The Three Way Fight Debate

For over a generation, the decline of anti-colonial liberation struggles inspired by socialism has coincided with the rise of new forms of anti-imperialist mobilization in Western Asia. Beginning in 1979 with the Iranian revolution, and continuing in the present with national liberation struggles led by Hezbollah and Hamas, these movements have mixed religious fundamentalism with the hopes of millions striving for a better life. It is thus not surprising that leftists in the West have had a difficult time figuring out how to relate to these movements. On the one hand, they seem to represent the strivings of oppressed people seeking to free themselves from imperialist domination. On the other hand, the religious ideologues of the Iranian revolution tortured, imprisoned, and murdered tens of thousands of leftist radicals. The program of these new Islamic movements has often been avowedly patriarchal and politically regressive.

In order to explore this tension, we are publishing two takes on how the revolutionary left should relate to anti-imperialist Islamic movements. First, we present the text of a speech that Michael Staudenmaier gave at the National Conference on Organized Resistance in Washington DC in March of 2007. Staudenmaier argues that North American revolutionaries need to understand Islamic political movements as potentially forming a right-wing proto-fascist third camp in a “three way fight.” Following Staudenmaier’s contribution is a response by Rami El-Amine of Left Turn who argues that Staudenmaier’s perspective reflects a misunderstanding of Islamic movements and that the three-way fight perspective fails as an effective strategy for anti-imperialist work. Although UTA does not align itself with the perspectives elaborated by either side in this exchange, we think it’s important that radicals begin to openly debate this difficult question.As always, we invite our readers to send in letters, or to propose articles that might carry the discussion forward.

Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and the Three Way Fight

Michael Staudenmaier

Iwant to talk about the present and the future, but I’m a historian, so I will begin by talking briefly about the past. The recent past, mind you; specifically, that heady time just five and a half years ago, immediately before the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Until that day, the anti-capitalist movement in the global north was riding a modest wave of success, beginning with the events in Seattle in 1999 and featuring the massive showing in Genoa, Italy in the summer of 2001.

Those of us who had been active in that cycle of growth were probably over-optimistic about the immediate prospects for building a strongly anti-capitalist movement out of the mish-mash that was known as the anti-globalization movement, the global justice movement, or by a variety of other names. Certainly we were naïve about the state of the world and of the character of the forces arrayed against us.

But 9/11 took from us one of the most important things that contributed to our limited success: momentum. The attacks of that day deflated our sails, although we mostly didn’t recognize it until a year or two later. At the same time, that year or two changed the entire context in which we operated. The reasonable pacing of (and relatively easy access to) global economic summits – Seattle, Prague, Quebec, Genoa – was replaced by a much more rapid-fire list of places that were far more difficult to reach: Kabul, Kandahar, Baghdad, Fallujah.

More fundamentally, our previous understanding of neoliberalism and globalization was challenged, and most of the former anti-globalization movement became convinced that “globalization” was suddenly less pressing than regional geo-political power struggles characterized by terms like “terrorism,” “imperialism,” and “war for oil.” Especially during the build-up to the Iraq war, many radicals came to believe that divisions within global capital – often described using the old left jargon of inter- imperialist rivalries – had overpowered the global capitalist unity that we believed had characterized the various summits at which we had protested. As it happens, these changes seem to have been largely illusory, and the shift in left-wing perspective was shortsighted at best.

In the aftermath, a small number of us, veterans of a range of movements and struggles, began to develop what seemed to us a somewhat novel way of thinking about the world. Expanding the insights we had gained from involvement in anti-fascist activities in the preceding decade, we started talking about a three way fight, about a world best conceptualized by thinking not simply about us versus them, but about them, them, and us.

At its core, the three way fight is a critique of authoritarianism as much as it is a response to fascism. It is also a way to understand various social movements through a sort of schematic categorization. The two sets of “them” that I mention here can roughly be taken to represent the capitalists and the fascists, and the “us” can be thought of as the anti-authoritarian revolutionary left. But the three way fight is not dogma; it requires that anyone who adopts it as a framework take the time to think through a range of questions and come to their own conclusions, whether individually or collectively. One key question is: is a given group, organization, or movement revolutionary or reformist? If they are revolutionary, we can then ask: are they aiming for an authoritarian revolution or an anti-authoritarian revolution? Again, there’s no objectively correct answer to any of these questions and there’s a lot of grey area throughout. But that doesn’t let us off the hook. We still have to ask them, and we have to come up with some answers, no matter how tentative, in order to move forward.

In this framework, the global capitalist ruling class, whose movements we had tracked from summit to summit over the previous several years, could be thought of as the 800 pound gorilla in the ring, much as it was before 9/11 (theories of inter-imperialist rivalry notwithstanding). The difference between then and now is in recognizing that we are not the only, nor even the most important, opposition force on the playing field. Just as the domestic fascist movement in the US has grown increasingly dangerous – and increasingly revolutionary – over the previous decades, revolutionary movements the world over have begun to appear more similar to fascism than we had previously understood. Al-Qaeda was the most prominent example in the period immediately after 9/11. As J. Sakai argued in the book Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement, “We weren’t thinking about fascism while we watched two 757s full of people fly into the ex-World Trade Center. And maybe we still weren’t thinking of fascism when we heard about the first-ever successful attack on the Pentagon. But fascism was thinking about us.”

For much of the left, the three way fight analysis of fascism was alien and confusing. This had a lot to do with decades of commonplace usage among radicals, where “fascist” was merely a synonym for “very, very bad.” In developing a more sophisticated understanding of the term, we looked in part to the pioneering work done two and a half decades ago by a long-defunct and little-known revolutionary group called the Sojourner Truth Organization. STO had spent considerable time and effort in the late 1970s and early ‘80s analyzing and organizing against the fascist resurgence then sweeping the US. In doing so, they highlighted the insurgent, revolutionary potential of fascism, which represented a direct danger not just to the obvious targets of fascist violence (blacks, immigrants, Jews, women, gays and lesbians, and on and on), but also to the revolutionary left, and indeed to the capitalist status quo itself. Don Hamerquist, co-author with Sakai of Confronting F ascism, had been a leading member of STO, and continues to be a source of innovative ideas for our small sub-current.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those of us from the anti-capitalist movement who were drawn to a three way fight analysis were not the only people to make connections between revolutionary Islamic movements and the fascist tradition. A range of centrist and right-wing intellectuals and politicians have done so as well – from Christopher Hitchens to President Bush, who last summer caused a stir by repeatedly using the term “Islamic fascism.” Bush’s comments were made primarily in the context of defending the brutal devastation of Lebanon by the Israeli military, and often he was referring implicitly or explicitly to the Lebanese resistance, led by Hezbollah.

