Saturday, June 30, 2012

Morsi and the Future of the Peace Treaty

by Dore Gold

When Dr. Mohammed Morsi, the president-elect of Egypt, spoke during the last year about his view of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli treaty of peace it was apparent that he was pulled in two opposing directions. On the one hand, when he would speak to Western leaders he would describe the need for Egypt to honor the agreements that it has signed. This was precisely what he told Senator John Kerry in December 2011, according to the Muslim Brotherhood's summary of the meeting.

Yet on the other hand, Morsi also stated several months earlier that it was necessary to conduct a re-examination of the 1978 Camp David Agreement, which had served as the basis of the treaty. His party's legal advisor expanded on this point suggesting that it was necessary to re-examine all the clauses of the agreement to determine whether its abrogation was mandated.

The General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badie, who is expected to wield enormous influence behind the scenes in a Morsi government, called for having the Egyptian parliament conduct this re-examination. In his weekly message on December 23, 2010, Badie also gave the ideological context of the Muslim Brotherhood approach, by concluding that negotiations or reconciliation with Israel would be a "big mistake." Morsi himself invoked during a speech in May the name of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, and the organization's famous slogan: "The Quran is our constitution, jihad is our path, and death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration."

Given this background, there is a duality in Morsi's approach to the 1979 peace treaty that is emerging. This became clear in another interview that he gave a month ago on the Egyptian ONtv network. He reiterated, "We will respect the agreement — that is essential." But then he immediately added a qualification to this statement: "But it is necessary to relate to the details. Both sides have to respect the agreement." He then asked "where is the comprehensive peace for all the peoples of the region?" Morsi explained that there were two agreements, between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and the Palestinians, and he implied that since Israel had not kept its commitments to the Palestinian side, Egypt was not obligated to maintain the peace treaty.

Using this legal argument, Morsi was re-opening one of the key issues that had been already settled in past Israeli-Egyptian negotiations thirty-three years ago: Namely, was there any formal linkage between the bilateral agreement between Israeli and Egypt and the state of relations between Israel and other Arab parties, especially the Palestinians? The Treaty of Peace was absolutely clear on the subject, rejecting the idea of linkage. Thus Article VI (2) plainly states: "The Parties undertake to fulfill in good faith their obligations under this Treaty, without regard to action or inaction of any other party and independently of any instrument external to this Treaty." The Egyptian Foreign Ministry knows well that this is what the Treaty of Peace states, but it is not clear the extent to which the international community is still aware of these subtle details.

How should Israel behave should the new Egyptian government make this argument that the legal status of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty is linked to the pace of negotiations with the Palestinians in the months ahead? Washington is the most important player in this regard. Not only did President Carter sign the Treaty of Peace in the name of the US, but there is also a US-Israel Memorandum of Agreement according to which Washington undertook to take "appropriate measures to promote full observance of the Treaty of Peace." What will the U.S. do if Morsi suggests to put the future status of the peace agreement with Israel before the Egyptian public in a national referendum? Unfortunately, when asked about this idea in a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour in May, Morsi did not rule this option out.

One of the questions that needs to be answered is whether the Muslim Brotherhood feels that it has wider latitude with Israel after Morsi's victory. Last week, the Egyptian daily al-Ahram reported that some secular parties in Egypt expressed their anger at the Obama administration for what they perceived was its decision to give its blessing to the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral victory. Commentators in the Jordanian and Palestinian press made the same observation.

Under such conditions, the Egyptians could miscalculate the American position, thinking that their desire to build relations with the new Egyptian leadership would make it more prone to side with Cairo in political disputes with Jerusalem. It is imperative that the U.S. clarify its strong opposition to any attempt to erode the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and obtain and accurate picture of Morsi’s diplomatic plans.

Morsi and his new government will have to strike a balance between their strong ideological opposition to Israel and the constraints they face from the international community and especially the U.S. It has already been said that Morsi will have to worry about providing food for tens of millions of Egyptians every day — a factor that should moderate the behavior of a future Egyptian regime.

There will be a period in which the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood will test their freedom of maneuver. Israel is already making clear that it views the 1979 treaty as both the cornerstone of any future peace process and one of the key components of regional stability. It can only be hoped that Egypt will continue to reach the same conclusion as well.

Dore Gold


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The Dictator in the Black Iron Man Suit

by Lloyd Marcus

My nephew, along with other fellow black family and friends, defends Obama no matter what. My young adult nephew, bless his ignorant heart, said, "All I know is Bush made a mess -- and when we get a black president, people have formed a camp to destroy him." I am sure he expresses the sentiment of a majority of blacks.

I asked my brothers Jerry and David to define what it means to be black. My brothers defined being black as having nothing to do with one's behavior, but simply having what is commonly known as "black skin." It was refreshing to hear my siblings' answer.

Al Sharpton and a majority of the so-called black civil rights coalition define blackness as having an urban experience, solely dependent on government for survival, always voting Democrat, and being incapable of finding one's way to acquire a photo ID.

Sharpton and company consider self sufficient-blacks traitors to their race, trying to act white.

All of my life, I have fought to free myself and fellow blacks from the left's efforts to force blacks to live in their "black box."

For example: the left says if you are black and prefer opera over rap music, you are trying to be white. Even in schools, black students have been persecuted for having good grades and speaking proper English. This is a contributing factor to 70% of black males dropping out of school. It simply is not "cool" to be a good student.

As a child, I believed there was a great big, wonderful world out there. Why must I be limited to live only in a black box? White people are free to express themselves however they please. But as a black person, my acceptable choices are limited to achievement via an urban perspective.

So-called black civil rights leaders are first and foremost zealots of liberalism. Loyalty to skin color is farther down their list. This is why the NAACP so despised the first black secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Rice and Thomas achieved major success via education and hard work, sidestepping the left's rule for acceptable black achievement. They dictate that blacks succeed only in their authorized black box via government intervention and lowered standards.

Even Obama had to counteract his own coming from wealth and privilege and attending Harvard. Obama had to kiss the rings of black poverty pimps Sharpton and Jackson and attend Rev. Jeremiah Wright's racist church for 20 years to win "street cred" and prove that he is down with the brothers.

Blacks who support Obama to a fault are functioning on the misconception that Obama is black like them. The dirty little secret is that Obama is not black as they define blackness -- someone who looks like them, operating with their best interest at heart. Obama is first and foremost a zealot of liberalism, ruling from within a black Iron Man suit -- an indestructible suit of armor which protects him from all criticism and opposition.

Sam Donaldson and a majority of his comrades in the mainstream media have launched their own re-elect Obama campaign. Their modus operandi is to declare all opposition to Obama racist -- "people on the right against a black president." Such is the narrative they plan to brand on the forehead of every patriot until the election.

The mainstream media used Obama's black Iron Man suit to exempt him from the traditional vetting process of presidential wannabes. Because Obama was the presidential nominee in the black Iron Man suit, the mainstream media ignored Obama's friendship with Bill Ayers, a self-proclaimed communist who bombed government buildings in the 1960s. The media buried the story about Obama attending Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years -- a church which taught racism against whites and that America is evil.

Even today, we know very little about Obama's history and education. There is unprecedented secrecy surrounding the past of this U.S. president. How does Obama get away with it? He lives safe, warm, and protected in his black Iron Man suit.

On top of his numerous unprecedented usurpations of power, incidents of breaking the law, and insistences on ignoring the Constitution, Obama has just given Arizona the finger. In short, Obama has instructed his justice department not to enforce immigration laws in Arizona and to punish Arizona for any attempts to defend its own border. How can Obama get away with such an outrageous, lawless, Soviet-dictator-like ruling? Obama is the ruler in the black Iron Man suit.

To all you blacks who think Obama is one of you: you are wrong. Obama is not black. Any loyalty he has to fellow people of color is trumped by his devout loyalty to his religion of liberalism.

For example: liberalism says the planet/the environment is better off with fewer people. This is why Obama supports abortion despite the genocide of blacks via abortion. Blacks are being aborted at a faster rate than any other group. Would a true black homey support abortion?

