Saturday, February 16, 2013

Israel's Challenging Diplomatic Predicament

by Dore Gold

In light of developments over the last few years, there has been a growing realization in Israel that the chances of reaching a complete final status agreement with the Palestinians are presently extremely small. This is not just an ideological position coming out of certain quarters in Israel, but it is also the professional view of practitioners who have been involved in the political process itself. 

Last June in an interview in Haaretz, Professor Itamar Rabinovich, Israel's former ambassador to Washington and head negotiator with Syria, reached this very conclusion. He added, as part of his proof of this point, that "the bold proposals" by former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were not even responded to by the Palestinians. Looking back on Olmert's far-reaching proposals, Mahmoud Abbas himself told The Washington Post on May 29, 2009 that the gaps between the parties were just too wide. 

There were other voices that reinforced this conclusion. At the end of 2009, Hussein Agha, who has advised Palestinian leaders over the last two decades, and Robert Malley, who was a member of President Clinton's National Security Council also wrote in the New York Review of Books: "As currently defined and negotiated, a conflict-ending settlement is practically unachievable; even if signed it will not be implemented and even if implemented it will not be sustained." 

Events since that time have not made diplomatic movement any easier. What is called the "Arab Spring," among other things led to the fall of President Mubarak, Abbas' main regional source of support. Instead a Muslim Brotherhood regime came to power thereby and also strengthening Abbas' Hamas rivals. Given the new regional realities that Israel was facing, even Rabinovich warned in Haaretz: "I would not advise entering into far-reaching territorial concessions in a situation of uncertainty." 

And yet there is new push underway to move forward with new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the hope of concluding an agreement between them. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague was just in Washington meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry where he called on the Obama administration "to inject the necessary momentum on this issue." In December, he admitted in the House of Commons that he was consulting with the French and the Germans on how to put pressure on the U.S. to launch a new initiative. There was a diplomatic rumor in January that the Europeans wanted Kerry to put down on the table the parameters of a final settlement before Israel and the Palestinians, including a withdrawal to the 1967 lines.

Thus Israel finds itself in a paradoxical situation: just as international pressures are increasing for it to make new concessions in order to restart and advance the political process, there is a growing realization in Israel that the kind of final status agreement that the international community is hoping will be concluded is not about to happen. The Palestinian side knows this as well.

Moreover, there is a more fundamental question for Israel about how it should proceed in an era of total uncertainty about whether half the regimes that are currently in power in the Middle East will even be there in a few years. The Muslim Brotherhood, which even beyond Egypt is the main beneficiary of the Arab Spring, has been connected to plots against the governments of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Its revolutionary drive in the region is likely to gain new momentum should Islamist forces take control of Syria.

How exactly does the Arab Spring influence Israeli military-strategic considerations? Is Israeli caution warranted here as well? Some try to make the argument that the conventional military threat to Israel is undergoing a transformation allowing Israel to make the very sort of new concessions that the Europeans are demanding. 

With neighboring armies, like that of Syria, involved in domestic upheavals, their conventional forces have been badly degraded. Would that mean that Israel can withdraw from territories that in the past were regarded as vital but whose importance may have changed? Historically, Israel based its security on a small standing army that had to neutralize the numerically superior standing forces of its Arab neighbors. To accomplish this goal, the IDF was structured around its reserve formations that would reach their full strength along Israel's front lines after 48 hours of mobilization. 

When Yigal Allon, Israel's deputy prime minister and former commander of the Palmach, first presented his idea of defensible borders for Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War, it was partly based on the idea of providing Israel's small standing army the topographical conditions it needed to withstand a surprise attack and fight against superior forces, until the reserve formations arrived. But if Israel no longer has to contend with this sort of threat, then could it pull out of the Jordan Valley, which previously every Israeli prime minister from Rabin to Sharon saw as Israel’s forward defense line?

This would be an irresponsible conclusion. First of all, the Arab states are likely to build up their conventional armies again in the future once their internal political situation becomes more stable; already Egypt has no problem seeking 200 additional Abrams tanks from the U.S., which will bolster the strength of its armored forces. Others will follow suit in the years ahead. After all, decisiveness in wars is still a function of the movement of ground armies, and their manoeuvring units, and not the employment of air power alone. America’s two wars against Iraq proved that point conclusively in 1991 and 2003.

Secondly, in the immediate term, there is a new ground threat to Israel from terrorist organizations, many of which have many of the attributes of a fully equipped army. In May 2011, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that Hezbollah had more rockets and missiles than most states. The lethality of terrorist organizations has also dramatically increased with their acquisition of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, shore-to ship missiles, and advanced explosives that are far more potent than anything they used before. 

The growing capabilities of the international terrorist organizations in the Middle East has reached such a scale that they have even become challenging for the region's regular armies. In Sinai, the Egyptian army fought regularly with al-Qaida in the area of Jabal Hilal, where an Egyptian general was killed in one battle. The Syrian Army has been repeatedly defeated by an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, known as Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been equipped through Syria's porous borders. In short, the Arab Spring has led to a different but no less challenging security environment for Israel that will affect how we view the question of our future boundaries in the future. 

Third, it would be a dangerous error to dismiss the possibility that terrorist organizations will attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction and use them against their adversaries. Hezbollah is an extension of the Iranian security establishment. Should Tehran be permitted to cross the nuclear threshold, it would be a cardinal error to simply dismiss the possibility that Hezbollah would not eventually get to share in this technology. Hezbollah would not need ballistic missiles; it could put a nuclear device in the same sort of truck it used against the Marine Barracks in Beirut during 1983 or against Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

Al-Qaida in Iraq already planned a chemical weapons attack in Amman, Jordan in 2004 that was thwarted. Should Syria’s chemical arsenal fall into the hands of the jihadist groups currently fighting the Assad regime, then unfortunately, non-conventional terror attacks may become more common against those who leave themselves vulnerable. Foreign Secretary Hague, who just warned on Feb. 14, during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, about a new jihadist threat to Europe coming out of Syria should be the first one who understands the new position Israel finds itself in.