Around that same time, the blog Three Way Fight became a somewhat high profile forum for left discussion of Hezbollah, largely due to several pieces posted there by Matthew Lyons, an anti-fascist researcher and writer. Lyons maintained that Hezbollah was an essentially right-wing movement built around a theocratic version of Shiite Islam inspired by Iran’s Islamic Republic, but that it was not helpful to describe them as fascist, largely because they are not revolutionaries. He also argued strenuously that the left should condemn the Israeli attacks and critically support the Lebanese resistance, even though it was led by Hezbollah.

This approach was not only a response to knee-jerk left-wing perspectives on the Middle East (both pro-Israel and pro-Hezbollah), but also a challenge to the rest of us involved in developing the three way fight analysis. Lyons was rightly concerned with the too-easy equation many of us had made between right-wing anti-imperialism and fascism. Lyons disagreed with this assessment and its abstentionist implications: if Hezbollah, for instance, was fascist, then no self-respecting radical could in any way support them any more than we could support Israeli aggression. In contrast, said Lyons, left-wing revolutionaries should critically support the Lebanese resistance even as we simultaneously challenged the right-wing character of Hezbollah’s politics.

TheresponsetoLyonsandThreeWayFightfromsomesegments of the left was instructive: despite his specific (and repeated) rejection of the position that “we should denounce Israel and Hezbollahequally,”anumberofleftistscriticizedLyonsandThree Way Fight for being overly critical of Hezbollah. This challenge was most forcefully articulated by Rami El-Amine, an Arab leftist and co-founder of the magazine Left Turn. In an essay entitled “Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left,” El-Amine argued that Lyons’s position exemplified the white left’s internalized Islamophobia and reflected “a level of acceptance of the lies about Islamism, even by radicals.” He suggested that Lyons’s analysis of Hezbollah as essentially right wing “will one day become part of one of Hilary Clinton’s ... speeches justifying a war on Lebanon and Iran.”

Putting to one side this frustrating smear, El-Amine’s essay exemplifies one important type of response to the post-9/11 world – a response that argues that the major challenge for the North American left is to overcome the internalized Islamophobia we have absorbed from decades of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim politics and media coverage. If we can’t accomplish this task within our own ranks, El-Amine argues, we will never be able to challenge the mainstream acceptance of this sort of racism. In his words:

Exposing and ending anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism needs to be a priority in the anti-war movement and the left in general. Doing so will not only bring more Arabs and Muslims into the movement, but also undercut the racist basis of support for the war. It will also alleviate the sense of isolation and powerlessness that so many Arabs and Muslims feel as a result of being the targets of war and racism.

In a world that seems perpetually polarized by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is easy (perhaps too easy) to see in El-Amine’s views a mirror of the arguments put forward by those radicals who believe that the central challenge facing the North American left is the danger posed by our unexamined, or at least under-examined, anti-Semitism. The disturbing history of anti-Semitism on the left stretches across generations, runs through competing trends, and taints to some extent almost all lineages of the left in this country, as a diverse range of radicals – both Jews and non-Jews – have documented.

In such a context, the danger of uncritically supporting a movement like Hezbollah simply because it stands in clear opposition to US imperial aims in the Middle East is that to do so requires ignoring, dismissing, or rationalizing those aspects of its politics that are not simply in opposition to the Israeli oppression of Lebanon but are truly anti-Semitic. The end result, it is feared, will be a left that is hopelessly compromised in its principles and thus incapable of mounting any effective challenge to a global capitalist system that exploits such inconsistencies quickly and effectively.

Some leftists, like the mostly British grouping gathered around the Euston Manifesto, go even further and argue that the line between opposition to Israeli policy and opposition to Jewish-ness as such is increasingly blurry. Hezbollah, to stick with our example, not only opposes Israeli involvement in Lebanon, but it is also anti-Zionist – it opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. This can be perceived as simple anti-Zionism more or less uncomplicated by the occasional lapses of Hezbollah’s leadership into anti-Semitism, or it can be thought of as part of the long-standing history of anti-Semites world-wide attempting to cloak themselves with the mantle of legitimate anti-Zionism, or it can be seen as evidence of the deep interpenetration between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Those of us, whether Jewish or not, who strive to be non-anti-Semitic anti-Zionists have long recognized the importance of differentiating the two concepts. But the Euston Manifesto presents an example of the opposite perspective, denouncing a context where “‘Anti-Zionism’ [that’s in quotes] has now developed to a point where supposed organizations of the left are willing to entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and to form alliances with anti-Semitic groups.” It is unclear how much traction this approach has within the US left, although I have corresponded with a handful of anarchists who have either signed the Manifesto or hold positions that are substantially identical on this question.

I have no interest in drawing false equivalences between these two tendencies on the left or between the problems they describe. Both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are real problems within the North American left, but they are not “equal.” Anti-Semitism has a history going back centuries, and one of its most dangerous qualities is precisely the way in which it exploits the relative privileges granted to Jews. In this country, for instance, most Jews benefit from white skin privilege. Anti-Semitism takes these privileges and reflects them in a sort of circus fun-house mirror that makes them appear as monstrous deformations of ill-gotten power.

This opens the door to anti-Semitic scapegoating, and plays neatly into some all-too-common forms of left analysis. For example, the anti-globalization movement’s fascination with “global financial capital” in the form of the IMF and World Bank facilitated repeated infiltrations of the movement by fascists who were upset about “the Jews” who were thought to run “the banks.” Too many anti-globalization activists accepted this logic and were ensnared by the latent anti-Semitism to which it appeals, in part because many leftists assumed that there is some sort of zero-sum exchange between privilege and oppression. Anti-Semitism belies this simplistic approach, and demonstrates the need for a more dialectical understanding of how oppression works.

