Guardian

Crude, childish and offensive: Peter Beaumont criticizes Islamophobia of “paranoid” Israelis


The Emmy-Award winning U.S. television drama ‘Homeland’, based on the Israeli series Hatufim (Abductees חטופים), is the subject of Observer foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont’s latest column. (The Observer is the sister publication of the Guardian.)

While the Israeli series depicts the lives of Israeli soldiers who were captured seventeen years ago while on a mission in Lebanon, and their return home, the American series stars Claire Danes as a CIA officer who believes that a U.S. Marine held captive by Al-Qaeda as a POW was turned by the enemy and now threatens the U.S.

The show has received much acclaim by critics (including by several contributors at the Guardian), and has even received praise from President Obama.

Beaumont’s piece, ‘Homeland is brilliant drama but does it present a crude image of Muslims?‘, Oct. 13, contains this strap line:

The slick US drama, now into its second series on Channel 4, draws praise from critics and viewers, but its ridiculous view of Arabs and Islam is a distortion of Middle Eastern realities

Beaumont writes:

[The] fictional drama tells us truths about ourselves in ways that can be as uncomfortable as they are unintended. The Emmy-winning Homeland on Channel 4 is a case in point. Its plotting is as ridiculous as it is exciting. But what makes it difficult to watch is its treatment of Muslims.

In the first episode of the new season we were confronted with a new character, a glamorous correspondent with a cutglass English accent, a Palestinian family and access to both the CIA and the US Congress. Like the Saudi prince from the last series and the academic, behind the scenes these high-profile Muslims living in the US share a secret: both willingly or otherwise they are covert helpers of Abu Nasir, the al-Qaida terrorist leader.

In other words, it does not matter whether they are rich, smart, discreetly enjoying a western lifestyle or attractive: all are to be suspected.

I admit I have no idea how the story arcs in Homeland will develop and what surprises are in store. What I do know is how both Arabs and Islamists have been portrayed thus far as violent fanatics, some of whom are powerful and influential infiltrators.

As someone who has spent much time in the Middle East, I find the depictions not only crude and childish but offensive.”

Beaumont later adds:

“Should any of this matter in a fictional series? The answer is yes.

The reality is that what Homeland portrays is a peculiar view of the Islamic world, one rooted, perhaps, in its genesis as an Israeli drama, where the view of the surrounding neighbourhood is more paranoid and defensive. It matters for this reason. Popular culture both informs and echoes our prejudices.” [emphasis added]

Beaumont’s moral inversion is extraordinary.

He’s not only criticizing the U.S. show for engaging in anti-Muslim racism, but arguing that such a pattern of ‘Islamophobia’ may be rooted, at least in part, in Israeli “paranoia” about their Arab and Muslim neighbors.

While we’ve often argued that the most egregious antisemitic habit at the Guardian Group involves their continuing sins of omission – ignoring endemic Judeophobia in the Muslim and Arab world – Beaumont, in imputing irrationality to Israeli concerns about Arab and Muslim terrorism and antisemtism, seems to suggest that Jews are in fact the racists in the region.

To such Guardian Left commentators it is evidently paranoid of Jews to express concern over polls demonstrating that roughly 95% of the citizens in Arab countries neighboring Israel admit to disliking Jews, and not merely Israelis, and that, within such cultures, the demonization of Jews (and Judaism) represents not aberrant but normative behavior.

Additionally, it is apparently a sign of Islamophobia for Israeli Jews to fear a Palestinian political culture which incites terrorism against Jewish civilians and promotes extreme antisemitism.

Similarly, those who take it seriously when one of the most popular Islamist spiritual leaders in the world literally calls for Allah to kill every last Jew on earth are, no doubt, engaging in fear-mongering or cynical Zionist ‘hasbara’.

For such faux-liberals, Israelis who merely ask that the world remember the nearly 900,000 Jews ethnically cleansed from Arab countries – lands where their ancestors had lived for centuries – stand outside of their sympathetic imagination.

