He sports the modest title of communications director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a lobby group, but Hussein Ibish is a fast-rising star who appears frequently on top-rated television talk shows, in leading newspapers, at think tanks and in the corridors of power.
Ibish has been appearing with increasing frequency in places like the Los Angeles Times and on The O'Reilly Factor, Nightline, BBC, The Early Show with Bryant Gumble, CNN, MSNBC, All Things Considered, The Evening News with Dan Rather and The Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. He's appeared at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and his group is often at the White House.
Indeed, few people with views as extremist as his have been given as much recognization.
Unlike most of today's prominent Muslim spokesmen, the 38-year-old Ibish does not advocate militant Islam. Instead, he pushes a set of far left-wing views. These start, not surprisingly, with a deep antagonism to the U.S. government. An immigrant from Lebanon, he believes Washington has imperial ambitions in the Middle East. To achieve these, he says, Washington relies extensively on terrorism.
First, it has stiched together a system of puppet rulers who "terrorize the region." Second, it "has the ability to murder and rampage at will" and sometimes does just that - as during its "terrorist" 1986 air strike against Libya.
It gets worse. Ibish has described former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as "vermin." He has compared comments by Colin Powell about Iraqi civilian deaths during the 1991 war to those by Timothy McVeigh about the children he murdered in Oklahoma City. He may be tough on American diplomats, but for the second-worst mass murderer of the 20th-century, China's Mao Zedong, Ibish shows a touching affection ("The achievements of Mao can hardly be overstated.")
Ibish apologizes for many groups the U.S. government deems terrorist, starting with Osama bin Laden. "I'm skeptical," was his reaction after a federal grand jury indicted bin Laden for bombing two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Ibish dismisses bin Laden as a blowhard who gives "blood-curdling interviews," a guy who "lives in a cave in Afghanistan" and someone seen by Arabs as "a crank and a dangerous fanatic."
The list of apologetics goes on. President Bush calls Hamas "one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world today" but our lobbyist friend touts its accomplishments "running hospitals and schools and orphanages."
Ibish's words prompt other comments, too:
- He plays with facts - at will doubling U.S. governmental aid to Israel or tripling the number of Iraqis killed by the sanctions regime. One exasperated columnist characterizes his writings as "systematic deceit."
- Anyone he dislikes is liable to be compared to Nazis. Officers of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission are "stormtroopers." A mild newspaper article about Islam is "genocidal" and "reminiscent of the most bizarre passages of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf." U.S. sanctions on Iraq are "genocidal."
- He bandies about accusations of espionage for Israel. American journalists he disagrees with are "transparently operating in concert and at the direction of the Israeli government." The Anti-Defamation League is an arm of Israeli intelligence.
- As co-editor, Ibish turned the Graduate Voice at the University of Massachusetts into what one writer calls "such an anti-Semitic rag" that the university chancellor had to establish an anti-Semitism task force to respond to his activities.
- In a bizarre twist, Ibish takes pride in his own immoral lifestyle, advocating "redemption through intoxication." He contends that "Those of us who smoke, drink, speak freely and have unauthorized sex occupy both the intellectually sound position and the moral high ground" compared to the "neo-puritans" who frown on such activities.
- In 1997, while a teaching assistant at the University of Massachusetts, he railed against a university regulation prohibiting sex between employees (like himself) and students, calling this an "all-out assault on f-ing." He especially decried the impact this would have on homosexuals, furious at the exposure this could bring if "you are gay and don't feel comfortable in announcing that fact to a homophobic world."
Anti-American, anti-Semitic, inaccurate and immoral; Hussein Ibish makes for a peculiar choice to serve as the public face of Arab-Americans.
More broadly, the media, think tanks and politicians should consider Ibish's record and close their doors to someone so far removed from the mainstream of the American debate.
For more information on Hussein Ibish, see:
July 23, 2004 update: The ADC has replaced Ibish as its communications director; he has gone on to report from Washington for the Lebanese Daily Star.
Sep. 27, 2004 update: Newsweek misportrayed a run-in I had with Ibish; for my account, see "Newsweek's Periscope Gets It Wrong."
Dec. 5, 2007 update: As is clear from this article, I despise the "Anti-American, anti-Semitic, inaccurate and immoral" record Ibish compiled over the years. That said, he published an article today, "Muslim extremists constantly insult faith" that I do not agree with in its entirety but which does present a commonsensical Muslim response to Islamist outrages. In addition, three months ago he had a sensible analysis of Joseph Massad and other far-leftists at "Sense, Nonsense and Strategy in the New Palestinian Political Landscape."
Mar. 8, 2009 update: Fox News Channel ambushed me with Ibish today; I provide the transcript and expose his falsehoods at "Islam in American Textbooks."