Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brotherhood Too Tame for Egyptian Presidential Contender

by IPT News

It's the dawn of a new age in Egypt for Salafist presidential contender Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. The confidence exuded by the popular 50-year old lawyer-turned- preacher says as much.

He has praised al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden as a "martyr," called on the United States to release convicted terrorist mastermind Omar Abdel Rahman (aka the "Blind Sheikh"), and has said the 9/11 terror attacks were "fabricated from the outset." Israel, he says, is a "false state" and Egypt should nullify the peace treaty with it. His political platform closely mirrors the strict Salafi reading of Islamic law, which denies the very existence of personal freedoms and attempts to set society back to the way it was during the time of the early Caliphs.

His views appear to be striking a chord in Egypt. He is soaring in polls six weeks before the election.

The candidate, whose bearded face can be spotted on walls and posters all over Egypt, is polling in second place with 28.8% support among 1,200 respondents. And while the results do not take into account last-minute changes in the race, including the entry of former Mubarak insider Omar Suleiman, it's not a bad sign to be second only to an Egyptian bigwig like former Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa among a crowded field of presidential hopefuls.

Political data aside, Abu Ismail has a lot to be confident about. In just a few short weeks, he has not only defied fierce attempts from within his own power-base to sideline his presidential bid, but has also curbed an initial legal challenge over his legitimacy to pursue office.

The fact that Abu Ismail's political stock has risen so rapidly, even while being plainly clear about his intentions to forcibly implement the Salafist's austere vision of Islam on the country speaks to Egypt's political climate.

Just 15 months after Tahrir, the country is today a far cry from Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. Political Islamists have secured three quarters of the new Parliament's lower house and more than 80 percent of its Shura Council (or Upper House) seats. Muslim Brothers sit at the head of the table in both chambers, and numerous prominent Islamists are battling it out over who will take over Mubarak's former job. The secular liberals—largely credited with launching the revolution in the first place—Christians, socialists, and former regime officials are all but MIA.

Abu Ismail's political success may have been unthinkable fifteen months ago; today it is a reality.

Brotherhood Breakout

Hosni Mubarak's autocratic government showed signs of softening its stance toward political opposition in late 2005. Longtime regime foes, mostly from the country's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, were freed from prison and the group was permitted to publicly field candidates for parliamentary elections for the first time. The Brotherhood candidates would officially have to run as "independents," but that independence would be in name only.

Such limitations did not apply to campaign messaging. It was not long before young volunteers were spotted all over Egypt donning T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Islam is the solution" and blasting songs unambiguous in aim: "the world is thirsty for Islam." For the first time, campaign posters called for support of "al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun" [Muslim Brotherhood] instead of the more vague allusion to the group employed previously: the "Islamic trend."

In this context emerged a relative unknown with aspirations to affect Egypt's long-closed political inner-circle. That man, a wealthy lawyer-businessman affiliated with the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood, was named Hazem Abu Ismail.

Although an "independent" on the ballot, Abu Ismail undoubtedly was a member of the Brotherhood.

Supported by thousands, he hit the streets to increase name recognition in hopes of winning a parliamentary seat representing Cairo's Dokki neighborhood. It was a familiar exercise; he had done much of the same in a failed parliamentary bid in 1995. Much like he does today, Abu Ismail didn't mince words when letting voters know where he stood on religion in politics: "A vote for us is a vote for Islam," he told listeners.

His message seemed to resonate.

Voters seemed to come out strongly for Abu Ismail. But despite Mubarak's claim that he was allowing freer and fairer elections, the system in 2005 was still wrought with voter fraud and tampering.

Initial reports in the state press claimed victory for Abu Ismail. But then something peculiar happened.

"The polling station was locked up, and monitors and candidate representatives were banned from entering," the Brotherhood's then-spokesman, Helmy El-Gazar, told the press. Soon after, officials called a victory for Amal Othman, a member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) and a longtime party stalwart.

The alleged tampering set off a firestorm between Abu Ismail's supporters and the ruling regime. Once the dust settled, the Brotherhood's "independents" took home 20% of the vote—its largest share to that point; but Hazem Abu Ismail was not one of those who made the cut.

From "Independent" to Independent

After twice snatching defeat from the jaws of victory because of fraud, Abu Ismail decided to sit out 2010's elections. The decision ended up being the right one, as some human rights groups called the parliamentary poll the "most fraudulent ever."

Abu Ismail stayed "politically inactive" in the five years following his defeat, but his sermons at the "prominent Assad Bin El-Forat Mosque in Cairo" were as political as ever. Staunchly critical of the Mubarak regime, Abu Ismail even took to the courtroom to defend notable Brotherhood figures detained by the regime, allegedly without due process. One of Abu Ismail's clients at that time was MB Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat Al-Shater—an ironic twist as Shater is now one of Abu Ismail's main foes in the hunt for president.

But the entire game changed with the rise of the Arab Spring and Mubarak's ouster —as did Abu Ismail's outlook.

Salafists—first opposed to political participation—formed official parties and took stances on political issues. And the Brotherhood—formerly an air-tight top-down hierarchy—began to show cracks under the pressure of its new role in the post-Mubarak Egypt.

It was time for this Salafist to leave the group behind.

Today, he attributes much of his success to the Brotherhood, while making sure to note that "he is not a member and has some minor differences." Yet, according to his campaign manager, Abu Ismail maintains good relations with the group.

"He took his organisational (sic.) skills from them, campaign manager Hany Hafez told Al-Ahram. And because of his long association with the group, "he is more lenient towards the fundamentals of religion than the [mainstream] Salafist point of view."

This approach hits at the very heart of the Brotherhood way: applying Islamic Sharia Law "gradually"—a mantra he repeats often in interviews.

But what exactly is to be applied "gradually" and how it is to be applied is harder to discern, even for a man whose candor is his calling card.

His political platform is broad, refusing to go into the weeds a flesh out potentially controversial stances.

So what would an Egypt under Hazem Abu Ismail look like if the Salafist preacher were to be elected in the May 23-24 elections?

In the Spotlight, On the Record

A large part of Abu Ismail's appeal in Egypt stems from the consistency of his views.

"I believe in him," a 25-year old Abu Ismail supporter told Reuters. "He is the only candidate who is pro-revolution and he has never lied or changed his position to please someone or any authority." [emphasis added]

The same cannot be said for the MB. Early in the campaign, political leaders in the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) announced they would not contest more than a third of seats in Parliament. The group has reneged on all of its early promises and won a near-majority in both houses of Parliament, enjoyed a dominant position in the now-suspended Constitutional commission and has two members running for president.

Abu Ismail is on record since at least 2005 calling for the Brotherhood to use its parliamentary strength to "push harder to ban alcohol and gambling, which is allowed in hotel casinos [to foreigners]."

He holds to those positions today as a presidential contender.

On the protection of personal freedoms, Abu Ismail has been clear: it doesn't exist.

"If you claim that Allah considers it your personal freedom, show me your reference," he fired back in a recent interview. "Nobody has ever said that – except for people [who] have no understanding of Sharia,"

Supporters of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail hoist a black banner of al-Qaida.

He believes the veil should be mandatory for all women, calling it a "religious duty." He has made plain his intention to impose his view—or as he says "God's rules"—on all of Egypt. Asked whether he would impose the veil on non-veiled women on one talk show, he said "women should either wear the veil or change their creed."