While Obama claims to be a Christian, evidence confirms that he is overwhelmingly committed to implementing his religion of liberalism's anti-Christian agenda. For example, Obama is forcing Christian institutions to fund abortion and contraceptive services against their Biblical beliefs.

Juxtapose that with Obama coming out in support of same-sex marriage and telling the gay, lesbian, and transgender community that he would be not only a friend, but an advocate.

Obama is not black, nor is he Christian. Obama is a zealot of liberalism -- a dictator in a black Iron Man suit.

It is imperative that patriots not allow Team Obama to use his black Iron Man suit to intimidate us into silence and submission to Obama's socialistic agenda. We must continue to fight Obama's tyranny with an all-hands-on-deck sense of urgency.

Obama's seemingly indestructible black Iron Man suit of armor can and will be penetrated by your vote for Mitt Romney in November.

Lloyd Marcus


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In A Few Years China Will Likely Be the Second-Most Important Country for Israel

by Barry Rubin

There is a remarkable amount of interest in China about Israel and Jews, as I discovered during a trip to China sponsored by SIGNAL, the Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership.

The most obvious reason is that the Chinese–one important official called it the “little superpower–perceive that Israel in particular and the Jewish people in general have been success stories. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been less unique in the world. But now, sad to say, it stands out more because the United States and Europe, perhaps only temporarily, are not working very well.

Of course, on a strategic level, Israel and China have some differing interests but these are less important than they may appear to be. China wants to have commerce with everyone, including Iran, and is protecting Syria in the international framework.

Yet China has significantly reduced energy imports from Iran in order to show support for the international efforts against Iran’s nuclear drive and clear signals have been sent to Tehran. Clearly, Chinese interests don’t benefit from Tehran having a nuclear arsenal and being a destabilizing force in the region. As for Syria, Israel’s position on whether the current regime should be overthrown has not been unambiguous. The Chinese argue that a radical Islamist government worse than the current one in Damascus may well come to power. That is not clear but the concern is a reasonable one, especially because U.S. policy is supporting the Islamists in Syria.

Israel and China also have many parallel interests, among them the desire for stability in the Middle East and the hope that revolutionary Islamism doesn’t spread. And China’s policy of dealing with all other countries has another side, since it will not let its relationships with Israel be interfered with by any possible Arab or Iranian demands. Indeed, if China decides to become the main customer for Israeli natural gas and oil exports, the Jerusalem-Beijing relationship may be Israel’s most important link, second only to the one with the United States.

Another factor which should not be underestimated is the lack of Chinese prejudice toward Jews and prejudgment against Israel that has become such a huge obstacle for Israel’s dealing with the West.

Most important of all, is China’s emphasis on economic and social development, the priority on raising living standards and achieving national success rather than such typically regrettable goals of expanding their territory, getting revenge for past grievances, and preferring pragmatic solutions to imposing ideological rigidity on problems.

There is a huge amount of cooperation, far more than many people realize, on joint projects. While hi-technology is the most obvious area of such activity, there are many others as well. Energy issues are equally paramount. China shares with Israel a great interest in finding alternative energy sources, not so much due to environmental considerations but to financial and security ones. Some impressive ideas and pilot programs are underway that seem more imaginative and likely to succeed than what I’ve seen in the American debate.

Several Israel and Jewish programs have opened in different universities; students are studying Hebrew and other relevant topics; Chinese bookstores contain multiple volumes about Jewish and Israeli achievements without—unlike some other Asian countries–exhibiting antisemitism. Obviously, those interested in these things is proportionately tiny in the world’s most populous country. But this sector has reached a size significant enough to sustain itself and to influence the broader society.

On a humorous level, when a Chinese colleague told me, whether accurately or otherwise, that his people’s culture entailed always being optimistic and believing in a better future, I responded that the Israeli and Jewish characteristic was to be pessimistic and then make jokes about it.

Seriously, though, there are a number of important points—certainly seen as such by those Chinese who think about it—in common. Among the points that figure on this list are a mutual experience of a long history of civilization, wide dispersion, emphasis on the importance of education, readiness to work hard, focus on family, and suffering of persecution. If contemporary Jews and Israelis have lost some of these values, perhaps renewing them might learn something from China.

Of course, we can have criticisms of contemporary Chinese politics and policies but it is also important not to cling to outdated notions. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on China—though I once thought seriously of pursuing that career path—but my visits to the country go back to 1974, when the word totalitarian could accurately have been applied.

But China is no longer the country of the Cultural Revolution and the time of great repression. It has turned toward capitalism and opened up a much wider margin of freedom. The real power of personal initiative has been unleashed and the results have been awesome. I doubt whether any country has made such rapid progress in social and economic development so fast in history.

But here’s an equally important point. While these changes are theoretically reversible, I—and a lot of Chinese people—don’t think this is going to happen. A course seems set in which freedoms will continue to expand in the decades to come. Equally, there seems to be a genuine appreciation—as there has been in the West but there certainly hasn’t been in the Middle East—that the old strategies of war to seize territory and empire-building abroad are obsolete.

An Egyptian friend visited China a few years ago and asked a counterpart, “China has been the victim of so much oppression and imperialism. How do you deal with that?”

The response was, “We got over it.” The Egyptian was astonished, but as a liberal Arab he realized that his own society would be far better off if it eschewed the politics of revenge, bitter hatred, and the angry assertion of superiority on the basis of an inferiority complex. Of course, the Arabic-speaking world has unfortunately been moving in the opposite direction with predictably terrible results. In contrast, Israel and China focus on positive national construction, raising living standards, and seeking peace.

What’s important for Israel, then, is to work with this process of events in China rather than to underestimate it isn’t happening or focus only on a negative side that is becoming smaller over time. Given Europe’s regrettable decline and hostility—which should not be overestimated but must be seriously evaluated—looking east seems the sensible global strategy for Israel in the coming decades.

Barry Rubin


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Iran Kidnaps Pro-Israeli Kurd

by Abe Greenwald

There is some horrible news out of Kurdistan today. reports that Mawloud Afand, editor of an Israel-Kurdish magazine called Israel Kurd “disappeared ten days ago in [the] Kurdistan region of Iraq.” Israeli news sources say he was kidnapped by Iranian intelligence in the city of Sulaimaniyah. claims that Iran had told the Kurdish government to shut Israel Kurd down and it refused.

The Kurds have long been accused of Zionist collaboration owing to their mostly cooperative relationship with Israelis. In fact, one popular argument against a safe and autonomous Kurdistan is that it would be a “second Israel” in the region. There are obvious commonalities between the Middle East’s Kurds and Jews. Both are overwhelmingly pro-American (the Kurds rightly credit the U.S. with saving them from Saddam), largely inclined toward democracy, and have histories as persecuted minorities. Afand’s interest in an Israeli-Kurdish connection is representative of a not-so-quiet sense of Kurdish solidarity with Jews. He also, from what I can gather, has some Jewish family. There are Jewish Kurds, some of whom claim that Abraham of the Hebrew Bible was Kurdish.

The current Kurdish relationship with Iran is tricky. As the American presence in Iraq dwindled and then disappeared, Iran took the opportunity to increase its political influence both in Baghdad and with the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. Among the Kurds, this manifests in day-to-day commercial ties and an increased oil trade with Iran. While the Kurds would be far happier to deal with Americans on both a commercial and political level, their precarious status leaves them few options about whom to accept as business partners. Many political decisions for the Kurds are a matter of survival, not prosperity (something else they share with Israelis). Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is Kurdish and there are reports that Tehran is pressuring him to save the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from a no-confidence vote. The idea that Iraq is now an Iranian satrapy is way over the top but there’s no question that Iran has a troubling amount of influence on Iraqi affairs.

