred values of millions of people with the justification of freedom of speech?

A: Freedom of speech is a democratic right that derives in the United States from the 18th century American Revolution against imperial control by the British Empire. It is integral to the Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the U.S. constitution, whose own existence was brought about by a further mass uprising known as "the Whisky Rebellion."

That legacy of freedom of speech and protection against infringement of basic democratic rights is a revolutionary heritage, continually threatened and constantly eroded by the 1% of the U.S. population that owns more than the rest of the population combined - the capitalist ruling class.

It is against the vital interests of the mass of the American people to allow the State to undermine or diminish the right of free speech in the United States. All people must exercise these rights and fight to secure and maintain them. The sole beneficiary of supporting the suppression of free speech is the corporate ruling class and the very military industrial complex that wages wars of domination and exploitation to which the mass of the people of the Arab East and beyond are now responding.

We must fight and struggle for the right of all people in their respective societies to speak their minds freely, hold minority views, maintain different religious beliefs or no religious beliefs at all, to oppose their governments without reprisal or infringements on their democratic rights, to criticize those in power and to hold unpopular and minority views with impunity. The acid test of belief in civil liberties is defense of freedom for ideas we detest. Any authoritarian can tolerate speech solely for ideas she or he approves.

This basic democratic understanding does not at all involve failing to oppose, expose and mobilize against ideas and opinions that serve our oppressors or threaten our rights. We have the right and obligation to struggle politically. It is in this process that the struggle against hateful propaganda is waged not by assigning to repressive State or religious authority the latitude to determine our rights or to select the speech and advocacy it allows.

Q: The Western governments have long forbidden any investigation into Holocaust and publishing research articles about it. Several European scholars and university professors such as Fredrick Toben, David Irving, Ernst Zundel and Germar Rudolf have been imprisoned during the past years for questioning the official accounts of Holocaust and casting doubt on the veracity of claims that 5 million Jews were systematically massacred by Hitler after the World War II. But the same governments allow ridiculing Prophet Muhammad and offending the Muslims in such a pejorative way. How is it possible to justify this contradiction?

A: It is not the case that "all Western governments" forbid investigation or research into the Holocaust. It is true that in a few West European countries, writers who have argued in print that the Holocaust did not occur or is without basis in fact have been subjected to persecution.

I oppose all such restraints on freedom of speech or expression. Any repression by the State threatens the freedom of speech and expression of all.

It is also true that evidence regarding the extent and nature of the concentration camps and mass exterminations in Europe is challenged often by people who defend fascism in general and the Nazi party in particular.

I disagree with these claims and challenge their factual basis. I defend their right to speak, write, teach and advocate these views but I oppose them factually and politically and reject their apologia for fascism.

Most importantly we must make understood that the use by the Zionist state of the crimes of the Holocaust as a false justification for the colonial-settler state of Israel is without basis. As I shall discuss shortly, Zionism has no moral right to denounce the crimes of the Holocaust in which it has been historically complicit, let alone to use the destruction of Europe's Jews to create a moral patina for Zionism's own massive crimes against the Palestinian people.

Before returning to this critical point, I wish to discuss the Holocaust in more detail.

The Holocaust is the term for the mass murder and crimes against humanity inflicted by fascism and the Nazi regime during the Second World War. This systematic torment and murder of millions of human beings was carried out under the banner of racial purity - a degenerative ideology of a wing of the ruling class responding to the capitalist crisis in Germany by removing all democratic rights, establishing a totalitarian state cemented by the persecution and physical liquidation of religious and racial minorities, trade union leaders and working class leaders of political resistance.

This ethnic cleansing and mass murder targeted notably the Jews of Europe as a racist scapegoat - a people who had long been persecuted by the medieval church, by the feudal order and its culture. These great crimes against humanity were an attempt to channel mass disaffection and anger over exploitation by the ruling order of the day on to a victim minority selected for the purpose.

Anti-Semitism, with its a long history of such use by the ruling classes in Europe, was and remains rooted in racist discrimination useful to this historic purpose and it was not confined to Jews. The mass murder by the Nazis in the Holocaust extended to the Roma and people who were non "Aryan" or of northern European descent. Slavs and other European peoples were also subject to extermination in the Holocaust as were non-Europeans including Africans, Asians and other peoples of color, the elderly, homosexuals, people with mental afflictions and the physically disabled.

No defender of human rights, democratic freedom, rights of the oppressed and of civilization itself should excuse, rationalize, disguise or embrace the historic crimes of fascism. In so doing, they pit themselves against the survival and right to a decent life of all peoples on the planet.

In my book, The Hidden History of Zionism, I address one of the central myths about Zionism as a political and historical movement: namely, the false description of the Zionist movement and of the State of Israel as the moral legatee of the victims of the Holocaust.