At the same time, however, Islamophobia meshes all too well with the historic legacies of white supremacy and anti-immigrant racism that have been internalized over generations in this country. The result is a symbiotic relationship between Islamophobia and other forms of racism, such that each nourishes the other in a vicious cycle of fear, hatred and disempowerment. One could even argue that Islamophobia, in the North American context at least, has less to do with religion than it does with race.

In a post-September 11 world, both the frequency and the intensity of anti-Muslim bias have skyrocketed. So too, ironically, has the acceptance of such bias in black and immigrant (often latino) communities that have themselves been targeted by white supremacy. Other things being equal (which they usually aren’t), it is far more dangerous to your health, safety, freedom, and economic well-being to be Muslim than it is to be Jewish in the United States today.

Differences also exist between the two political perspectives I am describing. El-Amine and others like him, especially in the circle around L eft T urn, are committed anti-capitalists and revolutionaries actively involved in anti-war and anti-racist organizing, while most of the Euston signatories are well on their way to the friendly confines of liberalism and accommodation with some sort of supposedly humane capitalism. (It should be noted, however, that this situation is hardly etched in stone; the possibilities for liberal reformism exist in both camps. We should not assume that all those who are concerned with Islamophobia are or will necessarily continue to be revolutionaries, nor should we assume that all those focused on anti-Semitism are or always will be reformists.)

At the same time, however, one legacy of anti-Semitism’s historic tie to the Nazis is a profound awareness within the Euston camp of the need for an anti-fascist politics, which seems lacking in the anti-war movement, and on the left more generally. This lack of awareness is especially evident in El-Amine’s attempt to tar Lyons with the specter of Hilary Clinton, as if all those who are critical of Hezbollah can be easily grouped as supporters of imperialism. In a way, this is the flip-side of the argument advanced by some Euston signatories that anti-Zionism is always “effectively” anti-Semitic.

Regardless, both problems are real, and both “camps” (to the extent they really exist outside of my rough schematic) have important truths to tell. The 19th century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin famously remarked that “freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice, but socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.” Something similar is at work here: anti-fascism without revolution (the Euston position) guarantees capitalism’s continuing misery and devastation, while revolution without anti-fascism (the L eft T urn position) all but ensures that the insurgent right will ace out the insurgent left. We need both anti-fascism and revolution.

Unfortunately, this “both/and” approach is distressingly uncommon within the North American left, largely due to what could be called “bi-polarity”: that is, the dualistic and anti-dialectical tendency to reduce complex situations to two opposing and static sides. In mainstream culture, this over- simplification is best exemplified by Bush’s oft-quoted statement that everyone is “either with us, or with the terrorists,” a claim that has been rightly ridiculed by everyone to the left of Christopher Hitchens. But no matter how dismissive we may be of Bush’s ultimatum, a lot of radical politics get built around similar false dichotomies.

Within the left, historically speaking, one major strand of bi-polarity can be traced back to the twists and turns of Stalin-era Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s and 1940s. Its specific applications were quite often concerned with an analysis of the rising tide of fascism in Europe. For a time, the Soviets upheld the classic definition of fascism as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” That is, fascism was nothing more than a variation on western capitalism, and both were to be opposed.

A few years later, during the relatively short-lived Hitler-Stalin pact, this position was reversed: suddenly, fascism and Stalinism were allies unified in their opposition to capitalist imperialism. Once Germany and the Soviet Union had parted company (and the former had invaded the latter), the equation changed yet again: now the capitalists and the Stalinists made common cause against the total threat posed by fascist “barbarism.” This formulation resulted in the Yalta Conference and, in the end, the division of Europe after World War Two. This is the stuff Orwell was mocking when he wrote about how “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia” in the novel N ineteen Eighty-Four.

Sixty years later, most of the left in North America has finally rid itself of the open trappings of Stalinism, but a surprising vestige remains within our worldview: the need to reduce every conflict to two sides, us and them. For the Euston manifesto signatories, “us” means defenders of freedom, democracy, and cultural diversity, while “them” refers to the perceived opponents of these concepts – fascists, Islamic fundamentalists, and (non-state) terrorist organizations. According to this logic, even though the Western capitalist countries have problems and are in need of improvement, they are on “our” side insofar as they provide a necessary bulwark against “them.”

This sort of thinking is probably not very appealing to most of us (which is a good thing), but a possibly more tempting version of the same bi-polarity can be found among the most sharp and level-headed critics of this view. People like El-Amine, who rightly decry the internalized Islamophobia of “us vs. them” narratives like the one implicit in the Euston Manifesto, often argue in terms that suggest a competing “us vs. them” story line: here, “us” means anti-imperialists, opponents of capitalist globalization, and all who challenge the global hegemony of the United States, while “them” refers to, well, the imperialists, the capitalist globalizers, and those who support the global hegemony of the United States. This is the Chavez-Ahmadinejad International, and Hezbollah are prominent members.

Each version of bi-polarity contains its own blindspot: the Euston position can’t see the legitimacy, indeed the importance, of anti-Zionism, while the El-Amine position can’t see the legitimacy and importance of challenging Islamic fundamentalism. Within the framework of efforts to develop radical solutions to the various conflicts in the Middle East, a clear vision of both these concepts is essential. And for North American radicals in particular, burdened as we are with the legacy of white supremacy and its attendant obsession with categorization (of race, of ethnicity, and of types or forms of oppression), a careful analysis of Islamophobia and of anti-Semitism may prove to be invaluable in overcoming the limits of our own political frameworks. As is often the case, in order to effectively present a real challenge to capital, we need to confront the challenges facing the left, in the form of our own political weaknesses.

Once we expand our horizons beyond the Middle East, the relevance of the three way fight perspective becomes even more clear: Zionism represents a particular (but definitely peculiar) example of global capitalism, while some (but definitely not all) versions of Islamic fundamentalism serve as examples of contemporary forms of fascism. (Others, it is important to note, represent competing factions of global capitalism; Iran’s ongoing friendship with Russia and China serves as an example of this alternative.) In this context, a “them, them, and us” approach seems particularly useful – partly because it describes the reality within which we find ourselves better than any of the “us vs. them” narratives I’ve discussed already, but also partly because it presents a bulwark against the further fracturing of the radical left in North America.