If Afand was kidnapped by Iran it stands as yet another tragic consequence of the United States’ failure to maintain a presence in post-war Iraq and especially to build up our relationship with our most eager and appreciative Muslim allies. It also highlights the singular bravery and decency of the Kurds that they make mortal enemies of the fanatical Iranian thugs to whose will they refuse fully to bend. Last, it’s another reminder of the Iranian regime’s implacable and ever more brazen savagery in a world abandoned by the leadership of the American superpower.

Abe Greenwald


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Philadelphia and the Burqa Bandits

by David J. Rusin

Some scoff at the idea that face-covering Islamic veils endanger public safety in any Western nation, let alone the United States, but Philadelphians do not have the luxury of blissful ignorance. As recent events highlight, their city has become the American epicenter of robberies and murders carried out by criminals disguised as fundamentalist Muslim women. Several factors help explain Philadelphia's place at the forefront of this trend. Will other U.S. cities be next?

A burqa bandit in action on March 20.

The latest wave of burqa banditry to target Philadelphia began at a branch of More Bank in the East Oak Lane neighborhood two days before Christmas. Following similar heists on January 6, March 14, March 20, and April 4, the Philadelphia Police Department and FBI issued a wanted flier for a pair of black males in "Muslim-like clothing covering their heads and bodies." Surveillance images indicate that the outfits include face veils (niqabs) and "burqa-like robes," to quote one news item, leaving just the eyes visible. The same Wells Fargo branch struck on April 4 was then hit again on April 13, after which Muslim groups offered $20,000 for information leading to the perpetrators. No arrests or further bank robberies have been reported.

The criminal applications of this attire also were on display during an April 18 homicide at a barbershop in Upper Darby, a township bordering West Philadelphia. Police believe that a love triangle inspired Sharif Wynn to enter with a gun and demand money from the barber, Michael Turner. Wynn insists that he merely meant to scare the man, but officers say that he shot Turner intentionally at point-blank range. The police superintendent has revealed that the attacker was "dressed in Muslim female garb, was covered from head to toe. The only thing that was showing was his eyes." Authorities identified Wynn through interviews and his electronic trail.

Though assembling a complete history of niqab-aided crimes is hindered by the unknown consistency of media reporting, the seven incidents outlined above appear to be the most that the Philadelphia area has suffered in any four-month period to date. However, the city earned its reputation as a burqa banditry hot spot long before this recent spike.

The worst episode occurred on May 3, 2008, when three Muslim men — two dressed in female Islamic apparel and face veils — held up a Bank of America branch inside a supermarket in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. Police Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski gave chase, only to be shot to death by robber Howard Cain, whom officers killed shortly thereafter. Cain's accomplices were caught, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life.

The Philadelphia area endured many additional cases between then and now. On November 16, 2009, a man in a face veil attempted to rob a Bank of America location in the suburb of Drexel Hill, but he left empty-handed after an employee played dumb; DNA from a niqab discarded near the scene later led to an arrest. Other unsuccessful perpetrators have included an armed man in a "long black dress … and a hijab covering his head and face" at a Sovereign Bank branch in the city's Mount Airy neighborhood on February 1, 2011, and a niqab-wearing man at a branch of the same bank in Woodlynne, New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia, on June 13, 2011.

Women have gotten into the act as well. Police arrested Lashawnda Jones in December 2010 following robberies of four TD Bank branches within a 40-mile radius of Philadelphia during the prior two months. Though Jones had sported a niqab in the earlier heists, she used only a headscarf (hijab) for the final one, in which she lured tellers to the vault, brandished firearms, and stole $103,000. Soon after showing her face, she was behind bars.

A blog post by Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes collects more examples from the area. Similar cases throughout the West — including many in Europe and a few others in North America — are listed too, but crimes of this nature occur with surprising frequency in the City of Brotherly Love. "What is it about Philadelphia, burqas, and robberies?" he wonders.

The demographics of Philadelphia, whose Muslim population is among the largest in the U.S., make it particularly fertile ground. While only a very small percentage of Philadelphians wear niqabs, they are sufficiently numerous to be seen with regularity. Desensitizing the public to this radical attire opens many doors.

"Whatever happened to the mask?" a local imam said in response to recent crimes, referring to ski masks often employed by robbers. Simply put, the increasing prevalence of face-cloaking Islamic garb is rendering traditional masks obsolete. Both provide anonymity, but a niqab grants the wearer access that a mask does not. Whereas spotting a masked individual entering a bank or business strongly indicates a robbery, someone in a niqab doing so may represent just another patch in Philadelphia's multicultural quilt. Indecision about the wearer's motives — indeed, most women in niqabs do not have criminal intent — buys crucial time for a heist to unfold on the perpetrator's terms. The relatively common sight of niqabs, as opposed to masks, also enables a robber to travel to the crime scene in the same face-blocking apparel, further lowering the chances of being identified.

Moreover, they take advantage of political correctness, which cautions against scrutinizing people who don such clothes. A 2009 article in Philadelphia magazine captures how this atmosphere contributed to the robbery that left Sergeant Liczbinski dead: "To Western eyes, two of them became hijabi — Muslim women who cover themselves — by pulling on full-length black burqas. They became, in a sense, invisible. The bank sat inside a busy supermarket, where shoppers would surely notice the two monoliths moving among them; but just as surely, those shoppers would pass by with eyes cast down, or aside, or beyond. They may be drawn for a moment by the sheer otherness of the hijabi, but would dependably look away with a twinge of awkward guilt for having noticed." The journalist explains, "So complete were the robbers' identities — so perfect their invisibility — that the store's security cameras recorded the manager as he talked to an emergency dispatcher, and walked out between two of the disguised figures," utterly oblivious to them.

Islamists promote this cultural paralysis. Case in point: the victimhood narrative pushed in the wake of the latest Philadelphia robberies. One imam declared them "a hate crime against Muslims," as they allegedly put Muslim women "in danger of being stereotyped, victimized, and ostracized." City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. doubled down on the persecution theme: "In many ways I'm reminded of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, stereotyped because of a garment called a hoodie." Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chimed in as well. "Islamophobes love to see this sort of thing, because it gives them fuel to express their hatred," he claimed. "Now they can say, 'See, this is why Muslim women shouldn't dress the way they do.'"

Therefore, banks must run the gauntlet of "Islamophobia" charges if they pursue a seemingly obvious remedy: forbidding attire that hides customers' faces from security cameras. Financial institutions nationwide have worked to deter more conventional robberies, reportedly with some success, by implementing dress codes that ban hats, hoods, and sunglasses, but Islamists have fought restrictions on headgear. When disputes arose several years ago over women being asked to remove headscarves or be served in alternate areas, CAIR characteristically demanded more sensitive policies and issued dubious calls for federal probes. Just as predictably, the banks and credit unions tended to cave and exempt hijabs. No doubt robbers note the deference toward Islam enforced by Islamists — a phenomenon exacerbated in cities like Philadelphia with copious Muslims and an aggressive CAIR chapter.

Many Philadelphia Muslims cover their hair, so banks encounter substantial ambient pressure not to adopt rules that could affect any religiously motivated garments. This author recently visited branches of six major banks in Philadelphia and found only one — a PNC Bank location — with a sign requesting that customers take off hats, hoods, and sunglasses. (Coincidence or not, there is no record of PNC Bank being struck by burqa bandits.) As if to dissuade others from launching similar policies, Amara Chaudhry of CAIR-Philadelphia already has bemoaned, in the words of an article, how a Muslim "was not allowed to enter the branch [of one bank] before first removing her hijab, making her feel as naked as removing her blouse and bra." CAIR officials have not specifically addressed niqabs in banks or complained of women being denied service because of them, but the year is still young.

How to proceed? The ultimate solution would entail proscribing face-covering apparel everywhere in public, as France and Belgium have done. Yet American banks enjoy plenty of leeway to ban it on their premises right now, assuming that they ignore CAIR's specious threats and frequently bogus tales of Muslim victimhood. The First Amendment may protect niqabs on the streets, but banks are private entities and thus not bound by it. They also are not listed in Title II of the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Act among "places of public accommodation" where religiously discriminating against clients is illegal — not that faith-neutral dress codes are "discriminatory" anyway, regardless of Islamists' pleas. In addition, though numerous states, including Pennsylvania, have civil rights laws that are more expansive than the federal version, the various requirements to accommodate religious practices of customers or employees are not absolute and typically must be balanced against the hardships imposed on others.

