How I found myself with the Islamic fascists
By Jonathan Cook
Clearing House" -- -- It occurred to me as I watched the story
unfolding on my TV of a suspected plot by a group of at least 20
British Muslims to blow up planes between the UK and America that
the course of my life and that of the alleged “terrorists” may have
run in parallel in more ways than one.
Like a number of them, I am originally from High Wycombe, one of the
non-descript commuter towns that ring London. As aerial shots
wheeled above the tiled roof of a semi-detached house there, I
briefly thought I was looking at my mother’s home.
But doubtless my and their lives have diverged in numerous ways.
According to news reports, the suspects are probably Pakistani, a
large “immigrant” community that has settled in many corners of
Britain, including High Wycombe and Birmingham, a grey metropolis in
the country’s centre where at least some of the arrested men are
believed to have been born.
Britain’s complacent satisfaction with its multi-culturalism and
tolerance ignores the facts that Pakistanis and other ethnic
minorities mostly live in their own segregated spaces on the margins
of British life. “Native” Britons like me -- the white ones --
generally assume that is out of choice: “They stick to their own
kind”. Many of us rarely come into contact with a Pakistani unless
he is serving us what we call “Indian food” or selling us a packet
of cigarettes in a corner shop.
So, even though we may have been neighbours of a sort in High
Wycombe, my life and theirs probably had few points of contact.
But paradoxically, that changed, I think, five years ago when I left
Britain. I moved to Nazareth in Israel, an Arab -- Muslim and
Christian -- community on the very margins of the self-declared
Jewish state. In the ghetto of Nazareth, I rarely meet Israeli Jews
unless I venture out for work or I find myself sitting next to them
in a local restaurant as they order hummus from an Arab waiter, just
as I once asked for a madras curry in High Wycombe. When Israeli
Jews briefly visit the ghetto, I suddenly realise how much, by
living here, I have become an Arab by default.
Living on the margins of any society is an alienating experience
that few who are rooted in the heartland of the consensus can ever
hope to understand. Such alienation can easily deepen into something
less passive, far more destructive, when you find yourself not only
marginalised but your loyalty, rationality, even your sanity, called
As we approach the fifth official anniversary of the “war on
terror”, the foiled UK “terror plot” has neatly provided George W
Bush, the “leader of the free world”, with a chance to remind us of
our fight against the “Islamic fascists”. But what if the war on
terror is not really about separating the good guys from the bad
guys, but about deciding what a good guy can be allowed to say and
What if the “Islamic fascism” President Bush warns us of is not just
the terrorism associated with Osama bin Laden and his elusive
al-Qaeda network but a set of views that many Arabs, Muslims and
Pakistanis -- even the odd humanist -- consider normal, even
enlightened? What if the war on “Islamic fascism” is less about
fighting terrorism and more about silencing those who dissent from
the West’s endless wars against the Middle East?
At some point, I suspect, I joined the Islamic fascists without my
even noticing. Were my name different, my skin colour different, my
religion different, I might feel a lot more threatened by that
How would Homeland Security judge me if I stepped off a plane in the
US tomorrow and told officials not only that I am appalled by the
humanitarian crises in Lebanon and Gaza but also that I do not
believe the war on terror should be directed against either the
Lebanese or the Palestinians? How would they respond if, further, I
described as nonsense the idea that Hizbullah or the political
leaders of Hamas are “terrorists”?
I have my reasons, good ones I think, but would anyone take them
seriously? What would the officials make of my argument that, before
Israel’s war on Lebanon, no one could point to a single terrorist
incident Hizbullah had been responsible for in at least a decade?
Would the authorities appreciate my comment that a terrorist
organisation that doesn’t do terrorism is a chimera, a figment of
the President’s imagination?