Now, I have nothing in principle against fractures and disagreements on the left, but in some circumstances, splintering can cause more harm than good. Consider the anti-globalization movement, for instance: here was a highly heterogeneous milieu, one in which conscious anti-capitalists were a distinct minority. Anti-capitalist revolutionaries were often in the forefront of deliberate splits and fractures, both those designed to exclude fascist elements from the movement, and those intended to draw sharp political lines and create a strong anti-capitalist and revolutionary pole within the movement. This was a good thing. But our ability to function within that context, while continuously challenging the political limitations of the broader movement, was dependent upon a certain minimum level of ongoing dialogue. It is this possibility for dialogue that I fear will be lost between those revolutionaries who prioritize resistance to Islamophobia and those who emphasize challenges to anti-Semitism.

To understand my fear, it is helpful to look at the decline of the German autonomist movement over the past two decades. In the 1980s the West German autonomen were among the most vibrant, militant, and inspiring radical movements anywhere in the world. Certainly they were not without their problems, but the situation was dynamic and hopeful. Within the autonomen, several tendencies developed, including the antifas, or anti-fascists, and the anti-imps, or anti-imperialists. The anti-imps were primarily focused on support for Third World liberation movements, including especially Palestinian liberation, whereas the antifas prioritized domestic and international organizing against the far right.

After the fall of the Berlin wall, the antifas became concerned with the rapidly rising tide of far-right activity in (the soon to be former) East Germany, and some of them began to emphasize the special responsibility to support Jewish causes that Germans carried as a result of the holocaust. This led to an opposition to German reunification, which was seen as an opening for an expansionist, even fascist, resurgence. At the same time, some antifas criticized the anti-imps for their tendency to uncritically support Palestinian struggles, even when they employed terrorist methods and used anti-Semitic rhetoric. Given the dodgy history of the post-war German left on questions of Israel/Palestine, this was probably pretty reasonable.

Around the time of the Iraq War in 2003, a minority segment of the antifas took this constellation of ideas and turned them into a principled opposition to German-ness as such, taking the name the anti-Deutsche (anti-Germans). At this point, the autonomist movement was in a shambles, partly because of changing objective conditions in the reunified Germany, but also because of the long-standing splits between tendencies that had less and less contact with each other.

The most extreme sectors of the anti-Deutsche drew two sets of highly questionable conclusions: first, the “special responsibility” morphed into a specific responsibility to support the State of Israel; second, the only possible geopolitical counterweight to resurgent German expansionism was the United States. Since the US also represented the most stalwart international supporter of Israel, the internal logic of their argument was as solid as it was circular. The result is the occasional spectacle at pro-Israel demonstrations in Germany of small groups of protestors decked out black bloc style carrying US and Israeli flags. This is bi-polarity taken to absurd extremes.

It is always dangerous to draw parallels between left-wing movements in different countries, and the uniqueness of the German situation (given its history of Naziism and the holocaust) makes it all the more troublesome in this case. In addition, much of the anti-Deutsche milieu has avoided these comic extremes, while still pressing the left on issues of anti-Semitism. Further, there is no visible tendency within the US left that shows any immediate propensity toward developing in the direction taken by the anti-Deutsche.

Nonetheless, the danger of this sort of polarization is real, and must be combated if we are to develop real challenges to capitalism. One can imagine comparable movements in the North American context developing out of either camp discussed above. Already, groups like the Workers’ World Party assume a consistent stance of unconditionally supporting any and all movements or governments that are seen to oppose US imperialism, from North Korea to Iran to Venezuela. Smarter revolutionaries who are sincerely concerned with the dangers of Islamophobia could end up following the same logic. The opposite danger is also visible in the pro-US and pro-Israel stance taken by many Euston signatories.

So, it’s not a question of “choosing” Islamophobia or anti-Semitism as the “primary” enemy. Rather, the more central questions are: can we develop and maintain a sophisticated and dynamic political analysis in a world where the pull toward simplistic dualism is sometimes overwhelming? Can we build revolutionary politics in a left that seems perpetually drawn to liberalism, to reform, to what is deemed “really possible?” Can we help strengthen the social movements in which we participate? Clarifying our politics is key to making revolution, and a three way fight analysis is an important part of that process.

Islam and the Left A Reply to Staudenmaier

Rami El-Amine

Michael Staudenmaier’s talk Anti- S emitism, Islamophobia, and the ThreeWayFightpresentedatthe2007NationalConference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) uses an article I wrote for L eft T urn magazine, “Anti-Arab Racism, Islam and the Left,” to critique what he refers to as a “bi-polarity” common on the left. Staudenmaier defines bi-polarity as “the dualistic and anti-dialectical tendency to reduce complex situations to two opposing, and static, sides.” He says that that I offer an “us” (anti-imperialists) vs. “them” (the imperialists) approach to analyzing events in the Middle East and Islamist movements more specifically. His main proof of this is my criticism of “Defending My Enemy’s Enemy,” a posting by Mathew Lyons on the Three Way Fight blog during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon in which Lyons characterizes Hezbollah as “essentially a right wing political movement.” Staudenmaier singles out (and is particularly irritated by) my suggestion that Lyons’ argument may one day be used by Hillary Clinton or Bush in justifying an attack on Hezbullah and/or Iran.

However, the purpose of his talk seems to be more about showing the superiority of the Three Way Fight (TWF) theory in making sense of the world today, particularly with respect to the Middle East and US imperialism. Staudenmaier argues that the TWF approach is a much more dynamic and useful way of analyzing the world because it sees things not just in terms of “us” and “them” (a two way fight) but in terms of “us,” “them,” and “them” (a three way fight). In this three way fight, “the two sets of ‘them’...represent the capitalists and the fascists, and the ‘us’...the anti-authoritarian revolutionary left.” So in the case of the Middle East, he argues, “Zionism represents a particular example of global capitalism, while some (but definitely not all) versions of Islamic fundamentalism serve as examples of contemporary forms of fascism.” Therefore, what’s needed and what TWF has to offer is both anti-fascism and revolution rather than just revolution, which is, according to Staudenmaier, a weakness of the position of Left T urn and others on the left.

