Leading Islamophobe Daniel Pipes’ visit to Australia has damaged relations between our Muslim and Jewish communities, writes Michael Brull.
Recently, a controversy broke out in Australia, pitting Muslim and leftist Jewish organisations against various more conservative Jewish organisations. The controversy revolved around the support the latter provided to a speaking tour of American pundit, Daniel Pipes.
Muslims Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, put out a statement supported by its constituent bodies, condemning the visit of Pipes, alleging he adopts “extreme anti-Islamic rhetoric”, and demonises Muslims. They described the support of his visit by Jewish organisations as extremely disappointing, and likely to harm harmonious relations between Jews and Muslims in Australia.
Pipe’s visit was supported by AIJAC, the right-wing pro-Israel think tank and lobby group. In Melbourne, it was also supported by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the Jewish peak body of the state, and hosted at Beth Weizmann Community Centre. In NSW, it was supported by AIJAC, the Zionist Council of NSW, and Central Synagogue. The host was the opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph.
The head of AIJAC responded to AFIC’s criticism of Pipes by strongly backing him. “Pipes is a respected Middle East scholar, and expert on Islam who makes a profound distinction between Islam the respected religion and Islamism, its extreme political, ideological adaption and the extremist problem for most Moslems (sic) and others”, said Colin Rubenstein. “The characterisation of him as racist is cheap, false propaganda designed to shut discussion of genuine issues.”
The leftist Jewish body in Melbourne, Australian Jewish Democratic Society, called Pipes a “racist hate monger”, backing AFIC’s stance. Melbourne academic Chloe Patton was also profoundly critical of Pipe’s record.
Why is Daniel Pipes controversial?
Daniel Pipes can fairly be described as a somewhat right-wing commentator on Islam and the Middle East. Though he has a PhD from Harvard, he has primarily devoted his intellectual life to working at and leading lavishly funded right-wing think tanks. These include a position at the right-wing Hoover Institution, but above all at Middle East Forum, which Pipes founded in 1990.
In 2002, MEF founded Campus Watch, which is primarily concerned with addressing what it regards as anti-Israel bias by academics. It has led campaigns to prevent the hiring of, deny tenure to, or fire, various academics, including Joseph Massad and Juan Cole.
Pipes’ views on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians might fairly be described as controversial. In his understanding, the roots of the conflict can be attributed in large part to the character flaws of the Palestinian people. For example, in a column from 2017, he explained, “Opinion surveys consistently show them choosing nihilism. Which other parents celebrate their children becoming suicide bombers? Which other people gives higher priority to harming its neighbour than improving its own lot? …Palestinian mores are backward and becoming more medieval all the time…. [They] have “a culture celebrating delusion, extremism, and self-destruction.”
Thus, according to Pipes, when the Palestinians have been defeated, this will benefit them: “Unleashed from a genocidal obsession against Israel, Palestinians can become a normal people”.
I suspect that a similar analysis of the conflict based on the flaws of the Jews might receive a different reception.
Then there is the position of Pipes on Islam and Muslims. In a 1990 column, titled “The Muslims are Coming! The Muslims are Coming”, Pipes discussed those arguing that the decline of the Communist threat would necessitate the creation of a new enemy. Pipes observed that, “increasing numbers of Americans and Europeans are turning to a very traditional boogieman – the Muslim. This profound and ancient fear is far from imaginary.”
Whilst part of the threat was due to “hostile states” and enemy forces “bent on jihad”, others feared “a subversion of Western civilisation from within” due to immigration. In this understanding, Saddam Hussein would pose “fewer dangers than that of their followers living in our midst”.
Pipes went on to explain that this fear was justified and correct. That is, “The growing Muslim immigration to the West raises a host of disturbing issues…. All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most. Also, they appear most resistant to assimilation.”
Notably, “West European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.” Pipes went on to hope that Muslims would modernise, given “their stubborn record of illiteracy, poverty, intolerance”.
