After listening to David Horowitz’s comical speech Monday at the Memorial Union Theatre, I did not feel, as might have been expected, anger or disgust. Instead, his appearance — part of the nationwide “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” — elicited a sense of absurdity.
Throughout the evening, the ex-Trotskyist Mr. Horowitz did his pathetic best to convey, well, whatever it was he was trying to convey. He contradicted himself, called the audience “crazy” and “stupid,” and seemed perpetually flustered by an inability to articulate his thoughts. It was almost immediately evident that his ill-conceived message would be lost on any thinking person.
The factual inaccuracies were noticeable and surprising. He claimed that the Ottoman Empire was founded in 1522. Try a few centuries earlier. He said that mass graves of 300,000 people were found in Iraq. According to a July 2004 Observer report, only 5,000 total bodies were uncovered after the invasion. And in a preposterous attempt to demonstrate the supreme benevolence of U.S. foreign policy, he decided that 2.5 million people were “killed by the Communists” after the U.S. departed from Vietnam in 1975. He may have been referring to the Khmer Rouge regime’s quasi-genocide in Cambodia, but how this would have been prevented had the United States not left Vietnam was never made clear. Then again, most of his arguments lacked a logical structure. And it went on.
It would be easy to dismiss Mr. Horowitz as an absurd man with an absurd cause. Unfortunately, his views have a dangerous resonance with many Americans. The College Republicans, a mainstream organization, were responsible for bringing him to campus.
From what I could gather, Mr. Horowitz was trying to say that “radical Islam” is an independent — i.e., not related to U.S. policy — and dangerous force. Contrary to Mr. Horowitz’s inanities, this is agreed on by both sides of the political spectrum. He admitted that the fundamentalists were a minority of Muslims and that moderates were targeted in the same manner as Christians, Jews and Hindus. The fanatics must be stopped, as the argument went, by violently confronting them wherever they seek refuge. It was the usual right-wing cliche.
Since Mr. Horowitz’s points about fundamentalist Islam were so banal, why did he even bother to tour the country speaking about such a topic? It couldn’t have been, as he said, “to point out that there is this problem” with fanaticism in the Middle East, since this has been engraved in the forefront of every American’s consciousness by post-Sept. 11 media. As his speech went on, his motivations became clear enough. His concern with “Islamo-Fascism” was really a transparent bid to demonize all Muslims and Arabs, and thereby justify the most heinous of Western abuses in the Middle East.
Mr. Horowitz’s “not all Muslims are bad” line soon morphed into a general attack on all things — save the Jews of Israel — of the region. For about 10 minutes, he tried to connect various Arab politicians, movements and political parties with Hitler’s Germany. Some of his assertions — the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem collaborated with the Nazis — were true. Others — the Baath Parties of Syria and Iraq modeled themselves after the Nazi Party — were not.
Mr. Horowitz refused to credit any American Muslim or Arab organization with sufficiently denouncing extremism. In fact, all these organizations are really just terrorist front groups! His claim that UW’s chapter of the Muslim Students Association is surreptitiously funded by the Saudi government was about as weird as former UW lecturer Kevin Barrett’s deranged Sept. 11 conspiracy outburst in the middle of the speech.
Another favorite of Mr. Horowitz’s was that all Arabs carry a gene of anti-Semitism. He has made claims like this before. On his website, Frontpagemag.com, he wrote, “The sick Palestinian culture of hate is a veritable assembly line for the production of future Jew-killers.” On Monday, he informed the audience that Israel is surrounded by “300 million Arabs who hate Jews” and that the “Palestinians want to get rid of the Jews.” Didn’t you say it was only a minority of Muslims who are the problem, Mr. Horowitz?
Having established — at least to the College Republicans sitting in the first few rows — that the Middle East is a vile place comprised of vile people, Mr. Horowitz went on to justify his pro-imperialist agenda. He spoke supportively of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, expressed a desire to aggressively confront Iran and praised the racist Israeli settlers on the West Bank.
Mr. Horowitz’s ideas may seem as ridiculous as his character, but they have a poisonous effect on American society. By maligning the diverse peoples of the Middle East, he gives legitimacy to the American imperialist project in the region. In this context, his views must be confronted and exposed for what they are: hatred with a mainstream face.
Kyle Szarzynski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in history and Spanish.