As we’ve pointed out, the right is divided on the Egyptian and Arab revolutions—between neocons who have deluded themselves into thinking the Egyptians are following their “regime change” playbook, and more hardcore Islamophobes who can see only a fundamentalist threat in Arab masses rising to shake off their oppressors. Falling into the latter category is Phyllis Chesler—once, long ago, a feminist of basically progressive inclination but today a monomaniacal Muslim-basher who has defected to the right. She writes on David Horowitz‘s Front Page Mag Feb. 21 of “A War Crime in Cairo”—making hay of CBS reporter Lara Logan’s sexual abuse at the hands of Tahrir Square protesters. She uses the incident to sneer at “mainstream American media” portrayals of the protesters as “brave pro-democracy freedom fighters.”
Clearly, the American media is so invested in its own political “narrative” (Muslims are a peace-loving people, Americans are brutal invaders and occupiers, Palestinians are the innocent injured parties, Israelis are the brutal aggressors) that they are willing to blindly sacrifice themselves and their staffs to cover events in the Arab, Muslim, and Islamist world.
She goes on to describe what happened to Logan as “a war crime very similar to those that have been committed against black girls and women by ethnic Arab Muslims in Darfur.”
Now how many things are wrong with this? It is a mere side issue to point out that the victims in Darfur are just as Muslim as the perpetrators. More serious is drawing a comparison between genocide and a single case of certainly quite brutal sexual abuse. Is every sexual attack a “war crime”? Was Logan’s abuse ordered by a military commander? Is there a war going on in Egypt? Is it wise to be dumbing down definitions like this?
But let’s sidestep the even arguably subjective points and go straight for the outright lie. Chesler flatly states that Logan was “gang-raped by a mob of 200 men.”
Not so, it appears. The details of what happened have now been revealed—and they are unquestionably ghastly. New York’s Daily News Feb. 23 and The Australian on Feb. 21 are among numerous sources to reveal the facts in recent days, based on reports from Logan’s friends. It seems she was indeed attacked by some 200 men, stripped, beaten with what are described as “flagpoles.” The attack happened during celebrations of Mubarak’s fall the night of Feb. 11. The crowd reportedly shouted “Spy!” and “Israeli!” as they surrounded Logan and her colleagues for the attack.
Since these details are sufficiently horrific, why does Chesler have to engage in hyperbole by calling it a “war crime,” and in simple fiction by calling it a “gang rape”? (If Chesler has information that Logan was in fact raped, we challenge her to share it with us.)
Because she, ironically, is exploiting Logan for her own purposes—using her as a propaganda tool. The clearest evidence is that Chesler is willing to betray her own supposed feminist values by appearing on Front Page Mag, which of course has nothing to say about the attack on reproductive freedom by Horowitz’s right-wing allies here in the United States—or about the rapes that took place at Abu Ghraib.
Chesler is suffering from the Ayaan Hirsi Ali syndrome—she is so aghast at Islamism’s oppression of women that she’s gone over to the neocons. Apparently she hasn’t noticed that the neocons are no friends of women’s liberation. By no means should what happened to Lara Logan be hushed up, or its unsettling implications dodged. But exploiting it for propaganda is ultimately just as sinister
And while the Logan incident reveals a misogynist and xenophobic element of the Egyptian protest movement, we argue that the far more significant tendency is a secular pro-democracy imperative which has broken with the depressing and long-entrenched “narrative” of US-backed autocrats versus extremist jihadis. If Chesler could get past her prejudices, maybe she could figure out that as a secular feminist she should be supporting the Egyptian revolution—even if while raising warnings about the role of political Islam.