Saturday, January 22, 2011

French FM Accosted on her Way into Gaza


by AP

A crowd of furious Palestinian protesters have tried to block the French foreign minister on her way into the Gaza Strip, jumping on her vehicle and lying on the road.

Dozens of protesters surrounded Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's convoy and tried to block her passage through the Erez Crossing from Israel on Friday. The protesters were relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

They were angry about comments made by Alliot-Marie on Thursday in support of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas militants in Gaza since 2006.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said her comments reflected a "total bias toward Israel."

Hamas police eventually dispersed the protesters and allowed her through.

Original URL:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/21/AR2011012100575.html

AP

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Column One: Israel as the Banana Republic


by Caroline Glick

Two documents reported on this week shed a troubling light on the US government’s attitude toward Israel.

The first is a 27-page FBI search warrant affidavit from 2004 targeting then-senior AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen, published Wednesday in The Washington Times.

The second is WikiLeaks’ leaked secret State Department cable from October 2008 signed by then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice directing US officials to spy on Israel.

Both indicate that in certain quarters of the American government, Israel is viewed as at best a banana republic and at worst an enemy of the US.

The text of the FBI affidavit directed against Rosen makes clear that the FBI had no particular reason to suspect that he was an Israeli agent or was harming US national security. Rosen’s activities during his tenure as AIPAC’s senior lobbyist as described in the affidavit – meeting with government officials, journalists and Israeli diplomats – were precisely the type of activities that lobbyists in Washington routinely engage in.

Despite this, the FBI followed Rosen for five years and indicted him and his AIPAC colleague Keith Weissman on felony charges under the all-but-forgotten 1917 Espionage Act. The FBI probe and subsequent trial harmed AIPAC’s reputation, destroyed both men’s careers, and did untold damage to the reputation of both the State of Israel and its American Jewish supporters. That it took five years for the Justice Department to drop these outrageous charges is a testament to the strength of the FBI’s commitment to criminalizing American Jewish advocates of a strong US-Israel alliance.

And then there is Rice’s secret cable. Just days before the 2008 presidential elections, the secretary of state instructed US diplomats in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA to conduct a massive espionage operation against Israel. The sought-for information covered all aspects of Israel’s political system, society, communications infrastructures and the IDF.

Regarding the IDF, for instance, among other things, diplomats and spies were asked to gather intelligence on planned Israeli military operations against the Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria, and to probe the attitudes of military commanders.

They were also told to gather information on “IDF units, equipment, maintenance levels, training, morale, and operational readiness[;] IDF tactics, techniques and procedures for conducting conventional and unconventional counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations[; and] Israeli assessment of the impact of reserve duty in the territories on IDF readiness.”

As for political leaders, among other things, Rice instructed diplomats and spies to provide detailed information about government plans; influences on politicians; how politicians decide to launch military strikes; what Israel’s leaders think about the US; and much more.

Rice also sought information about various aspects of Israeli society. She instructed US diplomats and spies to gather information on everything from “Information on and motivations for any increased Israeli population emigration from Israel” to detailed information on Israeli “settlers” in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

Regarding the “settlers,” among other things, Rice wanted information on “Divisions among various settlement groups[;] details on settlement-related budgets and subsidies[;] settlers’ relationships with the Israeli political and military establishment including their lobbying and settlement methods.”

Rice expressed deep interest as well in all details related to Israel’s military and nonmilitary communications infrastructure. For instance, she directed US officials to gather information on “Current specifications, vulnerabilities, capabilities, and planned upgrades to national telecommunications infrastructure, networks, and technologies used by government and military authorities, intelligence and security services, and the public sector.”

Finally, Rice wanted personal data on Israeli leaders. She asked for “official and personal phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses of principal civilian and military leaders.”

TAKEN SIDE-BY-SIDE, the first striking aspect of the US’s fabricated Israeli spy scandal on the one hand and its massive espionage operation against Israel on the other hand is the shocking hypocrisy of it all.

But hypocrisy isn’t the real issue. The real issue exposed by the documents is that the US is carrying out a deeply hostile policy against Israel in the face of massive public support for Israel in the US.

That is, whereas two-thirds of Americans support Israel, a minority constituency in the US government treats Israel with scorn and hatred.

And the question that arises from this is how is this minority able to get away with it? Part of the answer was exposed this week in the aftermath of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s move on Monday morning to break ranks with the Labor Party. To understand how the two issues are related it is important to understand the plight of Labor since the demise of the peace process with the PLO in 2000.

Since the peace process ended with the beginning of the Palestinian terror war in September 2000, the overwhelming majority of Israelis have viewed Labor’s policies of appeasement at all cost as dangerous and wrong. That is, since 2000, Labor’s policies have been the policies of the political fringe. This situation has only grown worse for Labor since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza and victory in the Palestinian elections held in the wake of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

Despite the fact that its policies are hugely unpopular, two factors have enabled Labor to continue to present itself as a mainstream ruling party.

The first factor has been the media. As has been their practice since the birth of modern Israel, since the demise of the peace process, the media have helped the likes of Labor by demonizing the Right, and rightist politicians and particularly the Likud. Working hand in glove with leftist politicians, the media have implemented the politics of personal destruction against right-wing leaders. By demonizing the likes of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, they have rendered the social cost of supporting Likud and the Right too high for many Israelis to bear.

At the same time, the media have colluded with the Left to present leftist leaders as earthy, heroic, sophisticated and responsible statesmen. By keeping the content of their policies firmly out of the discussion and framing the debate instead around personal attacks and symbols, the media have successfully kept rightist leaders on the defensive and shielded leftist politicians from substantive attacks on their radical policies.

The second reason that Labor was able to retain its mantle as a ruling party is that it has enjoyed the energetic support of the State Department and European governments, both of which support its radical policies.

Until the formation of the Netanyahu government two years ago, Labor was the State Department’s favorite political party. Labor leaders from Shimon Peres down were the objects of constant attention and praise. Labor’s leaders in turn were happy to help the Americans and Europeans hide their basic hostility towards Israel by claiming that their anti-Israel policies were actually pro-Israel policies.

So it was that in 2003, Labor leaders actively colluded with the State Department in drafting the so-called road map plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace despite then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s opposition to the plan.

Labor’s importance took a hit with the formation of Kadima in late 2005. Comprised of newly minted leftists from Likud led by Sharon and veteran leftists from Labor like Peres, Kadima inherited Labor’s mantle as the Left’s new ruling party.

Labor was able to retain its relevance to the US by joining Ehud Olmert’s coalition and advocating even more radical policies than those advocated by Olmert and Tzipi Livni.

But then Likud and the Right won the 2009 elections. Kadima, led by Livni, went into the opposition and Labor, under Barak, joined the coalition.

As head of the opposition, Livni has become ever more vocal in advocating the policies of the radical Left and the Obama administration. Livni has placed the blame for the absence of the peace process and for the Obama administration’s sour relations with Israel squarely and entirely on Netanyahu’s shoulders.