In the past, Israel was able to secure its borders with deterrence against neighboring states that were considering taking offensive action against it. But deterrence does not apply to these terrorist organizations in the same way, especially those that glorify martyrdom as a religious duty. Israel needs to have a physical barrier against the new threat of terrorist organizations so that it can neutralize their efforts to smuggle advanced weaponry and infiltrate Israel's population centers. The stakes for Israel in not taking into account the impact of the changing terrorist threat on its need to maintain defensible borders could be disastrous.

Israel learned the hard way the significance of its withdrawal from the Philadephi Route between the Gaza Strip and Sinai, which led to a qualitative leap in the weaponry that Hamas could smuggle and eventually deploy. Before its 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip the only rocket that Hamas fired was the short-range Qassam. 

By 2006, Hamas was using longer-range Grad rockets from Iran against Ashkelon for the first time and enlarging the arc of Israeli cities it could target. In 2012, that arc extended even further once Hamas was equipped with Iranian Fajr rockets that it fired at Tel Aviv. Hamas in Gaza also acquired shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from Iran and later from Libya’s arsenal, after the fall of Gadhafi. In Oct. 2012, Hamas fired its first SA-7 against an Israeli helicopter. 

Israel has three choices given the diplomatic reality that it faces. It can just give up and make the concessions that the Europeans are demanding that the Obama administration impose, but that would put the Israeli population in a precarious position that no responsible government could agree to. It can say that given the uncertainty it faces, now is not the time for any diplomatic initiatives.

But it could also indicate that it is willing to explore new ideas with the Palestinians, as long as its vital security interests are not undercut, but are fully protected instead. Both sides should seek to reach agreements where possible, leaving harder issues for later. Europe could play a positive role if it encouraged the Palestinians to reach more limited arrangements with Israel instead of insisting on the kind of Israeli concessions for final status agreement that did not lead to a peace treaty before and are unlikely to produce a stable peace today. 

The result of all this talk coming out of Europe about getting the U.S. to impose a solution will be completely self-defeating as it hardens the Palestinian readiness to come to the negotiating table — since Israel will be delivered on a silver platter anyway — and makes any real diplomatic progress more difficult than ever. 

Dore Gold


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Indoctrinating Children: 'Palestine Solidarity' in the Classroom

by Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene

Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman is an anti-Israel activist and English professor who has taught at Boise State University, al-Quds University, the American University of Beirut, and other universities in the Middle East. In The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans: Addressing Pedagogical Strategies (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), she has assembled a guidebook for American high school teachers on how to teach the Arab-Israeli conflict. (While writing it she transitioned from university to high school teaching herself.) The book's documentation, though substantial, is extremely biased, as all of her quotes and references are part of a closed loop in which Palestinians are presented as innocent victims and Israelis as evil-doers. Her entire bibliography and a "What You Can Do" section are geared toward fomenting anti-Israel activism.

Inaccuracies abound, including the author's historical account of the term "anti-Semitism." Although the word has referred solely to hostility toward Jews since its coinage in the late nineteenth-century, Knopf-Newman politicizes it by distorting its etymology:

After World War II, anti-Semitism began to connote not racism directed at Semitic people (based on language groupings of Arabic, Aramaic, Akkadian or Hebrew) in general, but rather only to Jews, most of whom are of European origin and do not speak any Semitic language.

She attributes the motive behind this imaginary trend to "shift[ing] the discourse away from Palestine," demonstrating that for Knopf-Newman, even the concept of anti-Semitism is a tool of censorship to suppress discussion of "Palestine."

The author did not always hold such views. Raised in Los Angeles with what she describes as a Zionist education, she attended Hebrew day schools and participated in pro-Israel activities during high school. Growing up, she heard the well-known phrase, "Next year in Jerusalem," which Jews have said for thousands of years at Passover Seders. This historical fact is omitted in the book's preface, where she likens the phrase to a Zionist "cultural commemoration" serving "to foster unquestioned support of Israel."

Knopf-Newman's encounters with her Palestinian peers (who, she admonishes, are never to be called "Arabs," only "Palestinians") as an impressionable undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati spawned her adoption of a virulently anti-Israel narrative. As a teacher at Boise State she spent three years engaged in research in a Palestinian refugee camp, during which time she recalls cheering with her Palestinian friends after hearing about a successful Hezb'allah missile attack on an Israeli ship. That four IDF sailors were killed doesn't warrant a mention.

In order to deconstruct how Zionism is taught in America, based in part on her own sense of betrayal, Knopf-Newman revisited her old Los Angeles Hebrew school and examined its teaching materials. She concluded that the curriculum shifted from its original emphasis on Judaism to stress Zionism in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. Her objective in writing the guidebook is "to explore how and what I learned as well as think about ways to disrupt the Zionist narrative altogether by teaching American youth about Palestine."

To achieve this goal, Knopf-Newman advocates using the classroom as a bully pulpit, a place to correct social imbalances in which only the designated victim's narrative is discussed. She exhibits no awareness of the differences between a teacher and an activist. Teaching "critical thinking" means indoctrinating students to believe that Palestinians are always right -- and Israelis are always wrong.  

In a chapter titled "Hip-Hop Education and Palestine Solidarity," Knopf-Newman advocates using hip-hop, or rap, music because it has short, easy-to-remember segments that prove conducive to incorporating political material. Using her book as a guide, high school students can now rap, dance, or sing their way to anti-Zionism. Lesson plans include how to organize street theater with "apartheid walls" and "tunnels of oppression" that connect to other "sites of oppression." Such agitprop can be adopted, she helpfully suggests, by teachers of literature, social studies, theater, music, and many other subjects. She particularly admires content that connects genocide, imprisonment, slavery, indigenous people, the "prison-industrial complex," and even Hurricane Katrina with the delegitimization of Israel in the malleable minds of her students. 

The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans is replete with false analogies to so-called "global colonialism," such as Mexicans and Latin-Americans trying to cross the Arizona border illegally, South African blacks under apartheid, African-Americans under slavery, and Native-Americans. Knopf-Newman makes it a point to claim "indigenous" status for Native-Americans, yet ignores the widely accepted presence of Jews in Jerusalem and the West Bank for thousands of years to insist that "indigenous" cannot possibly refer to Jews in Israel. In the lexicon she reveres, "indigenous" equals "good"  and can refer only to Jews who, like herself, have "un-learned Zionism."

