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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Rebutting Obsession

Historical Facts Topple Film's Premise That Violent Muslim Fundamentalists are Nazis' Heirs, Expose its Fear-mongering

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In the 1980s, both the United States and Israel hit on the strategy of encouraging religious social movements as counter-forces to those the Soviets and the PLO they opposed. Fundamentalist movements that would evolve into the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Hamas were aided and, in some cases funded, by American and Israeli intelligence forces.14 (Ironically, according to Osama Doumani, the Fatah movement of the PLO had initially received some covert support from Israel in the hope that it would be a counterforce to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).) This support for fundamentalist Islamic groups coincided with the Lebanon war, in which much of the PLO infrastructure was destroyed. Generally speaking, religion began to replace nationalism after 1967. Islamic fundamentalism picked up steam in Egypt under Anwar Sadat in the early 1970s because he wanted to counter the Nasserites by promoting the Muslim Brotherhood, and was further advanced in 1979 by the rise to power, in Iran, of a government that granted significant state power to conservative mullahs, such as Ayatollah Khomeni. Hamas, as an organization, appeared in the ninth month of the first intifada, September 1988. Hezbollah and other Shi'ite resistance appeared in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the expulsion of the PLO.15

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the carnage in Lebanon, and the doubts and divisions growing within the nationalist left, created conditions in which fundamentalist forces were able to grow and to position themselves as a new, vigorous and wholesome force that would battle internal corruption along with all external forces that sought dominion.16

We see none of this history presented in Obsession. Instead, toward the end of the movie, footage of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center is intercut with scenes from the Holocaust. The emotional power of each set of images builds our vulnerability to the impact of the next.

2. Obsession: The Movie

Obsession opens with a quote from the conservative philosopher Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." We are shown an image of a masked gunman, then offered the assurance that since "most Muslims are peaceful, this film is not talking about them" after which what looks like a bloodstain becomes the traditional Islamic symbol, the Star and Crescent, to which is slowly added a gun. (The reader is invited to imagine how a clip of film made by a Muslim director, purporting to tell the "truth" about the West and opening with a similarly sinister image of a Christian Cross or Star of David would be received.) At this point the scary music, which has been keening quietly in the background, rises to a crescendo, and we are off.

The first commentator we see is Walid Shoebat. Shoebat now earns a living speaking and writing as an evangelical Christian who used to be a Muslim Palestinian terrorist. However, a report in the Jerusalem Post17 , a publication not usually noted for sympathies that might lead it to go easy on terrorism, questions whether Shoebat has ever been involved with any violent terrorist act or, as he claims, a practicing Muslim. Shoebat's narration paints a picture of Americans going about their daily lives in innocent ignorance when, suddenly, we are plunged into trauma-recalling images of the Twin Towers in flames. In rapid succession, hideous pictures of the carnage in New York are juxtaposed of equally horrific footage from bombings in Madrid, London, Bali, and of the school hostage crisis in Beslan, Russia, during which hundreds of people died in the course of a government raid.

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14. The New York Times, March 15, 1996, "Roots of Terror" by John Kifner. Avi Schlaim The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Norton Press: 2000), especially p. 459.

15. Ziad Abu Amr, Islamic Fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza: Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1994.

16. Ibid. The New York Times, March 15, 1996, "Roots of Terror" by John Kifner. Avi Schlaim The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Norton Press: 2000), especially pg. 459.

17. Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2008: "The Case of the Palestinian "Terrorist" Turned Zionist," by Jorg Luyken.

Contents of our special section:
Rebutting Obsession