The Zionist movement had its origins within the Jewish haute-bourgeoisie of the late 19th century, who feared the radicalization of the mass of Europe's Jewish population who responded to generations of persecution and discrimination by joining revolutionary and socialist movements of the era and becoming amongst its foremost intellectual and political spokespersons.

The leaders of Zionism, on the contrary, offered their services to the most racist, anti-Semitic and imperial regimes of the day, seeking their financial, political and military support to transform a select sector of Jews into colonists at the service of this or that imperial power. The founders of Zionism, Theodore Herzl and Chaim Weizmann, approached the Russia Czar, German Kaiser, Ottoman Empire and French and British imperialism with the same proposal. They made common cause with Cecil Rhodes and his colonization of southern Africa and they became avid allies of the colonial-settler conquest in South Africa.

To each imperial power of the era, the Zionist movement offered to subdue Palestine and eliminate the presence of its people. They proposed themselves as agents of an imperial sponsor who would arm and finance the Zionist movement and use it to establish a colonial beach-head in the Arab East. The Zionists offered openly to remove Jews from their countries of birth in which they had lived for over 1,500 years, transforming them into colonizers afar by accepting the racist justifications for Jew-hatred and catering to their own ethnic cleansing of Europe's most reactionary and retrograde regimes.

In this, Zionism sought and secured the support of Nazi Germany no less than that of other imperial powers. The Zionist leadership brought Adolf Eichmann to Palestine as its guest during the 1930's. Baron Von Mildenstein of the Nazi S.S. was brought by the Zionists to Palestine for six months. He wrote a major article in the SS publication called Der Angriff (The Assault) praising and supporting Zionism.

The Zionist leaders collaborated with Eichmann as late as 1944 in the extermination of Hungary's Jewish population in exchange for Nazi support for Zionist leaders in Hungary. My parents, who were born in Hungary, had fled hardship and persecution before the advent of Hitler; many of our family who remained died in the ovens of Auschwitz.

The formation of the State of Israel through the massacre and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population (the Nakba) has wrapped itself, with savage irony, in the collective shroud of the six million victims of the Nazi holocaust. The Zionist movement and its most prominent leaders - including Vladimir Jabotinsky, Theodore Herzl, Chaim Waizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, however, had aligned themselves in reality with the worst enemy the Jews of Europe ever faced. The dirty secret of Zionism is that it is the Jewish victims of the Holocaust whom Zionism first betrayed and then deployed as "moral cover" for its crimes against the people of Palestine.

It is under this banner of duplicity that Zionism has visited upon the Palestinian people its own Holocaust. In this sense, the great Holocaust deniers are the Zionists themselves. They are deniers of the truth regarding the very Jews betrayed by Zionism and they suppress no less the truth of the relentless ethnic cleansing of the victimized Palestinian people whom they slaughtered in the name of the victims of Nazism whom the Zionists betrayed.

Let it not be forgotten that none of the imperial powers at war with Hitler made the slightest military effort to prevent the extermination of the victims of the Holocaust. Racist immigration quotas were kept tightly in place ¬¬– with Zionist collusion ¬¬– nor were the railroad lines carrying millions to their cremation and death bombed or attacked. The crematoria and infrastructure of the extermination was never subject to Allied aerial attack, but the civilian populations of Germany's cities ¬¬were slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands with the fire bombing of Dresden and the reduction to rubble of Hamburg, Frankfurt, Leipzig and Berlin.

You ask how I explain "the contradiction" between the humiliation and crimes against Muslims on the one hand and the suppression of the truth about the Holocaust on the other." I say to you there is no contradiction. It is a component of the same great crime. The truth about the Holocaust, however, is not the fascist delusion that it never happened, but that the Zionists were its willing collaborators and instruments.

The truth of this hidden history of Zionism will not be served by embracing the follies of racist historians who defend or deny the Nazi Holocaust.

Most importantly, Holocaust "denial" provides cover for Zionism by concealing the class history and politics of the Zionist movement and its own consequent holocaust against the Palestinian people.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would do far more to defend the people of Iran by speaking to the real crime of Zionism with respect to the Holocaust: its collusion. It is this most shocking facet of the secret history of Zionism that is its greatest vulnerability, the reality that exposes most powerfully its lies before the Jewish settler population in Palestine and before the peoples of the world.

The Jews of Israel have been pitted by the Zionist movement and State against the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people, no less than those of hundreds of millions of people in the Arab East and the region at large. The Jews in Palestine are deployed as cannon-fodder to foster the efforts by Zionism and its imperial masters to hunt down the Palestinian people in each country to which they had been driven previously, and, through these wars, to destroy the sovereignty and self-determination of each nation in their path.

The day will come when the settler population in Palestine itself will join the liberation movement of the Palestinian people for a non-Zionist future in a democratic and secular Palestinian where rights depend neither upon ethnicity nor religious affiliation -– citizens all in a liberated and, hence, socialist Palestine.

May all the oppressed of the region and the world achieve the same fulfillment.

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