Hezbollah Not Right Wing

Since Staudenmaier bases so much of his argument on my criticism of Lyons, it makes the most sense to start there. Not surprisingly, Staudenmaier conveniently leaves out my main argument against Lyons, which is to dispute his claim that Hezbullah’s “guiding ideology is Khomeini-style Islamic fundamentalism,” and that Iran is “Hezbollah’s political ideal.” My short response was: “Hezbollah gave up on fighting for a theocracy long ago. It is an established political party in a multi-ethnic and religious state in which they have the support and admiration of the other ethnic and religious groups and work closely with those on the left as well as the right” (I should’ve added that by “the right” I meant the Iranian and Syrian states and not right wing groups in Lebanon which I think is an important distinction to make when disputing the characterization of Hezbollah as right wing). As a result of similar criticisms, Lyons seemed to concur with the disagreements with his analysis of Hezbollah, admitting that “...the situation is more complex – and possibly more fluid – than what I presented before.” Yet he still somehow maintains that Hezbollah is right wing.

In another contribution written in direct response to an article of mine on Znet, he goes a little further in acknowledging problems with his analysis, saying “It’s quite true that Hezbollah cooperates with members of many ethnic, religious, and political groups, and its day-to-day program is largely secular. The party has consistently argued that an Islamic state can only be established when a large majority of the population wants it.” “But,” he adds, “Hezbollah considers advocacy of an Islamic state to be a religious duty, and it regards Iran’s brutal theocracy to be the closest thing to a perfect political system anywhere in the world,” and that “although

Hezbollah is far from being a puppet of the Iranian government, it is formally subordinate to Iran’s supreme authority, who it considers the religious, legal, and political leader of all Muslims worldwide.” Finally, he says, “Hezbollah-controlled areas are plastered with images of Iran’s religious/political leaders.”

This constant effort to connect Hezbollah to Iran is not surprising because his claim that Hezbollah is right wing rests entirely on its relationship to the Iranian state rather than on specific policies and practices of Hezbollah (the two brief examples he does provide – persecution of gays and anti-Semitism – he himself either questions the veracity of, in the case of gays, or explains away, in the case of anti-Semitism). His argument is basically this: 1) Iran is clearly a reactionary state; 2) Iran is a model for Hezbollah; 3) Hezbollah must therefore be right wing.

The fact is that, while there is a relationship between Hezbollah and Iran, it’s changed considerably since Hezbollah first emerged in the early 1980s. Despite its bloody consequences for the Iranian left, the 1979 Iranian revolution had a huge impact, not only on Shiites but on all muslims around the world. As the Iranian state failed to radically transform the lives of the majority of Iranians, the appeal of the revolution and the ideal of an Islamic state diminished for most Shiites. After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, many Shiite clerics (particularly those in Arab countries) began questioning his model of an Islamic state – Wilayat al-Faqih, or rule of the clerics with one supreme leader, the Ayatollah – and became more critical of Iran’s human rights abuses. One of these was the Iranian born Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Another is the Marjaa – or spiritual leader – of Hezbollah, Sayed Mohamed Hassan Fadlallah.

Fadlallah, who challenges most stereotypes of a Muslim cleric, is generally considered a liberal because of his views on women, society, and culture. I’d give him more credit and say he’s further to the left because of his consistent opposition to and criticism of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and their imperial backers. In other words, there’s a big difference between his views and religious rulings or fatwas and those of Khomeini and, now, Khameini. And while he’s no longer officially referred to as Hezbollah’s spiritual leader, many of the Shiites in Lebanon, and also in Iraq and other Arab countries, look to him rather than Khameini for guidance on religious as well as political issues.

So while Hezbollah looked to Iran as a model in its early years, today its ties to Iran have more to do with strategic interests and financial backing than with any ideological or even religious affinity.

However, this backing does not mean that it is a tool of Iran, let alone its puppet.

Fighting for the Oppressed

Lyons’ insistence that Hezbollah shares Iran’s right wing ideology seems to imply that Hezbollah has a hidden agenda that includes setting up an Islamic state. There are others on both the left and the right that share this view. If this was the case, what better opportunity for Hezbollah to seize power than at the beginning of its current political standoff with the pro-US/pro-neoliberal government of Fuad Siniora. It had just scored a major military victory against Israel, the fourth most powerful military in the world, and was still in good enough shape to undertake the massive reconstruction and relief work needed in the aftermath of the war. Moreover, it was riding a wave of domestic, regional, and international support not seen in the Arab world for decades. It could have seized power, or at least tried to, then. Instead, it chose to form a multi-confessional alliance that included significant Christian (Free Patriotic Movement) and leftist (Communist Party) forces and relied on mass mobilizations to bring down the government. The demonstration on December 10, 2006 was the largest demonstration in the history of the country, and brought out more than 1 million people – a quarter of the population.

To build on the success of the demonstration, Hezbollah set up a huge encampment in Beirut’s central square with numerous tents similar to the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 here in the US. In its early days, the encampment maintained a very festive atmosphere without taking away from the seriousness of the situation. In addition to regular rallies, there was poetry, music, and other cultural events in the various tents. The event had an almost carnival-like atmosphere with families from different sects intermingling. Apart from the tents in which people slept, there was no separation of men and women. Moreover, no moral code was imposed on people at the encampment and demonstrations; supporters of Hezbollah can’t be easily pigeonholed.

It’s no coincidence that the opposition chose the insanely posh city center as the backdrop for the encampment. The assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Harriri and his public-private company, Solidere, had driven Lebanon into massive debt (it now has one of the highest debt to GDP ratios) to rebuild the area after it was destroyed during the civil war and made billions in the process.

Just as the US Poor People’s Campaign focused on class issues (as opposed to just racism and civil rights), the demonstrations, encampment, and the very significant general strike that shut down the country in January all highlighted the economic factors and class dimension of the current standoff (as opposed to just the oppression and occupation the Shiites have faced). It’s no surprise, then, that poor and working class people from all of the different sects have identified with the opposition and participated in the demonstrations.

At the “World Conference to Support the Resistance” held in the aftermath of the war in Beirut and attended by some 400 representatives of mostly leftist groups from around the world, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Na`im Qasim opened his speech with a variation on a quote from the Communist Manifesto, saying “Oh, poor of the world, unite. Oh, downtrodden of the world unite.” He went on to say that Hezbollah doesn’t impose its ideas on others, and that “The radical Islamic groups’ practices mutilate the true image of Islam. They don’t recognize other religions except theirs, as if God gave them keys to heaven and they are the ones who pick who goes there or not.” Also of significance – although maybe not for TWF partisans – is Hezbollah’s placement of several large banners throughout the hardest hit areas of Beirut thanking Hugo Chavez for his support during the war.