Knopf-Newman makes no attempt to understand either Israel's predicament or whether its citizens have a right to self-defense in the face of a relentless enemy fueled by irredentist and revanchist goals. She never examines the constant rocket attacks from Gaza. To the contrary, Israelis always "massacre" innocent Palestinians, even when charges of such atrocities are exposed as lies.

Her insistence, against all evidence, that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about religion omits crucial terms such as "jihad" or "terrorism." There is no violence from religious fanatics, but rather "armed resistance" to Israel's imaginary "ethnic cleansing." She exhibits no awareness that the content of English-language media often differs starkly from Arabic language content. She either cannot or will not admit that turning Israel into another Islamic state is the real motivation of its opponents. How could she, without using the word "Muslim" in her book? Even a discussion about the concept of pan-Arab tribalism is missing.

Knopf-Newman writes in the shadow of her hero, the late historian Howard Zinn, whose A Young People's History of the United States she quotes approvingly: "History is always a matter of taking sides." She also reserves praise for her principal mentor Edward Said, the late Columbia University English professor whose Orientalism contributed mightily to the politicization of Middle East studies and who once wrote that, "Facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation." 

Other dubious influences include former DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein, Tel Aviv University pseudo-historian Shlomo Sand, and University of Exeter professor and Israeli ex-patriot Ilan Pappe, all of whom she quotes extensively throughout the book and cites in her "select bibliography."

In her long list of acknowledgments, Knopf-Newman gives special thanks to virulent anti-Israel activist and Elecronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abuminah, as well as Weather Underground terrorist-turned-education professor and friend-of-Obama Bill Ayers, who introduced her to the world of "alternative pedagogies in American schools." The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans is the product of these nefarious alliances. Its use in American high schools risks producing radicalized students whose hostility toward Israel is matched only by their ignorance of history.

Berkeley resident Rima Greene co-wrote this book review with Cinnamon Stillwell, the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at


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Dangerous Times: Islamic Fascism Exploits Euro Crisis

by James Lewis and Justine Aristea

Silvio Berlusconi is one of the richest men in Italy, and he is not a fascist. So why is he saying nice things about Mussolini? 

Because Berlusconi is watching Beppe Grillo, the comedian and fascist-talker, coming up fast in the election campaign, coming up just two weeks from now. 

Vicious race baiting is selling like hotcakes to Italian voters. Mussolini is being resurrected from a bloody grave. Even worse, ancient ethnic hatreds are being whipped up in Hungary, Romania, Albania, and of course North Africa and the Middle East, where Muslim demagogues routinely accuse each other of being secret Jews. 

All this hatred seems to be funded by Iran, Saudi Arabia and neo-Ottoman Turkey, which has bought up the mass media in countries like Albania.

 For decades Muslim oil money has bought politicians in Europe and the UN, and now it's buying up a big chunk of the Euro web. Muslim madrassahs are being built to brainwash children, and Saudi imams are the new missionaries to the infidels in Europe. 

As we pointed out last week, in Italy, Beppe Grillo hates the Jews (natch), the Gypsies, the Albanians, the Illuminati, the Masons, the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, GMO foods (which will poison you), anti-cancer drugs (ditto), and nanoparticles (ditto, ditto). 

Grillo suddenly got very rich after marrying an Iranian woman. Everything he knows about the Middle East, he says, he learned from his father-in-law in Tehran. According to a Pentagon leak last week, the mullahs are running 30,000 spies, who are up to no good in Europe while going through the biggest economic crisis since World War 2. 

We know exactly what caused the crisis: The European Union and its unelected political elite. 
            Like the old Soviet Union, the EU is being run off a cliff, by a mind-locked political elite, driven by visions of European imperial glory. If you believe their mass propaganda campaigns the EU is the model for peace on earth forever and ever. The EU convinced the poorer half of Europe to adopt the euro, which was priced way out of their range. Suddenly Greek exports were impossible to sell. When Greek wine and olives were sold in drachmas the currency could float against the German mark. The Greeks could price their goods to sell abroad and support the economy. It was the rigid, one-size-fits-all euro that killed the Greek economy. In spite of all the welfare subsidies from the EU. Because, as Maggie Thatcher told the world, "Eventually you run out of other people's money." 

In the poorer countries nobody dares to blame the EU, because its taxpayers are supporting their welfare payments. Europe needs a scapegoat. Middle class Italians are therefore talking racial hatred in private.

            In Greece, the Golden Dawn Party is staging street fights.   Immigrants are called "cockroaches," and food aid is now given only to Greeks, and not to legal immigrants. Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, is reporting a revival of Hungarian fascism. 

It's witch hunting time again. Any witch will do, but the dark old paranoid fears are being whipped up, probably by Islamic fascists and their oil-fueled agents. And just like the United States, the radical left makes common cause with Islamic fascism. 

There is hope, but not if the United States and the decent parts of Europe sit on the sidelines. For sixty years the US has defended Europe from its biggest enemies, Hitler and Stalin. Today we are not even allowed to mention Islamist totalitarianism, which threatens the West just as it has since the early Middle Ages. 

The first need is to speak the truth. The real "Islamophobia" is the fear of telling the truth about Islam. Without the truth, the West is helpless. 

The second need is to break the OPEC monopoly, which has poisoned politics in Europe and the United States. New shale discoveries are undermining the monopoly power of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Gulf States, not to mention genuine freaks like Hugo Chavez. Energy independence around the world will break the toxic power of OPEC. Middle East Oil money finds its way to green groups and movie makers hostile to fracking.

A third crucial need is to finally reject socialist ideology that controls the Western media and education, and therefore our voters and politics. We need a massive truth-telling campaign about the endless failures of "something for nothing" fantasies. That's the hardest part, but it is vitally important. 

Civilized peoples need to recapture the initiative. Socialism, fascism, Islamism --  all are failed ideologies. They bring disaster in their wake. The Euro crisis is yet another example of massive failure by the same, tired old fantasy world. 

Things looked bad when Churchill was warning about Hitler. They looked bad at the start of the Cold War. They look back today. 

We have to reach deep inside to find the emotional and spiritual resources to resist the worst tendencies in human nature. It is hard, but Western culture has done it three times in the last century. 

The web is a great medium, and civilized peoples must use the web as well as the radicals of all stripes, today's barbarians. They are wrong and we are right, and we have the facts to prove it.  