Finally, those who would characterize Israelis as paranoid somehow fail to recognize that non-Jewish Middle Eastern culture is dangerously susceptible to the most crude anti-Zionist (and antisemitic) conspiracy theories. 

What else other than paranoia would lead such a large number of Muslims to engage in Holocaust denial, believe that Jews were behind 9/11 or are even plotting to take over the world?

More broadly, the tendency of some on the left to ignore even the most conclusive statistics and reports – and the most chilling videos – attesting to the fact that the central address for Jew hatred in the world has clearly shifted from Europe to the Middle East represents more than merely a dangerous moral blind spot.  

Those who attempt to “contextualize”, or even excuse, such hatred towards Jews – sometimes masked by anti-Zionism and sometimes not – are making a broader point.  They seem to be suggesting that (unlike other times in history) this time those aligned against the Jews may be justified in their enmity; this time Judeophobic conspiracy theories could in fact be based on an understandable frustration; that, this time, it is the behavior of Jews, and not the Jews haters, that drives, antisemitism.  

“Is it possible to understand the rise of antisemitism?”, they seem to be asking.

This blog consistently attempts to provide a clear and unambiguous answer to various forms of such a maddening query: No, it is not.

34 replies »

  1. “In other words, it does not matter whether they are rich, smart, discreetly enjoying a western lifestyle or attractive: all are to be suspected.”

    To follow Mr. Beaumont’s ‘logic’ then the profile of an Islamist terrorist is someone who is; Poor, stupid, lives in a tent in the desert and is ugly.

    Perhaps with his ‘vast knowledge’ of the Middle East he should look at the profile of those who have carried out terrorist attacks.

  2. Beaumont’s piece is just 1 more pathetic example of how twisted the narratives of the Observer, Guardian, and other fellow travelers from the global Leftist world have become. It’s clear that mindless p.c. toadies like Beaumont are much more concerned about totally undocumented “Islamophobia” than the thousands of worldwide victims of Islamofascist violence.
    See Rabbi Lewis’ recent comments on these Leftist idiots and how dangerous they are.

  3. The Guardian on auto-pilot: stupid racist Americans led by the nose by the irrational and malevolent Israelis. Media studies/Edward Said/Othering. Seven Jewish Children, on the other hand, was, according to the Guardian, a work of genius…

    I sometimes wonder how much of the Guardian’s virulent anti-American/Israeli line is driven by Rusbridger’s own ‘discomfort’ with the fact that he actually was a coloniser…

    Rusbridger was born in Northern Rhodesia, the son of B.E. (née Wickham) and G.H. Rusbridger, the Director of Education of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He was educated at Cranleigh School, a boys’ independent school in Cranleigh, Surrey, and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read English.

  4. Has Beaumont ever bemoaned the Turkish TV series that depicted Israeli soldiers indiscriminately killing Arab children. Something tells me that he never has.

    • It’s called “valley of the wolves”, and ran 2 series, both of were highly popular. There are some Egyptian series which are about Mossad being out there to take Egypt apart….

  5. Imagina that. A TV series about spies depicts the principals as spies. Shocking!
    Remember this: Stereotyping Muslims is bad, stereotyping Israelis (paranoid) is okey dokey O.K.

  6. As evidenced by numerous comments beneath that Beaumont article, hardcore Guardian acolytes will generally agree that:

    1) a US TV series about Islamic terrorism featuring characters that are actually Muslims is automatically Islamophobic (‘racist’) war mongering hate propaganda

    2) whatever the geopolitical/cultural/social grievance one has, it is always safe to blame Israel for it (an attitude encouraged by the author himself).

