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Short CutsAdam Shatz
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Vol. 30 No. 19 · 9 October 2008
Short Cuts

Obsession with Islam

Adam Shatz

1021 words

If you live in an American swing state you may have received a copy of ‘Obsession’ in your Sunday paper. ‘Obsession’ isn’t a perfume: it’s a documentary about ‘radical Islam’s war against the West’. In the last two weeks of September, 28 million copies of the film were enclosed as an advertising supplement in 74 newspapers, including the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education. ‘The threat of Radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today,’ the sleeve announces. ‘It’s our responsibility to ensure we can make an informed vote in November.’ The Clarion Fund, the supplement’s sponsor, doesn’t explicitly endorse McCain, so as not to jeopardise its tax-exempt status, but the message is clear enough, and its circulation just happened to coincide with Obama’s leap in the polls.

The Clarion Fund is a front for neoconservative and Israeli pressure groups. It has an office, or at least an address, in Manhattan at Grace Corporate Park Executive Suites, which rents out ‘virtual office identity packages’ for $75 a month. Its website, clarionfund.org, provides neither a list of staff nor a board of directors, and the group still hasn’t disclosed where it gets its money, as required by the IRS. Who paid to make ‘Obsession’ isn’t clear – it cost $400,000. According to Rabbi Raphael Shore, the film’s Canadian-Israeli producer, 80 per cent of the money came from the executive producer ‘Peter Mier’, but that’s just an alias, as is the name of the film’s production manager, ‘Brett Halperin’. Shore claims ‘Mier’ and ‘Halperin’, whoever they are, are simply taking precautions, though it isn’t clear against what. The danger (whatever it is) hasn’t stopped Shore – or the director, Wayne Kopping, a South African neocon – from going on television to promote their work.

The 60-minute film was first released in 2006 and shown during the mid-term elections on Fox News. Since then it has received top billing at ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness’ week on American campuses, at Christian-Zionist conferences and at events organised by Republican politicians in Florida. It has found a powerful backer in the real estate magnate Sheldon Adelson, who describes himself as ‘the world’s richest Jew’. The Endowment for Middle East Truth, a neoconservative think tank in Washington DC which recently hosted a series of seminars named after Adelson and his wife, arranged distribution of ‘Obsession’, at a cost in the tens of millions.

The makers of the film, like their subjects, are soldiers of God. Almost everyone associated with it or with Clarion has worked for Aish HaTorah, an ‘education’ group with offices in East Jerusalem and strong links to the settler movement. Clarion was incorporated in Delaware to the New York offices of Aish HaTorah and Rabbi Shore was the director, as well as the founder of its media organisation, Honest Reporting, which campaigns against a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. It’s illegal in the US for nonprofit organisations, or for foreign nationals, to try to influence the outcome of an election.

The film’s chief claim is that 2008 is like 1938, only worse, since there are more Muslims than Germans and they’re more spread out geographically: ‘They’re not outside our borders, they are here.’ Violent raptures and spectacular carnage unfold in slick montages set to throbbing Middle Eastern music: Pakistanis deliriously burning the American flag, Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks, Hizbullah chanting ‘death to America’, clerics praising the ‘magnificent 19’ and the murder of unbelievers, children training to become suicide bombers, the planes crashing into the towers. These images are interspersed with footage of Nazi rallies and Hitler’s speeches. A chapter – narrated by Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s biographer – is devoted to the Mufti’s collaboration with Hitler.

Scary Muslims are everywhere, and the umma stands more united than ever, driven by hatred of infidels and Jews and determined to conquer the West, a civilisation gone soft, weakened by self-doubt, political correctness bordering on treason, and, worst of all, a ‘culture of denial’. Gilbert spells it out:

In the 1930s, the danger of Nazism was there . . . but people thought, well, this is a German problem, it’s a limited problem . . . And I think the same is true today . . . They don’t see that Islamic fundamentalism is a global network and a global problem . . .because if you come to that conclusion – and I’m sure it’s the true conclusion – then you have to do something about it.

‘Obsession’ doesn’t say what we should do – except steer well clear of dialogue and negotiation.

Although there are interviews with the usual ‘terrorism experts’ – Daniel Pipes, Alan Dershowitz et al – the film’s portrayal of the region is mostly left to native informants like Nonie Darwish (a leader of Arabs for Israel and the daughter of a slain fighter from Gaza), Brigitte Gabriel (the Lebanese-Christian author of They Must Be Stopped) and Walid Shoebat, a ‘former PLO terrorist’ who operates under a pseudonym – for security reasons, of course. Shoebat runs the Walid Shoebat Foundation, described on its website as an ‘organisation that cries out for the Justice of Israel and the Jewish people’. He’s made a career of recounting his journey from Islamic terror to Christian Zionism before audiences at Evangelical gatherings and the US Air Force Academy. It’s not clear, though, that he ever laid a hand on anyone. According to a relative, ‘the biggest act of terror he ever committed was to glue Palestinian flags on street posts.’ What is very clear is that, for the makers of ‘Obsession’, having once hated Jews gives you privileged access to the Muslim mind, and not only if you’re an ex-Muslim. Among the film’s authorities on radical Islam is a former leader of the Hitler Youth, Alfons Heck, who says that ‘what the Muslims do to their own children is even worse’ than the things the Nazis did to young Germans – as only a Nazi could know.

If you didn’t receive ‘Obsession’ with your paper, you can watch it on YouTube. It’s been posted by a former Muslim whose screen identity is ‘fuckmohammad’.

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Letters

Vol. 30 No. 20 · 23 October 2008

Please note an incorrect statement in an article by Adam Shatz (LRB, 9 October). In the article, Mr Shatz states: ‘The Endowment for Middle East Truth, a neoconservative think tank in Washington DC which recently hosted a series of seminars named after Sheldon Adelson and his wife, arranged distribution of “Obsession", at a cost in the tens of millions.’

The Endowment for Middle East Truth did not arrange the distribution of ‘Obsession’, and did not receive or spend ‘tens of millions’. Please see my press release at http://www.emetonline.org/events.html#obsession.

Sarah Stern
Endowment for Middle East Truth, Washington DC

Adam Shatz writes: If there is any confusion about Emet’s relationship to ‘Obsession’, it has been sown by Sarah Stern and her colleagues. I based my assertion that Emet had arranged the distribution of the film on an interview which Ari Morgenstern, then identified as a spokesman for Emet, gave to Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton of the Inter Press Service news agency on 24 September, in which he said with undisguised pride that Emet organised and oversaw the distribution of ‘Obsession’. The ‘Obsession Project’, a partnership between Emet and the Clarion Fund, he told them, ‘costs a great deal – it’s a multimillion dollar effort.’ Now Sarah Stern says that ‘no exchange of money ever took place’ between Emet and the ‘Obsession Project’, and Morgenstern has not been heard from since. Two days after Morgenstern spoke to IPS, Stern told JTA, the online Global News Service of the Jewish People, that she’d never spoken to him. But on 29 September, after JTA obtained records of emails and phone conversations in which Stern compliments Morgenstern on his press release for ‘Obsession’ (‘soldier on!’ she encouraged him in an email sent on 23 September), she admitted that she’d spoken to Morgenstern and had been involved in the ‘Obsession Project’, though she insists that Emet hasn’t bankrolled its distribution. What, then, is the nature of the relationship? Any chance that Emet’s desire to distance itself from the film’s distribution has something to do with the complaint against the Clarion Fund which the Council on American-Islamic Relations lodged with the Federal Election Commission?

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