One can debate whether banks should tolerate hijabs, which often obscure less of the face than hoodies or caps, but it is inconceivable that banks are somehow obligated to welcome niqabs that purposefully hide the face and burden others by undermining safety in a venue where security is paramount. If ski masks are not permitted, niqabs should not be either. Drawing the line with clear policies that prohibit all criminal-friendly garments on bank property would be a significant step in the appropriate direction — and almost certainly a legal one.

Legend has it that when the infamous Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he replied, "Because that's where the money is." If Philadelphia's niqab-clad outlaws were asked why they disguise themselves as Muslim women, they might offer an equally straightforward answer: because it works. So long as religious garb resembling the dress of bandits proliferates and sensitivity toward it trumps security, the stage is set for actual bandits to adopt such clothing for their nefarious ends, just as terrorists regularly don burqas and niqabs in Muslim-majority nations. (Fewer reports of veiled robbers emerge from the Islamic world, but one suspects that these crimes would be less likely to reach Western media than high-profile terrorist attacks.)

Situated at the leading edge of this problem in the U.S., Philadelphians have a special responsibility to find effective solutions. Other American cities must stay alert as well, because the ingredients that make Philadelphia a prime target exist elsewhere; Detroit comes to mind. If Philadelphia manages to curtail the trend, its approach can be a template for comparable cities to follow. But if it fails, criminals in the country's niqab-heavy metropolitan areas may soon thank the trailblazing burqa bandits of Philadelphia for having provided a successful model of their own.

David J. Rusin is a research fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


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Obama’s New Middle East

by Ben Shapiro

This week, President Obama’s Egyptian Revolution bore its first fruit: the election of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi. Mursi, of course, is the same fellow who stated last month, “The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal. Today we can establish Sharia law because our nation will acquire well-being only with Islam and Sharia. The Muslim Brothers and the Freedom and Justice Party will be the conductors of these goals.” Rallies for Mursi have included calls to make Jerusalem the capital of Egypt, and songs and chants about how his supporters are all affiliated with Hamas.

Yet upon his election, the Obama administration quickly congratulated Mursi. His election, said the Obama administration, was a “milestone in [Egypt’s] transition to democracy.” Iran apparently felt the same way, celebrating this “revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people… in its final stages of the Islamic Awakening and a new era of change in the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, up north, Syria and Turkey have engaged in a shooting war. Neither side is a paragon. But after letting Assad have his way for the past several months, the Obama administration is getting ready to slip into that conflict too. Yesterday, the White House announced that it would work with Turkey and NATO to hold Syria “accountable” for shooting down a Turkish jet. Surely, this will end well. Just as well as Libya, where Islamists, having their way cleared by Western jets, are poised to take over.

The entire Middle East is now an Islamist tinderbox. And it’s not as though Barack Obama didn’t see it coming. When he spoke in Cairo in 2009, he reportedly insisted that official invitations be distributed to the Muslim Brotherhood – one of the only acts in Egyptian history in which the Muslim Brotherhood was specifically included in the political conversation. Tunisia has gone Islamic. So has Libya.

And then there’s Iran. While the United States pretends to play hard-line with the mullahs, Vladimir Putin is making his presence felt in the region, visiting both American allies like Israel and enemies like Tehran. Russia and China are actively opposing the US’s Iran policy – and we don’t even have any coherent Iran policy to speak of. And, of course, the Iranian people remain under the thumb of religious fanatics who threaten Israel’s existence.

As for Israel, the Obama administration leaks secret after secret that would allow Israel to defend herself. Meanwhile, they put out feelers to Hamas, the terrorist group running Gaza, even as Hamas fires rockets into Israel proper on a daily basis.

So where does that leave America? Vulnerable to a form of economic and political blackmail that will be difficult to combat. With Israel vulnerable and America kowtowing to Israel’s enemies, Israel will be forced to parlay with third parties like Russia. With the Middle East in flames and the United States not knowing where to position itself, other countries, too, are seeking new friends.

When President Bush left office, Iraq was a fragile US ally, Afghanistan was still on the road to an anti-Taliban resolution, Israel was securing its borders, and Egypt was an American ally. Now, our allies in the region are lying prostrate as the United States stands by, doing nothing.

Was Obama ignorant that this would happen? Or did he promote it because he feels that America’s influence in the world is a net negative, because he is so anti-colonialist that he forgets that Islam is a colonizing religion in its own right?

Ben Shapiro


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Amsterdam Gets a Harsh Lesson in Islam 101

by Bruce Bawer

In January 2009 a Dutch court ordered Geert Wilders to be prosecuted for offending Muslims and inciting anti-Muslim hatred. The complaint was based not on slurs, as such, but on factual statements made by Wilders, in his film Fitna and in various public venues, about Islamic beliefs and about actions inspired by those beliefs. In June 2011, after a prolonged legal ordeal that cost Wilders greatly in time, money, and emotion, and that represented a disgrace to the tradition of Dutch liberty, he was finally acquitted.

In February of this year, the Islamic Students Association at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam invited Haitham al-Haddad, a British sharia scholar, to participate in a symposium, but when some of al-Haddad’s sophisticated theological statements about Jews (the usual “pigs and dogs” business) and about other topics came to light, members of the Dutch Parliament spoke out against the invitation, a media storm erupted, and VU canceled its plans. Whereupon a venue in Amsterdam called De Balie, which sponsors debates, talks, plays, and sundry cultural and artistic events (and whose cafĂ© is a good spot to grab a late-morning coffee), stepped in and offered al-Haddad their stage.

At the event that ensued, al-Haddad spelled out, and defended, many aspects of Islamic law, including the death penalty for apostates. Because of this specific statement about executing apostates, al-Haddad was reported to Dutch officials for having broken the same laws that Wilders had been put on trial for violating. The other day, however, judicial authorities announced their determination that al-Haddad had not committed any offense and would therefore not be prosecuted for his remarks. Why? Supposedly because he had placed conditions on the death penalty for apostates. I was curious to know exactly what he had said, so I searched for the debate on You Tube. Lucky me, there it was, all 76 minutes of it. I will recount it in some detail here because I think it provides a window on one or two bemusing aspects of the European mentality in our time.

As the event began, Yoeri Albrecht, director of De Balie and the evening’s host, explained that he’d decided to invite al-Haddad because it’s “important to discuss the position of Islam in the West.” He told the cleric that he was “very happy that you agreed” to come and wished him “a warm welcome.” Albrecht had invited two other men to join him and al-Haddad onstage. One was Kustaw Bessems, a journalist; the other was Tofik Dibi, a young Dutch-Moroccan Marxist, university student, and member of Parliament for the Green Left Party who has publicly protested against Wilders and who represents himself as an advocate for a modern, progressive Islam. Neither Wilders nor anyone else from his Freedom Party was asked to join the debate. Bessems noted early on that while he finds al-Haddad’s views “despicable,” it was he who had personally taken the initiative to find an alternate venue after VU’s cancellation, because he believes in free speech (as if free speech means that fanatics have an automatic right to a platform).

Dibi’s questions for al-Haddad were a tad challenging, but his manner was respectful, even deferential. The imam, for his part, didn’t beat around the bush. Dibi: “Do you have more right to speak about Islam than other Muslims?” Al-Haddad: “Yeah, of course.” Dibi: “Do you allow yourself to doubt?” Al-Haddad: “There are certain things in Islam that are clear. No one can doubt them.”

