The Jews, Again - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Jews, Again

One of the questions I would put to Moussa Koussa, Libyan defector, if I were one of his British handlers, would not be whether he had any information regarding Moammar Gaddafi’s alleged Jewish origins, but whether he thought it mattered to the folks in Benghazi. Are they fighting a tyrant, or they are fighting a Jew?

Gaddafi’s family background sometimes comes up when biographers or researchers are looking for ways of attracting attention. He was raised by Muslims, Bedouins of the Quaddafiya tribe, whose base city is Sirte, more or less halfway between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

Though he justified some of his policies by reference to Islam and Islamic unity (for example, his hatred of Israel and his intervention in Uganda on the side of the Muslim dictator Idi Amin) Gaddafi did not support the traditional Muslim lines of authority, nor the politicized fundamentalism that is called Salafism or Islamism. He hates the Saudi royal family, a bastion of fundamentalism. His claim that in the civil war in Libya he is fighting al Qaeda is not entirely fanciful.

When he and a few other young military men overthrew the pro-American King Idris in 1969, they also were in revolt against the Sennoussi religious networks, which are profoundly conservative. They are somewhat like the Muslim Brotherhood, without its militant trans-Islamic program. There are networks and confraternities like this throughout the Arab-Islamic world. They are, functionally, somewhat comparable to religious networks in advanced societies — the Rabbinical Council of America, the Southern Baptists. We ought to know more about them. Given the state of our trillion dollar intelligence apparatus, we, I mean we as a nation, ought to. Maybe we do.

One of the first things Gaddafi and the other young colonels did in the early 1970s was to wage a Kulturkampf against the conservative mosques. There was a whiff of Maoism, in the way they went and humiliated aged, learned (in the ways of the Koran) men and “cleaned up the mosques.” Fresh air, fresh ideas, let women in, all that sort of thing, the radical young colonels — it was in the, since we are speaking German here, Zeitgeist. The anti-colonial Third World was on the march. The Sennoussi never forgave the one who eventually became the Guide (author of The Green Book), and it is no accident the revolt began in the east, where they are, or were, strong. You can purge a lot of cultural memory in 40 years, but then again, some ways endure.

So one of the things you would want to know is whether the anti-Judaism that used to be, still is, intrinsic to much — not all, much — conservative Islam is still on the brains of the people of the Libyan east. It would be interesting to know. Gaddafi, like many other fascists, adopted a more modern version of this ancient hatred, imported from totalitarian Europe. Modern anti-Semitism was eagerly seized upon by Arab nationalists, even before the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, to attack the Zionist project. Zionism, of course, is the only successful national liberation movement in the history of the Middle East, which is one reason, let it be said in passing, why non-Arab and anti-fundamentalist minorities, such as Berbers and Kurds, often are sympathetic toward Israel. Christian minorities, notably in the Levant, tended toward ultra-anti-Zionism to burnish their Arab nationalist credentials. It did not get them much, but people are weird.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are, with Iran, the world centers of anti-Semitic propaganda. They mix centuries-old Muslim anti-Judaism with the fantastic racial paranoia that used to be spewed out by Goebbels in Germany and Zhdanov in the Soviet Union. It is not at all unusual to meet Arabs, including quite young ones, who appear to have memorized editorials from the Stürmer. This is true also among Muslim immigrants in Europe.

The Jewish origins canard about Gaddafi — the same “fact” surfaces from time to time about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — is significant only if it is taken seriously. The personal side of it may be of some interest to armchair psychologists or biographers, as have been hateful speculations about Adolf Hitler, but politically and strategically what matters is whether we are dealing with a mass anti-Semitic phenomenon. If we are, it will turn against us, no matter what help we proffer to people whose immediate target is the tyrant in place.

Now of course, we do not know this yet. Our intelligence apparatus did not see the Arab revolts coming, so what can we expect them to know about their deepest impulses? But Moussa Koussa’s defection is important, not only for the obvious reason that it points to “cracks in the regime,” to coin a phrase, but for what information his debriefing may reveal.

That Moussa Koussa is a prize catch is self-evident. Put it this way: What if Lavrenti Beria had ditched Stalin in 1949, just as the Korean War was getting under way?

The comparison would be better if one of the top mullahs had hopped on a plane to London, or perhaps Prince Talil al-Saud, one of the putative liberals near the top of the family business. Personally, I rather agree with Robert D. Kaplan (no relation but a friend) that from our point of view, it would be awfully good if the Saudi family outlasted the ayatollahcracy, at least long enough for us to see which way the settling dust was blowing in Tehran; but you cannot always get what you want.

Whether Moussa Koussa was enticed or sensed he had to take his chances, we do not know yet. That he headed for London is interesting. The British government does not like him — he is accused of being the mastermind of the attack on Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, as well as having ordered the murder of several Libyan opposition figures in England. A British policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, was murdered by Libyan agents while patrolling near their embassy in 1984. He could be charged with having ordered this murder.

However, Koussa’s long arm killed opposition figures in several European countries, so perhaps he felt it did not make much difference, and he might as well go where what he has to sell is valued, get some mitigation.

The Brits and the French and the Germans have been making nice too at least since 2007, and keep in mind that the U.S., realpolitik obligé, began a rapprochement of sorts as early as 2003, when Gaddafi, impressed by American enthusiasm for regime change, formally abandoned his own program of WMD development. Condoleezza Rice stopped in Tripoli in September 2008, official visit. Politics ain’t beanball.

Koussa became foreign minister in 2009. Thus, he headed Libyan diplomacy in a treacherous period when it was not at all clear which way the U.S. intended to pursue the Bush policy of aggressively — if unevenly — promoting regime change in the Arabo-Muslim world. Did he sense a decisive change in the Obama administration in recent weeks, provoked by the revolt in Benghazi?

Perhaps he will let us know, but what such a wily and cunning man says to British officials (and eventually to French and American ones) will focus initially — one would think — not on his opinion of the American administration, but the Gaddafi one. How strong is it? Who remains loyal? What reserves, financial and military, are there? Who is in charge in Benghazi?

If he spills the beans, even mixed in a pack of lies, it will be interesting. What Beria could have told us in 1949! Koussa is one of Gaddafi’s oldest comrades-in-arms, and for decades was one of a handful of key security and intelligence bosses in the regime.

Of course, it could be disinformation, but that is for the remaining Angletonites in the allies’ intelligence services to figure out. Even as disinformation, what he says could be valuable, if we know how to listen.

If Moussa Koussa tells us that the Benghazi Transitional Council is led by raving anti-Semites who have every intention of destroying Israel — which Gaddafi always insisted was his goal, too — how do we check it out?

Time and historical research will tell us how well-considered, or how necessary, or how inevitable (if there is such a thing in human events) our policies have been in the Middle East, and I mean not only in the last decade but over many decades. We can afford a certain amount of improvisation. Foreign policy is made that way. It gets frustrating — sometimes it seems we have been improvising our Middle East policy ever since that fateful meeting between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ibn Saud near the Red Sea, if not all the way back to the wars of the Barbary Coast.

As a great power, perhaps we can afford this. But we should not think we can afford to trifle with anti-Semitism in the Muslim world. It cuts to the most basic elements of what Samuel Huntington called the clash of civilizations.

There is no call to panic: one of the characteristics of tyrannical regimes is that they obfuscate and distort public sentiment and opinion. We should keep our senses alert, and keep talking to defectors.

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