The hate that dares speak its name: Anti-arab racismHEAD

By Dr Anthony McRoy

The US and UK governments are rounding on Syria for alleged complicity in the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri. Certainly, governments engaged in assassination should be held to account, and any officials complicit in such nefarious activities must be investigated and punished. So why aren’t the American and UK governments leading the charge against the Israeli regime for its assassination policy? Similarly, the excuse that these governments employ to justify the invasion of Iraq is that Saddam was a brutal oppressor. Indeed, but what about the Uzbek regime – whose methods, including boiling people alive, could have taught Saddam a trick or two? Why aren’t they going after Karimov? We often hear how Saddam displaced multitudes of his citizens; so why aren’t America and Britain invading Zimbabwe for doing the same? Indeed, why was there such disarmament and sanctions pressure on Iraq after the Kuwait invasion, when there nothing on Argentina for its invasion of the Falklands? 

The answer is not simply hypocrisy or self-interest. Something more sinister is the cause: Anti-Arab Racism. As a result of the Holocaust anti-Semitism is regarded as beyond the pale, as is anti-Black racism, as a consequence of slavery, Apartheid and Segregation. People are familiar with the history of discrimination and oppression in regard to these forms of racism; indeed, the US and UK governments ensure that their citizens are aware of these facts. Few public figures would dare utter racist comments about Blacks and Jews. It is otherwise with Anti-Arab Racism: Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

The British media is a classic example, with headlines such as ‘Arab pigs out of Britain’ or ‘Murdered by Arab scum’ and the infamous heading to Kilroy-Silk’s article ‘We owe the Arabs nothing’. No newspaper would dare use such headlines if ‘Black’ or ‘Jewish’ were substituted for ‘Arab’, but Anti-Arabism is the hate that dares speak its name. After all, there are few consequences for doing so. Even though Kilroy-Silk was dismissed by the BBC, he was later invited to be on the panel of ‘Question Time’. It is unthinkable that BNP leader Nick Griffin would ever be so-invited. Why the difference? Because Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

How many Arab presenters are there on TV? Where is the Commission for Racial Equality report about Anti-Arab racism? Why are British schoolchildren who learn of the horrors of slavery and discrimination against Blacks or pogroms against Jews not taught the history of colonial massacres against Arabs? Why are Britons so ignorant about France’s ‘Algerian holocaust’ of a million Arabs from 1954-62 – i.e. within living memory? Why the silence about Italy’s brutal dispossession and massacre of Libyan Arabs between 1911-43? British Arab representatives such as the British Arab Forum and its affiliate the National Association of British Arabs have complained to the Home Office and the CRE about this, but nothing yet has been done. 

People denounce the Arab Saddam for gassing the Kurds; few know he merely followed Churchill’s example, who gassed Iraqi Kurds in the 1920s, commenting that he could not understand ‘the bleating’ about using such weapons on ‘uncivilised tribes’. If Saddam is a ‘Hitler’ and a ‘butcher’ for gassing Kurds, what does that make Churchill? Why the double standards? Because Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

Prime Minister Major apologised for and revoked the 1938 Munich Agreement that handed the Czech lands to Hitler, and Blair has apologised for the 19th century Irish famine. The Munich Agreement, shameful as it was, reflected people’s fears about a re-run of the terrible trench warfare that caused the deaths of millions of Europe’s youth. Similarly, and speaking as an Irishman, the Famine was a natural disaster badly mishandled, reflecting contemporary laissez-faire attitudes. However, the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which carved up the Middle East between Britain and France, has no saving grace – it was an act of pure colonial-racist greed and treachery. So why no apology or revocation? Because Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

The Labour Party has a history of Anti-Arab racism. In 1944 it passed a resolution on Palestine demanding that ‘Arabs move out as the Jews move in’, and called for the proposed Zionist State to include not only all of Palestine, but large parts of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Labour has never apologised for this obscene resolution. We may ask; have ‘Muslims for Labour’ raised this issue? Have those Blackburn leaders who urged Straw’s re-election raised it with him? Don’t hold your breath waiting! Moreover, Arabs have been present in Britain for around 150 years; so why are there no Arab MPs? Why are the few Arab candidates of any party always selected for unwinnable seats? Because Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

