Judeo-Christian Foreign Policy: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia - Part II

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The association of protecting “Judeo-Christian” values as a means of defending Western (Eurocentric) civilization - whiteness - is both ironic and Orientalist. The irony stems from Judaism and Christianity’s roots in Western Asia, and politicians in North America and Europe have used the idea of protecting a shared Judeo-Christian heritage as a means of othering people from Western Asia and North Africa. This otherization is directly tied to Orientalism, simply defined as the demeaning way the West looks at the Orient, the continents of Africa and Asia, and it has been used as a tool by European intellectuals to define Europe and the European experience as above those of people of the Orient (Said, 1979) , or, as Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, would call them, “a barbaric empire,” (Feder, 2016).

The defense of the “Judeo-Christian West,” whiteness, against barbaric empires of the East has been rationalized and codified in American policies through a variety of means. For instance, The Arab Mind, a book published by cultural anthropologist Raphael Patai in 1973, became a mainstay in American military training programs as a means of comprehending Arab society. The book has been criticized for being extremely reductionist, intellectually dishonest, and is attributed to the particularly perverse human rights violations at Abu Ghraib (De Atkine, 2004).

Samuel Huntington published Clash of Civilizations (1993) as a means of defining what complications the West - North America and Europe - would face going into a post-Cold War world. Huntington utilized Bernard Lewis, a British specialist in Oriental studies, to conclude:

We are facing a need and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations -- the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival [Islamic civilizations] against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both (Huntington, 1993).

Combatting the present-day encroachment of the “Islamic civilization” in North America and Europe has manifested in various forms, such as the creation of the National Security Exit-Enter System (also known as NSEERs and INS Special Registration); Executive Order 13769 (commonly known as the Muslim Ban); and aspects of the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

NSEERs was created by the Department of Justice and presented by the U.S. State Department in 2003 in reaction to the events of the September 11th terror attacks on the World Trade Center. It was devised as a means of controlling U.S. borders by monitoring the activities of those entering the country, namely a variety of men and boys who were visa holders from Arab and Muslim-majority nations (Kobach, 2003). It was considered largely ineffective from its inception to its suspension by the Department of Homeland Security in 2011; it failed to convict any person who was targeted for this program on government terrorism charges (Rickerd, 2011). As the Arab American Institute also points out, the program, “... violated civil liberties through racial profiling, unlawful arrests, and in some cases, detentions of individuals who were not required to register under the program,” and its insidious effects are relevant today: the data collected from NSEERs has not been destroyed and is readily available for misuse (The Arab American Institute, 2016). Even after the Obama administration formally decommissioned it in December 2016, the Trump administration sought to “... ‘update and reintroduce’ the program for all foreigners from ‘high-risk’ areas,” (Fox News, 2016).

The incorporation of Orientalism into the popular rationalization of the “Muslim ban” creates a more holistic view of which people of the Orient are deemed a threat.

The concept of NSEERS evolved into the Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, and was introduced on January 27, 2017. More popularly known as the “Muslim ban,” it suspended the visas of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, as well as the U.S. Refugee Admission Program and the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely (Wolf, 2018). The given rationale for the ban was Title 8 of the United States Code 1182, which states:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate (8 U.S. Code § 1182 - Inadmissible aliens, Section (f), 1952)

Unsurprisingly, many supporters of the administration found the Order to be an appropriate measure to secure a sense of security for citizens of the United States, and the Supreme Court had issues in determining the legality of this “Muslim ban.” The question of why some people have found this to be appropriate could be boiled down to Islamophobia - it would explain why the aforementioned countries were targeted and would fit the idea of protecting Western Civilization from the “barbaric empires” that are Muslim-majority. However, Danny Eapen pointed out, many Muslim-majority countries, such as Indonesia, were left off the list (Lewin, 2017). The incorporation of Orientalism into the popular rationalization of the “Muslim ban” creates a more holistic view of which people of the Orient are deemed a threat. In many writings, Arab men of the Orient are deemed a threat and are dehumanized by portraying them as hypersexual, aggressive beings who threaten Western Civilization by going after white women (Reel Bad Arabs, 2006). Oriental men from Southeastern and Eastern Asia, on the other hand, are emasculated - portrayed as being asexual or effeminate due to the labor roles that many were forced into upon moving to the West, especially the United States (Yang, 60-65 2011).

The intersections of Islamophobia and Orientalism in regards to Judeo-Christian foreign policy are also relevant in discussing event surrounding Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declaring Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel. While campaigning for the presidency, Donald Trump promised that he would stop “... cold attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” (Global News, 2017) and sees his actions concerning Jerusalem as an extension of this campaign promise. After the embassy opening, he was lauded by Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, as being “long overdue,” (Davis, 2018).  Some may see this as a victory as a means of showing largely Christian support for the State of Israel as a win for Judeo-Christian foreign policy. To see this as a victory for Christian communities globally, however, shows a reductionist understanding of Christianity in the Middle East, specifically in Jerusalem.

The blatant antisemitism and gross categorization of those opposing the declaration of the capital and embassy move as “Islamic terrorists” is a display of the hypocrisy of the concept of Judeo-Christian foreign policy as well as intersectional bigotry.

The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem, representing Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran and the Greek, Syrian, and Armenian Orthodox churches, released a statement in December 2017 condemning President Trump’s declaration in December 2017 (Wilkinson, 2017). In the letter, they pleaded that:

… the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfil its destiny (Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem, 2017).