Equally, what would they make of my belief that Hizbullah does not
want to wipe Israel off the map? Would they find me convincing if I
told them that Israel, not Hizbulalh, is the aggressor in the
conflict: that following Israel’s supposed withdrawal from south
Lebanon in 2000, Lebanon experienced barely a day of peace from the
terrifying sonic booms of Israeli war planes violating the country’s
Would they understand as I explained that Hizbullah had acted with
restraint for those six years, stockpiling its weapons for the day
it knew was coming when Israel would no longer be satisfied with
overflights and its appetite for conquest and subjugation would
return? Would the officials doubt their own assumptions as I told
them that during this war Hizbullah’s rockets have been a response
to Israeli provocations, that they are fired in return for Israel’s
devastating and indiscriminate bombardment of Lebanon?
And what would they say if I claimed that this war is not really
about Lebanon, or even Hizbullah, but part of a wider US and Israeli
campaign to isolate and pre-emptively attack Iran?
Thank God, my skin is fair, my name is unmistakenly English, and I
know how to spell the word “atheist”. Chances are when Homeland
Security comes looking for suspects, no one will search for me or be
interested -- not yet, at least -- in my views on Hassan Nasrallah
or the democratic election of a Hamas government for the
My friends in Nazareth, and those Pakistani neighbours I never knew
in High Wycombe, are less fortunate. They must keep their views
hidden and swallow their anger as they see (because their media,
unlike ours, show the reality) what US-made weapons fired by
American and Israeli soldiers can do to the fragile human body, how
quickly skin burns in an explosion, how easily a child’s skull is
crushed under rubble, how fast the body drains of blood from a
Sitting in London or New York, the news that Gaza lost 151 souls,
most of them civilians, last month to Israeli bombs and bullets
passes us by. It is after all just a number, even if a high one. At
best, a number like that from a place we don’t know, suffered by a
people whose names we can’t pronounce, makes us pause, even sigh
with regret. But it cannot move us to anger.
And anyway, our news bulletins are too busy to concentrate on more
than one atrocity at a time. This month it is Lebanon. Next month it
will probably be Iran. Then maybe it will be back to Baghdad or the
Palestinians. The horror stories sound so much less significant, the
need for action so less pressing, when each is unrelated to the
next. Were we to watch the Arab channels, where all the blood and
suffering blends into a single terrible Middle Eastern epic, we
might start to make connections, and maybe suspect that none of this
happens by accident.
But my Arab friends and High Wycombe’s Pakistanis have longer
memories. Their attention span lasts longer than a single atrocity.
They understand that those numbers -- 151 killed in Gaza, and in a
single incident 33 blown up in a market in Najaf, Iraq, and at least
28 crushed by rubble from an Israeli attack on Qana in Lebanon --
are people, flesh and blood just like them. They can make out, in
all the pain and death currently being inflicted on Arabs and
Muslims, the echoes of events stretching back years and decades.
They see patterns, they make connections, and maybe discern a plan.
Unlike us, they do not sigh, they burn with fury.
This is something President Bush and his obedient serf in Britain,
Tony Blair, need to learn. But of course, they do not want to
understand because they, and their predecessors, are responsible for
creating those patterns and for writing that epic tale in blood.
Bush and Blair and their advisers know that the plan is far more
important than the rage, the “red” alert levels at airports, or even
planes crashing into buildings and plunging out of the sky.
And to protect that plan -- to preserve the Middle East as a giant
oil pump, cheaply feeding our industries and our privileged
lifestyles -- those who care about the suffering, the deaths and the
wars must be silenced. Their voices must not be heard, their loyalty
must be questioned, their reason must be put in doubt. They must be
dismissed as “Islamic fascists”.
One does not need to be a psychologist to understand that those with
no legitimate way to vent their rage, even to have it recognised as
valid, become consumed by it instead. They seek explanations and
purifying ideologies. They need heroes and strategies. And in the
end they crave revenge. If their voice is not heard, they will speak
So I find myself standing with Bush’s “Islamic fascists” in the hope
that -- just possibly -- my solidarity and that of others may
dissipate the rage, may give it meaning and offer it another, better
route to victory.
Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel.
His book, Blood and Religion: the Unmasking of the Jewish and
Democratic State, is published by Pluto Press. His website is