Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Mysterious Mr. Shoebat

Full disclosure: I'd never even heard of this guy until today when, during my pained perusal of various right-wing blogs, I came across several references to a one Mr. Walid Shoebat. A darling of the religious right and super pro-Israel organizations, Shoebat claims to be a former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) "terrorist," having committed any number of violent acts against Jews and Israel, who has since seen the light, converted to Christianity, and now travels the country praising Israel and denouncing Islam. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is hosting a talk by him on Dec. 4th, an event that the campus' Muslim Student Association is protesting against.

It's all a little confusing. There appears to be very little official documentation on the guy to help back up his claims of PLO pedigree (though I don't suppose the PLO keeps very precise records of its membership), and his extremist views about Islam, humorously opposite but still similar to his old views about Judaism, are certainly cause for alarm.

It has been pointing out that Shoebat, though claiming to have once beat an Israeli officer into a "bloody gore," among other offenses, doesn't seem to have ever been investigated by the US. Palestinians (and Muslims in general) with far lesser black marks on their report cards have been deported, but this man was allowed to become a naturalized citizen and to move freely about the country. That seems odd to me. He should absolutely be allowed to be here, to travel freely, to give talks, etc. What I'm suspicious about is the stark contrast between his treatment and the treatment of other men with similar (or allegedly similar) backgrounds.

See, the thing is, Shoebat's fundamentalist Christian faith holds that Jewish domination of Israel-Palestine will lead to Armageddon (the Rapture), a time when those people/countries who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved and everyone else gets to roast in hell for all eternity, including (ho! ho!), those poor Jews he now professes to love so much. How is that not antisemitic?

Charlie Sykes, Jessica McBride, and others of their ilk are up in arms that anyone would have a problem with this guy, tossing accusations of antisemitism and racism around like hot cakes. I don't necessarily agree with the MSA's contention that this man shouldn't be allowed to speak on campus. Fair is fair. But if someone takes issue with his message and his credentials, they have just as much right to criticize and call him on his shit as he does to get up and talk.

Walid Shoebat seems to simply have gone from one extremist point of view to another. This isn't growth, it's a lateral slide where nothing is really learned. Calling for an end to antisemitism is good, but following up that call by claiming that all Muslims are evil is wrong. It should be simple. Anything less is hypocrisy.

Some folks on the far-right like to act all surprised and hurt when "those nasty liberals" call foul on their favorite mouthpieces and figureheads. Oftentimes, the tactic employed to silence the critics is to accuse them of the same kind of bigotry and bias that they, the accusers, are guilty of. It's a tried and true method, but extremely detrimental to the quality of the greater debate and just downright shitty. Both sides need to rise above such petty mud slinging and get to the real issues: working to promote understanding and unbiased education for and between rival groups, dispelling stereotypes and myths, and helping the next generation achieve some kind of meaningful coexistence.

It would help if some of them stopped pushing so hard for the Rapture, too.

No one religion should get to keep Jerusalem all to themselves. The land belongs to no man, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can make with the peace. All sides--Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, whatever--need to ante up and do their part to make it happen. No one is completely without blame. No one bears the full brunt of responsibility. We all share it, and it will take us all to make things better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great analysis. I also haven't been able to find credible research on this guy. I do know that his family is originally from Beit Sahour, a Christian town in the Palestinian territories. No one in the Arab world seems to know who he is. To me he seems to be a fake, hungry for a quick buck.

Apparantly this man, in a speech in Florida last year made a statement suggesting the assassination of Muslims. In a recent press release by the MSA, they mentioned they acknowledge his first ammendment right to the freedom of speech. Their main concern is campus safety and the prevention of hate crimes.

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