For his part, Barak has been stuck in an untenable situation. To justify his partnership with Netanyahu, he worked closely with the Obama administration and actively lobbied Netanyahu to adopt the US’s favored positions. The Obama administration rewarded him by regularly hosting him in Washington and openly extolling him as its chosen “Israeli foreign minister.”

But given both his own party’s radicalism and the Obama administration’s hostility towards Netanyahu, Barak was never able to fully satisfy either his party or the Americans. He was never able to move to the left of Livni.

According to Haaretz and to Labor leaders who opposed Barak, the end of the line for Barak came in early January with Haaretz’s publication of a report claiming that the Obama administration had soured on Barak due to his failure to convince Netanyahu to extend the Jewish construction ban in Judea and Samaria for an additional 90 days.

Livni, Haaretz reported, had replaced Barak as the Obama administration’s favorite Israeli politician.

Since the article was published, Barak could no longer maintain the contradiction between Labor’s radical policies and its protestations to ruling party status. Without American support, there was no way to keep Labor together.

This is why, when he announced his break with Labor on Monday morning, Barak explained that Labor had become a radical party that was home to post-Zionists who believe that Israel alone is to blame for the absence of peace. The post-Zionists rejected him when he lost his international support.

So he had nowhere to go but into Netanyahu’s waiting Zionist arms.

This is also why Livni and Kadima have so harshly attacked Barak. In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, Livni – whose political career owes entirely to her decision to betray Likud voters – called Barak’s split from Labor “the dirtiest act” in history. More importantly, the woman who claims that Netanyahu is solely to blame for the absence of peace with the Palestinians and that he is wrong not to bow to every US demand protested, “For Barak to call whoever wants peace post- Zionist is unheard of.”

THIS BRINGS us back to the FBI’s anti-Israel witch hunt and Rice’s spy cable.

Barak lost his ability to serve as the puppet of the anti-Israel wing of the US government because he was unable to both serve under Netanyahu and overthrow him. By pressuring Barak to do the impossible, the anti-Israel officials in the US government inadvertently caused the demise of the Labor Party.

However, with Kadima under Livni, these officials can take heart. Their support for Livni makes her powerful. Owing to their support, Livni is able to maintain her control over the largest party in the Knesset.

And as long as Livni remains both powerful and loyal to their agenda, those forces in the US government that despise the Jewish state will be able to rest easy. Although the majority of Americans want their government to support Israel, shielded by Kadima, these US government officials will be able to continue to implement policies that treat Israel with the contempt due to a banana republic.

Original URL: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=204576

Caroline Glick

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

'Hizbullah Rule Will Turn Lebanon into Gaza'


by JPost.com Staff

Lebanese Christian leader Samir Geagea on Saturday warned that if the country's new cabinet is led by Hizbullah candidate Omar Karami the situation "will be similar to Gaza."

Geagea said Lebanon, like the Gaza Strip after it was taken over by Hamas in 2007, would be isolated and ostracized by the international community and Arab world, with the exception of Syria.

Geagea stated that the Lebanese economy would suffer greatly from a Hizbullah-led government.

"Is anyone wondering what the situation of the Lebanese lira will be if the other team comes to power?" Geagea said during a press conference.

Geagea said that not only Hizbullah, but also Syria was behind the push to make Karami premier.

The Christian leader accused Hizbullah and its allies of rejecting Saad Hariri as prime minister, not because he is Sunni or allegedly corrupt, but rather because he is independent and rejected pressure to denounce the UN tribunal into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Geagea expressed his support of Hariri's push for the premiership of Lebanon, saying "we will do everything possible to bring back Hariri as prime minister."

On Friday, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, a potential kingmaker in Lebanon, threw his support behind Hizbullah, a major boost to the Shi'ite group that brought down the country's Western-backed government last week.

Original URL:http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=204784

JPost.com Staff

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Human Rights Report: PA Forces Using Torture for Years


by Khaled Abu Toameh

Original URL: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=204763

Khaled Abu Toameh


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Venezuelan Opposition Seeks Support in Washington DC


by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

Four political members of the Venezuelan opposition flew to Washington to meet with Jose Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the Organization of the American States (OAS), to ask him to adopt "appropriate measures necessary to achieve normalization of democratic institutions in Venezuela." The OAS, an international organization headquartered in Washington DC, was established to achieve among its member states, as stated in Article 1 of its Charter, "an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence." Today it is comprised of the 35 independent states of the Americas.

The four leaders, part of the Democratic Unified Panel (MUD), who left to Washington were Luis Aquiles Moreno, a member of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) for Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) party; MP Omar Barboza of Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time) party; MP Ismael Garcia, for Podemos (For Social Democracy) party, and MP Ramón José Medina, MUD's international relations coordinator. Before meeting with Insulza, the Venezuelan MPs convened with Santiago Canton, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They also meet separately with several ambassadors from member states of the OAS, including the United States and Canada.

During the meeting with Insulza, the four leaders handed him a six-page letter stating that the Enabling Law that Venezuela's current president, Hugo Chavez establish after recent floods there, and which gives him near-dictatorial powers, violates the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS); the Venezuelan government is "violating the constitutional order; disregarding the rule of law, disrespecting human rights; violating the principles of separation and independence of public powers; ignoring popular sovereignty, and therefore violating several provisions of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other international declarations and treaties." The OAS is therefore being asked to act responsibly to "take the country's institutions back to normal."

In a declaration by telephone to the opposition media Globovision, Ismael Garcia said: "We are here because as Venezuelans, we need to resolve matters for our country by ourselves, in a sovereign way. So we are meeting with the Secretary General and ambassadors from member states, asking for their help". Pro-government MPs declared that the four MPs' visit to the OAS was unpatriotic and contrary to the interests of the Republic.

Insulza had already expressed his concern over the Enabling Law, which allows Chavez to bypass the congress for 18 months. His preoccupations are also shared by the State Department. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, who described the Enabling Law as "undemocratic."

The Venezuela FM vigorously condemned Insulza's statements against the Enabling Law. "The people and Government of Venezuela will not allow that the OAS Secretary General, a body subordinated to its Member States, act as a Captaincy General of the US Department of State to impose an agenda of aggression against the Venezuelan institutions and democracy," he said.

The following are excerpts from the pro-Chavez paper Correo del Orinoco, commenting on the visit of the four Venezuelan opposition MPs to the OAS headquartesr in Washington DC:

January 14, 2011

Opposition Lawmakers Fly to Washington

Venezuela's National Assembly initiated its first regular session […] with much anticipated debate and interaction between the 40% minority right-wing opposition bloc and the 60% pro-Chavez socialist majority. But a group of opposition parliamentarians were absent from their first day at work.

Instead of starting their new job in house, opposition lawmakers Ismael Garcia, Omar Barboza and others chose to fly to Washington and meet with counterparts in the US Capitol and the Organization of American States to seek their aid in toppling the Chavez administration.

The Inter-American-Charter

In November, elected opposition legislators sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, requesting a meeting to discuss "issues related to the situation of Venezuela's democracy" and the possibility of "invoking the Inter-American Charter" against the Venezuelan government.

