Mideast future? 'Like lava after the eruption'
Yigal Carmon is founder and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that disseminates translated versions of Arabic and Persian publications and broadcasts over the Internet.
Carmon, a former Israeli government counterterrorism adviser, spoke to the Trib regarding the fallout from the anti-Islamic video purportedly made by a California man that has prompted violent anti-American protests in Islamic nations.
Q: In your opinion, why has the reaction to this particular video been so fervent and widespread?
A: Well, first of all it was incited. It was incited by the Egyptian media, because (the video) was out there for months and no one paid any attention to it until a week before (the anniversary of the) Sept. 11 (terror attacks). Then the Egyptian media began hammering on it.
Q: What do you believe was the purpose or motive of the Egyptian media in doing so?
A: That's a big question. I believe one element was (to take advantage of the) Sept. 11 (anniversary). ... Another is the movie itself, which I don't want to dismiss altogether (as the cause of the uproar). I mean, it's garbage, bigoted stupidity. It's insulting.
Q: Does there seem to be any recognition at all in the Islamic world that no matter how insulting the video might be, it's the product of a private citizen and not the United States government?
A: Yes, of course. They know it as a matter of fact, but they don't accept it as a valid distinction. This is the discourse: It is America that is engaged in war against Islam, not on terrorists, so it doesn't matter (that the government wasn't involved in making the video). They say we need this international law against blasphemy against all religions, and of course monistic religions. If there is no law, then (blasphemy) is the responsibility of the state. Instead of (accepting) freedom of speech, they say (the government) may not have (made the video), but it didn't do anything to prevent it.
Q: Do you believe American embassies will continue to be at risk for the foreseeable future?
A: Yes. I said today to a congressman that the future (for embassies) is (to bolster their) defense (and) defensive strategies. (Ambassadors and their staffs) should never feel relaxed. If a day passes without anything happening, it's not a normal day; it's an abnormal day.
Q: What do you think the future holds for the Middle East?
A: In the Middle East, everyone has been at each other's throats for hundreds and hundreds of years. The future is a Middle East in a boiling situation like lava after the eruption, with America (having) the same status as Israel — being blamed for anything and everything. The region is beginning its march to join humanity, which I'm thinking of as a good thing, not a bad thing. But there are no shortcuts to history.
Q: How long do you anticipate this march will take?
A: It will be decades.
Q: So expect additional uprisings against America in the future?
A: Definitely, definitely. America will continue to be the scapegoat.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media (412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org).