This provocation designed to instigate a clash of civilizations is very different from previous ones. It’s goal is not to stigmatize Islam vis-à-vis Western populations to elicit hatred toward the Muslims but is rather directed at Muslims to insult them and thereby incite hatred toward Westerners. This is not “Islamophobia”; it is “Islam-bashing” and its objective is to arouse anger among Muslims and direct that anger toward specific targets: those who in the U.S. or among their allies wish to interrupt the cycles of wars begun on September 11, 2001.
No one knows if the film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” really exists in full-length form. So far, only a thirteen-minute clip has emerged, the most offensive parts of which were dubbed over the soundtrack at a later date. First placed on YouTube, the video had no impact until it was diffused in Arabic by the Salafist television station, Al-Nas. Salafist groups then reacted violently but instead of attacking the station or its Saudi sponsors, they turned their ire on American diplomatic representatives.
The State Department was warned on September 9—two days before the release of the film by the Salafist television station—that several of its embassies would be attacked on the 11th. Yet this alert was not taken seriously and diplomatic personnel were not informed of the threat. The State Department had been expecting anti-American demonstrations to take place to mark the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
It has since been established that behind the Benghazi mob, a commando was already prepared to attack the Consulate and then the fortified villa which was to be used as a safehouse in the case of a serious crisis.
The target of the operation was the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. This specialist in Near-Eastern Affairs was known both for his American imperialist views but also his anti-Zionist ones. This was confirmed by the special Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as he deplored the death of a diplomat who had done much to comprehend the point of view of the Palestinian people and in turn make that viewpoint understood in Washington.
A second target was to be designated to punish France for having aligned herself with U.S. positions. Paris, in fact, refuses to let itself be dragged into a war against Iran and also refuses to get itself more deeply enmeshed in the Syrian quagmire. Consequently, a whole new provocation was launched, employing a satirical magazine that has for years relayed the Neo-conservative viewpoint within the French Left. Anticipating the consequences, France immediately suspended activity at twenty of its embassies and deployed heavy security around them.
At home, the French government presented itself as the guarantor of the freedom of expression. Accordingly, it defends the right of the enemies of Islam to indulge in blasphemous caricatures. But then, openly contradicting itself, the same government announced a prohibition of any demonstration hostile to the film or the magazine, thus denying freedom of expression to the defenders of Islam.
In the French tradition, freedom of expression is considered a foundational condition of democracy. It therefore is accompanied with prohibitions against libel and defamation seen as threatening to democratic debate. The main characteristic of “Innocence” is that it has no connection to historical reality and presents no critique of Islam. It is entirely composed of defamatory scenes. However, libel is not a human right.
Returning to the realm of geopolitics, “The Innocence of Muslims” is reminiscent of the operation which unfolded around the publication of The Satanic Verses. It was 1988 and Iran had just triumphed over Iraq thanks to massive support from the West. In few years, the Imam Khomeini had transformed a colonized population into a nation of warriors. He drew from his religion the strength that allowed him to transform the country and to defeat the enemy. In order to fracture this dangerous Islamic Republic, MI6 commissioned a work from the British writer, Salman Rushdie. Rouhoullah Khomeini immediately issued a religious decree condemning him to death. The campaign halted immediately and the fatwa though maintained, was not carried out.
On this occasion, Teheran should have reacted just as promptly. But Iran was in a corner; in condemning the film it would be playing the game of those pressuring Washington to go to war against Iran. The tactical solution emerged from the intervention by new protagonists. At the outset, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the film by affirming that the enemy was Zionism. Then, at a later stage, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah positioned himself at the head of the movement. In Beirut, during an impassioned speech and facing a galvanized audience, he forced those spreading the insults to face up to their responsibilities. Hezbollah’s eruption onto the scene modifies the equation dramatically.
We are witnessing a shift from the atrocies committed by small-scale disorganized Salafist groups, easily manipulated by Israel, to a warning issued by an extensive, highly-structured organization, operating with combat-ready cells within numerous countries. This time, it is Tel-Aviv who’s in a trap; it has lost control of a protest movement that could at any moment turn against Israel.
For its part, the Obama Administration to extricate itself from the situation issued multiple soothing declarations for the benefit of Muslims but displayed a total lack or solidarity with France. Instead, it condemned the contradictions of French policy, hoping to push in the direction of Paris the smoking powder keg before it explodes in its own face.
Whatever the case, Benjamin Netanyahu is not letting up on the pressure, demanding that Barack Obama trace “a red line” at the militarized nuclear ambitions he attributes to Iran and demanding that the U.S. president go to war when he deems the Iranians will have crossed it.
Information Clearing House (USA)