Albrecht, for his part, sounded almost astonished when, having finally grasped al-Haddad’s key point, he said: “Outside of Islam, there is no truth?” Al-Haddad: “No.” Albrecht: “Could you understand that a lot of people would be afraid of this kind of thinking?” Al-Haddad: “There is something called truth. There is right and wrong.” When al-Haddad admitted that he supported stoning for crimes like adultery and apostasy, Albrecht exclaimed: “You can’t be serious!” The host seemed to be genuinely gobsmacked. (Incidentally, the “conditions” al-Haddad had reportedly placed on the death penalty for apostates, and that had purportedly saved him from prosecution by the Dutch judiciary, were as follows: an apostate could not be executed until his case was handled in a Muslim country by a sharia judge.)

It emerged that earlier that day al-Haddad had refused to let a woman sit beside him on a TV show. Asked now about women’s rights, al-Haddad insisted that men and women, being different, have different rights; that obliging women to wear headscarves is not an act of oppression any more than parking rules in Britain are; and that “women’s rights” need to be viewed in context. A woman in the audience was given an opportunity to express her own shock at al-Haddad’s views on women: “I am really amazed at the way you think!” For a while, Albrecht gave up his seat onstage to her. “Who gives you the right,” she asked al-Haddad, “where do you get the right, to discuss women’s rights?”

I was shocked too. I was shocked that in the year 2012, these Dutch infidels – intellectual infidels – professed to be shocked, and indeed gave every indication of being sincerely shocked, when they heard a recognized Islamic authority spell out basic facts of Islamic belief. These are the same basic facts that Geert Wilders has been talking about for years. It was for daring to speak these facts – for, in effect, reporting on the same barbaric beliefs and practices that al-Haddad was now not only describing but defending – that Wilders had been hauled into court on charges of having insulted al-Haddad’s faith. Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders – all of them had been reviled around the world as Islamophobes for stating these same facts. But on that evening at De Balie it was almost as if none of these critics of Islam had ever opened their mouths.

By the end of the evening, al-Haddad had made it absolutely clear that he supported the gradual implementation of sharia law in the West – starting with relatively innocuous-seeming stuff like divorce tribunals and Islamic finance, then moving bit by bit into ever more serious territory. One particularly depressing development was that after an hour or so of listening to al-Haddad, Dibi admitted that he had caught himself feeling that al-Haddad, being a scholar, must be right about Islam after all. I’ve often felt that a major reason why less observant, essentially secularized Muslims like Dibi are so hesitant to speak out against the likes of al-Haddad (aside from sheer terror) is that some small voice deep inside whispers to them that he’s the real thing – the good Muslim, a man whose pious certitude, and unwavering devotion to the Prophet shame their own co-optation by infidel decadence.

It was at around this point that Geert Wilders and the Freedom Party entered the discussion – indirectly, to be sure. “Some people in Parliament,” said Dibi, “I don’t want to name the party again, think that men like yourself are slowly colonizing the West – they’re pretending to be nice, pretending to be intellectuals, but secretly they are trying to take over.” Al-Haddad asked Dibi if he had allowed himself to be brainwashed by such silliness. “No,” Dibi was quick to insist, “I don’t believe that” – even though he had just spent over an hour listening to al-Haddad confirm these very warnings. Dibi’s next question suggested that he was, indeed, after the evening’s workout, a torn, confused, and, yes, cowed young man: “Are you slowly, step by step, trying to implement sharia as a scholar?” “Yes,” the scholar replied, “if the people request it.”

Certainly the audience at De Balie that evening was packed with sharia fans. They cheered al-Haddad’s attacks on the West; they applauded his praise of Islamic law. Every outburst of boisterous support for the imam’s ugly sentiments only reaffirmed things that Geert Wilders has been saying for years. But nobody at De Balie that evening – including Bessems, who from beginning to end made clear his utter hostility to al-Haddad’s views – even wanted to mention Wilders’s name.

Bruce Bawer


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Campaign Against FGM in Iraq and Middle East

by Irfan Al-Alawi

Among Iraqi Arabs in a recent sample, it is common for the fathers of prospective husbands to demand assurance that a bride has been genitally mutilated before approving of a marriage. The female coordinator of WADI's project in Iraqi Kurdistan noted that two local villages have declared themselves "FGM-free" after educational intervention by opponents of the practise.

A campaign against FGM in Iraq, focusing on Iraqi Kurdistan, has benefited from activism by human rights and women's groups, but the main responsibility for ending this atrocity belongs with religious leaders. FGM is not a general requirement in the faith of Islam, although some clerics have adopted the pre-Islamic local custom and approve of it. The well-known radical preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has stated that its infliction is grounded in unreliable reports of hadith, the oral commentaries delivered by Muhammad. Nevertheless, Al-Qaradawi has opined that it is acceptable if a girl's parents so desire.

By contrast, the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) health minister, Taher Hawrami, in appealing for condemnation of FGM, emphasized last year that "Clerics should take on the main role. People need to have better understanding of religion for them to abandon these phenomena."

The cruel and un-Islamic practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), involving the cutting of women's sexual organs, has been recognized internationally as a violation of the rights of girls as well as grown women and an extreme form of discrimination against women. Carried out typically by "traditional" practitioners, FGM includes any procedures that remove partially or totally the external female genitalia, or inflict other injury to women's sexual organs for non-medical reasons. FGM may be effected by midwives or other supposed FGM "specialists" using broken glass or metal can lids, as well as razors, knives, and scissors, in unhygienic conditions.

FGM is not limited to Muslim countries; it is widespread in non-Muslim areas of Black Africa and has been introduced into Europe by immigrants. WADI, a German-Iraqi non-governmental organization, has identified Iraq as an FGM "hot spot." While previously believed to be found mainly among Iraqi Kurds, a study released in June by WADI and Pana, a local Iraqi women's rights organization, indicated that nearly 40% of the women living in the contested Iraqi city and surrounding district of Kirkuk had undergone FGM. Kirkuk, an oil-producing center south of the KRG, claimed both by Kurds and by Arabs, is home to Arabs settled there by the former dictator Saddam Hussein.

A sample of 1,212 women 14 years of age and above disclosed, according to WADI and Pana, that in Kirkuk, 65.4% of Kurdish women were victims of FGM; 25.7% of Arab women, and 12.3% of Turkmen women. The researchers emphasized that these are minimum numbers, given that they were based only on self-reported cases in which the identities of interviewees were kept anonymous.

The WADI survey also included statistics on the three kinds of FGM imposed on Iraqi women. Type I, amputation of the clitoris, is the most common in urban areas and among Kurds, but types II (elimination of the clitoris and inner labia) and III (excision of the clitoris and both inner and outer labia) rise in frequency in rural areas, where the incidence of FGM increases as well in the Arab and Turkmen communities.

The study concluded that FGM is mostly forced on girls at ages five to ten. In addition, it found that FGM occurs among Shia as well as Sunni women, with 21.4% of Arab Shia women in the Kirkuk sample saying they underwent genital cutting, compared with 26.6% of Arab Sunni women. More Kurds justified FGM as a "traditional" function, while Arabs and Turkmen (misguidedly) claimed it as a religious obligation.

Researchers found that the active agent in forcing FGM on girls was overwhelmingly the mother, followed by a grandmother, a male relative, or a cleric. In addition, among Arabs included in the sample, it is common for the fathers of prospective husbands to demand assurance that a bride had been genitally mutilated before approving of a marriage. Consequences of FGM may include pain during urination and during sexual relations.

WADI has treated its study of Kirkuk as evidence that FGM, often believed to be limited to Kurdish communities, may occur frequently throughout Iraq. Further, the group charges that FGM is "present everywhere in the Middle East," and is cooperating with a Dutch humanitarian group, HIVOS, to raise awareness of the problem across the region.

Gola Ahmed Hama, the female coordinator of WADI's project for the area of Pishder, in the KRG governorate of Suleymaniyah, noted that two local villages have declared themselves "FGM-free" after educational interventions by opponents of the practise. Pishder had been called "a hell for women," where some 95% of girls and women had been mutilated, compared to an average rate of 50-60% among Iraqi Kurdish women.