Articles 17-20 of the Charter outline the actions to be taken by the OAS: "In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state,." which include sending special missions to the country to investigate, and convening extraordinary sessions of the Permanent Council and the General Assembly to discuss the situation, and suspending the country from participation in the Inter-American system. The latter occurred in the case of Honduras in 2009, after the coup d'etat that ousted President Manuel Zelaya from power. The Charter can only be invoked by a member state or the Secretary General.

Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS): The Enabling Act in Venezuela is Anti-Democratic

[…] Insulza reiterated in December that he was "concerned" about the Enabling Act and its "threat to the separation of powers" in Venezuela. He also indicated that he was "talking to other member states, who also expressed concern" about the "situation in Venezuela". Last week, Insulza stated in an interview with Associated Press that he believed the Enabling Act in Venezuela was "anti-democratic, unconstitutional and a violation of the Inter-American Charter," opening the door for opposition forces to press for further actions to be taken.

Simultaneous to Insulza's statements, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, declared, during a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, that the laws passed in Venezuela, including the Enabling Act, were "anti-democratic" and "violated the Inter-American Charter". The similar language is no coincidence: The "member state" concerned about the situation in Venezuela is the United States.

Venezuelan FM: The OAS is Subservient to the US

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued a statement last Friday rejecting Insulza's declarations as "interference" in Venezuelan internal affairs and a sign of his "subservience" to the United States government. "The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela fully condemns the distasteful declarations made by Jose Miguel Insulza regarding Venezuelan internal affairs, which constitute a new, abusive and opportunistic act of interference that discredits even more the Secretary General of the OAS."

"The mistaken declarations made by Insulza regarding the Enabling Act approved by the Venezuelan National Assembly...were produced hours after, and on exactly the same terms, as those from the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela -- prolonging the sad role of the Secretary General of the OAS as a transmission-belt for the interventionist policies of US domination throughout the region."

Pro-Chavez Lawmakers Reject OAS' Statement

The Venezuelan legislature issued a similar statement on Tuesday, during its first session of the year. "We categorically reject the declarations made by Insulza," proclaimed the 98 socialist lawmakers. All 67 opposition legislators abstained from voting on the statement. Enabling Acts exist in most constitutions around the world and generally are used in times of emergency to facilitate the Executive Branch by giving it powers to decree laws as a rapid response to urgent situations. In this case, the Enabling Act was requested by President Chavez in December to respond to the nationwide crisis caused by the heaviest rainfall Venezuela has experienced in over 40 years, which not only left nearly 40 people dead, but over 130,000 homeless. Agricultural production was destroyed in several regions, and still thousands more homes were left in risky situations, causing the government to respond by immediately placing families in temporary shelters set up in government institutions, including the presidential palace where Chavez resides. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, the Enabling Act does not limit or inhibit the regular functioning of the Venezuelan parliament; it is merely complementary. The National Assembly can continue to legislate as usual, even on the same matters authorized to the Executive, which are stipulated in the bill. […]

Correo del Orinoco (Venezuela)

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1820/venezuelan-opposition-washington-support

Anna Mahjar-Barducci

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hamas and Fatah Take Their War to Hospitals


by Khaled Abu Toameh

Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip have become the latest victims of the ongoing power struggle between the two Palestinian governments of Fatah and Hamas.

Until recently, the two governments used to blame Israel for the shortage of various types of medicine in the Gaza Strip: spokesmen for the Hamas and Fatah governments claimed that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was depriving the ill of many badly-needed medicines.

This week, the two rival Palestinian governments held each other -- not Israel -- responsible for the health crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian government in the West Bank, headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, announced that Hamas had been stealing or hiding most of the medicine that was sent to the Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians are believed to have died because of the lack of drugs and medical equipment.

According to the Fayyad government, Hamas militiamen have been confiscating shipments of medical supplies donated by the international communities and later offering the medical supplies for sale.

The medical supplies are sent first to the West Bank, where the Fayyad government is responsible for distributing them to Palestinians, including those living in the Gaza Strip.

Some Palestinians residents of the Gaza Strip and Western aid workers have confirmed the Fayyad government's allegations, saying that Hamas has indeed been confiscating most of the medical supplies that are sent from the West Bank – putting the lives of many patients at risk.

Hamas, for its part, has retorted by leveling similar charges against the Fayyad government. According to Hamas spokesmen, if anyone is to blame for the severe crisis in the Gaza Strip's hospitals and clinics it is the Fayyad government.

Hamas claims that the Fayyad government has been using the medicine to "blackmail" Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in a bid to undermine the Islamic movement's regime.

A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip accused Fayyad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of using medical supplies as a tool to fight Hamas and punish Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians have paid a heavy price because of the continued power struggle between their two governments – a dispute that has claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians over the past three and a half years.

Hamas and Fatah have been fighting their war on many fronts – at universities, colleges, mosques, labor unions, media outlets and detention centers.

In the West Bank, Palestinian security forces arrest almost every day countless people on suspicion of being affiliated with Hamas. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas has also been cracking down on Fatah, throwing many of the faction's supporters into prison.

Now it seems that Hamas and Fatah have decided to take their battle to a new front: hospitals and clinics. Palestinian patients have become the new victims of the dispute between the two sides.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1819/hamas-fatah-war-hospitals

Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

What Palestinians Are Saying Online


by Jonathan Schanzer

During the past decade, Washington has repeatedly failed to gauge the extent of Palestinian anti-peace sentiments with devastating consequences. The July 2000 Camp David summit triggered the worst wave of Palestinian violence since 1948 (euphemized as the "al-Aqsa Intifada"); the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January 2006 led to a victory for the Hamas Islamist group. Now that President Obama has announced his ambitious timeline for Israeli-Palestinian peace, could the administration be rushing headlong into yet another diplomatic failure?

A recent nine-week study by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) of online Palestinian political sentiments suggests that this could be the case.[1] Palestinian Internet users often derided diplomatic initiatives, and their discussion of the peace process was overwhelmingly negative. More alarmingly, the study revealed several troubling trends among Palestinian social media users—notably the prevalence of Islamism, fissures between factions, and the inability of liberal reformers to be heard—that cast doubt on both the prospects for peace and the likelihood that a democratic Palestinian state will emerge.

Background

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice excused the administration's failure to anticipate Hamas's landslide victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections as "not having a good enough pulse" of Palestinian society and politics.

For years, reliance on faulty poll data and input from "experts" on the ground has thwarted Washington's ability to take the Palestinian pulse. The George W. Bush administration's decision to support the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006, for example, was due, in no small part, to polling data that all but guaranteed a Fatah victory over Hamas. The polls were produced primarily by Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Research, which conducted three studies of Palestinian opinion in June, September, and December 2005. These indicated that Fatah's support among Palestinians ranged from 44 percent to 50 percent while support for Hamas ranged from 32 to 33 percent.[2] "With each new Shikaki poll," Middle East scholar Martin Kramer noted, "U.S. policymakers grew more lax when it came to setting conditions for Hamas participation."[3]

Reliance on these polls proved a grave error, as Hamas won the election by a landslide. The Islamist faction, best known for acts of violence against Israel, claimed 76 of 132 seats (74 under the Hamas banner, plus 2 independents), granting it the right to form a government.[4] In the end, more than one million Palestinians cast their votes in what observers considered a relatively free and fair election—a rarity in the Arab world.