  7. So, according to Beaumont it’s wrong to stereotype Arabs but acceptable for him to stereotype Israelis/Jews.

  8. I missed the first series of ‘Homeland’, but am catching up with the second. Whilst bits of it lack realism (a blonde CIA officer being able to rifle through a Hezbollah commander’s flat, right after he’s been assassinated and the ‘Islamic Resistance’ are on the rampage, and then escape unscathed?) but I’m enjoying it and in particular appreciating its political nuance.
    Nick Cohen states that ‘Homeland’ would never be made in Britain, and I agree fully. Every TV drama I’ve seen about terrorism since 9/11 that’s been done by the Beeb or C4 has had either of the following two messages:

    (1) There is no Al-Qaeda, and no Islamist terrorism, and it’s all fabricated by the neo-cons, who are all doing neo-conny things.
    (2) OK, AQ does exist, but it’s all our fault because of Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, cartoons etc

    Beaumont clearly hates ‘Homeland’ because it’s fundamental message is that Islamist terrorism is for real. The series may not offer simplistic solutions to this problem, and it has an ambiguous portrayal of its main character (the ‘turned’ US Marine played by Damian Lewis), but never mind. Planet Guardianista requires simplistic platitudes and stereotypes, and reality is haram.

  9. Beaumont: In other words, it does not matter whether they are rich, smart, discreetly enjoying a western lifestyle or attractive: all are to be suspected.

    Erm … but the returning (non-Muslim) US soldier is likewise suspected, isn’t he?

    • Only by one character (Claire Danes’ CIA officer), and that’s the whole point. In series 2 Brody is approached by the Vice President to be his own running mate for his Presidential bid.

  10. Art imitating life?

    There we were thinking that the Israeli ‘storyline’ has been construed as one depicting a mancunian candidate running for Vice President when you actually have a real live President sitting in the White House with the same hidden Islamic agenda.

    The Guardian’s brilliant fantasy yet to be written. Throw in the recent revelation about ‘Obama’s ring’ and conclude that Homeland is a Zionist conspiracy to ensure that Obama is not re-elected ?.

    Now – where are those Observer and Guardian job application forms?

    • when you actually have a real live President sitting in the White House with the same hidden Islamic agenda.

      You mean … that’s what the G. wants to see?

      • Interesting…………….. Would the Guardian secretly like to see a president with an Islamic agenda? Probably, if it hurt Israel.

        • The Guardian in the real world e.g. runs blogs about Homeland, Mad Men and 24.
          In which parallel universe is the Guardian you’re talking about?

    • “a mancunian candidate running for Vice President”
      Stop dissing Mancunians. Some of my best friends are from Manchester.

      • Did not the Guardian itself originate as the Manchester Guardian?

        The original mancunian candidate morphing into another manchurian candidate in order to undermine the US and Israel whilst pretending to be the moral conscience of progressive liberals .

        That’s a joke by the way Pretz. Don’t take it too literally

    • Haha! A “mancunian candidate”? Those devils from Manchester. They are the pits. I presume you meant “Manchurian”?

  11. The reality is that what Homeland portrays is a peculiar view of the Islamic world, one rooted, perhaps, in its genesis as an Israeli drama, where the view of the surrounding neighbourhood is more paranoid and defensive. It matters for this reason. Popular culture both informs and echoes our prejudices.”

    I have watched the first series and am currently watching the second series. Call me prejudiced, but I have no recollection of the hearing the word “Israel” in the series except in the context of a possible strike on Iran, added no doubt to make the program seem more up to date with the times.

    I will say that I keep watching the scenes supposedly taking place in Arab countries to see if any are shot in an Israeli setting like Jaffa or Acco and if I can identify the location – I think I spotted Jaffa pretty clearly.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeland_%28TV_series%29#Filming

    Production for season two began in May 2012 where the series filmed in Tel Aviv, Israel for two weeks. The rest of the season is filmed in Charlotte and Concord, North Carolina

    The first season received universal acclaim, scoring a Metacritic rating of 91 out of 100 from 28 critics.[36] TV Guide named it the best TV show of 2011[37] and highly applauded the performances by Damian Lewis and Claire Danes.[38] Metacritic determined Homeland to be the second best TV show of 2011 according to major TV critics, by aggregating the critics’ year-end top ten lists.[39]

    U.S. President Barack Obama has praised the show.)