James Lewis and Justine Aristea


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Iran: Impossible Talks with the "Great Satan"

by Amir Taheri

Until a week ago, the global punditry was abuzz with rumors about a “grand bargain” between Washington and Tehran. The buzz started last month with President Barack Obama renewing his demand for talks with the “leadership in Tehran.” 

Next, Vice President Joseph Biden went further by insisting that Washington wanted talks without preconditions. That meant ignoring five resolutions passed by the United Nations’ Security Council demanding that Iran stop aspects of its nuclear project. An expert in putting his foot in his mouth, Biden encouraged Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to provide positive accompanying music. Then, Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Islamic Majlis and a virtual candidate for the Islamic presidency, joined the chorus by welcoming talks with the US.

A number of American pundits claimed that Obama’s personal charm and creative diplomacy was about to succeed where five previous US presidents had failed.

Last Monday, however, that optimism was shattered when Ali Khamenei, the Khomeinist regime’s “Supreme Guide”, rejected any negotiations with the United States.

Some commentators inside and outside Iran have interpreted Khamenei’s stance as further proof that he has lost touch with reality.

A closer look at the context, however, might show that Khamenei’s stance is very much based on reality: his reality. Khamenei does not see Iran as a nation-state but as a vehicle for a revolution with global ambitions.

“I am not a diplomat,” he said amid cheers from a crowd of supporters. “I am a revolutionary.”
The regime that Khamenei heads is not meant to act in the interests of Iran as a nation-state, but in the interests of the Khomeinist cause. Where the interests of Iran as a country clashes with those of Iran as a vehicle for revolution the latter ought to prevail. Thus any harm done to Iran as a country, and any sufferings inflicted on the Iranian people, should be tolerated as the price to pay for protecting the revolution.

Like other regimes with messianic pretensions, the Khomeinist regime is based on an ideology. On the surface, that ideology is built around one of the many Shiite versions of Islam. In reality, however, the hard core of the Khomeinist ideology is a rather primitive form of anti-Americanism. The United States is “The Great Satan” and, as Khamenei claims in his latest speech, “the core of evil in the world.”

Not surprisingly, Khamenei’s speech was more often interrupted by cries of “Death to America” than shouts of “There is no God but Allah!”

For the past two decades at least, destruction of the United States has been an openly acknowledged aim of the Khomeinist regime. Every February Tehran hosts a conference on “The End of America” drawing a crowd of professional anti-Americans from all over the world including the United States. Since 1984 Khamenei’s office has financed a group of African-Americans “studying” the creation of a secessionist state for blacks.

Khamenei fears that normalization with the US could deprive his regime of the hard core of its ideology. If the slogan “Death to America” is set aside, what might take its place?
Like other totalitarian ideologies, Khomeinism needs an external enemy that can be blamed for all that goes wrong. Thus, the US is blamed for Iran’s economic meltdown, mass unemployment and inflation.

Also like other totalitarian ideologies, Khomeinism has a low opinion of the capacity of “ordinary people” to know what is good for them. If relations are normalized with the US, the “ordinary people” would not be able to resist the seductive charm of America’s satanic culture. After all, before mullahs seized power in Tehran, the US was the number one destination for Iranians studying abroad. Today, the US is the biggest magnate for the Iranian brain drain.

Even former Khomeinist officials do not resist America’s charm. Former Khomeinist ministers, ambassadors, Majlis members, mullahs and Revolutionary Guard officers are scattered all over the United States. Some have joined think-tanks but many more have set up businesses ranging from restaurants to import-export companies. Officials who do not defect to the “Great Satan” send their children there to study and, in time, obtain the coveted “Green Card” which is the key step to US citizenship.

Now imagine the re-opened US embassy in Tehran.

Who would prevent long queues formed by Iranians anxious to travel to the land of the ”Great Satan”?

Khamenei has always feared an American “cultural invasion”.

In 1994 he led a nationwide campaign against American pop-music, T-shirts, baseball caps and videos and, in a vitriolic sermon, lambasted Michael Jackson as “the symbol of corruption”. Trying to jam satellite television broadcasting US-made programs has remained a top priority of the “Supreme Guide.”

In his latest speech, Khamenei warned that “those who want to restore America’s domination in this country” would be ”taken by the throat” and presumably strangled.

Khamenei deserves credit for his constant position vis-a-vis the United States. Talks might be acceptable only if they result in total victory for Iran as a vehicle for revolution. That would require an unambiguous surrender by the United States on a cluster of issues, starting with the acceptance of Iran’s nuclear project without any “ifs” or “buts”. Next, the US would have to abandon its regional allies, especially Israel, and terminate its military presence in the Middle East.

The more Washington talks of talks the less likely they become. Khamenei interprets Washington’s position as a sign of weakness that, in turn, justifies an even tougher Iranian stance in the hope of securing more concessions.

The problem is that, as a nation-state, Iran needs and craves normal relations with the US. As a revolution, however, normalization with the US would mean ideological suicide.

As long as Iran suffers from its historic schizophrenia, no one, not even Obama with his mystique and charm, could cut this Gordian knot through negotiations. To normalize relations with the US, and the rest of the world for that matter, Iran must first normalize itself, that is to say start behaving like a normal country rather than a vehicle for a mad ideology.

Amir Taheri was born in Ahvaz, southwest Iran, and educated in Tehran, London and Paris. He was Executive Editor-in-Chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran (1972-79).


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Nuclear Holocaust Denial

by Ruthie Blum

One campaign slogan that U.S. President Barack Obama has upheld to the letter was the promise to restore hope. Indeed, America’s enemies have never been as blessed with this coveted commodity as they are now. Their rooting for Obama’s re-election, then, was completely understandable. But his behavior since then — including his choices of Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and John Brennen as CIA director — has exceeded their expectations, if not fulfilled their wildest dreams. Even if these appointments are not ultimately confirmed, the radical-Muslim world perceives them as an indication of presidential intent. 

If the mullahs in Tehran had been harboring any nagging anxiety about potential hindrances to their stepped-up nuclear program, Washington made sure to alleviate it this week. The proverbial Valium that the U.S. administration provided took two forms. The first was a dose of “look the other way” in relation to North Korea’s bold nuclear test on Tuesday. The second was a spoonful of sissy rhetoric sprinkled into Obama’s State of the Union Address, mere hours after the bomb was detonated at the Punggye-ri test site.