What went wrong? Shikaki's critics alleged that his polls may have been part of Fatah's election strategy to project its strength.[5] But whatever it was that led Washington astray, the outcome of the elections made clear that the U.S. government lacked a reliable read on the Palestinian street. As former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said of Hamas's victory in congressional testimony, "I've asked why nobody saw it coming … It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."[6]

Four years later, Washington may still be unable to assess Palestinian allegiances in the West Bank and Gaza, and the stakes are even higher.

General Trends

Despite the fact that their Internet access is free of outside manipulation, most Palestinian activists do not reveal their names online. Indeed, few Palestinians maintain personal Facebook or Twitter accounts, presumably to ensure that their viewpoints or posts cannot be attributed to them directly. Rather, the majority of Palestinian web users engage in political debate on impersonal discussion boards. Writing under pseudonyms, they maintain anonymity while discussing the most heated issues of the day without fear of retribution.

The bulk of Palestinian political discussion online takes place on these web forums, which typically provide space for like-minded people to express their views. For example, some are pro-Hamas (paldf.net) whereas others are pro-Fatah (palvoice.com). And while some sites feature adversarial posts, such as pro-Hamas users posting on Fatah sites, most are dominated by sympathizers of the owner faction.

In a sense, the tribalism and factionalism that traditionally dominate Palestinian society can be observed in the form of similar groupings online. Groups allow individuals to break with their thinking, but only to a point.

Reform Factions

The survey sought, inter alia, to shed light on the desire for political reform in the Palestinian territories, "third party" alternatives to Hamas and Fatah, and nonviolent or moderate political ideologies. It found some discussion about such issues among Palestinian Internet users in the West Bank but did not identify any discussion threads that addressed this issue in the Gaza Strip—an apparent affirmation that Hamas does not welcome secular reform parties under its rule.

The now-defunct Third Way (al-Tariq al-Thalith) was, until 2007, probably the most recognizable Palestinian reform faction. It advocated land for peace with Israel in accordance with U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, renounced violence, and rejected the implementation of Islamic law (Shari'a) in Palestinian society. The faction also called for a total overhaul of the Palestinian security apparatus. Formed in 2005 by current Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad, its founding can be attributed to a rejection of both Fatah's corruption and Hamas's extremism. In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Fayyad and former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi headed the Third Way list but won only two of the Legislative Council's 132 seats.[7] The faction folded when Fayyad became prime minister in June 2007. Since then, world leaders have come to view him as crucial to Palestinian reform.[8]

In the Palestinian web forums, Fayyad dominated much of the discussion but was generally described as prime minister—not a reformer. Discussion about Fayyad was divisive, attracting intense criticism from both supporters and opponents of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

For example, some forums circulated a pro-Hamas Palestine Information Center article titled "Salam Fayyad: Master or Puppet?" praising the prime minister's intellect but warning that he lacked the political expertise to lead effectively.[9] Radicalized forum users also re-posted editorials claiming that Fayyad's government has no constitutional legitimacy.[10] Others noted that Fayyad's role as financial gatekeeper had sparked tension among Fatah leaders as had his plans to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 without Hamas's involvement.[11] Another widely circulated article, "When a Fighter Turns into a Spy," criticized Fayyad's "economic peace" for turning "resistance fighters" in the West Bank into "tools of the occupation."[12] When Fayyad condemned the June 2010 attack that killed an Israeli police officer in Hebron,[13] he prompted critical comments on the pro-Hamas paldf.net website and the Iraq-focused, jihadist site alburaq.info.[14]

Whereas Fatah sympathizers used their forums as a platform to criticize their opponents (especially Hamas), few users, with the exception of a handful of bloggers, expressed viewpoints conducive to political reforms in the West Bank. Indeed, the lack of positive sentiment or even mentions of Palestinian reform was one of the most important findings of the study.

This runs counter to Fayyad's image in the West where he is widely revered for revitalizing the West Bank, reforming state institutions, and presiding over unprecedented Palestinian economic growth. So much so that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman coined the term "Fayyadism" to describe his approach to Palestinian governance: basing legitimacy on transparent and efficient administration, rather than the rejectionism, personality cults, and security services that marked Yasser Arafat's regime.[15]

Yet, online discussions indicate that Palestinians often regard Fayyad as a Western puppet in general and a collaborator with Washington and Jerusalem in particular.[16] Some Palestinians believe Fayyad remains in office only to please Western donors. This suggests that the higher quality of life and political changes Fayyad has delivered to the Palestinians may be less important to them than the perceived need for conflict with Israel.

Islamism among Palestinians

While political reform lacks support in the Palestinian web environment, Islamism is alive and well with Hamas maintaining a particularly strong presence. Palestine's Dialogue Forum is a popular forum that draws high traffic from readers of Hamas's official media page, the Palestinian Center for Media. Hamas also maintains a strong presence on the "I'm the Muslim" Network for Islamic Discussion, which hosts heated debates among jihadists. It also regularly posts press releases from Fatah's armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, and the global Islamist group Hizb at-Tahrir. Hamas is also active on al-Jazeera Talk, which maintains a steady presence of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, as well as Salafists and al-Qaeda sympathizers.

Palestinians on these forums expressed dissatisfaction about the Hamas-Fatah conflict,[17] but Hamas supporters only occasionally engaged their Fatah foes on Fatah forums. More often, they used the forums to reinforce their own opinions. Palestinian Internet users slammed Fatah for its continued reliance on the United States, Jordan, and Israel to maintain security in the West Bank.[18] They also accused the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority of torture and murder, denigrated West Bank police as "Abbas's militias," and referred to the detainment of Hamas members as "kidnappings."[19]

Rather than seeking unity with their more secular foes, many online Hamas supporters occupied themselves with the challenge of reconciling Hamas's ideology with that of more radical users. While numerous Salafist sites (mojahden.net, atahadi.com, hanein.info, alrepat.com, alqimmah.net, and almedad.com) criticized Hamas, debates between Salafist sympathizers and Hamas supporters were more commonly found on larger, ideologically diverse forums such as aljazeeratalk.net and muslm.net.

During the monitoring period, political sub-forums on aljazeeratalk.net hosted heated debates on questions of Islamic piety between Salafists and users who sympathize with Hamas and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. From time to time, one poster would declare another takfir (an accusation whereby one Muslim accuses another of apostasy).

Salafists and Hamas, however, showed no disagreement on the topic of Israel. It should come as no surprise, then, that the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks prompted a flurry of discussion on pro-Hamas sites wherein users generally agreed that the move "does not reflect the will of the Palestinian people."[20]

Online conversations reflecting Salafist[21] influence addressed a range of topics, first and foremost the prospect of violence against Israel in religious terms. In the views of many Salafist users, jihad is a legitimate method of resistance to Israel and an obligation for all Muslims as Israeli control over what they regard as Muslim lands merits violence.