Pishder, where nearly all marriages are arranged by families without the right of free choice by couples, saw, in the first three months of 2012, five so-called "honor" murders and eight attempted suicides by girls. According to Hama, "The suicides, the cases of self-immolation, are a form of protest… That usually happens when girls are supposed to marry a man they do not want to marry or even, as in recent times, when they are in love with somebody and they want to marry him but their families forbid the marriage."

Last year, the KRG legally prohibited FGM. In May 2012, Kirkuk governor Najmiddin Karim expressed his support for effort to eradicate FGM. A press announcement by WADI of its Kirkuk study elicited support from Dr. Ashwaq Najemeldeen al-Jaff, the female head of the pharmacy department at the University of Suleymaniyah, and a member of the human rights committee of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, representing the Kurdish Alliance. The Alliance brings together representatives of both of Iraqi Kurdistan's main political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under the leadership of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party headed by Massoud Barzani.

Women's rights groups have demanded that the KRG's legal ban on FGM be extended throughout Iraq. WADI states that the national Iraqi authorities may introduce a ban on FGM into the legal code, pending parliamentary approval.

Irfan Al-Alawi


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

The Future Leaders of Palestinians: Terrorists

by Hisham Jarallah

In Palestinian society, it is much more important if one graduates from an Israeli prison than from a university in the U.S. or Europe. Economic prosperity and the peace process with Israel are not going to convince most Palestinians to vote for people like Fayyad or Abbas.

The most recent public opinion poll in the Palestinian territories shows that Marwan Barghouti, the dominant Fatah leader who is serving five life terms in Israeli prison for his role in several terror attacks during the second intifada, would win the presidential election.

The poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research also shows clear improvement in the standing of Hamas, while its rival secular Fatah faction has declined in popularity.

Palestinians prefer someone like Barghouti to lead them because he launched terror attacks on Israelis and is sitting in Israeli prison.

The fact that Barghouti's attacks resulted in the death of a number of Jews gives him leadership credentials. He is popular among Palestinians because he has Jewish blood on his hands and was involved in "armed resistance."

Barghouti, according to the poll, would even defeat Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh if they ran against him in a presidential election.

Abbas and Haniyeh are no longer popular: they are not actively involved in terror attacks against Israel.

Even worse, as far as many Palestinians are concerned, Abbas is "preventing" terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank, while Haniyeh has betrayed his movement's ideology by agreeing to a temporary cease-fire with the Jews.

In Palestinian society, it is much more important if one graduates from an Israeli prison than from a university in the US or Europe.

People like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are almost entirely unacceptable to most Palestinians: they were not involved in "resistance attacks" against Jews or did not send their children to carry out suicide bombings.

Fayyad never spent a day in Israel prison and that is enough -- as far as many Palestinians are concerned -- to disqualify him as a future leader. The U.S.-educated Fayyad, in other words, is too moderate and too peaceful and too educated.

Palestinians adored Yasser Arafat mainly because he was a symbol of the armed struggle against Israel. They loved his military uniform and pistol because they were viewed as a symbol of the armed struggle against Israel. Arafat was loved because he was personally responsible for dozens, if not hundreds, of terror attacks against Israel.

When Barghouti contests the next presidential election, if and when it ever takes place, he would be able to boast of his direct responsibility for terror attacks that killed Israelis. Abbas and Fayyad would have nothing in this regard to tell their people.

Economic prosperity and the peace process with Israel are not going to convince most Palestinians to vote for people like Fayyad or Abbas.

The future leaders of the Palestinians are currently sitting in Israeli prisons. They include dispatchers of suicide bombers, heads of terror cells, ordinary terrorists and political leaders of various terror groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Moderate Palestinians who are opposed to violence and terror will have no say in the future decision-making process. All this bodes ill for the peace process and stability in the region. If anything, the results of the poll show that the Palestinians are headed toward further radicalization.

Hisham Jarallah is a journalist and commentator based in the West Bank.


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What to Expect From Egypt's Morsi

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

What to make of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi's election as president of Egypt? What seems to be the most likely outcome is something analogous to the "constitutional settlements" of the early Roman Empire. That is, the military, like the Emperor Augustus in antiquity, will entrust to itself management of foreign policy, while granting Morsi (and a parliament, if new elections are allowed) - akin to the Senate in Rome - considerable autonomy with regards to the direction of domestic affairs, even as the military has assumed control over the drafting of the constitution.

Indeed, such a settlement would work well for the military, because, despite its extensive control of the economy, the burden of resolving the economic crisis would ultimately rest in Morsi's hands. Currently, as Reuters reports, the country's depleted foreign reserves can only cover "three months of import coverage," while the local currency debt has increased to 600 billion Egyptian pounds ($99 billion), up from 500 billion before the unrest began in January 2011.

The International Monetary Fund has indicated that a $3.2 billion loan will only be granted if the country gets its finances in order, but the prospects of such a resolution appear to be bleak. Having Morsi take responsibility, therefore, can prove useful in directing potential civilian anger away from the military. On the other hand, the perception of a settlement between the military and the president could help to attract foreign investment.

With the military managing foreign policy, the chances of a full-blown war between Egypt and Israel are slim, despite bellicose rhetoric emanating from some quarters of the Muslim Brotherhood calling for the liberation of Jerusalem and establishment of a "United Arab States." For one thing, Egypt lacks the means to launch and sustain a war against Israel. At the same time, however, one should not expect Egyptian firmness in dealing with rocket fire against the Jewish state or militant activity in the Sinai Peninsula.

In fact, one could well see the military adopt an approach toward militancy not dissimilar to the methods of the Pakistani security forces: that is, targeting those perceived to pose a direct threat to Egypt's stability, while lacking resolve at best, and at worst playing a double game with other militants in order to continue receiving U.S. aid.

As for the domestic scene, it is probable that the Islamization trend that has been apparent over the past five or so decades will not only continue but could also accelerate. When the likes of Hosni Mubarak were in charge, the arrangement was such that Islamist ideology was allowed to disseminate at ground level. Now that Egypt has an elected Islamist president, it is to be expected that sentiments on the ground will only become more hard-line.

Although it is easy to dismiss outlandish claims that Morsi wants to reinstate the discriminatory jizya poll tax - essentially the equivalent of a Mafia protection racket - on Christians (the report is an uncorroborated rumor that can be traced to one obscure Arabic website), there is evidence that he would like to restrict the rights of non-Muslim minorities and women. Just under half of voters chose Ahmed Shafiq, but that will not act as a firm barrier against a gradualist approach to implementing Islamic law that many in the Brotherhood see as the ideal strategy to adopt.

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic magazine last year, Morsi made it clear that neither he nor the Brotherhood could tolerate the idea of a Christian or woman running for the presidency of Egypt.

While much has been made of a recent announcement by an advisor to Morsi that there are plans to appoint a Copt and a woman as vice-presidents, it should be appreciated that such positions are likely to be no more than symbolic. In fact, problems of discrimination against non-Muslims and women will in all likelihood only worsen under Morsi's presidency. Further, the spike in Salafist mob attacks on Coptic churches since the ousting of Mubarak - attacks usually sparked by the flimsiest rumors and trivialities - is unlikely to subside, and the authorities will probably continue to do nothing about it.

In the long run, chaos and instability are most likely to dominate the country's future. Unlike Iran, which has, since the mid-1980s, implemented a major family planning program that has dramatically slowed population growth, Egypt's population (83 million as of October 2011) continues to grow. It could reach 100 million by 2020, with more than 99 percent of the population living on an area of land around the Nile only 2.5 times the size of Israel.

Even assuming Egypt can escape from its current economic crisis, there is no sign its economy can keep up with the pace of population growth even to sustain present standards of living. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Egyptian Islamists have on past occasions denounced family planning as a Western conspiracy to keep the number of Muslims in the world in check. They have shown no intention of implementing a program to reduce the birth rate.

Egypt is unlikely to become a "Somalia on the Nile" as economist and columnist David P. Goldman has predicted, but in the long-term, internal stability is a remote possibility.

