Friday, June 7, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: A "Turkish Spring" Indeed ?


by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
 For about a week now, Turkey has been in an uproar. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have burst into the streets inf almost a hundred cities all over the country, in noisy, audacious protest against the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A few people have been killed, about 1500 have been injured and about 2000 arrested. The spectacles from the streets of Turkey were reminiscent of the mass demonstrations of January 2011 in Tunisia that eventually caused President bin 'Ali to flee, and in al-Tahrir Square in Cairo, which resulted  in the overthrow of Mubarak, and the demonstrations in the beginning of what was called the "Arab Spring" in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. The question arises - is it now Turkish society's turn to rid itself of Prime Minister Erdoğan and perhaps the religious "Justice and Development Party " as well, which has governed the country since 2002 as a single party, without need for a coalition because it has a majority in parliament.

The answer to the question is "probably not", that is, the rule of Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party does not seem to be in immediate danger, for several reasons:

The first and principal reason is that after all, Turkey is a democratic country, even if its democracy is not perfect, and in a democratic country, the prime minister is replaced by means of elections, not demonstrations. In contrast to the Kurdish minority, the Turkish people, in all of its sectors, sees Turkey as its country, and the government is considered legitimate, despite the substantial criticism about how it functions. There is not an overwhelming desire to overthrow the government, but rather to improve the way it functions and correct the direction in which it is pulling Turkish society. The slogans heard in the demonstrations express the  demonstrators' rage  over the behavior of Erdoğan, and actually, it is his personality that is the focus of the demonstrations. One of the signs in the demonstrations showed Erdoğan next to Hitler, both giving the Nazi salute, and for anyone who didn't understand the image, "Erdoğan = Hitler" was written.

The second reason is that the regime truly wants to turn down the flames, and therefore on most days of the demonstrations and in most places, there were no policemen positioned near the demonstrations, in order to minimize as much as possible the contact with officials and to minimize the potential for people to be injured, and indeed,  by mid-week only a small number of fatalities, about five, was reported, hundreds of injured and about one thousand arrested. Compared to Egypt or other Arab countries that have been afflicted by the "Arab Spring", the situation in Turkey is much better, at least in this phase.

The third reason that Erdoğan will remain in power is that the larger the demonstrations against him, the more justified he will be - if he wants - to bring out millions of Turks to demonstrate in support of him and his performance. His supporters as well as his opposition know well that during the past eleven years he has brought Turkey to a position of economic power, certainly compared with Europe, which gave him a slap in the face when it refused to allow Turkey to join the European Union. He - the Islamist - took the refusal hard, because the real reason that Turkey was not accepted to the Union is because Turkey is an Islamic country, and Europe does not want to grant membership to 80 million Muslims. For these past five years, since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, Erdoğan has been smiling at Europe all the way to the bank. If Turkey had been a member of the European Union it would have had to support - among others - Greece, and there is nothing the Turks want less than to support the Greeks.

For the sake of comparison: In Turkey the GNP per person is about 14,000 dollars per year, while in Egypt it is less than half of that - about 6000. The distribution in Egypt is much worse than in Turkey; that's why there are millions of people who live on 2 dollars per day, while in Turkey the economic success pervades many strata of the population. True, there are pockets of poverty in Turkey as well, but they do not have the critical mass and their   impoverishment is not severe enough - as in Egypt - to bring millions into the streets to demonstrate against the regime, because of their hunger and their poverty.


The demonstrations against Erdoğan stem from a sense among his opposition that he has crossed the line in Turkey too, in a number of matters.

The first matter is cultural. Turkey is an arena in the battle between Islamic tradition and the secular-nationalist heritage of Mustafa Kemal "Atatürk" (the father of the Turks) who founded modern Turkey after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. With his rise to power toward the end of 1923, he imposed a secular nationalist agenda on the country, encouraged the drinking of alcohol and made "raki" the national drink, despite its being alcoholic. He did away with  compulsory compliance with Islamic Shari'a, imposed civil marriage and divorce upon the Turks, changed the written language from Arabic characters to Latin characters, closed madrassas, dismissed imams, forbade the wearing of turbans, encouraged women to walk in the streets without a head covering, like the women in Europe, and promoted the political and civil rights of women. His successor - President İsmet İnönü - continued in his path until 1950. Thus, for almost 30 years the citizens of Turkey underwent a difficult "educational program" intended to strip them from "Islam" and garb them with a modern secularism that would be liberal in every way, except for religion.

In parallel, the bazaar - the shuk - developed as a result of several factors. These factors include economic stability, a sense of "business first", European markets and travelers who came in hordes to enjoy the pleasant climate, the inviting beaches and the "everything is included" service. The military, the parliament, the presidency and the high court all comprised a system that was expected to "safeguard the constitution", meaning the secular aspect of the state.