  12. I have not watched “Homeland”, other than the clips shown to advertise it or at awards ceremonies. Only because I saw “Hatufim” first when it was shown earlier this year on the Sky Arts channel in the U.K.
    When the series finished and it was released on DVD in the U.K. I called into my local HMV and bought the box set of “Hatufim”. I thoroughly recommend “Hatufim” to those who have not seen it, a very gripping drama but not suitable for children or those who have a suggestible mind so that disqualifies Guardian journalists.

    • Gerald don’t persume that bloggers here know what “Hatufim” means in Hebrew,and that” Homeland” is the US version,even if this is a pro -Israeli site:)

  13. “But what makes it difficult to watch is its treatment of Muslims.”

    Oh, come now, Mr. Beaumont. I’m sorry, but I can’t take you seriously.

    I’m now wondering if you have difficulty sitting through “Oliver Twist” or “The Merchant of Venice.” I’ll bet the answer is no.

  14. As is often the case, the CIF thread reveals a combination of common sense (invariably tearing the piece in question to shreds) and sheer cretiny (usually agreeing with the original comments). This is my favourite from ‘KrustytheKlown’:

    ‘I have, however, seen the endlessly repeated clips for an episode where the heroine heads off to Beirut to chase up some beardy terrur dudes. My immediate reaction was to cringe. I have been to Beirut – including the southern suburbs where perennial baddies Hizballah hang out. Like Claire Danes, I am a blonde Western woman. Yet never once did I feel the need to don a headscarf, much less take the drastic step of dying my hair a dark colour in order to ‘fit in”.

    Yeah, ‘Krusty’, and I’ve been to Waterloo Station several times and I have never, ever seen a CIA sniper cold-bloodedly murder a journalist on a crowded concourse. During my visit to Hong Kong I somehow failed to see the kung fu fights that I was assured (from Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies) regularly take place there. I was also bewildered that during my visit to Texas I never once witnessed a shootout between a lone hero with a poncho and several bandits.

    That’s why they call it ‘fiction’, dumbass.

    • I read the article in question and then the comments, and S&A made an excellent salient point that relates to both this piece and other CiF offerings: CiF readers notice when an article is horseshit and when its posting amen corner dodges the facts to engage in either insults or deflections (I can’t tell you how many on-point smackdowns to CiF Hamas or Hezbollah apologists lead to said apologists snarling about a combination of Netanyahu, the Iraq War, or Israeli social protets for some reason). I have no expectation that CiF will ever change its spots but it’s encouraging that people are noticing how often the Guradian emperors don’t wear clothes.
      As for this piece in particular, frankly it goes a long way towards explaining why the hard Leftists never admits they’re wrong and why objective observers view them with consistent, and deserved, disgust. A fair view of “Homeland” is that it’s not a kneejerk show in any way: it doesn’t like war, presents CIA workers as flawed and human, makes a case for how a patriotic U.S. Marine could become a terrorist and ties it into disgusting actions from elected U.S. officials, is interested in what makes terrorists human beings and not only terrorists. In fact, the show itself is FAIR…and that’s what fundamentalists like the writer of this article don’t like. They don’t want fair treatment, because that involves the reality of Muslims who are terrorists in numbers that are small relative to how many Muslims there are on Earth but massive relative to how many practicers of any other faith engage in terrorism. I’m only really surprised that the author didn’t try to argue that Muslim terrorism is justified (something Homeland comes pretty damn close in some ways to doing) and instead elected to try and argue it doesn’t really exist outside of the paranoid Israeli imagination.
      When you have to lie that sloppily, you’ve lost the argument, and that’s why this article and the reactions to it are interesting beyond the scope of a terrific TV drama that airs on Showtime.

      • I’ve not seen Homeland – but your analysis seems a lot more credible and balanced than Beaumont’s.

  15. Homeland is great. Hopefully the portrayal of the infiltration of the US government by Islamists will wake some people up to the threat posed by global jihad.

    Too many people are still in denial, and do not realize the clash of civilizations is already well under way.