Update from June 29, 2012: Concerning Egypt's economy and the Muslim Brotherhood's plans, Martin Kramer summarizes the situation well:

The Muslim Brotherhood is in a bind, because it has to deliver. For the masses of people who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood, the revolution wasn't about democracy and freedom. It was about bread and social justice.

The Brotherhood has a so-called "Renaissance" plan for the overhaul of the Egyptian economy. I won't pretend to judge its feasibility. Could modernization of tax collection double or triple tax revenues? Can Egypt double the number of arriving tourists, even while contemplating limits on alcohol and bikinis? Can a renovation of the Suez Canal raise transit revenues from $6 billion a year to $100 billion? Can Egypt's economy surpass the economies of Turkey and Malaysia within seven years? These are all claims made at various times by the economic thinkers of the Muslim Brotherhood, who trumpet Egypt's supposed potential for self-sufficiency.

To these big promises, one can add Morsi's pledge to tackle congestion problems within the first 100 days of his time in office.

Kramer goes on to suggest that the Brotherhood will try to solicit aid from Gulf Arabs and the West, drawing attention to remarks made by Khairat El-Shater, the deputy supreme guide of the Brotherhood, back in February, when he "strongly" advised Europeans and Americans to "support Egypt during this critical period as compensation for the many years they supported a brutal dictatorship."

However, the question of the Brotherhood's relations with the U.S. and the West at large is a tricky issue. It should not be forgotten that the Islamists have spent the past thirty years attacking Mubarak and the establishment for supposedly being too close to the U.S. and the West, and the popular sentiment in Egypt is deeply anti-American.

That the military will continue to receive Western aid is almost certain, but Kramer correctly notes that the Brotherhood is trumpeting an image of self-reliance. A perception of economic dependence on America and the West could backfire on the Brotherhood. This is not like the North Korean regime that has a philosophy of autarky but can portray its reliance on foreign aid as tribute to the greatness of the nation.

As for the Gulf Arabs, let's just say that they have frequently proven themselves to be remarkably stingy when it comes to helping Muslim brothers in need. Saudi Arabia in particular is still angered by the 'betrayal' of Mubarak (hence its uncompromising stance on Bahrain).

* * *

Fawaz A. Gerges appears to agree with my idea of a "constitutional settlement" along the lines of the early Principate but with unfounded optimism proclaims:

After decades of persecution and incarceration, what is unfolding today clearly shows the weight and influence of the Muslim Brothers, most of whom are centrist and modernist and accept democratic values, in shaping the political future of their society…Arab Islamists are traveling a similar path as did the Christian fundamentalists and later the Christian Democrats and Euro-communists in Western Europe who in the 20th century subordinated ideology to interests and political constituencies.

As Jonathan Schanzer aptly comments on Twitter: "Fawaz Gerges just slobbers all over the Brotherhood here. Behold, the personification of MidEast studies failures today."

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an adjunct fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Cult of Obama

by Daniel Greenfield

The Corporate Cult evolved in the United States as a hybrid of the sales force of the corporation and the religious devotion of the cult. This type of entity might be a cult like Scientology, which used the aggressive and organized sales tactics and marketing campaigns of a corporation, or it could be a corporation like Apple, whose employees earn little, but feel a sense of satisfaction at being part of a meaningful entity.

The Obama Campaign is a fantastic marketing machine. It is constantly discovering new ways to sell things to people. But the problem is that it has no actual product. A company that goes corporate cult uses some of the tactics of a cult to inflate the value of its product. But a cult has no product except the sense of satisfaction that comes from being in the cult. The only things it sells are images of its leader, emblazoned everywhere, his books, speeches and photos, and these are used as tokens of membership in the cult.

In retrospect, the Cult of Obama had much in common with other cults. Like them it recruited young volunteers on campus. Its recruitment materials leaned heavily on books by its beloved leader. It promised them that a new age was coming and that they could be a big part of bringing it about. And its vector of introduction to older viewers was through a woman who has been accused of promoting cults on her popular television show.

Strip away the politics, wipe the polar identities of the parties from your minds and take a fresh look at the 2008 campaign. Then compare the pitch to any of the major cults in the seventies and eighties. There really isn’t all that much of a difference. They’re all “Transformative” movements that promise to solve society’s problems by using new insights to create a wave of change that begins with “us”.

Even the political angle isn’t new. Jim Jones and his murderous child-abusing cult started out as community organizers for California Democrats, and leading politicians, including saintly hero Harvey Milk, covered for his crimes until the whole thing got too big and Jones got too crazy. Long before Obama, Lyndon LaRouche went the campus cult route and if you are morbidly curious, you can find videos where “LaRouche Youth,” who have broken ties with their families and friends, shout insane slogans while their glazed eyes stare fixedly into the camera.

The corporate part of the Corporate Cult deals with adversity by redoubling the sales pitch. If sales fall, it finds more things to sell. The Obama Campaign is insanely intensifying its sales efforts, without understanding that its sales are falling because the value of the brand is failing. When businesses hysterically deluge you with offerings for their product, it’s a sign of fear. Obama’s campaign rolling out invitations to dinner with him and suggestions that you use your wedding to raise money for him stinks of that same fear.

It’s ingenious from a marketing standpoint, but from that same standpoint it’s also a bad tactic. The last thing that a company or a campaign wants to do is wear people out. But that is exactly what Obama is accomplishing by burning through his base for a short-term cash grab, when what he really needs is to have those people committed to him at the end.

This is the part where the marketing consultants spend six months on a study and inform the company that their brand is done and has to either be retired or salvaged through a high-profile campaign that will reinvent it as cutting edge. But when your brand is a man, how do you reinvent him? And when your brand is “Transformative Politics” and even your staunchest supporters don’t feel like anything has been transformed, how do you move the product?

Cults shift the burden of failure from the guru and the program to the participants. It isn’t the man or the idea that failed, but the people.

There are the outside enemies who make enlightenment impossible. “How very much I’ve tried my best to give you a good life. But in spite of all of my trying a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our lives impossible,” Jim Jones said at Jonestown. That is the epilogue of the Obama campaign. The one being scripted for him by the media.

Like Jim Jones, Obama has done his best to give us a good life, but the Republicans, FOX News, the Supreme Court, the Koch Brothers and powerful interests have sabotaged his efforts with their lies. And yet in the end it’s not the enemies who bear the final burden, but the people who weren’t good enough.

Cults demand more and more from their followers to impose upon them an unreasonable and unshakeable burden of guilt. The cult appeals to those who want to make more of their lives and it destroys their will by making them feel like failures. The Obama campaign’s endless demands of its followers have that tenor as well. Behind all the flowery words, the burden of responsibility is being shifted from his people to his supporters.

The cult frames everything in terms of commitment. What begins as a commitment to personal and global transformation becomes a commitment to the demands of the cult. The commitment is meant to be mutual and it is occasionally even framed in terms of a marriage.

“In all our years of marriage, he’s always looked out for me. Now, I see that same commitment every day to you and to this country,” Michelle Obama’s campaign mailing says. “The only way we’ll win this election is if we can rely on one another like that.”

The commitments, of course, aren’t mutual. They can’t be. The disparity in power is too great. The cult exists for the sake of the leader, but the leader does not exist for the sake of the cult. Once the followers realize this, the illusion of mutual commitment breaks down. And to keep them from realizing it, the cult strives to make them feel that they have not lived up to their commitment.

And yet all this only works for as long as the transformative illusion endures. When the sense that the commitment to the cult is not transformative, that the principles of its program cannot make a better world, then its power fades away and dies. The cult may amp up its marketing, but the only product that it ever truly had was intangible.

The Obama campaign never sold Obama; it sold the idea of Obama. The illusion that was more than the sum of his false biography, his chin up speeches full of momentous pauses and stolen poetry, or the typography of his posters. It was the sense of imminence, the perception of a transformative figure who could change the country and the world. That magnetic tug wasn’t Obama, it was the confused mess of desires, fears, hopes, dreams and wishes that the people were encouraged to project onto him.