This reeducation worked well in the cities, because there, the regime had an effective presence, and the various branches of the regime could monitor the application of the anti-Islamic laws and principles. In the cities, a cultural elite developed that included people of the theater, authors, poets, journalists, politicians, lawyers and doctors, as well as academics, economists and accountants, with an impressive representation of women among this modern, "European" elite. As is the way of the elite in the world demographically, this group has a low birth rate, mainly because women usually have plans in addition to being a wife and mother. Therefore, the average age of marriage is relatively high and the number of offspring is low.

The trend toward secularism was problematic in the villages, because there the regime had a small and marginal footprint and tradition remained the name of the game with them. The farther that a village was from an urban center, the more traditional were its residents, and as a result of this, the birth rate in the villages remains high. Thus, for 90 years - four generations - since Atatürk began the cultural revolution, the secular citizens have become a minority in Turkey and traditionalists have become the majority. This fact was expressed in parliament when Necmettin Erbakan's religious "Welfare Party" won the elections in 1996. The secular sector did not accept their defeat and demanded the high court - a secular stronghold in those days - to outlaw the religious party. The court did so, and Erbakan was forced to quit in 1997.

About six years afterward, in 2003, his student, Erdoğan, assumed power after winning a majority in parliament with his "Justice and Development" Party. Most of the secular sectors were left out of the loop politically, and for Erdoğan and his friends it was a sort of revenge  for the tens of years when the religious were sidelined and oppressed. Since the Islamic party rose to power it has made changes in the Turkish public arena: the Islamic courts were brought back to deal with matters of divorce, women were allowed to enter universities with head coverings and attempts were made to forbid abortions and the drinking of alcohol. The  secular officers of the military were replaced with those who were faithful to the Islamic regime, and parallel changes were made in the high court following a referendum that paved the way for such changes.

The secular sectors object to these Islamic processes, and for the past 11 years they have been trying to stop the process by which Islam is gradually resuming the position that it occupied before the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The restless youth who burst into the streets a week ago carried  banners that were red, the color of the Turkish nation; in contrast, the banners that the adherents of Islam carried in their demonstrations against the war in Iraq in 2003 were colored green. The red nationalist versus the green Islamic, and in the struggle for the Turkish culture, color indicates your cultural identity.

Dictatorial Traits

The second matter that brought the demonstrators into the streets was Erdoğan's dictatorial behavior: in recent years he has sent almost a hundred journalists to prison because of their criticism of him. The government of Turkey, under his leadership, monitored what Turkish Internet users put on social networks, mostly Facebook and Twitter. The police permits itself to put down demonstrations against Erdoğan ruthlessly and mercilessly, using gas mixed with water and even rubber coated bullets that cause much pain, even if they don't kill. In recent demonstrations one demonstrator lost his eye as a result of being hit by a rubber coated bullet. Erdoğan's crude and raucous style angers many, many Turks, who feel degraded by his arrogance.

The agreement that Erdoğan reached lately with the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan, also angered many of those who see the Turkish nation and its rights as overriding principles. They see this agreement as a surrender to Kurdish terror, and from their point of view any surrender to the Kurds harms the Turkish character of the country.

Erdoğan's foreign policy also gets a
significant amount of criticism : his opponents are convinced that his involvement in Syria has worsened the chaos there, and Turkey has lost out in Arab world markets where Syria served as a bridge to them. The Syrian refugees in Turkey - approximately two hundred thousand and most probably more - are a burden on the Turkish budget, and the tension on the border between Turkey and Syria does not contribute to the quiet necessary for economic prosperity. Many secular Turks view with disfavor Erdoğan's support of the Syrian rebels, who identify with al-Qaeda, just as they object to his blatant sympathy with the Hamas movement in Gaza, and they accuse him of creating the Mavi Marmara affair. They do not agree with the Israeli response, which was, in their opinion, unreasonably exaggerated, but in parallel there are more than a few among them who think that the event began as an unjustified provocation by Erdoğan.

Erdoğan's raucous style of speaking, the dismissive way he relates to his political opposition, his attention to religious trappings and his activist foreign policy towards the Middle East arouses concerns among his opposition that he is trying to restore the Ottoman Empire and become a modern-day sultan. These concerns have increased in the past two years as he began to transfer authorities from the prime minister to the president, with the intention that he will be elected president in 2014 having the authority to rule like the president of the United States, France and Brazil, who serve as executive heads of their countries.

The Taksim Events

The Taksim Quarter is the center of Istanbul and the stronghold of the modern nationalist state. In the center is
Ğezi Park with hundreds of ancient trees, which Atatürk liked to walk among. Plans to improve the place include building a mosque and uprooting trees, which seemed to secular citizens like an Islamic blow to the symbols of secularism and Turkish nationalism. This blow was the straw that broke the camel's back, the spark that ignited the secular public and sent it into the streets, to defend Taksim Square with their bodies, to defend the symbols of the nation, the culture, the arts, democracy and the right to speak and express criticism.