Other issues that attracted Salafists' attention include the alleged corruption of Fatah leaders, coupled with the notion that they served as agents of the West; descriptions of Israeli "occupation" as part of a broader theological battlefield, including conflicts in other Muslim countries (such as Iraq and Afghanistan); the practice of takfir (declaring one's Islamic opponent an apostate) on less religiously-committed Palestinians; and the implementation of Shari'a in an eventual Palestinian state.

One particularly revealing discussion surrounded al-Qaeda's popularity among Palestinians. Palestinian users on aljazeeratalk.net wrote that they "respect" al-Qaeda but do not believe that Salafist ideology is popular among Palestinians. Others disagreed. One Palestinian forum member explicitly disavowed support for al-Qaeda, saying that he used to take pride in the group but that its supporters on the forum showed him that they "surpass even Fatah in their hatred for Hamas," prompting two other users based in the Palestinian territories to express similar views.[22]

There was also some evidence of friction between Salafists and Hamas. Many of the Salafi users on mojahden.net, atahadi.com, and almedad.com condemned Hamas for "waging war" against Salafists in Gaza, pointing to the bloody August 2009 clashes between the group and members of the Salafist faction Jund Ansar Allah (JAA) in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah.[23] Hamas supporters expressed anger that JAA had declared takfir on Hamas; JAA supporters denied that it had while Salafists criticized Hamas for cracking down on JAA operatives in Gaza. Forums at mojahden.net, atahadi.com, and almedad.com also proved fertile ground for Salafist Palestinians to express their ideologies and condemn Hamas for being "un-Islamic" and forsaking the fight against Israel in the interest of staying in power. Salafist users on muslm.net openly referred to Hamas leaders as infidels.

Several posts suggested deeper Salafist penetration of Palestinian society. The Salafist site alfaloja.net, for example, re-posted reports from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen had sent West Bank militants a guide detailing how to use a car engine to build a light aircraft that could be used to launch attacks against Israel.[24] A regular contributor on aljazeeratalk.net denied these allegations but acknowledged the existence of ties between al-Qaeda and certain Palestinian groups.[25]

Like the Salafists, Hamas supporters generally favored continued attacks against Israel. A handful of pro-Hamas users on aljazeeratalk.net and paldf.net even called for attacks from the West Bank. One user stated that rocket attacks from Gaza were no longer necessary since Gaza had been "liberated" after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the territory in 2005,[26] but this was a minority opinion.

One lively debate on paldf.net illuminated divisions over Hamas's strategy. Discussing the future of Hamas rule in Gaza, the group's online supporters disagreed over the wisdom of direct confrontation with Israel but ultimately discussed how Hamas should bring rival factions into the fight against Israel instead of clashing with them.[27]

In short, the Palestinian social media environment offers no indication that Hamas seeks peace with Israel. There were no scored posts on this topic on any of the pro-Hamas forums. Nor were there any posts attributed to pro-Hamas users on this topic on other web forums.

All in all, Palestinian Islamist activity online mirrors what many observers have already reported, namely, that Salafism has a growing number of adherents online and that rejectionism is the dominant position among Hamas users online, casting doubt on claims that the group privately wishes to negotiate peace with Jerusalem and Washington. Finally, Hamas remains entrenched in a civil war with Fatah and does not appear eager to end it, as evidenced by the repeated online attacks it has launched against the rival organization.[28]

Fatah

Relevant posts scored over the course of nine weeks reveal Fatah to be a faction in disarray. Indeed, the organization has undergone something of an identity crisis since the collapse of the Oslo process in 2000 and 2001.[29] From a political perspective, Fatah lacks leadership. From an ideological perspective, it lacks direction. Palestinian web users indicated this repeatedly on Fatah's two online forums: Voice of Palestine and Fatah Forum.

For example, the announcement that Mahmoud Abbas would meet with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during his June 2010 visit to the United States prompted anti-Fatah users to post scathing criticisms of both AIPAC and the Palestinian Authority president.[30] Fatah supporters largely ignored the visit until reports surfaced of Abbas's statement that he "does not deny the Jews' right to the land of Israel" (translated by major Arab news outlets as "right to land in Palestine"),[31] prompting discomfiture among Fatah's online supporters. Fatah users posted divisive comments on the Voice of Palestine site, lamenting Fatah's renunciation of armed resistance and even admitting that the movement is "in decline."[32]

Fatah supporters also weighed in on a Palestinian attack on an Israeli patrol in the West Bank town of Hebron that killed one Israeli police officer and wounded three others. They re-posted articles carrying the PA's condemnation of the attack even as Hamas supporters and other users accused the PA of "valuing Jews more than Palestinians."[33] Ironically, it was ultimately Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades that claimed responsibility for the attack (along with a new group called Martyrs of the Freedom Flotilla), highlighting the deep divisions within Fatah itself.[34]

On the issue of violence, Fatah supporters online fall into two camps of roughly even strength: those who support nonviolent means of protest and those who yearn for a return to the "Second (al-Aqsa) Intifada" of 2000-05. Whether this correlates to the way Fatah members actually view conflict with Israel will need to be verified.

Nonetheless, most Fatah supporters on the web embraced the notion that Israel was an enemy rather than a peace partner. One particularly popular post during the study period was a report that appeared on Fatah forums alleging that Israel seeks to "separate Gaza from the West Bank" and, thereby, "liquidate the Palestinian national project."[35] This, however, did not prevent these supporters from voicing loyalty to the Fatah leadership despite its engagement in negotiations with Israel.

The Peace Process

During the observation period, despite positive developments from the Palestinian perspective, a noticeable majority of Palestinian social media commentary on the peace negotiations was negative.

In his address to the Muslim world from Cairo on June 4, 2009, President Obama declared that the Palestinians' situation was "intolerable." [36] He has since pressed Israel to cease all development in the West Bank and placed an unprecedented emphasis on freezing construction in East Jerusalem. U.S.-Israel relations came under particular strain in March 2010 when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House. Amidst a disagreement over building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Obama reportedly humiliated the Israeli prime minister by walking out on the Israeli delegation to have dinner with his family.[37] While Netanyahu and Obama had a more cordial meeting in July,[38] Israelis continue to distrust the president. According to a March 2010 poll, 9 percent of Israelis said that Obama's administration is pro-Israel while 48 percent called it pro-Palestinian.[39] These sentiments likely hardened in July after the Obama administration upgraded the diplomatic status of the Palestinian Authority in Washington to that of a general delegation, which was largely viewed as a step toward Palestinian statehood.[40]

Yet despite these advances for the Palestinians, they showed little optimism online about the U.S.-led peace process. The study analyzed sentiment on a variety of topics, including religious and political reasons for rejecting the peace process; rationales for refusing to deal with Israel; mistrust of Israel's motives; the perception that peace talks are futile; mistrust of the United States as a negotiator; anger at the PA for "selling out the resistance"; and an overall unwillingness to compromise on key issues such as borders, settlements, and the right of return—the standard Palestinian and Arab euphemism for the demographic destruction of Israel.

