PBS’s surprising turnabout on the Muslim Brotherhood

Last night PBS’s FrontLine featured a segment in which correspondent Charles Sennott interviewed various Muslim Brotherhood figures in Cairo during the demonstrations leading up to the fall of Mubarak. Sennott was trying to answer the question, “What is the Muslim Brotherhood? Is it extremist and religious, or moderate and secular?” Throughout the segment, you could see where it was going: various Brotherhood figures and international leftists kept confidently assuring the credulous-looking Sennott that the usual American view of the Brotherhood as extremist was out of touch with reality. The Brotherhood is too “diverse,” too “pluralistic,” to be summed up in such old fashioned terms. Indeed, Sennott led us to believe, the Brotherhood is more truly represented not by its older, hard-line leaders, but by its younger figures, such as an activist named Muhammad Abbas, who are into freedom and secularism, not the imposition of sharia law.

But then, at the very end of the segment, Sennott, who had been following Abbas around throughout the demonstrations and treating him as his main authority, asked him what position Egypt will take on the peace treaty with Israel if the Brotherhood takes over. At first Abbas said, “If the people of Egypt want to keep the peace treaty, they will keep it, if not, not.” But Sennott pressed him on the point, and Abbas forthrightly replied, “If a man sneaks into your house and takes possession of your house, do you allow him to keep your house?” I.e., Israel exists on stolen land and must be removed.

After 20 minutes of non-judgmental openness to the prospect of the “diverse,” “pluralistic” Brotherhood taking over Egypt, Sennott finally ran up against a reality that could not be finessed. He ended the program by saying that there was cause of worry if the Brotherhood gained power.

This, as a friend says, shows the value of Israel. Israel is a litmus test. When a person says that Israel shouldn’t exist and ought to be destroyed, not only is that bad news in itself, it says something bad about that person. Muhammad Abbas could pretend about a lot of things. He could pretend about how “moderate” and “tolerant” the Muslim Brotherhood has become. But he couldn’t bring himself to pretend about Israel. And when Sennott perceived where Abbas was coming from on Israel, he changed his tune on the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Arthur Y. writes:

I saw the interview. Never mind that Jews always had a bedroom in the Middle East or that they originally owned a house in the neighborhood or that they helped build the neighborhood. How do you otherwise explain the presence of Jews in all Middle Eastern societies and history and even in the filthy Koran—the evidence is endless. And who kicked the Jews out of their original bedrooms? And when does history begin?

I am a secular Jew but very much a Jew. I believe in fairness and openness to other people, but not at Jewish expense. For a while I thought that maybe we were wrong in taking back land that Arabs thought that they owned—that the settlements may not be right. I have come back to believing that the settlements are perfect and should continue.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 23, 2011 11:20 AM | Send

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