Whether or not Obama wins again, his cult has failed. It failed because it was not able to deliver on its promises of transformation, nor was it able to place the blame on its followers. Most of those who voted for Obama will drink the Kool-Aid one more time, but there will be little enthusiasm in the drinking of it.

Daniel Greenfield


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

The Al Qaeda-Muslim Brotherhood Coalition

by P. David Hornik

Not long ago the Arab Spring was seen as a harbinger of democracy. It turns out that, instead, it’s creating breeding grounds for international terror—and safe havens for al-Qaeda itself.

That is not just a polemical opinion but the somber assessment of the director-general of Britain’s MI5 internal security agency, Jonathan Evans. The Telegraph reports that Evans, in a rare lecture this week in London, warned that

Today parts of the Arab world have once more become a permissive environment for al-Qaeda.

This is the completion of a cycle—al-Qaeda first moved to Afghanistan in the 1990s due to pressure in their Arab countries of origin. They moved on to Pakistan after the fall of the Taliban.

And now some are heading home to the Arab world again….

Evans specifically said that British jihadis, who have been training for years at al-Qaeda strongholds in Yemen and Somalia, “are known to be receiving training in the likes of Libya and Egypt”—supposed beneficiaries of what some saw as a wave of Facebook-driven liberalization.

The MI5 chief also confirmed that al-Qaeda is now active in Syria, and “warned against suggestions that al-Qaeda’s threat has ‘evaporated’ following the death of Osama bin Laden and significant victories in Pakistan.” He noted that Britain, for its part, has “experienced a credible terrorist attack plot about once a year since 9/11.”

Evans didn’t say in what part of Egypt the jihadis are training. Israel, though, has been aware that—particularly since the winds of “spring” toppled Egypt’s pro-Western Mubarak regime—the presence of al-Qaeda and other global-jihad elements has been rapidly growing at least in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

It was only last week that what is believed to be an al-Qaeda-linked group carried out a deadly attack at the fence Israel is trying to build quickly along its border with Sinai.

But Evans’s words carry implications beyond the region and beyond Britain’s own very real security concerns.

For one thing, his point that bin Laden’s assassination (along with the killing of other terror leaders in Pakistan) has hardly finished off al-Qaeda tends to undercut the great emphasis President Obama has put on that exploit.

Still more significant, though, is the fact that “permissive environments” where al-Qaeda is coming back to roost—“Arab Spring” countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria—are also places where the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining strength.

And Obama, while readily identifying al-Qaeda as evil and an enemy of America and the free world, notoriously looks at the Brotherhood differently. Indeed, his administration has made a point of repeatedly lauding the election of Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s new president.

For those free of a sentimental affinity for the Brotherhood, it of course makes perfect sense that it would be cultivating environments where al-Qaeda feels welcome. The Brotherhood is, after all, the organization from which Al-Qaeda sprang. Bin Laden had Brotherhood teachers in his youth, and current al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri was a member of the Brotherhood in his native country of Egypt.

Indeed, the Brotherhood condemned Bin Laden’s assassination, proclaiming that “legitimate resistance against foreign occupation in any country is a legitimate right” and “request[ing] that the US stop…intelligence operations against dissenters, and halt its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country.” In other words, a direct rebuff to what the U.S. president flaunts as a heroic moment.

A rational U.S., and Western, approach to the rapidly changing—and deteriorating—Arab Middle East requires not only recognizing that al-Qaeda is returning there, as MI5 chief Evans underscores. It also requires realizing that, while they have tactical differences and sometimes frictions, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are two closely related facets of the same global-jihadist, anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Western phenomenon.

Specific policy implications would include ceasing to back the wrong side—the Brotherhood—in Egypt instead of the right side—the more moderate and much more pragmatic Supreme Military Council; ceasing to back the Syrian rebels now that the Brotherhood-al-Qaeda front is spearheading them; and trying to prevent (which, according to one report from Middle East News Line, the U.S. is now starting to do) al-Qaeda-aligned militias from taking over Libya while there is still time.

Forestalling the region’s descent into an even worse, world-threatening maelstrom depends on finally starting to see it clearly.

P. David Hornik


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

Iran Declares War against the Jewish People

by Alan M. Dershowitz

The Iranian government, long known for its Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism, has now declared war against the Jewish people. In a speech delivered in Tehran, Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi accused the Jewish people of spreading illegal drugs around the world, killing Black babies, starting the Bolshevik Revolution and causing many of the world's other ills. His "proof": "The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anyone who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict. They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade."

There are, of course, numerous addicts among Jews and Zionists, as there are among all groups. Israel has several treatment centers for drug addicts as do Jewish communities throughout the world. He also cited "proof" that the Jews caused the Bolshevik Revolution: not a single Jew was killed during that Revolution. Of course, thousands of Jews were murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution as well as during Stalin's purges in the decades following the establishment of the Soviet Union.

But don't expect truth from a country whose leaders deny the existence of even a single gay person in all of Iran.

Vice President Rahimi cited the Talmud as the source of his claptrap and in support of his claim that Jews believe that they are racially superior and that "God has created the world so that all other nations can serve them."

These bigoted claims would be laughable if they did not have such a long and disturbing history. Virtually everything stated by Vice President Rahimi came directly out of Hitler's playbook of the 1930s and Stalin's playbook of the 1940s and 50s. They must be taken seriously in light of the fact that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and has already called for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map. Moreover, Iran's surrogate, Hezbollah, has invited all the Jews of the world to move to Israel so that it will be easier to destroy them in one fell swoop.

Taken together, these statements and actions constitute a clear incitement to genocide, which is explicitly prohibited by international law and by the rules governing the International Criminal Court. Professor Irwin Cotler, the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, has drafted a brilliant brief making the case for indicting the Iranian leaders for inciting genocide against the Jewish people. Vice President Rahimi's speech constitutes additional evidence of that crime, if any were needed.

If the leaders of Iran are guilty of incitement against the Jewish people, as they plainly are, they have many coconspirators and facilitators. In recent years these have included several prominent church leaders, such as Cardinal Glemp of Poland, Father Daniel Berrigan of the United States, Cardinal Rodriguez of Honduras, Bishop Tutu of South Africa and numerous others who have crossed the line from anti-Zionism to overt anti-Semitism.

Cardinal Glemp, while serving as the primate of Poland, accused the Jews of bringing Communism, alcoholism and poverty to Poland. He also accused them of provoking anti-Semitism. Father Daniel Berrigan characterized the Jewish state as "a criminal Jewish community" that "manufactures human waste." A current cardinal of the Catholic Church Oscar Andres Rodriguez Meridiaga, who is the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, has been telling anyone who is willing to listen that "the Jews" are to blame for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests toward young parishioners! How did Cardinal Rodriguez ever come up with this ridiculous idea? Here is his "logic:" the Vatican is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. It follows, therefore, that "the Jews" had to get even with the Catholic Church, while at the same time deflecting attention away from Israeli injustices against the Palestinians. The Jews managed to do this by arranging for the media which they, of course, control to give disproportionate attention to the Vatican sex scandal.

Not to be outdone, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, claims that Americans are frightened of excessive Jewish influence in America because "the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful." He compared the Jewish influence in America to that of "Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic and Idi Amin"—all of whom who were "powerful, but in the end they bit the dust."

And now joining in the incitement is Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, who says that the situation of Arab citizens in Israel is much worse that what Blacks experienced in the South during Jim Crow, thus trivializing the suffering of her own people about which she has written so poignantly! She has now decided to withhold her writings from all readers of Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people.

These hateful voices, from the left, the right and the center, are influencing conduct around the world. Anti-Semitic violence is increasing as is anti-Semitic incitement. The time has come to take this threat seriously, whether it comes from absurd sources such as Iran or more respected personages such as Bishop Tutu and Alice Walker.

I am not seeking to constrain freedom of expression through governmental censorship. I am asking people of good will to condemn all anti-Jewish bigotry even when expressed by those who are admired, and to take action against the danger posed by the noxious combination of radioactive words and radioactive weapons.

Alan M. Dershowitz


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