“Jihad Darrell”: GOP Rep. Issa’s Arab heritage raises suspicions among fringe Islamophobes

As the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight, Darrell Issa is promising to give the Obama administration a hard time with the committee’s investigative mandate and subpoena power. Certain prominent American conservatives, perhaps unsurprisingly, seem disappointed that he isn’t going far enough.

Columnist Michelle Malkin writes on her blog that:

Already, Issa has flip-flopped on his promise to probe the Joe Sestak/White House bribe scandal and softened his criticism of corruption in the Obama administration. And Doug Powers called attention to his strange comments quoted in a post-midterm conference call in November: “I want to prove the pundits wrong. My job is not to bring down the president. My job is to make the president a success.”

Just a humble reminder: Issa’s job — and this goes for every GOP House leader — is not to mollify Beltway pundits.

Their job is not to manage White House p.r. and “reach across the aisle” and “get things done” for the sake of bipartisanship.

Their job is to protect taxpayers’ best interests, rein in a bloated, out-of-control federal government, and abide by their oaths of office.

She cites another blogger who seems dismayed at the lack of planned investigations with a racial tinge:

It’s time to say no to Sharpton, Jackson, Henry Gates, and the rest of the Race Industry.

It’s time to bring investigations into Sestak, the Black Panthers, and Pigford. It’s time to expose the truth about Obama to Americans.

Blog commenters have been expressing their doubts about Issa as well. One of them on Malkin’s site labels him an “Islamopanderer.” If one looks at comments about Issa on sites from both sides of the political spectrum, one notices occasional remarks making sleazy allegations of supposed ties to Islamist groups. This reprehensible line of attack originated with ultra-Islamophobic commentator Debbie Schlussel, who most recently made a name for herself documenting a sneaky Islamic plot to dhimmify America by having a Muslim woman win the Miss USA pageant.

In 2001 she published two articles on Issa alleging he made remarks praising Hezbollah and had friendly relationships with “disgusting people” such as the late Yasser Arafat (whom she claims “was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing”). Strangley enough, the charge that he “supports” Hezbollah was put into proper context by a member of the right-wing Free Republic message board around the same time period the article was published. The following is an Issa quote from a hearing held in May 2001:

I would hope that today we get as much interface of ideas about what those items are that we should do instead of lifting the sanctions and what signs to look for or what signals to send Iran to let them know that we do want peace, we do want a dialogue, we do want to work together to solve the problems in the Middle East if they have a will to do so. I say this as an Arab-American, as somebody who has family and friends throughout the region of the Middle East, that it is with great regret that these sanctions must stay in place. It is with great regret that we have not been able to convince Iran who funds Hezbollah (in all candor, for the good things they do, too, the humanitarian, the hospitals, the schools that they pay) to cease the funding of those things which only prolong the agony of the people in the Middle East.

While it is certainly an opinion today’s hardline national security demagogues may associate with sympathy with terrorism, the fact that Hezbollah engages in many positive humanitarian activities should not be controversial at all in mainstream discourse. Sclussel was essentially dishonest when she excluded Issa’s condemnation of Hezbollah’s militant activities.

In the month of December 2001, Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel of the Jewish Defense League were charged with a plot to go on a bombing spree against various targets they identified with Arab and Muslim interests. These targets included “the office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, the King Fahad mosque in Culver City and the offices of Issa.” Their reasoning for including the Congressman’s offices in their list of targets is worth mentioning.

From Copley News Service, 24 Dec. 2001 (via NewsBank):

Issa and his aides said columns written by political commentator Debbie Schlussel might have inflamed Jewish Defense League officials, who allegedly were targeting the San Diego County lawmaker. One of the suspects, Irving David Rubin, chairman of the JDL, gave copies of the Internet commentaries to an FBI informant, who helped thwart a plot to blow up a Los Angeles-area mosque and one of Issa’s offices, according to a source familiar with the case. Rubin and a JDL associate, Earl Leslie Krugel, have been held without bail since their arrests on federal charges in California on Dec. 11. They have denied the charges. Initially, authorities contend, the suspects had targeted the mosque but later added Issa as a target after they came across one of the Internet columns written by Schlussel, according to Issa. FBI officials told the congressman that they believe the columns were a “basis for adding me to the target list, somewhat late in the game,” Issa said in an interview.

It seems clear that allegations of support for terrorism on Issa’s part are just another disingenuous way of bludgeoning Arab-Americans and critics of Israel into silence. Left-wing commentators may find it tempting to use Schlussel’s smear against Issa for the sake of convenience, but the tactic should be regarded as dishonest and lazy. It should be possible to condemn Issa’s upcoming opportunistic witch-hunts against the Obama administration without resorting to thinly-veiled ethnic paranoia.

Also worrisome is the potential that this line of attack could become more mainstream among the American right when Issa pursues Obama officials with zeal that they find to be insufficient. It’s bad enough having the “secret Muslim” smear lobbed at Obama every so often. We do not need racial and xenophobic animus being directed at an inquisitor whose methods are perceived as too merciful.

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