"If you join [the military], then you are obliged to wear their uniform, to attend their classes, to attend the training with them and to obey their leader," Abu Ismail has said He sees religious law no differently.

He is ambiguous, however, about how such an edict would apply to the country's sizeable Coptic Christian minority, only saying that Islamic Sharia Law does not need to be applied to Copts.

He is aware of the sensitivity of the issue, and has attempted to allay fears about how Islamic law would affect Christians by saying that Sharia "stipulates that every citizen, whether a Muslim or Copt, should be treated in accordance to what his/her beliefs in the confessional arena."

Try telling that to women who, under Abu Ismail's Egypt, want to be a wife and a professional. While supporting women's education, Abu Ismail has insisted that women should only work out of economic necessity after completing their studies, and that work should end once they are married and with kids.

"Motherhood is an honorable profession and the state must provide for housewives," he said. "Women must not be obliged to work outside the home."

For those women who do work, they would likely be working in a gender-segregated workplace. "[S]ex mingling at the workplace creates intimacy that Egyptian men do not accept," he said.

His Quranically-guided platform calls for sweeping changes to everything from Egypt's tourism sector, to its justice system, to the economy. He wants to replace prisons with "rehabilitation centers," and has called on Egypt's tourism industry to cater more to conferences, festivals and "health and historical tourism" rather than lure beach goers. And he wants to see Egypt adopt a zero-interest Islamic finance system.

Such plans for economic prosperity will be tough to turn into reality considering the dire state of Egypt's economy. Abu Ismail would cut Egypt's largest revenue stream (beach tourism) in favor of an increased focus on agriculture, and he would cut off a major trading partner in Israel by invalidating the Camp David Accords. Such a move, says one report, could end up costing the Egyptians $1 billion in lost revenue and more than 70,000 jobs.

Dollars and cents can't matter in this equation—at least not when at the expense of what Abu Ismail feels is demanded by Islamic law.

"The bottom line is that I will not do something that is forbidden, even if I stand to profit from it," Abu Ismail said on Egyptian TV last September. "Let me be clear about this. I cannot turn against Allah. The Egyptian people does (sic) not want this, and neither do I. Nobody wants this."

He continued: "When I become president of this country, I will remain one of the people. Therefore, I am not telling the people things that I invented myself. I say only things that Allah says."

And so it will go with Egyptian-Israeli relations. "We believe that Israel is a false state, and that Israel has no right to Palestine," Abu Ismail's platform reads. And in another appearance: "There is nothing called the State of Israel. Palestine from the river to the Sea."

"I am an enemy of the Camp David Accord and the peace agreement," he said. "It's not just me, it's all the Egyptians. Nobody wants Israel to get anything."

Such views are nothing new for Abu Ismail. In February 2009, he made waves in the West when he told an Egyptian TV network that Muslims should boycott Pepsi—or "Pay Every Penny to Save Israel"—as well as Coca Cola and other similar products.

"When you pay [to buy Pepsi], you are saving Israel," he said.

Egypt's Brave New World

As discontent toward the Muslim Brotherhood grows over concerns it wants to consolidate power, Salafi candidates like Abu Ismail offer compelling alternatives.

They refuse to water down their views or broker deals. And that is helping draw support from some unlikely places.

"I used to support [the liberal candidate, Mohamed] ElBaradei before he withdrew from the race," a non-Islamist voter said. "But now I believe Abu Ismail is the only candidate with the ability to realise (sic) genuine change. I think he has the tools and capabilities required to bring about transformation."

Economic and political challenges will keep Abu Ismail too busy "to enact ultraconservative religious laws, such as imposing the veil on women," he added.

Nothing in Abu Ismail's history supports that wishful thinking.

His core supporters are die-hard—literally. "We will die for him. We will kill for him, if he does not run in the presidential race," one Salafi supporter yelled this week.

"Voting for Abu Ismail is Jihad in the Way of God and electing another merits Hell," another said last Friday.

For true believers, that's a hard message to ignore.

Movin' On Up

Back on the campaign trail after stalling the legal challenge to his candidacy, it's easy to see why Abu Ismail is feeling good about his chances.

In 2012 he has the potential to beat his bum streak, no longer forced to play in Mubarak's one-sided game.

Every attempt to sideline Abu Ismail thus far has failed, and he is making gains in the most unlikely of places—even while refusing to water down his views.

He still could be found ineligible for office if officials provide formal documentation proving that his mother was an American citizen (as opposed to the informal notification that was initially sent to the election commission from American authorities). Egyptian election laws require that presidential candidates and their immediate families are citizens only of Egypt.

But the onus is on them to prove the case.

Abu Ismail considers the ruling a powerful message to America and Israel. "They wanted to assassinate me, and God wanted something else," he says.

IPT News


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

Clinton Dangerously Inconsistent on Palestinian Funding

by IPT News

In a highly controversial move, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has approved a $147 million economic support package to the Palestinian people despite a hold on these funds by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The move contradicts previous statements from Clinton that she would never send aid to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

"We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority," Clinton told Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing in April 2009.

Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, has not met any of these three conditions. Yet, a State Department letter sent Tuesday to key members of Congress alerted them of Clinton's decision to move forward with the aid package.

The funds deliver "critical support to the Palestinian people and those leaders seeking to combat extremism within their society and build a more stable future. Without funding, our programs risk cancellation," a State Department official said in an e-mail to the National Journal. "Such an occurrence would undermine the progress that has been made in recent years in building Palestinian institutions and improving stability, security, and economic prospects, which benefits Israelis and Palestinians alike."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who placed the hold on funding to the Palestinians, was angered by Clinton's challenge to her congressional oversight role.

"The U.S. has given $3 billion in aid to the Palestinians in the last five years alone, and what do we have to show for it?" Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement Wednesday. "Now the administration is sending even more. Where is the accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars?"

Ros-Lehtinen blocked the aid to stop U.S. funds going to assistance and recovery programs in Hamas-run Gaza; road construction projects in the West Bank that are not vital for security; or trade and tourist promotion.

She was willing to release $88.6 million of the $147 million package under terms spelled out in a letter sent to Clinton and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah last month.

But Clinton ignored those recommendations and unilaterally approved the full payment. It's not the first example of her inconsistency regarding Palestinian governance.

In that 2009 House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing, she changed her tune ever so slightly to indicate that any future Palestinian government would need to meet these conditions and not necessarily Hamas itself.

"U.S. assistance will only be permitted to any power-sharing government in which Hamas participates, if the president certifies that the power-sharing government has met the three principles I just outlined," she said.

IPT News


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Steyn:'Obama Has No Real Plan Other Than Class Warfare'

by Rick Moran

Leave it to Mark Steyn to finger the essence of Obama's re-election themes.

In the end, free societies get the governments they deserve. So, if the American people wish to choose their chief executive on the basis of the "war on women," the Republican theocrats' confiscation of your contraceptives or whatever other mangy and emaciated rabbit the Great Magician produces from his threadbare topper, they are free to do so, and they will live with the consequences.

But it is the so-called "Buffet rule" that reveals the true nature of Obama's class warfare campaign:

A-hem. According to the Congressional Budget Office (the same nonpartisan bean-counters who project that on Obama's current spending proposals the entire U.S. economy will cease to exist in 2027) Obama's Buffett Rule will raise - stand well back - $3.2 billion per year. Or what the United States government currently borrows every 17 hours.

