Kevin Barrett: Repackaging Antisemitism

Political Research Associates // While Barrett rarely refers to Jews as the enemy, he regularly blames Israel and Zionists for crises in ways that play into overt antisemitic tropes. But, aside from his associates and ideas, he could blend in with much of the U.S. Left. Having grown up in a Unitarian Universalist household, Barrett converted to Islam when he was 34 years old. While studying at San Francisco State University, he said in an interview that he was influenced by traditionalist Muslim authors like René Guénon. Guénon was a French intellectual who converted to Islamic esotericism in 1912 and believed 20th century Western democracy should be replaced by a hierarchical religious elite. Like Barrett, Guénon was embraced by segments of the French Left and Right. But, ultimately his work was reprinted in the fascist newspaper Il Regime Fascista and has since been influential to the Alt-Right including President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.2 After earning a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and teaching as an instructor there for a year in 2006, his controversial views that the September 11 attacks were an “inside job” quickly led to his ouster.3 Within less than a year, the University ended his contract after rumors that Barrett encouraged students to read materials blaming neoconservative Zionists for 9/11 elicited backlash from conservative Wisconsin politicians and incited a heated debate over academic freedom. For Barrett, 9/11 is a focal point. He correctly criticizes the widespread surveillance and wars waged against Muslim countries and attacks on Muslims in the United States in the wake of 9/11. Yet, even his most levelheaded sounding critiques always revert back to Israeli or Zionist control underpinning it all. In a March 2017 American Free Press article, Barrett says neoconservative Zionists are responsible for 9/11.4 Four years earlier, Barrett appeared on Press TV, Iran’s conservative state-sponsored first English-language TV network, saying, “Al Qaeda is Israeli and the state of Israel is a branch of Al Qaeda.”5 Untethered from the university, Barrett continued to advance and communicate his theories. He co-founded the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, an online group that claims to offer evidence on how 9/11 was an inside job. This solidified his place within the “9/11 Truth” Movement,6 which straddles segments of the U.S. Hard Right and Left. After Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured more than 20 in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California in 2015, Barrett called it “a Hoax created by Israel.”7 He said the attack was orchestrated by “intelligence agencies linked to the Israeli Mossad.” He continued, “all of these have been falsely blamed on radical Muslims.”

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