Users on pro-Hamas forums such as mahjoob.com and paldf.net asserted that the return to peace talks "does not reflect the will of the Palestinian people" and decried the recent U.S. move to transfer $150 million to the PA as "bribery."[41] The website paldf.net, which is popular among supporters of Palestinian militant groups, served as a venue for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to post statements rejecting the resumption of negotiations.

Indeed, most users on a broad spectrum of Palestinian sites viewed violence as a legitimate alternative to negotiations and rejected Israel's political and territorial claims. Users on forums such as arab-land.net and the radical blog gulooha.blogspot.com distributed editorials expressing negative sentiments about the peace process by Egyptian columnist Fahmy Howeidy, as well as al-Quds al-Arabi editor Abdul Bari Atwan, who raised the specter of an "open intifada" in the West Bank.[42] An article on the Islamist website islamtoday.net echoed these sentiments, noting that an impasse in the peace process could turn into an "armed uprising."[43]

Palestinian Internet users often dismissed potentially positive diplomatic steps. Abbas's June 2010 visit to the U.S. prompted a flurry of negative responses, including pointedly derogatory comments surrounding his meeting with AIPAC.[44] And as also noted above, even on pro-Fatah sites including palvoice.com, Fatah members lamented their leaders' renunciation of armed resistance.[45] One popular posting (re-posted on the Arabic blog aggregator amin.org and the reform-leaning alhourriah.ps) asserted that Israel was incapable of "unilateral" peace due to a lack of political will and that the two-state solution was "on its deathbed"—meaning that the Palestinians needed to consider a one-state solution to the conflict.[46]

Conclusion

This examination of the Palestinian Internet social media environment found the following trends:

Many Palestinians do not support the efforts to achieve peace. Despite the Obama administration's recent push to bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and perhaps even help the Palestinians declare a state, not to mention its online efforts through a State Department initiative to win Palestinian hearts and minds,[47] Palestinian web users show a distinct lack of interest in peace. The language of rejectionism remains prevalent, commentary on peace talks is overwhelmingly negative, and potentially positive diplomatic steps are generally ignored.

Palestinian Salafism is on the rise. There is a small but distinct Salafist influence in the Palestinian online environment. Whether this translates to growing popularity on the ground in either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip remains a subject of debate. Yet Washington cannot discount the potential for cooperation between Salafists and Hamas.

Fatah, which currently represents Palestinians in the U.S.-led peace talks, is in disarray. Fatah's online supporters typically vilified Israel, and few expressed positive sentiments about peace. They break down into two factions of roughly equal strength: one that supports nonviolence, and one that seeks armed conflict and terrorism against Israel.

The Islamist Hamas shows little desire for a negotiated peace with Israel. While Hamas is not monolithic, nearly all of its supporters on the Internet continue to support violence against Israel. On this issue, Hamas showed no apparent disagreement with Salafists. On the contrary, Hamas's online supporters often seek common ground with these radical groups.

The three-year conflict between Hamas and Fatah is not likely to end soon. The two sides regularly trade barbs online, and the study found little evidence of rapprochement. Indeed, Hamas members appeared to be more interested in reconciling with Salafists than with Fatah members. Social media suggests that the Palestinian internecine conflict stemming from Hamas's violent 2007 takeover of Gaza remains a challenge to the Obama administration's peace plan.

Palestinian reform factions are weak. These groups have little influence online, raising red flags about institution building and liberalization. The lack of positive sentiment, or even mentions of Palestinian political reform, is striking. This raises troubling questions about the Obama administration's lack of emphasis on Palestinian political institutions as well as concerns about the viability of a Palestinian state if one is to be created.

Apparently displeased with the findings of this study, Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki has reportedly dismissed "the idea of having a representative sample by looking at the Internet" as "absolutely ridiculous."[48] Yet it is precisely because Palestinian polling data (including Shikaki's own) has been so wildly inaccurate that the need to gauge Palestinian public opinion by alternative means has become so urgent. Indeed, while it remains unclear how accurate social media is as a bellwether of Palestinian political beliefs, the administration should consider the extent to which these findings represent the broader Palestinian population, perhaps through additional long-term studies, preferably before Washington suffers more humiliating setbacks in its efforts to promote Middle East peace.

FDD Study Methodology

FDD selected ConStrat, a Washington, D.C.-based web analysis company, to collect data for this study. ConStrat used advanced technology usually employed on behalf of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to cull information from search engines, unstructured social media sites, YouTube, Twitter, social networks, wikis, and RSS feeds.

From May 3 through July 3, 2010, ConStrat viewed approximately 10,000 Palestinian social media entries and analyzed approximately 20 percent of them based on their relevancy. In the end, the company analyzed 1,788 statements contained within 1,114 unique posts across 996 threads written by 699 authors. When substantive discussion threads —positive or negative—matched our taxonomy on topics ranging from jihad to reform, we included them in our study. In short, the study surveyed the breadth of opinion on the Palestinian web in Arabic.

It was difficult to pinpoint the exact level of Internet usage among Palestinians. Freedom House estimates that only 4 percent of Palestinian houses have an Internet connection while the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that in 2009, 28.5 percent of Palestinian households had Internet access, though these statistics do not account for the widespread use of hundreds of Internet cafés in the Palestinian territories.

However, while social media users represent a small and better educated segment of Palestinian society, online social networks provide important political insights because they grant their users anonymity and freedom of expression. This is particularly true with regard to the Palestinian online environment, which is remarkably open, unlike that of the majority of the Arab world, as Israel provides the Palestinian territories with unfettered internet access.

FDD instructed ConStrat not to provide percentages for the sentiments and trends observed in this study. Indeed, we believed percentages would reinforce a disingenuous notion that ours was a statistical survey. The goal was simply to provide an accurate snapshot of what Palestinians were saying online during a nine-week period and share those results in an effort to prompt further study and exploration.

