How an American Right-Wing Conspiracy Traveled to Egypt and Has People Thinking Obama Is in Deep with the Muslim Brotherhood
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Selling Egypt on the sleeper cell
In November 2012, the formerly pro-Mubarak Egyptian tabloid Rose El-Yousef introduced millions of Egyptians to Elibiary, naming him and five other influential Muslim-American political activists as secret Brotherhood operatives. “I asked my mom what this paper was and she said she used to read it back in the 60’s,” Elibiary told me. “It was for stay at home wives, kind of a National Enquirer type magazine. And all of the sudden I noticed this [conspiracy] stuff about me was playing in opposition circles.”
The article exasperated US Ambassador to Egypt Ann Patterson, prompting her to issue a strongly worded condemnation. Rose El-Yousef’s editor refused to retract the story, however, demanding that Patterson meet him in his office for a private discussion.
Back in the US, Islamophobes were overjoyed by the development. An authentically Arab newspaper had seemingly validated what they always believed but could never prove, and had forced the Obama administration on the defensive. Stephen Emerson ran a translated version of the Rose El-Yousef article on his Investigative Project on Terrorism website while neocon agitator David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag published a lengthy post celebrating the article’s publication, claiming it merely “let the facts about the six men speak for themselves.”
In January, as Egypt’s political crisis deepened, Elibiary said the sleeper cell conspiracy began gaining traction within revolutionary youth groups like the April 6 movement. I had been in Cairo for several weeks by this time, and though I never encountered the sleeper cell theory, I was constantly asked whether Obama had secretly given billions to the Muslim Brotherhood to settle Palestinian refugees from Gaza in the Sinai Peninsula. When I investigated the story, I could find no trace of it in any credible news outlet. Indeed, it was a fabrication introduced by anti-Morsi private media to cast Obama as a crypto-Islamist.
“These stories had spread like wildfire in order to explain why Obama wasn't with them,” Elibiary explained. “The opposition claimed they were the true representatives of ‘the people’ and since they're anti-Morsi, Obama should be with them in overthrowing Morsi. And when they went searching for reasons why Obama wasn't doing that, it had to be because he was either Muslim Brotherhood himself or because he was misled by MB operatives.”
Legitimizing the coup
When the Egyptian military ousted Morsi on July 3, many Egyptians who had opposed the President believed they had regained control over their destiny and could right the ship of the revolution. But they had underestimated their opponents, who mobilized their massive base for a constant series of anti-coup demonstrations and pitched gigantic protest encampments around Cairo.
The military had attempted to shut down unfriendly media like Al Jazeera, but it could not suppress coup opponents from disseminating their message. Then the killings began, culminating with an August 14 assault on a pro-Morsi sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa neighborhood that left over 600 dead, with many perishing after police torched a field hospital where the wounded sought shelter.
The Obama administration’s condemnation of the massacre heightened anti-American resentment among the pro-military masses. They have been kept on a steady diet of propaganda by channels like OnTV, which now run banners on screen that read, “Egypt Fighting Terrorism,” and set footage of the attack on the Rabaa sit-in to the soundtrack of “Rocky.” OnTV recently rebroadcast a lengthy Fox News segment featuring the right-wing columnist Ralph Peters railing against the Muslim Brotherhood. On these channels, casualty counts are never cited and massacred civilians are never shown. Either you’re with the “terrorists,” or you’re against them.