Iran is not only an ally of North Korea — whose weapons-guiding technologies are being perfected for the creation of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States — but it has proven to be in nuclear cahoots with the similarly murderous regime. In fact, the Syrian nuclear reactor that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attacked in 2007 was being developed with North Korean and Iranian manpower and expertise.

It is safe to assume, then, that Tuesday’s explosion was not merely a test of North Korean warheads; it was also a test case for Iran — to see how the event would be responded to by the “international community.”

Well, the warheads did just fine. The international community, however, responded with “harsh criticism.” Oh dear. That really had North Korea and Iran shaking in their boots and burkas — as did Obama’s “tough” stance in his speech.

“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution,” he asserted, essentially giving the ayatollahs a green light to continue centrifuge activity with no consequences. 

To make sure they understood that he wasn’t being a bully, Obama clarified that his policy extended to everybody equally, and that America would have to set a good example. "… We will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands,” he said, “because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead."

The following day, on Wednesday, Iran announced that it was installing new equipment for refining uranium. It was also on Wednesday that international inspectors were not given access to a site believed to be used for nuclear testing. Meanwhile, the United Nations nuclear supervisory body and the International Atomic Energy Agency are still discussing the wording of a document that will supposedly be drawn up at the conclusion of talks with Iran — talks that have been going on for months with no results whatsoever. The only outcome is that the U.N. and the IAEA are beginning to worry that maybe Iran is actually planning on using its nuclear power for less-than-purely-peaceful purposes. 

Indeed, on Thursday, U.N. inspectors returned from Tehran in a bad mood. They hadn’t even been successful at setting a date for the next meeting to engage in diplomacy with the Islamic Republic — a gathering that was supposed to take place at the end of February in Kazakhstan.

But outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was happy to see the inspectors leave. "… [W]hoever thinks that the Iranian nation would surrender to pressure is making a huge mistake and will take his wish to the grave," he declared. 

While the rest of the West is bent on avoiding any confrontation with Iran — to the point of ignoring the very real and immediate threat it poses — Israel continues to be told that the most urgent order of business in the Middle East is stopping settlements and establishing a Palestinian state. That such a state would be another tentacle of Tehran has been demonstrated as often as has Iran’s backing of terrorist groups across the globe.

Whether it is Obama’s blindness, radical ideology, or a combination of the two that prevents him from recognizing this reality will be deciphered when his presidency undergoes an autopsy. In the meantime, one thing is as clear as enriched uranium: He is putty in the hands of those who would see America annihilated along with Israel. No wonder his “hope and change” agenda is so popular among them.

Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"


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The Palestinians Never Wanted Fayyadism

by Jonathan S. Tobin

There was one point on which both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations as well as the Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu all agreed upon. All four thought Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was someone who wanted to be a partner for peace with Israel and ought to be encouraged. Fayyad earned almost universal praise from both peace process cheerleaders and skeptics who saw the American-educated technocrat as someone who was devoted to reforming the corrupt and incompetent PA and giving his people something they were denied under the rule of both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas: good government and economic development.

That Fayyad failed in his efforts is not a matter that most people think is worth debating. The only question is why he didn’t succeed. To that query, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen provides the answer that is his catch-all excuse for anything that goes wrong in the Middle East: Israel. That this onetime apologist for an anti-Semitic Iranian regime prefers to focus on the supposed evils of the Netanyahu government is hardly surprising. But his inability to understand just how isolated Fayyad was in Palestinian society speaks volumes about why most Israel-bashers are clueless about Arab rejectionism.

The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party. In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent. In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up short. Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation with Israel and peace lacked support.

That Fayyad would blame the Israelis rather than his own people for his failure is understandable since to do otherwise would be a death sentence. But his complaints about Israeli settlements or security measures in the West Bank lack credibility. The fact that Israelis have continued to build in Jerusalem and the suburban settlement blocs that everyone understands would remain within Israel in the event of a peace deal renders the charge that they will prevent the creation of a Palestinian state elsewhere absurd. As for Israeli incursions into the West Bank, were Abbas’ security forces interested in foiling terror or stamping out Hamas cells as they are obligated to do under their Oslo commitments, they wouldn’t be necessary. If Israel has sought to exert pressure on the PA it is because Abbas remains determined to avoid peace talks and his governments remains a font of anti-Semitic incitement that lays the foundation for endless conflict.

Cohen’s claim that Netanyahu really doesn’t want peace despite his repeated embrace of a two-state solution to the conflict is merely an attempt to cover up the fact that has always been the Palestinians who have turned down peace and continue to refuse to negotiate with him.

Fayyad claims with Cohen’s approval that the movement to reconcile Fatah and Hams is a sign that the Palestinians are giving up their war on Israel’s existence. But Cohen omits one very relevant fact from his column that undermines the notion that it is Israel that has been Fayyad’s undoing. Fatah and Hamas may never consummate the unity deals they have signed. But the one point on which Abbas has always been ready to concede to Hamas has been firing Fayyad. If Hamas ever does become part of the PA government it will mean the American favorite is toast. The fact is the rise of Hamas, backed as it is by the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, marks the death knell of any slim hope that Fayyadism has a future.

The Palestinians are choosing, as they have always chosen, to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Having come into existence solely in order to oppose the return of the Jews to the country, Palestinian nationalism appears incapable of redefining itself in such a way as to give Fayyad a chance. The example of the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza — which has become a platform for terrorism — makes it impossible for Israel to consider further withdrawals that would duplicate that situation in the West Bank.

Were it in the power of either the United States or Israel to make Fayyad the leader of the Palestinians they would do so. But his constituency has always been in Washington, Jerusalem and the international media not among Palestinians. Someday they may be ready for a Fayyad, but that day is not in the foreseeable future.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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The ‘Epidemic’ of Sexual Harassment—and Rape—in Morsi’s Egypt

by Raymond Ibrahim

“Arab Spring” came to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power, sexual harassment, abuse, and rape of women has skyrocketed.  This graph, which shows an enormous jump in sexual harassment beginning around January 2011, when the Tahrir revolts began, certainly demonstrates as much. Its findings are supported by any number of reports appearing in both Arabic and Western media, and from both Egyptian and foreign women.