[1] Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz, "Palestinian Pulse: What Policymakers Can Learn from Palestinian Social Media," Federation for Defense of Democracies, Washington, D.C., Oct. 19, 2010.
[2] PSR Index of Polls: Polls conducted since the year 2000, Palestinian Center for Policy and Research, Ramallah, accessed Oct. 27, 2010.
[3] Martin Kramer, "Polls that Hid Hamas," Sandbox, Jan. 28, 2006.
[4] "Nata'ij al-Intikhabat at-Tashri'iyya 2006," Palestinian Central Elections Committee, Ramallah, Jan. 29, 2007.
[5] Kramer, "Polls that Hid Hamas."
[6] The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2006.
[7] Kevin Peraino, "Palestine's New Perspective," Newsweek, Sept. 4, 2009.
[8] Keir Prince, "Palestinian Authority Reform: Role of the International Community," Arab Reform Bulletin, Carnegie Endowment, Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2007.
[9] See, for example, "Salam Fayyad: Sayyid am Adah?" Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 8, 2010.
[10] See, for example, "Mufawadat Tahn al-Ma," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 4, 2010, and Ard al-Arab, accessed May 4, 2010.
[11] "Fatah Tuqirru Mujaddadan bi-l-Khilafat baina Fayyad wa-Abbas," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 6, 2010.
[12] "Indama Yatahawal al-Munadil ila Jasus," Abu Mahjub, accessed May 19, 2010.
[13] Ynet News (Tel Aviv), June 14, 2010.
[14] "Atfal Ghaza Yahrukun Suwar li-Salam Fayyad fi Lailat Tawaqquf Mahattat Kahraba Ghaza," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed June 27, 2010; "Jama'a Tutliqu ala Nafsiha Shuhada'a Ustul al-Hurriyya Tatabanna Maqtal Shurti Israil[i] fi-l-Khalil," Muntadayat al-Buraq al-Islamiyya, accessed June 15, 2010.
[15] Thomas Friedman, "Green Shoots in Palestine," The New York Times, Aug. 4, 2009.
[16] Peraino, "Palestine's New Perspective."
[17] See, for example, Maan News Agency (Bethlehem), July 7, 2007; The Daily Star (Beirut), Aug. 18, 2007.
[18] The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 15, 2009.
[19] See, for example, "Al'an Milishiyat Dayton Tashunn Hamlat I'tiqalat Sharisa Taalat Ru'asaa Baladiyyat wa-Qiyyadat Hamas," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 25, 2010.
[20] See, for example, "Taher Annunu: Taqdiruna al-Amiq li-l-Dawr at-Turki bi-Itijah al-Qadiya al-Filistiniya," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 5, 2010; "Dhikra Amaliyat Rishon Le-Zion al-Butuliya: Tabannaha al-Qassam ba'da 6 Sanawat," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 7, 2010.
[21] Some analysts make a distinction between adherents to Salafism and Salafi-jihadists, who use Salafism to justify violence in the name of this school of Islamic thought. For the purposes of this article, Salafists will describe both subscribers to this fundamentalist doctrine and perpetrators of violence on its behalf.
[22] "Ansar Hamas baina al-Aala li-bani Alman wa-l-Ada li-Ahl at-Tawhid," al-Jazeera Talk, accessed June 10, 2010.
[23] Barak Mendelsohn, "Hamas and Its Discontents," Foreign Policy, Sept. 9, 2009.
[24] "Al-Qaeda Baathat Mua'kharan bi-Kurrasat Irshad li-Nashataiha fi Ghaza … Ha'aretz Tazaama anna at-Tanzim Yadfau bi-Itijah Muwajaha baina Hamas wa-Israil al-Ithnain," al-Faloja, accessed May 24, 2010.
[25] "Ha'aretz: al-Qaeda fi-l-Yemen Tursil Mudarribin ila Ghaza," al-Jazeera Talk, accessed June 1, 2010.
[26] BBC News, Sept. 12, 2005.
[27] "Ra'i fi Muqawamat Ghaza wa-Ru'ya li-l-Marhala al-Qadima," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed June 19, 2010.
[28] The New York Times, Mar. 10, 2009.
[29] "Palestine: Salvaging Fatah," International Crisis Group, Middle East Report 91, Nov. 12, 2009.
[30] "Indama Nataqaha ar-Rais al-Filastini: Abbas Yu'akkid ala an li-l-Yahud Haqq fi Filastin," Aqsaa.com, accessed June 15, 2010.
[31] Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), June 10, 2010.
[32] "Kalam…fi…al-mamnua," Palvoice, accessed June 13, 2010.
[33] "Hukumat Fayyad tudin maqtal shurti Isra'ili," Muntadayat al-Qumma, accessed June 16, 2010.
[34] "Al-Muqawama al-Filastiniyya taqtul dabitan kabiran fi Jaysh al-Ihtilal fi amaliyya naw'iyya bi-l-Khalil," Muntadayat al-Wadad, accessed June 15, 2010.
[35] See, for example, "Fatah tuhathir min al-Mukhattat al-Isra'ili li-Tasfiyat al-Mashru al-Watani al-Filastini," Muntadayat Intifadat Filastin, accessed June 16, 2010.
[36] Barack Obama, "The Cairo Speech," The New York Times, June 4, 2009.
[37] The Washington Post, July 7, 2010.
[38] Associated Press, July 7, 2010.
[39] The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2010.
[40] United Press International, July 23, 2010.
[41] "Al-Awda li-l-Mufawadat laysat Qararan Filastini," Palestine's Dialogue Forum, accessed May 9, 2010.
[42] "Mufawadat tahn al-Ma'," Ard al-Arab, accessed May 4, 2010.
[43] "Al-Muqata'a tughliq Masani Isra'iliyya," Islam Today, accessed May 17, 2010.
[44] United Press International, June 10, 2010.
[45] See, for example, "Kalam...fi...al-mamnua," Palvoice, accessed June 13, 2010.
[46] "Isra'il 2010 ajiza an al-Harb wa-as-Salam wa-l-Ahadiyya Aidan," Shabakat al-Internet li-l-I'lam al-Arabi, accessed May 26, 2010.
[47] "Digital Outreach Team," U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., Jan. 2009.
[48] Jonathan Guyer, "Attitude Problem: What Social Media Can't Tell Us about Palestine," Foreign Policy, Oct. 28, 2010.

Original URL:http://www.meforum.org/2821/palestinians-online

Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

CAIR's Deceptive Spin on FBI Support


by IPT News

Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are painting a deceptively rosy picture of the organization's relationship with the FBI. The spin follows the group's decision last week to remove an anti-FBI graphic posted on its San Francisco chapter's website.

The graphic depicts a sinister-looking FBI agent walking down a street as doors slam shut. "Build a Wall of Resistance," it reads. "Don't Talk to the FBI." CAIR issued a clarification statement calling it "inconsistent with CAIR's policy of constitutionally-informed cooperation with law enforcement agencies." The group had included the graphic as part of a "Know Your Rights" event it co-sponsored in response to several FBI raids conducted during September 2010.

Corey Saylor, CAIR's national legislative director, said on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, that he is "troubled" by the media's critical reaction. "I can speak of a number of different occasions of CAIR's consistent policy of cooperating with law enforcement," he said.

O'Reilly didn't press Saylor very hard. There was no mention of CAIR's 2009 announcement that it had joined a coalition threatening to cut ties with the FBI. Saylor also wasn't asked about his organization's founding executives' ties to a U.S. Hamas support network, which resulted in the FBI suspending formal relations with CAIR.

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper touted CAIR's "consistent policy of positive and constructive engagement with law enforcement officials." He promised that nothing "negative" would come from the lips of CAIR representatives at the event advertised.

While he acknowledged it should not have been posted, Hooper "refused to renounce the artwork," instead blaming "a cottage industry of Muslim bashers" for the poster controversy.