Of course the greatest expression of Anti-Arabism is Palestine. Despite the fact that the Palestinians were not responsible for Europe’s treatment of European Jews, they were made to pay for it. When a Labour MP smeared the Muslim Association of Britain the Muslim Public Affairs Committee observed that "‘Anti-Semitism’ was a product of the pseudo-scientific racism of 19th century Europe, that argued that there was an Aryan Race and a Semitic race, and those belonging to the latter had no place in ‘Aryan’ Europe. The smear of anti-Semitism against Arabs and Muslims tries to project the European historical experience on to the Arab-Muslim world and now the Muslim community in the UK. This is Euro-centric racism - speaking and acting as though Europe was the world. Arabs are Semitic people, and the history of Tsarist pogroms against Jews in Russia or the Holocaust has no parallel in the history of the Muslim world’s dealings with its Jewish communities. The Holocaust was a European crime committed by Europeans against fellow-Europeans in Europe for which Arabs and Muslims bear no responsibility." 

When President Bush told the peoples of Syria and Iran that America was with them in their struggle against oppression, he did not make the same promise to Israeli Arabs, despite the massive racial discrimination that even Arabs who serve in the military suffer under Israeli law. I asked the US Embassy if Bush had ever made a speech (or reference) concerning the denial of equal liberties to Israeli Arabs, demanding an end to their oppression. Their Information Resource Center searched, but was unable to locate one. They did, however, refer me to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights which reveals that ‘Israel’s Arab citizens …do not share fully the rights provided to… the country’s Jewish citizens.’ However, all this proves is that the Bush administration and presumably the Congress are fully aware of the racism of the Israeli State against its Arab citizens, yet neither Bush nor Congress has ever condemned this. Why this hypocrisy? Because Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

Hollywood, which produced great films attacking racism against Jews and Blacks, is a prime perpetrator of anti-Arabism, with films like ‘Exodus’, ‘True Lies’ and ‘The Siege’. Arab-American writer Jack Shaheen has observed how Hollywood presents Arabs: ‘Subhumans - Arab Muslims are fanatics … who don’t value human life as much as we do, they are intent on destroying us (the west) with their oil or with their terrorism; the men seek to abduct and brutally seduce our women; they …reside in a primitive place (the desert) and behave like primitive beings. The women are subservient - resembling black crows or we see them portrayed as mute, somewhat exotic harem maidens.’ There is not one sitcom/series featuring an ordinary Arab-American family, and the only series with a major Arab personality (‘Lost’) is actually played by an Indian-Briton. The notorious film ‘Rules of Engagement’ depicting US marines under siege at their embassy was originally set in a Latin American country, but fearful of upsetting the large Hispanic community, the setting was changed to an Arab country – the film company didn’t mind upsetting Arabs, because Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

Anti-Arabism helps to maintain Western economic, military and strategic interests in the Arab world. In the same way that anti-Black racism ‘justified’ slavery and segregation in the Americas and South Africa, anti-Arabism excuses Palestinian dispossession and the Western domination of Arab oil resources. If anti-Arabism were as unacceptable as other racisms, Western policy in the Middle East might be jeopardised by outraged public opinion. This is why the British and US governments do not fight Anti-Arabism. 

Anti-Arabism is also the theological Hate that dares speak its name, specifically perpetrated by Christian Zionists. Often Biblical texts concerning Ishmael are wrenched out of context to excuse anti-Arab oppression. In the past the misinterpretation of Biblical texts has been used to justify the inferiority of both Blacks and Jews. Few would dare to voice such theological racism against Blacks and Jews today, but Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. In 2000 Franklin Graham was reported as saying: ‘The Arabs will not be happy until every Jew is dead… They all hate the Jews. God gave that land to the Jews…’. Try changing ‘Arabs’ and ‘Jews’ around and imagine the reaction! Yet reportedly, President Bush still maintains a close relationship with Graham. Why not? After all, Anti-Arabism is the Hate that dares speak its name. 

The fact is that Anti-Arabism will not end until Arabs in the West mobilise to defeat it. British Muslims, though mainly of South Asian heritage, have an interest in this, since there is an obvious overlap with Islamophobia. Indeed, given the existence of anti-racist legislation and public awareness that racial discrimination is an evil, mobilising on this issue will help their own community, as well as overseas issues such as Palestine and Iraq. British Muslim groups and leaders should prioritise the fight against Anti-Arab racism, so that the Hate that dares speak its name will dare so no longer.
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