Hezbollah is clearly not trying to establish a theocracy. Nor is it trying to impose its religious beliefs on anyone. Moreover, its critique of and opposition to the government’s neoliberal economic policies doesn’t come from the kind of right wing populism characteristic of the fascist groups in Europe that are opportunistically exploiting the issue of globalization. On the contrary, as the demonstrations and the general strike clearly show, Hezbollah is committed to supporting workers and the poor with more than just rhetoric. Finally, while Hezbollah hasn’t articulated an economic program or platform, it does have a vision of an alternative, more just, society.

Islamism Is Not Fascism

Lyons’ mischaracterization of Hezbollah doesn’t simply stem from a lack of understanding of the Shiites, Islamism, and Lebanon but from the TWF’s own reductionist and undialectical analysis of Islamists, which suggests that they are essentially fascists. Just as Lyons had to back-track on some of what he asserted in his original argument, so has Staudenmaier. After stating that, “Al-Qaeda was the most prominent example [of fascism] in the period immediately after 9/11,” he stated that he was not sure if Al-Qaeda could be characterized as fascist after all.

It’s odd that Staudenmaier accuses me of “reduc[ing] complex situations to two opposing, and static, sides” when the main point of my arguments in the articles already referred to has been to challenge the tendency on the left – including among many in the antiwar movement – to lump all Islamists into one homogenous, fascistic, monolith. I have spent a considerable amount of time showing not only just how different the Islamist groups are, even among the Shiite parties in Iraq, but how they’ve changed considerably over time in the context of a fluid political situation. In short, I argue what many have begun to argue in recent years: that “Islamism” or “Islamist” are no longer useful terms to use when discussing these groups and social movements. Staudenmaier is so fixated on my criticism of Lyons that he misses the crux of my argument. It is therefore worthwhile to repeat it here.

While only a minority of Muslims might consider themselves Islamists, a large number, maybe even a majority, support them. This is especially the case among the poor and marginalized. As Islamists steadily filled the vacuum created by the disintegration of the left (a direct result of US intervention in the region), they took on some of the language and politics of the left, and became the main force resisting poverty, imperialism, and authoritarian rule. As a result, they have also gained the support of some non-Islamist political activists and co-opted others, becoming the hegemonic force in opposition to various ruling regimes and their imperial backers.

This is not to suggest that all Islamists are progressive but simply that they are not uniformly reactionary. Moreover, each Islamist group or party differs from the other in significant ways. They are products of their own distinct histories, shaped by different colonial experiences, class struggles, and relationships to imperialism.

For example, Hamas and Hezbollah reflect the experience of a much poorer and oppressed population than Al-Qaeda. Because of the character of its leadership and because it is not based in any one country, Al-Qaeda says and does very little for workers and the poor. In contrast, Hezbollah takes positions against privatization and neoliberalism and for workers rights that have historically been advanced by the left. Moreover, like some of their fellow Shiite Islamists in Iraq, Hezbollah is not trying to create a theocracy through an Islamic revolution but rather to work within a democratic system to advance the rights and aspirations of the Shiites, the most downtrodden in Lebanese society.

In contrast, groups that hold or have held state power, like the Islamists in Iran or the Taliban in Afghanistan, are more right wing and authoritarian and ruthlessly suppress any resistance. Almost all the groups allowed to operate openly – or, in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, semi-openly – provide a wide range of social services to the poor.

Hamas and Hezbollah have also been shaped by a resistance struggle against Israeli occupation and US imperialism. In Iraq, the Sadrists took up arms against the US occupation while their fellow Shiite Islamists in the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) supported it. Hezbollah, and now Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, all participate in elections while Al-Qaeda and other Islamists reject them.

Even on the question of women’s rights there are differences,. The level of involvement of women in the day-to-day activities of each group serves as an indicator of how supportive they are of women’s rights. In the cases of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and among most of the Islamist groups in Iraq, (both Sunni and Shiite), there is little or no involvement of women and little or no support for women’s rights. On the other hand, Hamas and the Egyptian Brotherhood have run women candidates; some have even won. And women are openly involved at many levels in Hezbollah.

To give a current example that many on the left have been following, consider Fatah Al Islam – the Al-Qaeda-type group based in the Palestinian refugee camp of Naher al Bared in Tripoli, Lebanon that the Lebanese army has been battling since May of 2007. This is a group of several hundred fighters, with no popular base whatsoever, imposing itself on a Palestinian camp by force. Not only do they not direct their efforts at fighting Israel and those in the Lebanese state that support Israel, but they say that the more pressing problem is the loss of religious faith on the part of Palestinians and Arabs. They do not run any social services and, given that they care little about issues of poverty and oppression, they probably have no desire to. They’re just as hostile to Shiites as they are to Christians and Jews and would welcome any opening to start a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites, which is probably why – in their effort to counter Hezbollah – they have had no problem accepting money and support from the Saudi government, the US, and their lackeys in the Lebanese government. Compare this with Hezbollah or with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling Islamist party, for that matter – and you begin to see why it’s absurd to equate Islamism with fascism.

My first question to Staudenmaier following his talk at NCOR was about his definition of fascism. Nowhere in his talk, his blog, or the TWF blog, is a straightforward definition of fascism given. One would think it would be important to have a clear definition of fascism if you’re building an entire theory around the idea that fascism is on the rise and that fascists have become significant political players that must be taken into account in any political analysis. In a discussion involving several people following the talk, Staudenmaier did offer his short definition of fascism. He said that fascists were revolutionary, populist, and mass-based.

In this article and others I think I have clearly shown how Islamist groups differ; some are revolutionary (Al-Qaeda related groups), some reformist (Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt), and others somewhere in between (Hamas, Mahdi Army). In terms of being populist, many of the Islamist groups exhibit some form of populism since they’re not guided or driven by any consistent ideology. But the only ones I would characterize as populist would be the AKP and possibly SCIRI. The Al-Qaeda groups, however, don’t care much about mass appeal and, even when they do raise issues like poverty or imperialism, they frame them in religious rather than political terms. This may explain why none of the Al-Qaeda groups have anything resembling a mass base. In fact, up until the war in Iraq, most Islamist groups, with the exception of Hezbollah and Hamas, were marginal in terms of their political influence. So none of the major Islamist groups, not even Al-Qaeda, fit Staudenmaier’s definition of fascism.