Hundreds of Egyptian women recently took to the streets of Tahrir Square to protest the nonstop harassment they must endure whenever they emerge from their homes and onto the streets.  They held slogans like “Silence is unacceptable, my anger will be heard,” and “A safe square for all; Down with sexual harassment.” “Marchers also shouted chants against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails,” wrote Al Ahram Online

The response?  More sexual harassment and rapes.

One woman recently appeared on Egyptian TV recounting her horrific experiences.  On the program, she appeared shaded, to conceal her identity—less because she felt personal shame or guilt at what happened and more to protect her and her family from further abuses.   She recounted how she saw a Facebook notice that Egyptian women were going to protest the unsafe conditions for women on the Egyptian street and decided to join them on their scheduled march in Tahrir Square on January 25, the anniversary of the revolution. “I did not realize I would become the victim,” she lamented. When it started to get dark, her group heard that “strange looking men” were appearing and that it was best to leave the area.

During some chaos she was lost from her group.  One man told her “this way,” pretending to help her to safety—“I was so naïve to believe him!”—only to lead her to a large group of men, she estimated around 50, who proceeded to encircle and rape her.  “This was the first time someone touched me” quietly recounted the former virgin: “Each one of them attacked a part of my body.”  Several pinned her down while others pulled off her pants and stripped her naked, gang-raping her for approximately 20 minutes.  She explained how she truly thought she was going to die, and kept screaming “I’m dying!” In response, one of her rapists whispered in her ears: “Don’t worry.  Take it,” even as the rest called her derogatory names she would not recite on the air.

Considering that in late November last year, when many Egyptians were protesting President Morsi’s Sharia-heavy constitution and the Muslim Brotherhood responded by paying gangs and thugs to rape protesting women in the streets, anecdotes like the above are becoming commonplace.  Indeed, to appreciate the regularization of sexual harassment and rape in Egypt, consider the words of popular Salafi preacher Abu Islam, who openly, and very sarcastically, blamed the victims:
“They tell you women are a red line. They tell you that naked women—who are going to Tahrir Square because they want to be raped—are a red line! And they ask Mursi and the Brotherhood to leave power!”  Abu Islam added that these women activists are going to Tahrir Square not to protest but to be sexually abused because they had wanted to be raped.  “They have no shame, no fear and not even feminism. Practice your feminism, sheikha! It is a legitimate right for you to be a woman,” he said. “And by the way, 90 percent of them are crusaders [i.e. Christian Copts] and the remaining 10 percent are widows who have no one to control them. You see women talking like monsters,” he added.
No doubt some will argue that Abu Islam is just a “radical” who speaks for himself.  Yet many more formal bodies made similar observations, including the new Egyptian parliament’s Shura Council’s “human rights committee,” whose members said
that women taking part in protests bear the responsibility of being sexually harassed, describing what happens in some demonstrators’ tents as “prostitution.” Major General Adel Afify, member of the committee representing the Salafi Asala Party, criticized female protesters, saying that they “know they are among thugs. They should protect themselves before requesting that the Interior Ministry does so. By getting herself involved in such circumstances, the woman has 100 percent responsibility.”
These sentiments are widely shared in Egypt.  A study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights said that 98% of foreign female visitors and 83% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment. Sixty-two percent of men admitted to harassing women, while 53% blame women for “bringing it on.”  

Even non-Egyptian women are becoming increasingly familiar with this phenomenon. After describing her own personal experiences with sexual harassment in Egypt, Sarah A. Topol asserts that “Sexual harassment — actually, let’s call it what it is: assault — in Egypt is not just common. It’s an epidemic. It inhabits every space in this society, from back alleys to the birthplace of the newest chapter of Egyptian history.… For the 18 days of protest last year, for me, Tahrir Square was a harassment-free zone. I noticed it, everyone did. But as soon as President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, the unity ended and the harassment returned.”

Journalists Sophia Jones and Erin Banco also elaborated on the epidemic of sexual harassment in Egypt:
It’s difficult to write about sexual harassment and assault in Egypt without sounding like Angry White Girls. But as journalists, it is not merely our job to report in such an environment, it is an everyday psychological and sometimes even physical battle. We open our closets in the morning and debate what to wear to lessen the harassment—as if this would help. Even fully veiled women are harassed on Cairo’s streets. As one young Cairo-based female reporter recently remarked, “it’s a f–ked-up reality that we will be touched.”….  Like hundreds of other countries around the world, sexual harassment and assault happens everyday in Egypt. It happens to both Egyptian women, and to foreign women. It happens at all times of the day, despite what some may think, at the hands of men—young boys, grown men, police officers, military officers, and almost everyone in between.
The journalists then offer an all too familiar story:
Nor is this merely limited to sexual harassment, but it often, under the right circumstances—few witnesses, the availability of dark allies—culminates into fullblown gangrape.  For example, Natasha Smith a young British journalist covering Tahrir Square, was dragged from her male companion into a frenzied mob in the hundreds. “Men began to rip off my clothes,” she wrote on her blog. They “pulled my limbs apart and threw me around. They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way … All I could see was leering faces, more and more faces sneering and jeering as I was tossed around like fresh meat among starving lions.”
All this is yet one more example of the true nature of the Obama-supported “Arab Spring.”

Raymond Ibrahim


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How the U.S. Aids Hamas Through the Palestinian Authority

by David Bedein


On February 5, 2013, the reconstituted US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa held a subcommittee hearing on the subject of “Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: Threatening Peace Prospects.”

Two senior expert witnesses from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy testified and expressed optimism that US trained Palestinian Security Forces, affiliated with the Fatah, will combat the Hamas terror group which competes for power in the nascent Palestinian Arab entity.

Yet the Fatah policy and attitude towards Hamas can be summarized in an exchange that I had with Fatah founder Yasser Arafat at a press conference in Oslo, on December 10, 1994, the night before Arafat became one of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
My question/statement:
“Mr. Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, and Israeli Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs Peres said a few hours ago in answer to my question, that you deserve the peace prize because you have committed yourself to crushing the Hamas terror organization.”
Arafat response: “I do not understand the question. Hamas are my brothers.”