So in 514 years it will have raised enough additional revenue to pay off the 2011 federal budget deficit. If you want to mark it on your calendar, 514 years is the year 2526. There's a sporting chance Joe Biden will have retired from public life by then, but other than that I'm not making any bets.

Let's go back to that presidential sound bite: "It will help us close our deficit."

I'm beginning to suspect that the Oval Office teleprompter may be malfunctioning, or that perhaps that NBC News producer who "accidentally" edited George Zimmerman into sounding like a racist has now edited the smartest president of all time into sounding like an idiot. Either way, it appears the last seven words fell off the end of the sentence.

What the president meant to say was: "It will help us close our deficit ... for 2011 ... within a mere half-millennium!" (Pause for deafening cheers and standing ovation.)

Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. A nation that takes Barack Obama's current rhetorical flourishes seriously is certainly well advanced along that dismal path.

Finally this week, some news outlets began to push back against this idiotic notion that the Buffet rule is a deficit fighting measure. Some pundits began to refer to the rule as a "gimmick." But that hasn't stopped the president from pushing the rule as a way to make America more "fair" and reduce his gargantuan deficit.

Steyn concludes:

The Buffett rule itself may die, but the name will live on as a metaphor for pointless public policy.

Read the whole thing for some excellent insight into Obama's class warfare campaign.

Rick Moran


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Talks with Iran on Nuke Program Underway

by Rick Moran

It's been 15 months since Iran and the P5+1 powers sat down to discuss a way to avoid a military confrontation over Iran's nuclear program. No one is expecting the talks, that got underway in Istanbul today, to make much progress in that regard.

But there are some atmospherics that are different.


The talks, in Istanbul, the first between Iran and the six powers in 15 months, are unlikely to yield any major breakthrough but Western diplomats hope to see readiness from Tehran to start to discuss issues of substance.

That, they say, would mark a big change in Iran's attitude from the last meeting when it refused even to talk about its nuclear program and could be enough for scheduling a second round of talks next month, possibly in Baghdad.

Such an outcome could, at least for the time being, dampen speculation that Israel might launch military strikes on Iranian atomic sites to prevent its enemy from obtaining nuclear arms.

The morning round of talks were "completely different" from the previous meeting 15 months ago and Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had not stated the kind of preconditions that he did in the last meeting in early 2011, a diplomat said.

"He seems to have come with an objective to get into a process which is a serious process," said the envoy, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I would say it has been a useful morning's work."

Both sides say they are ready at the meeting to work towards resolving the deepening dispute over the nuclear program which the West suspects is geared towards achieving a nuclear arms capability, but which Iran says has purely peaceful purposes.

What is motivating Iran to sit down now?

The latest round of EU and US sanctions are hurting the Iranians badly. The EU oil embargo is significantly reducing the money flowing into the government's coffers while the US restrictions on the Iranian central bank are playing havoc with their foreign trade. Additional sanctions being planned would only make things worse for the Iranians. Hence, they felt they had little choice but to sit down and at least give the appearance of negotiating.

In essence, the Iranians are buying time by sitting down with the big powers. If they can get some of the sanctions eased without giving up too much of their nuclear program, they will do so. But they are very unlikely to satisfy the west in these negotiations. And they will never satisfy Israel that their intentions are peaceful.

Rick Moran


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Egypt bars top Islamists, Suleiman from vote

by Reuters

Body overseeing presidential race disqualifies 10 candidates, including Muslim Brother's Shater, Mubarak's ex-spy chief.
The body overseeing Egypt's presidential election disqualified 10 candidates from the race on Saturday, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater, former spy chief Omar Suleiman and ultra orthodox Salafi sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail.

Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election commission, told Reuters the disqualified candidates had 48 hours to appeal against its decision. He declined to give details on the reasons for their disqualification.

The disqualification of some of the leading candidates would redraw the electoral map with just weeks to go before the May vote that decides who will replace Hosni Mubarak as head of the Arab world's most populous country.

A council of military generals has been governing Egypt since Mubarak was swept from power a year ago in a popular uprising against his rule.

Abu Ismail's candidacy has been in doubt since the election commission said it had received notification from US authorities that his late mother had an American passport, a status that would disqualify him from the race.

Abu Ismail followers have held several demonstrations to warn against any move to disqualify their candidate. On Friday they besieged the headquarters of the election commission, forcing it to evacuate the premises.

His lawyer, Nizar Ghorab, told Reuters he expected "a major crisis to happen in the next few hours."

A spokesman for the Shater campaign said their candidate had already prepared his appeal. Shater's candidacy had been in doubt because of a former criminal conviction.

"We will not give up our right to enter the presidential race," said Murad Muhammed Ali. "There is an attempt by the old Mubarak regime to hijack the last stage of this transitional period and reproduce the old system of governance."

Suleiman, appointed deputy president by Mubarak in his last days in power, entered the presidential race at last moment, triggering both concern and heavy criticism from reformists who see him as a symbol of Mubarak's rule and a danger to democracy.

Hussein Kamal, a top Suleiman aide, told Reuters his campaign would also challenge the commission's decision.

"Omar Suleiman will take legal route to challenge this decision to exclude him from the presidential race," he told Reuters.



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Catholics Shouldn’t Stand Alone in Religious Freedom Fight

by Jonathan S. Tobin

All it took was an ill-advised quip from Rush Limbaugh to turn the national debate about ObamaCare from concerns about religious freedom to one about an imaginary Republican war on women. But the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are trying to refocus Americans on the threats to their religious liberty with a “Fortnight for Freedom” program planned for July in which they hope to get people discussing the ways in which the government is seeking to infringe on their rights to worship. Though predictably liberals are branding this as an effort to help Republicans, this is exactly the sort of project in which all faiths ought to participate.

The manifesto issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is an important document that is neither partisan nor an attempt to inflame sentiments on divisive issues. Rather, it is a sensible alarm issued to arouse Catholics to the insidious manner various government orders and legislation has sought to abridge religious rights. Examples include draconian immigration laws that conservatives have promulgated in Alabama. But is inevitable that the lion’s share of attention will be given to their citation of the way President Obama’s signature health care bill will force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs as well as the way various municipalities have driven Catholic agencies out of adoption and foster care services because of its stand on same-sex couples. Though non-Catholics, as well as many Catholics, may not agree with the church’s beliefs, it is vital they stand in solidarity with its call for freedom.

The blather about a fictional war on women has distracted the nation from the fact that while no one is actually preventing anyone from obtaining birth control, having an abortion or infringing on the rights of gays these days, the rights of Catholics not to support activities that contradict their faith is under siege. The issue, as the bishops rightly put it, is not so much whether Catholics are allowed to gather in their churches or pray as they like at home but whether they and their institutions are to go on being permitted to participate in our national life.

The principle at stake here is one in which it is clear that if the government gives itself the right to impose practices that contradict religious principles in this manner, it will fundamentally alter what the bishops rightly call our “first, most precious liberty” of freedom of religion.

As unfortunate as this movement to infringe upon religious liberty is, what is most distressing is the way the church has been largely allowed to face these attacks on its own. It is no small irony that many Jews who are zealous in their reaction to anything that might be construed as a violation of the separation of church and state or to impose majority beliefs on adherents of minority faiths or no faith at all are standing aside in this fight or opposing the church.