In his article “The Lie that is Islamofascism,” Stefan Durand does the best job of discrediting the idea that Islamists are fascists by advancing a thorough definition of fascism. He says that:

...Islamism must be seen as a contemporary phenomenon, both new and distinct. It is true that Muslim fundamentalist movements exhibit certain traditional features of fascism: a paramilitary dimension, a feeling of humiliation and a cult of the charismatic leader (although to a relative degree, and scarcely comparable with the cults of the Führer or the Duce). But all the other fundamental ingredients of fascism—the expansionist nationalism, corporatism, bureaucracy and the cult of the body – are generally lacking in Islamism.

In addition, Islamist movements are often trans-national and far removed from the integral nationalism characteristic of the European fascism of the 1930s. Fascism was by nature imperialist and expansionist. Although Al-Qaida cells operate in many countries and some Islamist movements do dream of reconquering Andalusia or Sicily and restoring the caliphate, organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah – however disreputable their religious ideology and armed operations – are struggling against territorial occupation. The religious absolutism of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan made it more like medieval obscurantist theocracies than the fascist regimes that emerged in industrialized countries after the First World War. The corporatist dimension inherent in fascism, its almost total merger of state, industrial enterprises and professional bodies, is lacking in the Islamic context.The existence of a “partisan state” is a necessary condition for the exercise of fascist power, but these Islamist groups are most often non-state organizations marginal to, or persecuted by, the authorities of the countries in which they are based.

Islamist movements make an instrument of religion and try to use it as an ideology, but they do not intend to create “a new man,” as was the case in fascist Europe. They propound archaic religious and social precepts rather than an overall coherent ideology. The popular success of these movements is often due to factors unconnected with ideology. By not providing such a “sophisticated understanding of the term” fascism – as he claims he and the TWF theoreticians have done – Staudenmaier feeds into the very abuse of the term, as a synonym for “very, very bad,” for which he berates radicals.

Euston Manifesto

I’m not going to spend a lot of time responding to the long and confusing discussion of the Euston Manifesto – a statement signed by British liberals and social democrats essentially arguing that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic – that Staudenmaier uses to suggest that my argument (and others like it) “is the flip-side of the argument advanced by some Euston signatories” because it sets up that same “us” and “them”/ ”this” or “that” dualism.

The first problem with introducing the Euston Manifesto into the argument – and why I find it confusing – is that I wouldn’t even characterize this group as progressive, let alone on the left. So why use them to make this point? The only thing I can think of is that it’s because Staudenmaier sympathizes with them. He does, after all, laud the “...profound awareness within the Euston camp of the need for an anti-fascist politics.” I think this gets at one of the main problems with the TWF: its over-emphasis on anti-fascism. His tendency to view all things through the lens of anti-fascism (which is essentially reductionist) prevents Staudenmaier from seeing how someone could be conscious of and opposed to anti-Semitism and still be a racist. I’m sure if you dig deeper into the politics of those behind the Euston Manifesto you’d probably find some of the same anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism you find on the American left. In fact – and in response to Staudenmaier’s subsequent statement that “It is unclear how much traction this approach [where any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic] has within the US left” – I would argue that plenty of people on the US left in fact share this view. However, because it’s such a widely accepted idea in the US, I don’t think they feel the need to issue a Manifesto defending it.

The other reason I think that Staudenmaier identifies with the Euston Manifesto on some level is because he repeatedly accuses the left in the US of anti-Semitism. While there clearly is anti-Semitism on the American left, it’s minimal – particularly in the anti-globalization movement, which is the example Staudenmaier uses. My experience in the anti-globalization movement – most of which was in a group called Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN) that focused on bringing Palestine solidarity work into the movement – was that initially many agreed with the idea that anything critical of Israel was anti-Semitic. They were – ironically – therefore very hesitant about including Palestine-related issues in their message of “global justice.” Moreover, I have never come across groups in the movement who talk about how “the Jews” control the IMF and World Bank.

The problem is that Staudenmaier, as well as the many others who accuse the left of anti-Semitism, never offer any concrete examples to back up their accusations. Books like Norman Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah and Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St.Clair’sThePoliticsofAnti-Semitismdoagoodjobofresponding to this and the accusation of anti-Semitism that Staudenmaier and Lyons level at Hezbollah. In the essay “What is Anti-Semitism” in Cockburn and St Clair’s book, Michael Neumann explains that: the progress of Arab anti-Semitism fits nicely with the progress of Jewish encroachment and Jewish atrocities. This is not to excuse genuine anti-Semitism; it is to trivialize it. It came to the Middle East with Zionism and it will abate when Zionism ceases to be an expansionist threat. Indeed its chief cause is not anti-Semitic propaganda but the decades-old, systematic and unrelenting efforts of Israel to implicate all Jews in its crimes.

If they’re not already there, the Euston folks and possibly some who subscribe to the TWF are headed in the same direction as the antifas – the anti-fascist tendency within the German autonomist movement that became the anti-Deutsche and came to support imperialism. With the threat that imperialism, particularly US imperialism, poses to the world today, we should be more concerned with the antifas/anti-Deutch and Euston Manifesto folks – and others who give left/humanitarian cover for imperialism – than with the Islamists who are actually fighting and, in some places, defeating it. The TWF’s exaggeration of fascism and characterization of Islamists as fascists actually plays into the politics and racism of groups like those around the Euston Manifesto. It confirms for them the need and urgency of wiping out the Islamists, even if it means supporting the worst imperialist atrocities – the US bloodbath in Iraq, the Israeli war on Lebanon and Gaza, and an attack on Iran (by either the US or Israel) – because, according to them, such atrocities pale in comparison to the holocaust that the Islamists are hoping to carry out. Durand sums up the consequences of such thinking well:

By crediting the idea that the West is fighting against a new fascism, new Hitlers, they are preparing public opinion to accept that war can and must be ‘preventive,’ and that the ‘fascist threat’ requires a massive response that is justified whatever the cost in human lives. ‘The allies bombed Dresden’ was the neocon response to criticism when Israeli F-16s dropped hundreds of fragmentation bombs on residential districts in Lebanon.