On one of the most popular features of his blog, Pipes collected and aggregated testimonies from various figures for 11 years, offering advice to non-Muslim women not to marry Muslim men. The figures quoted vary from US government officials, to Christian figures, to random anonymous figures, such as “a woman who lives in Canada”.
One organisation cited, the Israeli group Lehava, advises Jewish women against marrying Arab men (“He’ll start by being sweet and then he’ll start to beat”). Why does that fit in there? Even if one thinks that smearing all Muslim men somehow is merely related to a critique of religion… not all Arab men are Muslim. One can think of other historical figures who have offered similar advice in the past.
In January 2010, Pipes wrote about Dutch politician Geert Wilders. He noted that Wilders called Mohammed a devil, and urged Muslims to “tear out half of the Koran if they wish to stay in the Netherlands”, and “sees Islam itself as the problem”. Knowing all this, Pipes identified Wilders as “the most important European alive today”, and best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent”, representing “all Westerners who cherish their civilisation”, the “unrivalled leader of those Europeans who wish to retain their historic identity”.
In 2005, Pipes wrote on the subject of racial profiling. He was “encouraged” by a new survey finding “44 per cent of Americans believe that government authorities should direct special attention toward Muslims living in America, either by registering their whereabouts, profiling them, monitoring their mosques, or infiltrating their organizations.”
Sadly, “intimidation” from the “victimization lobby” prevents people from openly advocating this position. This results “in large part from a revisionist interpretation of the evacuation, relocation, and internment of ethnic Japanese during World War II”. The “victimization lobby” denies that this “resulted from legitimate national security concerns”. “Fortunately”, a far-right journalist “re-opened the internment file” in her book, In Defence of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror.
The author has broken through “a shabby, stultifying consensus to reveal how, ‘given what was known and not known at the time,’ President Roosevelt and his staff did the right thing. She ‘correctly concludes that, especially in time of war, governments should take into account nationality, ethnicity, and religious affiliation in their homeland security policies and engage in what she calls ‘threat profiling.’”
So, Pipes thinks there are good grounds for “homeland security policies” to take into account nationality and ethnicity, perhaps up to and including large-scale internment purely on a racial basis. Again, if Pipes were to make this argument about other groups – if he was not targeting Muslims and Arabs – one suspects the things he advocates would be a little more controversial than they apparently are.
Pipes has also repeatedly argued that President Barack Obama was secretly an ex-Muslim. Pipes responded to the Oklahoma bombing in the US by falsely blaming it on Muslims. Before news came out that the perpetrator was a non-Muslim white guy, he said: “People need to understand that this is just the beginning. The fundamentalists are on the upsurge, and they make it very clear that they are targeting us. They are absolutely obsessed with us.” Some might say Pipes could speak as an authority on the subject of obsessions.
This is the man who was invited to speak by AIJAC, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and hosted at the Central Synagogue, and Beth Weizmann Community Centre. Whilst those Jewish organisations have often been quick to attack critics of Israel and Zionism as anti-Semitic, they have promoted, supported and in the case of AIJAC defended the statements of Pipes.
Indeed, calling Pipes racist is “cheap, false propaganda”, according to AIJAC, designed to shut out discussion of “genuine issues”. Like whether non-Muslim women should never marry Muslim (or Arab) men. Or whether large-scale racially driven “homeland security policies” like mass internment of racial minorities is acceptable. Or the deep character flaws of the Palestinians, and whether they can ever become a “normal people”. Or the “stubborn record of illiteracy, poverty, intolerance” of Muslims.
If Muslim organisations invited someone to tour Australia, spouting those kinds of messages about Jews, I would condemn them for it. I imagine so would AIJAC and the JCCV, the peak representative body for Jews in Victoria.
Their actions have harmed communal relations between Jews and Muslims in Australia.
In the past, Muslim organisations have often overlooked similar behaviour from other pro-Israel Jewish organisations. The Pipes tour may occasion a more critical relationship between peak Muslim organisations and their Jewish counterparts.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.