Laws that seek to force Catholics to subsidize actions that contradict their beliefs are, as the manifesto says, “unjust” and ought to be opposed by all people of good faith. In this context, the greatest tragedy would be if the church were left isolated in this battle because Democrats and liberals fear that advocacy on this issue undermines President Obama’s re-election. Far from the church playing the partisan here, it is those on the other side of this debate who are defending the indefensible simply because not to do so involves the defeat of ObamaCare.

The bishops write, “To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other.” The same sentence applies to Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons and any other group including atheists who should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Catholics in defense of religious freedom.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Explaining the Everlasting Palestinian “No”

by Jonathan S. Tobin

It is an axiom of conventional wisdom about the Middle East that the government of Israel is a hard-line opponent of peace that must be pressured and cajoled to deal with the Palestinians for the sake of the survival of its people. This chestnut is an evergreen of foreign policy discussion used against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s predecessors that has always been false. But the persistence of this canard in the face of contrary evidence is testimony to the strength of anti-Israel prejudices among the chattering classes.

If this notion could survive the Palestinian leadership’s decision to turn down offers from Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008 that would have given them a state in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem, then it will certainly outlast today’s refusal of the Palestinian Authority of Netanyahu’s offer of peace talks without preconditions. Nevertheless, those wondering why such an ardent supporter of the Palestinians like President Obama has abandoned them in the last year can’t blame it all on election year politics. Having staked out positions and picked fights with the Israelis to tilt the diplomatic playing field to the Palestinians directly, even he understands there’s no point getting into arguments for the sake of a group that simply won’t talk, let alone make peace, under any conditions.

The Palestinians claim their refusal of negotiations is based on the idea that it is pointless to talk if Israel isn’t going to concede every point of contention such as borders and settlements in advance. Part of this is, however, Obama’s fault. Since he demanded three years ago that Israel freeze settlement building as a precondition to negotiations — something that not even the Palestinians had thought of prior to 2009 — it is difficult for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to insist on anything less. But since Israel already froze building in the West Bank in 2010 and Abbas still wouldn’t talk, the point is moot.

The fact is, neither Abbas or his Hamas coalition partners have any intention of ever signing a piece of paper that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state and therefore end the conflict for all time. This is something that even Obama is beginning to understand, but it is one that many liberals and others who think the struggle over this tiny plot of land is about borders find inexplicable. Yet, it is actually quite easy to understand.

Palestinian nationalism flowered in the last century not as an attempt to recreate an ancient ethnic or national identity or to recover a dying language or culture, as was the case with nationalist revivals in places like Ireland, the Czech Republic or even the Jewish movement of Zionism. Rather, it was a reaction to the Jewish return to the land. Though apologists for the Palestinians contend that it was not a purely negative movement, it is impossible to understand Palestinian nationalism as anything but an effort to prevent Zionism from succeeding. Its essence is the illegitimacy of the Jewish state, and any effort to wean it from that belief constitutes a contradiction that the Palestinian grass roots and its vast refugee diaspora simply cannot accept.

It is this everlasting Palestinian “no” that is the basic fact of the Middle East conflict that cannot be talked out of existence. Nor can it be charmed away by Israeli concessions that stop short of the destruction of the Jewish state.

Anyone who doesn’t comprehend this will never be able to explain this latest Palestinian refusal to talk, those that came before it, and the inevitable “no’s” that will follow.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Class Warfare the Last Refuge of a Failed Presidency

by Bruce Thornton

Now that Mitt Romney will be Obama’s opponent in November, the Democrats are rolling out the false narrative they will use to demonize Romney and obscure four years of failed economic policies that have created the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression. In two recent speeches, Obama has begun heating up his class warfare rhetoric in an attempt to paint Republicans as the heartless minions of greedy capitalists who increase their wealth at the expense of everybody else.

On April 3, Obama went after Representative Paul Ryan and his budget, which Obama linked explicitly to Romney. Ryan’s budget actually addresses the key problems of out of control government spending and rapidly metastasizing entitlement costs, the looming fiscal train-wreck that Obama and the Democrats have avoided dealing with for over 3 years. Masking this dereliction of duty, Obama in his speech instead piled up lie after lie about Ryan’s budget, spicing the whole with question-begging rhetoric. Financial aid cut for 10 million college students, 1,600 fewer grants for Alzheimer’s and AIDS research, clean energy technology cut by a fifth, 200,000 pre-schoolers banished from Head Start, 2 million mothers and children denied healthy food, cuts to the Department of Justice and the FBI, national parks closed, air, food, and water safety compromised, less accurate weather forecasts, more flight cancellations at airports––this whole catalogue of apocalyptic disasters is a patent lie, one worsened by the charge that Ryan’s budget is “thinly veiled social Darwinism” designed to further enrich the already bloated 1% by ruthlessly cutting government programs. In fact, the Ryan budget increases spending from $3.6 trillion this year to almost $4.9 trillion in 2022.

A week later, in Boca Raton Florida Obama was at it again, beating the drum of tax “fairness” as he proposed imposing the “Buffet Rule” on those earning more than $1 million to force them to “pay their fair share,” which Obama puts at 30%. This idea that rich Americans are tax deadbeats was given traction by billionaire Warren Buffet, the tax-shelter king who popularized the myth that millionaires pay taxes at a lower rate than ordinary Americans because the rich pay most of their taxes at the capital-gains rate of 15%. In actual fact, as NRO points out, Americans in the $40-$50 thousand income bracket pay an effective rate of 3.2% in federal income tax, 80% of U.S. households are taxed at a rate less than 15%, and half pay nothing at all. As for those dastardly millionaires, the rate for most of them is already 30%, while 10% pay less and another 10% pay more, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Worse yet, the amount of revenue the Buffet Rule would raise is $5 billion a year––“or less than 0.5% of the $1.2 trillion fiscal 2012 budget deficit and over the next decade a mere 0.1% of the $45.43 trillion the federal government will spend,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Obviously, this is not enough revenue to “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade,” as Obama has claimed. In fact, to close the deficit in 2035, when entitlement spending will blow up the budget, tax revenues would require a surreal rate of 223% on the highest tax bracket. Nor will this Buffet Rule pittance do anything to rein in federal spending, projected to reach 50% of GDP by 2060 because of runaway entitlement costs destined to expand even further if Obamacare survives. Finally, the idea that the extra revenues generated by the Buffet Rule would be used to lower the deficit flies in the face of history, which shows that every dollar of increased revenues leads to at least $1.17 of government spending. As Milton Friedman once said, “Politicians will always spend every penny of tax raised and whatever else they can get away with.”

Yet this is just the beginning of Obama’s economic ignorance and mendacity. Increasing the capital gains tax rate, as the Buffet Rule perforce does, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire would target small businesses and lessen the investment capital needed to grow the economy and create jobs, at the same time it would fail at increasing tax revenues, which historically have increased when tax rates are lowered. Consider what happened after Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts. In 1981, the top 1% paid 17.58% of all federal income taxes; in 2005, this same cohort paid 39.38%. In 1981 the top 1% paid $94.84 billion (in 2005 dollars); in 2005 they paid $368.13, an increase of 288%. During this same period, taxes paid by the bottom 75% went from 27.71% of all tax revenues to 14.01%. More recently, the Bush tax cuts resulted in a 44% increase in revenues from 2003-2008. “The only conclusion,” Arthur Laffer concluded in 2008, “one can come to is that by raising statutory tax rates on the rich as proposed by the Democrats, the effective individual income tax rate won’t change, but the comprehensive household income earned by this group will fall, thus resulting in a sharp decline in tax receipts from the very highest income earners. If you want to get more tax revenues from the rich, you’ve got to make the rich richer, and to make the rich richer, you’ve got to lower tax rates.”