Even if their cited reasons for removing the poster were genuine, generalizations by Saylor and Hooper about a healthy relationship between CAIR and law enforcement are less than accurate.

CAIR has a long track record of criticizing terrorism financing and support cases brought by the US government. Its officials called the conviction of the Holy Land Foundation for funneling money to Hamas "based on fear-mongering," despite the evidence. The HLF trial publicized links between CAIR founders Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad and the Palestine Committee, an umbrella organization of U.S. Hamas support groups. CAIR was listed itself as a component of the committee in internal documents. The government named CAIR an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial. The presiding judge later said there was "ample evidence" tying CAIR to Hamas.

Likewise, the group's Maryland chapter criticized 2004 convictions in the Virginia "paintball jihad" case, in which several men were convicted of charges related to supporting Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, by alleging "selective enforcement of laws and disparate sentencing treatments when the accused happens to be a Muslim or Arab." Similarly, CAIR Dallas-Fort Worth spokesmen called the 2004 conviction of the Elashi brothers for illegally shipping technology to countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism a "witch-hunt against the Muslim community by way of selective prosecution."

The underlying premise driving CAIR's "Know Your Rights," campaign is that the FBI has bad intentions and Muslims should not cooperate unless they have no other choice:

  • At a March 2009 "Know Your Rights" seminar in Anaheim, CAIR-Los Angeles staff attorney Ameena Qazi warned attendees not to submit to voluntary questioning by law enforcement. "Don't," she advised, "offer them your life story and all the information about your immigration history and everything." National Lawyers Guild representative Jim Lafferty told the audience, "No, the FBI is not your friend." He added, "If you stand up to the FBI you will be striking a blow for freedom for us all."
  • Last August, CAIR-California advertised it had provided assistance to a woman approached by FBI agents about her interactions with American born radical cleric and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Anwar al-Awlaki. No mention was made about the importance of providing information on Awlaki, now considered the inspiration behind many recent terrorist attacks in the U.S. It did note that CAIR provides free legal services for those approached by the FBI.
  • During a 2009 khutbah (sermon) given in Anaheim, Calif., CAIR-Los Angeles Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said that just because there are "bad apples in the FBI," Muslims "should not start suspecting each other." Ayloush told the audience to report anyone acting in a "suspicious way," but added that "otherwise, we should not be spreading rumors." Ayloush encouraged the audience to "report any FBI contact or harassment that you receive to the CAIR offices."

The Minneapolis Somali community even protested CAIR's "Know Your Rights" efforts in response to FBI investigations into missing Somali-American youths. Family members of a Minnesota boy believed to have been killed in Somalia after being recruited by the terrorist group al-Shabaab handed out flyers at a CAIR protest rally. The flyers countered that CAIR's actions "have led many in the Somali American community to believe that they are intentionally shielding from prosecution members of a network which has been providing material support to a terrorist group," al-Shabaab, which has been involved in the "trafficking of American youths."

Often, CAIR officials even blame the FBI for creating terrorists and radicals:

  • Last month, CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid said that "the FBI, by using informants acting as agent provocateurs, has recruited more so called extremist Muslims than al-Qaida themselves." As the Investigative Project on Terrorism previously reported, Walid has rewritten stories behind FBI operations to make the FBI look like it created plots. Walid has also cited purported "facts" about the FBI's actions during a 2009 raid in Detroit.
  • In April 2009, Ayloush told mosque attendees in Anaheim that the FBI shouldn't send agents in mosques. "Our Koran is off limits. Our youth, who they [the FBI] try to radicalize are off limits."
  • Speaking about the case of the "Bronx Four," CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab claimed that the "radicalization 'tipping factor,' if you will, was none other than a paid government agent-provocateur." Rehab called the use of informants, such as in the Bronx case, "self-deluding initiatives that seem to seek terror-case quotas." The Bronx Four were convicted in October 2010 on seven counts related to a plot to destroy a synagogue and Jewish center and to shoot missiles at military planes.
  • In December 2010, Zahra Billoo, director of the same California chapter that posted the controversial anti-FBI flyer, responded to the FBI's use of informants to foil plots in Oregon and Maryland saying, "What the FBI came and did was enable them to become actual terrorists, and then came and saved the day." The FBI "is creating these huge terror plots where they don't exist."

Just like the message sent by the image of a lurking, unidentifiable FBI agent as portrayed in the now-removed CAIR website poster, CAIR coaches its members to believe that the FBI is out to "get you," especially if you're a Muslim:

  • In July 2010, CAIR-Connecticut Executive Director Mongi Dhadoudi told an audience at a New York event that the "FBI keeps coming after the weak" and those who are "afraid" or "intimidated."
  • CAIR-Ohio's Julia Shearson authored an April 2009 article criticizing new FBI guidelines. "Outspoken Muslim leaders and groups continue to be demonized and marginalized," she claimed, by the FBI's, "infiltrations," "abuses," and "provocations."
  • In 2003, Hooper alleged that the Department of Justice has a "general policy of targeting Muslims because they are Muslims."
  • In 2004, When FBI Director Robert Mueller asked the nation to be on the lookout for seven terrorism suspects, Hooper told the Detroit Free Press, "It's part of the 'round up the usual suspects' mentality. When you don't have any other leads, you gather up the Muslims."

On the recent O'Reilly Factor, Saylor cited examples to back up his claim that CAIR is a friend of the FBI's.

In one of Saylor's cited cases, the case of Ahmadullah Niazi, brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden's security coordinator, CAIR focused on its disapproval of the FBI informant to distract from the merits of the investigation. According to the U.S. government, Niazi lied on his naturalization application and to U.S. officials, including failing to disclose his associations with terrorist organizations, other names he had been known as in the past and a trip abroad to Pakistan. The Muslim community reported the FBI informant to the FBI.

Yet the informant wasn't the only source of information in the case. FBI Agent Thomas Ropel III testified that Niazi said it was a duty to perform "jihad" and discussed with Ropel sending the informant to training camps in the Middle East. Also, according to Ropel's testimony, Niazi called Osama bin Laden "an angel." CAIR's Hussam Ayloush said that the informant in the Niazi case was hired by the FBI to "instigate acts of violence to ruin the reputation of the Muslim community."

In a second case, in which CAIR connected families of the Zamzam Five, five missing Virginia youth, with the FBI in November 2009, CAIR officials quickly began toning down their description of the facts of the case. At first, Executive Director Nihad Awad described a video tape left by the boys as a "farewell" that made him "uncomfortable." Later, Awad argued that, should they be sent back to the U.S., the government should not prosecute the five young men who disappeared from the suburban Washington, D.C. neighborhood, only to turn up in Pakistan hoping to join the jihad against American troops.

The government has to show some appreciation for the actions of the parents and the community," Awad said. "That will encourage other families to come forward."

A Pakistani court rendered the issue moot in June 2010, when Ramy Zamzam, Umar Farooq, Ahmed Abdullah, Waqar ul Hassan and Hassan Yasir, were convicted of conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Original URL:http://www.investigativeproject.org/2515/cair-deceptive-spin-on-fbi-support

IPT News

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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