The needs of Jerusalem’s Christian community fell on deaf ears on May 14, 2018, as a prayer led by Pastor Robert Jeffress, who stated that Jews would go to Hell for their lack of belief in Jesus, opened the U.S. Embassy. Accompanied by Jeffress was the Reverend John C. Hagee who proclaimed, “Let every Islamic terrorist hear this message: ‘Israel lives’” (Haag, 2018).

The blatant antisemitism and gross categorization of those opposing the declaration of the capital and embassy move as “Islamic terrorists” is a display of the hypocrisy of the concept of Judeo-Christian foreign policy as well as intersectional bigotry. The fears of Islamic terrorists besieging Jerusalem did not come to fruition, however. Although some news outlets claimed that Palestinians were protesting solely in reaction to the U.S.’s decisions on Jerusalem, these decisions actually coincided with the already planned Great Return March.

The Great March of Return demonstrations began on March 30, 2018, marking the “... commemoration of Land Day in which six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces after protesting the confiscation of their land,” (Chughtai 2018). The demonstrations officially ended on May 15, which marked the 70 year anniversary of the Nakba. Nakba Day, which follows May 14, the day that the State of Israel declared independence, marks the beginning of what many consider the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the region due to the creation of the State of Israel (Shupak 2018). According to Amnesty International, the actions of the Israeli military against Palestinian protesters during this month and a half period amounted to “... in some instances committing what appear to be willful killings constituting war crimes,” (Amnesty International 2018). Many news outlets, mainly in the United States, wrote that Palestinians “have died” in the demonstrations, not accounting for who or what caused their deaths: Israeli soldiers (@falafeldad 2018). The lack of holding a group responsible for killings, and claiming those who were killed merely died, further serves Orientalist and Islamophobic narratives of Palestinians as the Other and thereby justifies their murder.

Although many proponents of Judeo-Christian foreign policy have stated that they defend this foreign policy concept as a means of protecting the Jewish people, many of its proponents support the aforementioned antisemitic prophecy, which brings their support of the Jewish people into question. Islamophobia is also another byproduct of this as the name itself was created from Orientalist constructs that seek to otherize and demonize Muslims. More latently, it has also contributed to the erasure of non-white Jewish people and Arab Christians, as discussed in Part I of this series. Simply placing the protection of white-washed versions of Christianity and Judaism that serve the maintenance of Western hegemony over the Southwest Asia and North Africa region is the primary reason for the promotion of Judeo-Christian foreign policy, particularly in the United States. It is, therefore, necessary for those seeking to decolonize foreign policy to engage this construct by confronting those who unabashedly support it, critiquing other policies that are based upon it, and creating foreign policies that are inclusive of the needs of Muslim and non-white Jewish and Christian communities globally.

Mary Marston is a woman of color who wants to decolonize U.S. Foreign Policy and various legal systems. Follow her on Twitter: @mary_marston

List of References:

Amnesty International, 2018. Israel/OPT: Use of excessive force in Gaza an abhorrent violation of international law. Amnesty International. Accessed May 15, 2018.

Arab American Institute, 2011. National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). Arab American Institute. Accessed February 5, 2018.

Chugtai, A, 2018. Palestinians Great March of Return: The Human Cost. Al Jazeera. Accessed May 20, 2018.

Davis, J., 2018. Jerusalem Embassy Is a Victory for Trump, and a Complication for Middle East Peace. New York Times. Accessed May 15, 2018.

DeAtkine, N., 2004. The Arab Mind Revisited. Middle East Quarterly Summer 2004 Volume 11. Accessed December 17, 2017.

Feder, J., 2016. This is How Steve Bannon Sees the Entire World. Buzzfeed. Accessed January 5, 2018.

Fox News, 2016. Obama ditches registry focused on immigrant men from Muslim countries. Fox News: National Security. Fox News. Accessed February 5, 2018.

Haag, M., 2018. Robert Jeffress, Pastor Who Said Jews Are Going to Hell, Led Prayer at Jerusalem Embassy. The New York Times. Accessed May 20, 2018.

Huntington, S., 1993. The Clash of Civlizations?. Foreign Affairs. Accessed December 20, 2017.

Kobach, K., 2018. National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NEERS). Foreign Press Center Briefing. U.S. Department of State. Accessed January 20, 2018.

Lewin, L., 2017. In Support of a Travel Ban. CNN. Accessed December 20, 2017.

Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Palestine, 2017. Letter to President Donald Trump Regarding the Status of Jerusalem. United Church. Accessed December 22, 2017.

Reel Bad Arabs, 2006. United States. Accessed January 15, 2018.

Rickerd, C., 2011. Homeland Security Suspends Ineffective, Discriminatory Immigration Program. Speak Freely. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Accessed February 1, 2018.

Said, E., 1979. Orientalism: A Brief Definition. Political Discourse- Theories of Colonialism and Postcolonialism. Accessed December 17, 2017.

Shupak, G., 2018. The Stakes of the Great Return March. Jacobin Magazine. Accessed May 16, 2018.

Title 8: Aliens and Nationality, 1952. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Trump, D., 2017. We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values. Values Voters Summit. Accessed February 20, 2018.

Wilkinson, T., 2017. Heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem urge retaining city's 'international status'. The Los Angeles Times. Accessed December 22, 2017.

Wolf, R. 2018. Supreme Court shows support for President Trump's immigration travel ban. USA Today. Accessed May 1, 2018.

Yang, Y., 2009. Stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. Media: Appearance, Disappearance, and Assimilation. Baylor University. Accessed April 20, 2018.

Marissa Conway