All this class-warfare rhetoric has nothing to do with fixing our economic problems by reducing the deficit, curbing government spending, and growing the economy. Nor is the issue “fairness.” By any metric, the U.S. already has a fair tax system, given that the top 10% pay 70% of all federal income taxes, while nearly half pay nothing. Indeed, the U.S. has the most progressive tax system among 24 OECD economies, as measured by the ratio of share of taxes paid to share of income among top earners. For example, the top 1% of earners paid more than 38% of all federal income taxes, but they earned 20% of all income. As a result of this burden on the highest earners, the top 10% of U.S. earners pay 35% more income taxes than does the same cohort in progressive heartthrob Sweden, and 22% more than in France.

This rhetoric of “fair-share,” then, is really about Obama’s reelection and his leftist ideology. The President has calculated that he can win votes with faux-populist attacks on “fat-cats” and thus obscure his tax-and-spend agenda whose ultimate aim is to increase the power of the government. In that way he can benefit his base and create ever more clients beholden to the feds. That’s what all this talk about “fairness” really means: redistributing income, always the way the enemies of freedom have gained power. As history shows, when democracies start to devolve into tyranny, unscrupulous leaders arise to foment class hatred by pandering to those who, as the Greek historian Polybius wrote, are “habituated to feed at the expense of others, and to have [their] hopes of a livelihood in the property of [their] neighbors.” That is what the “Buffet Rule” is all about: creating the “soft despotism” Tocqueville warned about.

Bruce Thornton


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Islamic ‘Adult Breastfeeding’ Fatwas Return

by Raymond Ibrahim

Back in May 2007, Dr. Izzat Atiya, head of Al Azhar University’s Department of Hadith, issued a fatwa, or Islamic legal decree, saying that female workers should “breastfeed” their male co-workers in order to work in each other’s company. According to the BBC:

He said that if a woman fed a male colleague “directly from her breast” at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work. “Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage,” he ruled. “A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed.”

Atiya based his fatwa on a hadith—a documented saying or doing of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and subsequently one of Sharia law’s sources of jurisprudence. Many Egyptians naturally protested this decree—hadith or no hadith—though no one could really demonstrate how it was un-Islamic; for the fatwa conformed to the strictures of Islamic jurisprudence. Still, due to the protests—not many Egyptian women were eager to “breastfeed” their male coworkers—the fatwa receded, and that was that.

However, because it was never truly rebutted, it kept making comebacks.

For instance, three years later in 2010, a high-ranking Saudi, Sheikh Abdul Mohsin al-Abaican issued a fatwa confirming that “women could give their milk to men to establish a degree of maternal relations and get around a strict religious ban on mixing between unrelated men and women.” But unlike Atiya’s fatwa, “the man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman. He should drink it [from a cup] and then [he] becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam’s rules about mixing.”

Now, a report titled “Kuwaiti Activists: Husband Breastfeeding from Wife not Prohibited,” published earlier this month by Arabic RT (see also Garaa News) opens by announcing that “The adult breastfeeding fatwa has returned once again to the spotlight, after Kuwaiti Islamic activists supported the adult breastfeeding fatwa issued by the Egyptian Salafi, Sheikh Jamal al-Murakbi [different from Al Azhar’s Sheikh Atiya]. This time around, the Kuwaitis examined the adult breastfeeding fatwa in the context of relations between a man and his wife.”

While the Kuwaiti sheikhs all essentially agree that the activity is not strictly forbidden according to Sharia—only “disliked” (literally makruh)—they are divided over the particulars.

• Sheikh Nazim Misbahi, head of the Fatwa Committee of the Islamic Heritage Revival Society in Kuwait, supports the decree, agreeing that “it is not forbidden [haram] for a man to breastfeed from his wife.”

• Sheikh Bassam al-Shatti, a Sharia professor, specifies: “If the husband deliberately sucks to obtain milk from the breast of his wife, this is forbidden; however, if it happens unintentionally during foreplay with his wife, then there is no problem—though it is disliked according to the four schools” of Sharia.

• Sheikh Sa’d al-Anzi stressed that “if the man, while being intimate with his wife, sucks her nipples, it is nothing, considered foreplay; but if the milk reaches his mouth, he should spit out—even if goes down in his stomach,” i.e., vomit.

Consider for a moment the significance of these Islamic edicts: whether women “breastfeeding” coworkers (Egyptian fatwa, 2007), whether men drinking female breast-milk in a cup (Saudi fatwa, 2010), or whether Kuwaiti minutiae concerning bedroom foreplay—such fatwas are reminders of the inescapable strictures of Sharia law: while these sheikhs offers various circumstances and interpretations concerning “adult breastfeeding,” they are all confined to the words of the prophet of Islam.

This is precisely why, despite all the claims that Islam is perpetually being “misunderstood”—by terrorists, by “Islamophobes”—understanding what Islam commands and forbids is actually quite a simple matter: along with the Koran, determine what the prophet said in canonical hadiths.

It is, after all, no coincidence that the above mentioned Kuwaitis, like Sheikh Misbahi, were members of the delegation that recently went to ask Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti about Islam’s position on churches in the Arabian Peninsula: the same source that compelled the Grand Mufti to declare that all churches must be destroyed, is the same source that advocates “adult breastfeeding”: Muhammad and his teachings. All very straightforward, really.

Raymond Ibrahim


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

"If You Prick Us Do We Not Bleed?"

by Michael Curtis

These groups always apply a double standard in their automatic critical comments on Israel's behavior and actions. The writers need tutoring in the niceties of international law and Middle East affairs; they are, by their silence on the issues, implicitly condoning the human rights violations of the companies from China, a country which occupies Tibet, from Turkey which represses the Kurds and occupies part of Cyprus, and from Russia.

Shylock in The Merchant of Venice rightly protested against injustice towards Jews and to manifestations of malignant anti-Semitism. At this time, it is appropriate for fair -minded people to protest against the unjust assault on Israeli institutions, its culture, and its people being waged by some European professionals against fellow Israeli professionals, as well by those groups accustomed on all occasions to supporting Palestinians and condemning Israel.

These groups always apply a double standard in their automatic critical comments on Israel's behavior and actions, while rarely mentioning violations of human rights by other countries. Consciously or otherwise, the European professionals have tended to accept the Palestinian narrative of history and their present conditions that is based on negative images, myths, and malicious stereotypes about Israel and Jews.

Those participating in the campaign against Israel should heed Shylock's words to his accusers: "You have among you many a purchased slave which…you use in abject and in slavish parts." Certainly, those European and American academics who have for some time called for a boycott of Israeli universities and teachers ought to be conscious of this. More recently, cultural performers have joined this campaign calling for a boycott of particular Israeli activities and for pressure to be put on Israel to change its policies, especially on the issue of what they charge is "illegal occupation of occupied land."