When the Palestinian Authority was founded in 1994, President Yasser Arafat, by design, established a multiplicity of security forces with overlapping authority and in competition with one another.

The 17 diverse forces of the PA, which often constituted no more than private fiefdoms, were ineffective and corrupt. What mattered to Arafat was that no force was of sufficient size or competency to seize power.

In several instances while Arafat was in power, PA forces turned their weapons on Israel. In September 2000, Arafat recruited security forces to organize attacks on civilians and soldiers in the course of what was called the Second Intifada, or uprising.

The Israeli military decimated the PA security forces in 2002, with facilities demolished and weapons seized.

Serious involvement by the West began to revitalize the PSF, the Palestinian Security Forces, after Arafat’s death in November 2004.

Subsequent US support for the PA Security Forces was intended to be a step towards creation of that stable Palestinian Arab entity.

In 2005, the Office of the US Security Coordinator was established. The 16 US officers who work within that office are assigned to the State Department. The Coordinator reports directly to the Secretary of State.

Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, reorganized the security services into six main forces, and instituted a policy of mandatory retirement at age 60. Efforts by the US to strengthen the PA forces were delayed, however, by the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Authority legislative election in 2006. Hamas held a majority of the seats in the legislature and was heavily represented in the government. In addition, it had created its own security forces, with generous funds from Iran and Syria.

In June 2007, Hamas fighters routed a US-equipped and US-trained PA force that was 10 times bigger and captured the Gaza Strip. The failure of the PA forces was plain to see, and the US was prepared to invest more vigorously in strengthening that force because Abbas then ostensibly separated a Fatah-controlled government from direct involvement with Hamas.

By 2008, the Office of the Security Coordinator, with a staff of 145, defined as a key goal of its efforts, the development of a PA security force with paramilitary capabilities that could protect Abbas’ regime from Hamas. The American investment in this venture encompassed major assistance in reforming the forces and rebuilding of infrastructure, providing of equipment and major involvement in training.

In 2011, the Security Office enlarged its focus to include the development of PA indigenous readiness, training, and logistics programs as well as the capability to maintain and sustain operational readiness and support infrastructure. By that year, U.S.-financed training programs had graduated 4,761 Palestinian cadets from the U.S.-supported Jordanian International Police Training Center in Amman. The Coordinator’s Office also conducted training in the West Bank attended by 3,500 security commanders and troops. Washington helped build joint operations centers for planning, command, and control, as well as the National Training Center in Jericho.

However, as we consider the situation now, in early 2013, we see that not only has that goal of providing PA Security Forces with the capacity to repel Hamas not been achieved; over the past year, the influence of Hamas within the PA security forces has grown significantly. This, in spite of all the funding, training, and weaponry that has been supplied.

All other factors aside, there is an underlying cause that is routinely overlooked: the nature of traditional Arab (which includes Palestinian Arab) culture. Whatever the PR promoting a Palestinian state would have us believe, the reality is that for many Palestinian Arabs, loyalty does not rest with some abstract notion of a state that must be defended. Primary, loyalty is to the extended family: the clan. Training does not significantly alter this perception.

The problem lies with the fact that within the same extended clan there may be those serving in the PA security forces and those who are members of Hamas. Security forces officers are loath to do battle with their brothers in Hamas. In a 2011 report done by the Center for Near East Policy Research on “The Dangers of US aid to PA security forces,” this issue was addressed. Dr. Mordecai Kedar, research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, said the troops can be loyal to the PA for the present:
However, when (not if) there will be domestic problems in the PA/Palestinian State these people will be loyal primarily to their clan [Arabic: hamula] rather than to the state, since they will never shoot their brothers or cousins…
A prominent Palestinian-Israeli journalist explained that the clan system is not as strong as it once was, however:
This is Arab society. You can’t erase a centuries-old tradition—can’t tamper with culture. It will never work. You can’t impose a solution on anyone.
Another cultural predisposition among the Palestinian Arabs has to do with combating terrorism. General Amidror, former head of the IDF’s Research and Assessment Division and currently serving as Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, observed that:
There is a huge difference in the Palestinian view between law enforcement, which is seen as legitimate, and anti-terrorism, which is NOT seen as legitimate.
The US confuses the two.
This assessment has never been properly assimilated by US authorities involved with the training program. The PA has no laws against money laundering for terror groups; PA statutes do not define any group as a terrorist organization. There has never been action against Hamas undertaken by PA security forces out of an anti-terrorist ideological conviction.

We might ask then, why American government and military officials have blithely ignored these realities, instead proceeding according to their own version of the situation: a version that is likely doomed to fail.

But even beyond these basic cultural facts lie other problems. There has been a decline of the PA security forces that has been accelerated by the fiscal crisis that began in the fall of 2012. With monthly salaries withheld or partially issued, many PA officers have stopped any semblance of work. With the consent of their commanders, the officers clock in and then go off to other jobs. This search for money has been exploited by Hamas, made rich by donors such as Iran and Qatar.

Numerous PA officers have been quietly working for Hamas, notably in its military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas penetration has been strong in several areas of the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron region, where senior PA intelligence officers are believed to be providing intelligence to Hamas.

Coupled with this is a new rapprochement in process between the PA and Hamas, with talk of a unity government.

Separation between the PA and Hamas following the Gaza coup was never as total as was popularly imagined. As early as 2008, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter charged that the PA was committed to transferring roughly 4 billion shekels each year to Hamas to help pay salaries of its workers and security officers. Abbas also arranged for the PA to pay for the electricity generated for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Now there is evidence of Fatah-Hamas coordination in parts of the West Bank. The PA has lifted the ban against Hamas rallies, and Hamas has gained control of many West Bank mosques. Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Masha’al has ordered the establishment of military cells to take over the West Bank.

What Israel now faces is a worst-case scenario: PA security forces have a history of turning on Israelis. With the increased cooperation between the PA and Hamas, the likelihood of this happening again grows more likely. Statements of late by PA officials suggest such cooperation. Former PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, for example, has called for unity with Hamas that would “win further victories for us.” With Hamas cooperation, he said the PA would escalate “the struggle against Israel” in 2013.