Not Just Wrong on Islamists

The true test of any theory is whether or not it can make sense of the world around us. As I’ve hopefully shown, the TWF gets it wrong when it comes to the key issue of the day: US imperialism and resistance to it in the Middle East. But it also fails to make sense of everything from globalization to fascism, its supposed strong point. Part of the reason for this that the TWF’s analysis is based on some faulty premises.

Staudenmaier says that the 9/11 attacks challenged the anti- globalization movement’s “previous understanding of neoliberalism and globalization”:

[M]ost of the former anti-globalization movement became convinced that “globalization” was suddenly less pressing than regional geo-political power struggles characterized by terms like “terrorism” or “imperialism,” or “war for oil.” Especially during the build-up to the Iraq War, many radicals came to believe that divisions within global capital, often described using the old left jargon of inter-imperialist rivalries, had over-powered the global capitalist unity that we believed had characterized the various summits at which we had protested.

Just as there are those in the anti-war movement with a narrow understanding of war, there were those in the anti-globalization movement who didn’t see neoliberalism and globalization as being connected to capitalism and imperialism. I think even the more conservative elements – mainly the large NGOs – understood that neoliberalism and globalization were part of capitalism but chose not to address them in that context for strategic reasons. That’s why they and their allies – a minority – abused the consensus process to kill any effort to transform the fall 2001 protests against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC into protests against the war on Afghanistan and, more broadly, the war on terror.

The point is that most of the movement didn’t become, as Staudenmaier claims, “convinced that ‘globalization’ was suddenly less pressing than regional geo-political power struggles.” Most of us saw the connection between globalization and imperialism and were ready to take on the war (and, in fact, a number of us had already been doing so by bringing the issue of Palestine into the anti- globalization movement). Unfortunately, we were outmaneuvered.

Fascism Not Key Factor

The biggest problem with the TWF theory is its exaggeration of fascism as a key political factor to account for when analyzing today’s world. As Staudenmaier puts it, not only have domestic fascist movements grown increasingly dangerous and radical, other movements around the world have come more and more to resemble fascism. Staudenmeier quotes J. Sakai to the effect that, even if we hadn’t been thinking about fascism in the period before 9/11, “fascism was thinking about us.”

First of all, even if you buy into the idea that Islamists are fascists, most of the groups were small and isolated (hence their reliance on terrorism) until they were bolstered by the war on terror and the Iraq war. They had more pressing things to think about than us – like how to avoid being locked up, tortured, or killed by their respective states. One could say the same thing about the real fascists in the US. The KKK has seen a resurgence because it has been able to take advantage of the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of 9/11. Before that they were in tatters, barely able to mobilize a handful of people for their rallies. In general, fascists continue to be insignificant politically. One of the most prominent groups – the National Socialist Movement – is a regroupment of many of the neo-Nazi groups that fragmented in the 90s, including the Aryan Nation, which had totally collapsed. Note that even Staudenmaier himself doesn’t say that fascists have grown in size and influence but that they have “grown increasingly dangerous – and increasingly revolutionary.”


At the moment, imperialism poses a much greater danger to humanity than fascism. And Islamists – not the left – are the main force resisting it in Western Asia, where it is most brazen and barbaric. This does not mean that the American left can’t criticize Islamism and Islamists, but to do so by mechanically applying a “theory” derived mostly from white anti-racist work in North America to the Middle East on the basis of little knowledge of the history, politics, and social movements of the region is highly problematic. The result is a reliance on generalizations, a lack of concrete examples (historical, current, or even personal experiences) and, therefore, little context – all of which contribute to racism and Islamophobia. This is not to say that Lyons, Staudenmaier, and others who subscribe to the TWF are racist. But their lack of, to use Staudenmaier’s phrase, “a sophisticated and dynamic political analysis” of issues related to Arabs and Muslims does nothing to fight racism and may even contribute to it.

Some Brief Clarifications

Michael Staudenmaier

Iam happy that Upping the Anti chose to publish the text of my talk, and I am encouraged that Rami El-Amine chose to continue the discussion in the form of a written response. At the same time, I am disappointed with a handful of misrepresentations in El-Amine’s piece.

El-Amine repeatedly implies that the three way fight analysis equates Islamism and fascism. He describes in some detail the many points of divergence among various Islamist movements, and criticizes me for my supposed ignorance of this diversity. The problem here is not only that I argued (following Matthew Lyons’ lead) that Hezbollah in particular is not fascist, but also that El-Amine selectively quotes my talk. He leaves out an important sentence: “Other [versions of Islamic fundamentalism], it is important to note, represent competing factions of global capitalism; Iran’s ongoing friendship with Russia and China serves as an example of this alternative.” El-Amine knows the details here far better than I do, but we agree that Islamist movements are diverse. We disagree about the proper response to these varied movements, but no one is arguing that “Islamists are fascists.”

Nonetheless, El-Amine seems convinced that I have made fascism the be-all and end-all of my analysis. This is somewhat ironic, given my introductory remark that “at its core, the three way fight is a critique of authoritarianism as much as it is a response to fascism.” Regardless, in El-Amine’s view, my focus on fascism “prevents [me] from seeing how someone could be conscious of and opposed to anti-Semitism and still be a racist.” The reality of both my analysis and my personal experience is quite different. For example, those of us who have been involved in anti-fascist organizing in Chicago – a city with sizeable Jewish and Palestinian populations – have repeatedly been forced to deal with militants from the Jewish Defense League whose hatred of neo-Nazis is only slightly more intense than their prejudicial response to Palestinian struggles.

Finally, El-Amine criticizes me for applying the three way fight analysis “mechanically” to the Middle East, and for doing so with a lack of knowledge. But the three way fight is not a dogmatic theory, it is a developing line of inquiry. As for my ignorance, I have consistently acknowledged that these topics are not in my area of expertise. For precisely these reasons it should be clear that there is no mechanical application here, but rather an open and questioning approach to a set of difficult and important issues. With that in mind, I look forward to further discussions of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and the three way fight in this venue and others.