On March 29, 2012 the British newspaper, The Guardian, published a letter signed by 37 actors, playwrights, and producers, including prominent individuals such as Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance, Mike Leigh, David Calder, and Jonathan Miller. The letter asked the Globe Theater in London to withdraw its invitation to Habima, (The Stage) Israel's National Theater since 1958, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its World Festival of 37 Shakespeare plays to be performed in 37 languages starting in May 2012.

The ostensible reason for this call to boycott Habima was that the company had performed in the "halls of culture" in two unnamed Israeli settlements. The two in fact were Kiryat Arba, founded in 1968 on the site near Hebron where Jews were massacred by Arabs in 1929, and Ariel, which was founded in 1978 about 11 miles east of the Green Line.

This was not the first time that groups have tried to prevent Israelis from performing. The letter in The Guardian had been preceded by a letter to the director of the Globe, in January 2012, written by a group in Israel, apparently Jewish and Arab citizens, calling itself Boycott from Within, founded in 2009. A year earlier, in August 2011, a performance sponsored by the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall in London by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, (IPO) which played works by Anton Webern, Max Bruch, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, was disrupted by Palestinian protestors and their allies. This churlish behavior led to the cancellation for the first time of a live radio broadcast by the BBC. At that time 23 professional musicians published a letter in the British paper, The Independent, castigating the BBC for inviting the IPO.

In all these cases the displays of ignorance, malice and blinded ideology are worse than farce: they are slanderous. It is difficult to accept the view of these 23 musicians that the IPO was Israel's prime weapon in the denial of human rights. It was equally difficult to accept the view that performances in Israel by American jazz artists such as McCoy Tyner and Cassandra Wilson can be regarded as supporting Israeli policies of "ethno-racial segregation and apartheid" as protestors proclaimed. It is even more difficult to take seriously the actor David Calder, one of the letter signers and who himself has played the role of Shylock with the Royal Shakespeare Company, who is quoted as saying that Habima was part of a "cultural fig leaf" for Israel's daily brutality.

The Guardian letter speaks of the Globe Theater "associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company." Anyone objective observer should have been familiar, though the 37 apparently were not, with the broad range of productions of Habima which has staged plays on a variety of themes, some critical of Israel, and which as a group has no political policies of its own, nor acts on outside instructions.

Though some of the signatories of the letter, such as Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance, fine actors on the stage and screen, are unlikely to be regarded as knowledgeable, sophisticated analysts of Middle East history and politics, others such as Caryl Churchill and Mike Leigh are well known for their habitual criticism of the policies of Israel. It is regrettable, though understandable, that Thompson and others should not be fully aware of the complex issues concerning the disputed territories or the historic connection of the Jewish people to that land.

The argument in the letter that the Habima performance would be complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonization of occupied land by Israel suggests three things; the writers need tutoring in the niceties of international law and Middle East affairs; they are, by their silence on the issues, implicitly condoning the human rights violations of the companies from China, a country which occupies Tibet, which is due to perform Richard III in Mandarin, from Turkey, a country that represses the Kurds and occupies part of Cyprus, which is to perform Anthony and Cleopatra, and from Russia which is presenting Measure for Measure; and they are disrespecting the fact that Habima is the most well known and respected Hebrew language theater in the world.

It is saddening that the prominent members of the theatrical and musical professions should be so benighted in their biased view of Israeli policies and their lack of understanding of the realities of Middle East politics. It is perhaps most ironic that the controversy they have created is about the disinterested decision of the Globe Theater. The 37 signatories of the letter should be reminded of the blue plaque outside the Theater honoring Sam Wanamaker, the American Jewish actor who was blacklisted in 1952 during the McCarthy years despite his distinguished service in U.S. forces in World War II, and who is the person most responsible for the rebuilding of the Globe as an exact replica of the one in which Shakespeare acted. What would the visionary Wanamaker, who made the Globe an international symbol of high culture, have thought of the biased, ungenerous 37? Echoing Shylock, probably "I am not bound to please you with my answers."

Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, and author of Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation under attack by the International Community.


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Are Settlements the Major Obstacle to Peace?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Mahmoud Abbas is searching for an honorable way to climb down the tree. He is hoping that the US Administration or the Quartet will provide him with the needed ladder. The major obstacle to peace is the increasing radicalization of the Arab and Islamic masses and the continuing demonization of Jews. As far as many Arabs and Muslims are concerned, Israel is one big settlement that needs to be removed.

The Palestinian Authority is demanding that the UN Security Council condemn Israel for building in the settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Palestinian Authority said that Israeli settlements were "illegal" and "destructive" to the peace process.

The letter was sent to Ban Ki-moon ahead of a meeting of representatives of the Quartet - the US, EU, UN and Russia - in New York to discuss ways of reviving the stalled peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, in its letter, also urged the Quartet to exert pressure on Israel to stop activities in the settlements or face being held fully responsible for "derailing" the peace process.

For the past two decades, the Palestinian Authority had been negotiating with Israel while construction in the settlements was continuing.

The construction did not seem to bother Yasser Arafat, who continued to hold peace talks with Israel even while the bulldozers were working in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Arafat never demanded a full cessation of settlement activities as a pre-condition for pursuing the peace talks with Israel.

Abbas and his negotiators sat at the negotiating table with Israel even after they had threatened that the peace process would end if Israel built the new Har Homa neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

True, the Palestinian Authority under Arafat did sometimes voice opposition to Israel's policy of settlement construction. But that did not prompt them to boycott the peace talks.

Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, also did not seem to have a problem with the settlements during the first few years of his term in office.

Abbas continued to talk to representatives of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert while settlements were being expanded and new housing units were being built in east Jerusalem.

Abbas cannot say that he was unaware of the construction, especially in light of the fact that from his office and home in Ramallah he could see the new houses in nearby settlements.

The issue of the settlements became a "major obstacle to peace" only when US President Barack Obama one day demanded that Israel freeze all settlement activities. Obama's demand embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders rushed to endorse the call.

The Palestinian Authority leadership even took a step further by announcing that it would not return to the negotiating table unless Israel halted all settlement activities.

But then one morning President Obama abandoned the demand, leaving Abbas alone on a high tree. Now Abbas is searching for an honorable way to climb down the tree. He is hoping that the US Administration or the Quartet will provide him with the needed ladder.

But the real question that needs to be raised these days is whether settlements are the major obstacle to peace?

Abbas knows that the future of the settlements will be determined only through direct negotiations with Israel. He also knows that some of the settlements will stay in their place even after the signing of a final and comprehensive peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

In 2005, Israel destroyed more than 20 settlements and evicted 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. The move did not leave an impression on the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, especially those affiliated with Hamas and radical groups in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and its allies misinterpreted the disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a sign of weakness, not a goodwill gesture on the part of Israel.

Even if Israel tomorrow dismantled 90% of the settlements in the West Bank, who said that the Palestinians will take to the streets to sing the Israeli national anthem?

Settlements may be a problem, but they are certainly not the major obstacle to the peace process.

There are, meanwhile, many other major obstacles to peace. These include the rise of Islamists to power in the Arab world, the ongoing power struggle between Fatah and Hamas and the reality that the Gaza Strip has been turned into a center for global jihad and a front for Iran's extremist rulers.

The major obstacle to peace is the increasing radicalization of the Arab and Islamic masses and the continuing demonization of Jews. As far as many Arabs and Muslims are concerned, Israel is one big settlement that needs to be removed.