However, should there be a repeat of prior attacks by PA forces, bolstered by cooperation with Hamas, dealing with the situation will be far more difficult than it has been previously. Now those PA forces are far better equipped and trained, thanks to a US policy that may have been ill-advised from the outset.

The time has come for an evaluation of the impact of US aid to the PA Security Forces, however well intended.

David Bedein


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UK Charity Commission Whitewashes Questionable Charities

by Samuel Westrop

The UK's Charity Commission works on a premise that undermines any investigation before it starts. If members of a charity openly associate with extremists or terrorists, for example, instead of challenging the charity's status, the Commission defends the trustees, thereby legitimizing the charity's misconduct. As a consequence, government bodies empower extremist groups by presenting them as honest actors.
International Islamic Link is a British charity based in London, and is part of the Babul Murad Centre, an institution strongly supportive of the Iranian regime. Until recently, International Islamic Link described itself as the "office of his eminence Hazarat Ayatullah Nasir Makarem Shirazi."

A recent Charity Commission response to complaints about International Islamic Link was, bluntly, a whitewash.

Hazarat Ayatullah Nasir Makarem Shirazi is also known as Ayatollah Shirazi, one of the most important religious figures in Iran. After the 1979 revolution, Shirazi served in the Assembly of Experts, which drafted Iran's Islamist constitution. Since then, although he has refused to serve in any government post, he is considered an important part of the clerical regime.

Shirazi, in 2010, claimed that Israel was planning to destroy Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque: "What we have here is yet another Israeli plot; an evil plan not only to judaize the city of Jerusalem by eliminating its Islamic identity," he alleged, "but also to destoy the holy mosque of al-Quds and replace it with the Temple of Solomon."

Recently, Shirazi issued a fatwa for the murder of Iranian pro-democracy activist Roozbeh Farahanipour. He also advocates death by stoning for adulterers and the killing of homosexuals.

Shirazi further states that, "the Holocaust is nothing but superstition, and Zionists say that people of the world should be forced to accept this." His website is replete with descriptions of "sly, deceitful Jews," "Jewish profiteering" and claims of "Jewish plans to exploit the common people."

In 2009, as part of the Council's 'Building Stronger Communities' Strategy, Ayatollah Shirazi's charity, International Islamic Link, was given £15,000 by Brent Council, a local government body in London, to promote religious tolerance.

As soon as this misuse of taxpayers' money was revealed, however, all references to Ayatollah Shirazi were removed the charity's website. Further, Ayatollah Shirazi's own website also removed several of the pages detailing his belief that the Holocaust was a myth invented by Jews to gain support for the Zionist project.

Despite the charity's attempt to cover its tracks, Jacob Campbell, UK Director of the Stop the Bomb campaign, lobbied a number of politicians to pressure the Charity Commission into action.

The Charity Commission, however, works on a premise that undermines any investigation before it starts. Their mission statement promises it will "work with charity trustees to put things right if they go wrong." In other words, even if a charity's trustees entertain inappropriate ideas -- or as in the case of charities such as Interpal, if members of the charity openly associate with senior terrorist figures, for example -- the Commission does not seek to challenge a charity's status; rather it defends the trustees, thereby legitimizing their misdeeds and empowering these groups as honest actors.

This week, the Commission's "Pre-Investigation Department" responded to Jacob Campbell and the other complainants. The "Pre-Investigation Department" concluded that:
My team wrote to the charity on 8 November regarding the apparent close links between the charity and Ayatullah Nasir Makeren Shirazi. We asked the trustees to confirm what links the charity previously had with Ayatullah Shirazi and provide details of the charity's current relationship with the Ayatullah Shirazi.
We received a full response from the trustees dated 21 November stating that the charity has no private or public link with Ayatullah Nasir Makeren Shirazi. In their response the trustees adequately demonstrated that they acted quickly and responsibly protect the charity by removing references to an individual that could have called into question the charity's independence.
The trustees have satisfied the Commission that they have not, and do not intend to provide a platform to anyone who maintains extremist views and that they are aware of their legal duties in respect of this matter. I can confirm that we have now closed our assessment of this matter.
It is unclear what extraordinary piece of evidence was presented to the Commission that convinced them International Islamic Link had managed, in a matter of weeks, to change its existence from being the private office and mouthpiece for Iranian luminary Ayatollah Shirazi to having absolutely no link to the cleric whatsoever. The Commission has not yet responded to requests for further information.

In an age where violent political and religious extremism is thriving, the approach of the establishment has become dangerously simplistic, appearing merely eager to avoid confrontation. We can sum up their reply as: "Of course they can't be bad - when we asked them they denied it. So, of course, that's that."

On occasion, in fact, this is their reply. When a British organization called Limmud, which organizes a series of large Jewish conferences in the UK, decided to invite Dilwar Hussain of the Islamic Foundation to speak, a leading Limmud organizer dismissed the criticisms of the invitation out-of-hand:
The Islamic Society – and even the Islamic Foundation – is about as decent as any Muslim organisation might be. They express themselves strongly against extremism and they categorically condemn suicide bombing under any circumstances
The chairman of Hussain's Islamic Foundation, Khurshid Ahmad, is a vice-president of the extremist Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami and a supporter of Bin Laden. The director is Dr. Manazir Ahsan, who helped coordinate the riots against Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. The Islamic Foundation continues to be the leading publisher of books by Abul Ala Mawdudi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, whom Lord Carlile noted, in his government paper on preventing violent extremism, was a dangerous influence in the radicalization of young Muslims.

In the case of International Islamic Link, Brent Council, to its credit, has stated that it has "not commissioned this organization since and have no future plans to fund them." While the provision of "tolerance" funds to an openly intolerant charity seems to have ended, it is nevertheless unacceptable that a mouthpiece of an extreme Iranian cleric can enjoy the financial benefits and public legitimacy afforded through charitable status. Further, if International Islamic Link applies for public funds in the future, its claim to be free of extremist tendencies is now bolstered by the Charity Commission's injudicious exoneration.

Trusting extremists to be honest about their extremism seems a particularly naïve and self-destructive approach, especially as Islamist groups learn to exploit the system instead of boldly calling for its destruction. The decision by government and others to tackle extremists by asking them for their thoughts on the matter has become a dishonest litany that, in the end, only emboldens extremist groups.

Samuel Westrop


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