Propaganda Alert: “Rise of ISIS” [Review]

Want to understand terrorism? Want to understand ISIS? Want to get a better idea of what America’s policy should be in the Middle East? Don’t read this book.

“Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore” by Jay Sekulow doesn’t offer any good information on ISIS. In fact, only two chapters in the book deal with ISIS at all. The rest deal with Hamas, Israel and various arguments about why America killing civilians is okay.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t believe me? Look at this discussion of a terrorist using a human shield.

“Moreover, as a war criminal, he [the terrorist] was legally responsible for all the harm that resulted from his mortar attacks, but the deaths that resulted when American forces used their right of self defense. In other words, if American forces fired and the child died, the terrorist would be legally responsible for the child’s death.”

The book is littered with explanations of why American and Israeli forces killing civilians is fine, even legally acceptable. Sekulow is essentially an apologist for indiscriminate drone strikes and Israel firing into Palestinian territory because Hamas fired first. Yes, because Hamas fired into civilian territory, the far more equipped and high tech and powerful Israeli military is totally justified in firing on civilian targets. The law says so.

Look. I’m not going to argue the legal merits of Sekulow’s arguments. He argues before the Supreme Court, is the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (a conservative law firm). I’m not an idiot.

But the morality of his arguments is highly suspect. “He hit me first” isn’t a good reason for violence when children are saying it. Why is it okay when it’s countries? One review I read of the book from the Raven Foundation explains the problem with this very well.

“If you feel like you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole, you have. It’s the inevitable desperate scramble for moral footing as enemies begin to resemble each other more and more. As René Girard, the founder of mimetic theory, explains, reciprocity or the imitation of enemies as they return violence for violence, “can be seen only by someone who is outside the conflict because from the inside you must always believe in your difference and respond more and more quickly and forcefully. From the outside, the adversaries look like what they are: simple doubles.” (Battling to the End, page 14) From where Sekulow stands, squarely inside the conflict, he insists more and more stridently on his difference from ISIS even as he grows more and more like them. By seeking to justify his violence as good while condemning the violence of his enemy, Sekulow has fallen victim to an immoral equivalency of his own creation.”

I honestly can’t explain it any better than that.

So the book is propaganda in that respect, but there is a more obvious aspect in which it is propaganda. Sekulow, a noted conservative, takes almost as much space in this book slamming the United Nations and “leftists” as he does ISIS. But whereas ISIS gets two chapters, the discussion of Sekulow’s political enemies goes through the whole book. Here are a few examples:

“The U.N. and its leftist friends watch Hamas use human shields and blame Israel when civilians die.

“The U.N. and its leftist friends discover that Hamas has been hiding rockets in U.N. facilities, and then applaud as U.N. officials hand those rockets back to Hamas.

“The U.N. and its leftist friends watch as Hamas uses its facilities as bases for terror tunnels and then booby-traps U.N. facilities to kill Israeli soldiers, and find no fault.

“The U.N. appoints obviously biased ‘scholars’ to investigate alleged Israeli ‘war crimes’ and the international left uses the results of that biased investigation to deprive Israel of its most basic right to self-defense.

“And lest you think this campaign to demonize and restrict Israel applies only to our closest Middle East ally and friend – and not to American forces – think again. By attacking Israel, the U.N. and the international left are trying to establish an entirely new ‘law of war’ that would be used to try to tie America’s hands as it fights terror at home and abroad. These new rules and regulations would be used to brand our own soldiers as war criminals.” (pg. 11)

Here’s another one:

“It’s important to go through Hamas’s actions and Israel’s response chapter and verse. The left has become all too good at simply reciting lurid casualty statistics, as if that proves Israel’s or America’s crimes. But in war – as always – facts matter. And as John Adams said, ‘Facts are stubborn things.'”

And one more:

“Hamas’s actions violate and mock the principles of the law of war, whereas Israel’s actions seek at all times to comply with the spirit and letter of the law. The U.N., the Red Cross, and even – on occasion – the Obama administration have lost their own moral authority and credibility by siding with Hamas and advancing the jihadists’ interests and narrative of war.”

Yes, Sekulow’s enemies are the United Nations, the Red Cross (yes, you read that right) and President Obama. Reading this book is sometimes difficult because of the accounts of horrific acts of violence, but even that pales in comparison to his discussion of the real enemy. Sekulow’s real enemy is the “leftists.”

Honestly, I have never read a more partisan, more biased book in my life. Sekulow himself loses all moral authority when he makes a “he hit me first” argument. He loses all moral authority by using the horror of terrorism to scare people into hating the United Nations, the Red Cross and Obama. How he can argue that he is a credible moral arbiter is beyond me.

In short, this book is a lie. The title promises a discussion of ISIS, but what you really get is a discussion of Hamas. You expect maybe a history, a policy discussion, or an academic look at the situation with ISIS. You get a case for hating “leftists.” This book is an unconscionable piece of propaganda and Sekulow should be ashamed.


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