Shock horror! Imagine: the mainstream media whitewashing the jihadist views of an Islamic supremacist leader! It's unprecedented! Shocking beyond measure! "Media Whitewash Ghannouchi's Radical Islamist Views," from IPT News, October 31:
A recurring media theme in recent days is that Rachid al-Ghannouchi and his Ennahda Party, which won last week's Tunisian elections, are "moderate" Islamists despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
A few notable voices in the conservative blogosphere like Martin Kramer, Melanie Phillips and Raymond Ibrahim pointed out problems with this argument, including Ghannouchi's endorsement of jihad in Gaza, stating that "Gaza, like Hanoi in the '60s and Cuba and Algeria, is the model of freedom today." Ghannouchi has expressed support for suicide bombings and welcomes the destruction of Israel, which he predicts could "disappear" by 2027.
"There is no such thing as 'moderate Islamism,'" Phillips wrote. "It's as absurd as saying there were moderate and extreme Stalinists, or moderate and extreme Nazis, or moderate and extreme proponents of the Spanish Inquisition. You cannot have moderate fanatics."
That message apparently hasn't reached some U.S. media and political elites. Before and after Tunisia's election, news outlets provided a steady stream of stories portraying the group as moderate and committed to democracy.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed (which he republished on his Senate website) declaring that "Ennahda has been giving encouraging answers about its rejection of extremism and its respect for the democratic process, individual liberties, women's rights and the rule of law."
The headline of a front-page New York Times story referred to Ennahda as "moderate." The Times quoted Ghannouchi (the founder of the party) saying that Ennahda "is not a religious party" but one whose members "merely draw their values from Islam." The Times added that the group's win at the polls in Tunisia "was sure to embolden those who favor a more liberal approach, including some within Egypt's mainstream Muslim Brotherhood."
Another Times story began: "For more than three decades, Rachid al-Ghannouchi has preached that pluralism, democracy and secular Islam are harmonious."
These and other media accounts gloss over or neglect to mention Ghannouchi's many radical statements – particularly his calls for Israel's destruction.
The Arab Spring "will achieve positive results on the path to the Palestinian cause and threaten the extinction of Israel," he said in a May interview with the Al Arab Qatari website. "The liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation represents the biggest challenge facing the Umma [Muslim people] and the Umma cannot have existence in light of the Israeli occupation."
In the same interview, Ghannouchi said: "I give you the good news that the Arab region will get rid of the bacillus of Israel. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, said that Israel will disappear by the year 2027. I say that this date may be too far away, and Israel may disappear before this."
This is consistent with Ennahda's platform, which declares that the group "struggles to achieve the following goals … To struggle for the liberation of Palestine and consider it as a central mission and a duty required by the need to challenge the Zionist colonial attack which planted in the heart of the homeland an alien entity which constitutes a (sic) obstacle to unity and reflects the image of the conflict between our civilization and its enemies."