Another major obstacle to peace can be found in the irony that Abbas does not seem to have a mandate from his people to make any concessions to Israel. A president who cannot even visit his private residence in the Gaza Strip will never be able to deliver anything on any front.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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

How the Media Whitewashes Muslim Persecution of Christians

by Raymond Ibrahim

While the MSM may report the most frugal facts concerning Christian persecution, they utilize their entire arsenal of semantic games, catch phrases, and convenient omissions that uphold the traditional narrative—that Muslim violence is anything but a byproduct of the Islamic indoctrination of intolerance.

When it comes to Muslim persecution of Christians, the mainstream media (MSM) has a long paper trail of obfuscating. While they may eventually state the bare-bone facts—if they ever report on the story in the first place, which is rare—they do so after creating and sustaining an aura of moral relativism that minimizes the Muslim role.

False Moral Equivalency

As previously discussed, one of the most obvious ways is to evoke "sectarian strife" between Muslims and Christians, a phrase that conjures images of two equally matched—and equally abused, and abusive—adversaries fighting one another. This hardly suffices to describe the reality of Muslim majorities persecuting largely passive Christian minorities.

Recently, for instance, in the context of the well-documented suffering of Christians in Egypt, an NPR report declared, "In Egypt, growing tensions between Muslims and Christians have led to sporadic violence [initiated by whom?]. Many Egyptians blame the interreligious strife on hooligans [who?] taking advantage of absent or weak security forces. Others believe it's because of a deep-seated mistrust between Muslims and the minority Christian community [how did the "mistrust" originate?]." Although the report does highlight cases in which Christians are victimized, the tone throughout—and even from the title of the report, "In Egypt, Christian-Muslim Tension is on the Rise"—suggest that examples of Muslims victimized by Christians could just as easily have been found (not true). The accompanying photo is of a group of angry Christians militantly holding a cross aloft—not Muslims destroying crosses, which is what prompts the Christians to such displays of solidarity.

Two more strategies that fall under the MSM's umbrella of obfuscating and minimizing Islam's role—strategies with which the reader should become acquainted—appeared in recent reports dealing with the jihadi group Boko Haram and its ongoing genocide of Nigeria's Christians.

First, some context: Boko Haram—acronym for "Western Education is a Sin", its full name in Arabic is "Sunnis for Da'wa [Islamization] and Jihad"—is a full-throated terrorist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the secular government and establishment of Sharia law. It has been slaughtering Christians for years, with an uptick since the Christmas Day church bombing in 2012, which left at least 40 Christians dead; followed by its New Year ultimatum that all Christians must evacuate the northern regions of Nigeria or die—an ultimatum Boko Haram has been living up to: hardly a day goes by without a terrorist attack on Christians or a church, most recently on Easter day, leaving 20 dead.

Blurring the Line Between Persecutor and Victim

Now consider some MSM strategies. The first one is to frame the conflict between Muslims and Christians in a way that blurs the line between persecutor and victim, as in, for example, a recent BBC report on one of Boko Haram's many church attacks that left three Christians dead, including a toddler. After stating the bare-bones facts in a couple of sentences, the report went on to describe how "the bombing sparked a riot by Christian youths, with reports that at least two Muslims were killed in the violence. The two men were dragged off their bikes after being stopped at a roadblock set up by the rioters, police said. A row of Muslim-owned shops was also burned…" The report goes on and on, with a special section about "very angry" Christians, until one all but confuses victims with persecutors, forgetting what the Christians are "very angry" about in the first place—unprovoked and nonstop terror attacks on their churches, and the murder of their women and children.

This broadcast is reminiscent of the Egyptian New Year's Eve church bombing that left over 20 Christians dead: the MSM reported it, but under headlines such as, "Christians clash with police in Egypt after attack on churchgoers kills 21"(Washington Post) and "Clashes grow as Egyptians remain angry after attack"(New York Times)—as if frustrated Christians lashing out against wholesale slaughter is as newsworthy or of the same value as the slaughter itself, implying that their angry reaction "evens" everything up.

Dissembling the Perpetrators' Motivation

The second MSM strategy involves dissembling over the jihadis' motivation. An AFP report describing a different Boko Haram church attack—another one, which also killed three Christians during Sunday service—does a fair job reporting the facts. But then it concludes: "Violence blamed on Boko Haram, whose goals remain largely unclear, has since 2009 claimed more than 1,000 lives, including more than 300 this year, according to figures tallied by AFP and rights groups."

Although Boko Haram has been howling its straightforward goals for a decade—enforcing Sharia law and subjugating, if not eliminating, Nigeria's Christians—the media with a straight face is claiming ignorance about these goals (similarly, the New York Times described Boko Haram's goals as "senseless"—even as the group continues justifying them on Islamic doctrinal grounds). One would have thought that a decade after the jihadi attacks of 9/11—in light if all the subsequent images of Muslims in militant attire shouting distinctly Islamic slogans such as "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is the Greatest!"] and calling for Sharia law and the subjugation of "infidels"—reporters would by now know what their goals are.

Of course, the media's obfuscation of jihadi goals serves a purpose: it leaves the way open for the politically correct, MSM-approved motivations for Muslim violence: "political oppression," "poverty," "frustration," and so on. From here, one can see why politicians such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton cite "poverty" as "what's fueling all this stuff" (a reference to Boko Haram's slaughter of Christians).

In short, while the MSM may report the most frugal facts concerning Christian persecution, they utilize their entire arsenal of semantic games, catch phrases, and convenient omissions that uphold the traditional narrative—that Muslim violence is anything but a byproduct of the Islamic indoctrination of intolerance.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Jersey Voters Support NYPD Tactics on Jihadism, Reject Christie's Criticism

by Andrew G. Bostom

Quinnipiac University polling data released today (4/11/12) indicate that by a wide margin, 71% to 20%, New Jersey voters the affirm that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) is "doing what is necessary to combat terrorism" by gathering information on Muslim organizations and activities in the Garden State. And by another wide margin, 62% of New Jersey voters believe the NYPD treats Muslims appropriately, while only 18 percent indicate that Muslims are targeted unfairly by the NYPD. Moreover, New Jersey voters disagree, substantially, 56% 32%, with Governor Chris Christie's criticism of New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's tactics to combat jihadism.

The questions addressing and responses these issues are reproduced from the survey, below:

32. "Do you think the New York City Police Department has unfairly targeted Muslims to combat terrorism or has acted appropriately?"

Appropriate: 62%

Unfair: 18%

Don't know: 20%

33. "As you may know, in an effort to combat terrorism, the New York City Police Department has gathered information on Muslim organizations and individuals in New Jersey since 9/11. Do you think the New York City Police Department has crossed the line by gathering information on Muslims in New Jersey or are they doing what is necessary to combat terrorism?"

Necessary: 71%

Crossed line: 20%

Don't know: 9%

34. Recently Governor Christie has criticized New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for the way that the New York City Police Department has conducted information gathering on Muslims in New Jersey. In general, do you agree or disagree with Chris Christie's criticism of Ray Kelly?

Disagree: 56%

Agree: 32%

Don't know: 12%

Andrew G. Bostom


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Egyptian Court Suspends Panel Empowered to Write New Constitution

by Rick Moran

A panel made up of 70% Islamist members that was chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies to write the new constitution has been suspended by the country's supreme court.

The significance of this ruling is that the constitution will now almost certainly not be written by the time the presidential elections are held in June, which means that the new president will be operating under the old constitiution - a document that grants him near dictatorial powers.


The court ruled that the Islamist-dominated parliament had acted improperly in naming parliamentarians to fill half the 100 seats of the constituent assembly. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the largest parliamentary bloc, complained that "politics" had a hand in the judges' decision.

Omar Ashour, an expert on Islamist movements who is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, said the court's decision could signal a move by the ruling military council to intervene in the democratic transition. Removing the military from a political role is one of the major challenges Egypt faces in the years ahead.

"That the administrative court would enter into such a political and ideological battle is not a good sign," he said. He noted that there are two court cases pending to dissolve the parliament, a move that could throw the transition into chaos.

Now some new body - its composition and selection process as yet unclear - will be tasked with writing the constitution. Some liberals rejoiced in the court's decision, hoping it would result in a constituent assembly that was more inclusive.

Secular parties had wanted fewer of the members to come from the elected parliament, which is dominated by Islamist parties. In the three-stage election that spanned the end of last year and the beginning of 2012, the FJP and the ultraconservative Nour Party came in first and second, and then worked together to appoint the constituent assembly.

The courts are still dominated by the military so the notion that the generals will be intervening in the democratic process is well founded. Can they manipulate the presidential vote to elect Mubarak's former intel chief General Omar Suleiman? If so, things might become a lot more difficult for the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.

Rick Moran


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The Region: The Iraqi model: As Good As it Gets

by Barry Rubin

[Editor: Above is the Iraqi flag, which reads "God is great" (Allahu Akbar) in Arabic.]

Iraq is in a mess. Violence continues.

Factionalism leads to endless bickering.

Corruption is at high levels. Christians live in fear or flee altogether. Islamism is constantly creeping forward. Yet I would suggest that with all these shortcomings the “Iraqi model” is the best that can be expected for the Middle East.

What’s the worst-case scenario? Iran, Afghanistan, Gaza, Sudan, or the permanent civil war situation in Syria, Yemen, and probably Libya.

It isn’t that democracy is theoretically impossible or incompatible in principle with Islam or Arab society. The problem is that it just isn’t going to happen at this particular point in history. What you or I or small groups of moderate democratic Arabs, or na├»ve Western journalists want isn’t relevant here.

The reporters can pal around with Muslim Brotherhood members every day of the week and talk about how moderate they are but that won’t make them moderate.

Tens of thousands of well-financed, fanatical, hard-working, and tactically creative cadre are laboring long hours throughout the region to bring revolutionary Islamist dictators in each country.

They are opposed by dozens of moderates who are concentrated in the capital cities, have hardly any money, usually don’t know how to relate to the masses, have no strategic sense, are more badly divided than the Islamists and confuse writing an op-ed piece or holding a demonstration with organizing a mass movement to seize state power.

Wishful thinking has no place in political analysis or statecraft or journalism. The fact that the moderates are so much “like us” is not an advantage for them–except in getting favorable media coverage–but a fatal disadvantage in their own societies.

Personally, I would prefer that the moderates win, but then I grew up watching the Washington Senators baseball team finish in last place in the American League every year.

The model usually put forward, including by the Obama Administration, is the Turkish regime. It is rare in history for a democratic state to promote a foreign government that is so antithetical to its own interests in almost every way. There are some positions in common but far more that are different. Two put it as briefly as possible, there are two problems.

The first problem is that the Turkish regime is boosting radical Islamist movements and governments that are America’s biggest enemy. These include Iran, the Gaza Strip (Hamas), and the current government in Lebanon (Hizballah). The Turkish regime has tried to back the Muslim Brotherhood but has been rebuffed, since the Brotherhood has no interest in following non-Arab leadership. And in Syria, the Turkish regime has been backing the Islamists in the opposition, intending to produce an anti-American regime in Damascus.

The Turkish regime also loathes Israel and supports radical Islamist forces against it. Only regarding Iraq do US and Turkish interests basically coincide.

The second problem is that the Turkish regime has systematically reduced democracy at home. Hundreds of moderates have been arrested on ridiculous charges. The armed forces, formerly the guardian of secularism and the basic democratic system, have been broken. The media is intimidated.

Radical Islamists have been infiltrated into all parts of the government. This well-coordinated creeping tendency toward dictatorship has barely been reported in the West.

What is the Turkish model in terms of the Arabic-speaking world? It is a formula for radical Islamist groups to seize state power and fundamentally transform their societies while appearing to be moderate.

It is a step by step process, the equivalent of the Russian revolutionary movement graduating from anarchism to Bolshevism precisely a century earlier.

The most surprising thing is not that the West has been taken in by this trick but that it has happened so thoroughly.

At a time when even Lebanon is governed by a combination of Islamists and radical clients of Tehran and Damascus, Tunisia has a mostly Islamist government, and when the secular Turkish republic is being transformed by Islamists there is not much of an alternative.

In Morocco and Jordan, as usual, the kings have brilliantly maneuvered to provide the appearance of democratic pluralism and even Islamist participation while he holds the reins. In Algeria, as usual, the army is running things. In Saudi Arabia and the small sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf (Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman), as usual, traditionalist regimes rule but they are now not so much intimidated by radical Arab nationalist threats as horrified by radical Islamist threats.

And at a moment when President Barack Obama has transformed America from being leader of the Free World to reflecting the effect, unrealistic elite from the Brie World, there’s not much hope from that quarter.

So that brings us to Iraq. As I’ve outlined above, the situation there is far from ideal.

Yet there are some significant advantages.

Internally, there are elections that mean something, a real element of pluralism, space for freedom of speech, and some working decentralization.

Of the greatest importance is the fact that Islamist elements have been defeated (in the Sunni case) or held at bay (in the Shia case). Things can certainly get worse but some stability seems to have been achieved at this time.

Another key factor is that Iraq is acting more “normally” as a state by minding its own business. It is not subverting neighbors or trying to take over the Middle East.

Iraq also has decent relations with the West. This is a country that is trying to deal with its own problems. And if there is factionalism and corruption, at least it appears to be clear that no force can monopolize power and establish a repressive dictatorship.

Call it chaotic pluralism as an alternative to Islamist dictatorship. And, yes, that appears to be the best that can be expected in those countries not still dominated by traditionalist monarchies. It is certainly preferable to the “Turkish model.” Yet I don’t expect many people in the West to appreciate that point.

Is my assessment too pessimistic? Well, you are free to be optimistic. You can imagine an Israel-Palestinian peace based on a comprehensive treaty ending the conflict and establishing a two-state solution.

You can fantasize about moderate Muslim Brotherhood leaders pragmatically getting down to solving Egypt’s problems by creating jobs, building housing, and establishing new industries. You can pretend that various forces will be grateful to America and President Obama for demolishing several dictatorships.

But none of this is going to happen. It is vital to understand why and to comprehend what must be done in the face of this situation.

By pretending to soar to the heights of democracy, the Islamists are on the road to autocracy, and an anti-Western, regionally destabilizing autocracy at that. By being so gullible, the West is assisting at the domination of the region of a repressive, anti-Western force that will set the region back 60 years (to the origin of radical Arab nationalist hegemony) if not 600 years.

This article was also printed in The Jerusalem Post.

Barry Rubin


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