There are rumors that among those who benefit from the changes in Taksim Square are two real estate agents who are personally close to Erdoğan . This kind of rumor creates the impression that the regime is rotten and corrupt, and that it gives away the national symbols in exchange for friendship with the prime minister.

Erdoğan blames foreigners for stirring up the masses against him, and uses conspiracy theory in his defense. "Communists", he calls them, and his spokesmen claim that those who are stirring up demonstrations are no more than a handful of people on the fringe, who belong to  the radical Left. The Turkish media minimize their coverage of the events of last week so as not to give free publicity to the initiators of the demonstrations and so that the public will not be encouraged to continue with them. Erdoğan himself transmits a "business as usual" attitude and went out this week for a tour of the countries of North Africa. He is also supposed to go to Gaza during the month, in clear defiance of the president of the United States whose Secretary of State - John Kerry - tried to dissuade him from doing so.

What's  Next?

As things seem now, the demonstrations do not endanger the government in Turkey, and don't significantly damage Erdoğan's image. There are analysts who claim that the demonstrations even strengthen his position among the religious groups, because they fear the resurgence of the secular and their return to power. Here I share with my readers what I heard myself, when I visited Turkey last summer and met with senior people from the ruling religious party. There were those among them who expressed considerable resentment about the crude style of the prime minister, his impulsiveness, the arrogant way he relates to anyone outside of his inner circle, and the raucousness that he has brought into the political discourse of the country. They also disagree with the way he relates to Israel. Some of them even claimed that they are embarrassed by him, but they have no choice but to support him because he knows how to excite the masses; a different leader might be pale and unattractive and the result would be the return of the seculars to power.

Erdoğan will have to draw conclusions from the demonstrations even if they stop, because if he continues to behave as he has behaved until now the demonstrations might continue and even strengthen. If this happens Turkey will pay a high economical price because of reduced tourism, since tourists don't set foot in unstable countries (Look at Egypt, Tunisia and Syria).

It is reasonable to assume that in the near future, Erdoğan will be more responsive to people from his party who disagree with his style of speaking and his control of every small matter. It could be that he will even free some of the journalists from prison. In the situation created following the demonstrations it will be difficult for him to continue with his changes to the constitution that are intended to strengthen the position of president at the expense of the prime minister, because the public is more aware today than in the past of his aspirations to amass power and perhaps become the sultan of the Neo-Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Can Erdoğan make a basic change to the country? To his behavior? To his personality? It is reasonable to assume that he cannot, and therefore,  in the future, the streets of Turkey will probably see more cases of demonstrations, violence, wounded and killed, and each time the questions will arise: Is Turkey really a democracy? Do the ruling elite know how to protect the civil rights of those who are not part of it? Doesn't this country have more peaceful and orderly ways to influence the regime's behavior in a legitimate way ?

It seems that more than a few more years will pass until Turkey becomes an inseparable part of European culture, but until that happens, Europe apparently will become an integral part of Islamic  culture...


An Alternate Opinion

Those who research Islam have differences of opinion about whether there can be a nexus between the requirements of Islam and democratic values. Islam is divine law, while democracy is based on laws created by a legislative body. Divine law is permanent, while parliamentary law is relatively transitory. Islam determines punishments such as cutting off the hand of a thief while democracy tries to rehabilitate him. In Islam the state is the main mechanism for imposing the commandments of religion (Shari'a) while democracy prefers a separation of religion and state. In Islam the religious figure rules in the name of Allah (as in Iran) and democracy is led by a group of elected individuals in the name of the people.

Despite this, Turkey is an example that shows, especially after 2002, that there is a nexus between Islam and democracy, and the proof is Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party: a democratic ruling party in an Islamic state.

It could be that the events of the past week shatter the Turkish example too, because difficult questions do arise from them: Is the rage of the secular citizens directed against Erdoğan personally or against the Islamic culture that he represents? And if he is so democratic, why does his opposition equate him with Hitler and the Nazis? And why does he need to use such violent and undemocratic means to break up the demonstrations that should be allowed in a democracy? And perhaps all this "democracy" of his was only a means to take control of the state and then to impose Islam upon it? And if he puts journalists in prison because they criticized him, will he allow politicians to criticize him when it is time for the next elections?

All of these doubts are an expression of the fear that actually a nexus
between Islam and democracy is not possible, and even the Turkish example worked for only a limited time period. Meanwhile, an Israeli has written a book on Turkey entitled "Demo-Islam" and it will be interesting to see if the theory will stand up to the test of reality.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

No Free Speech for Exposers of Campus Anti-Semitism

by Richard Cravatts


In her controversial book, From Time Immemorial, which examined the false narrative concerning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Joan Peters referred to something she identified as “turnspeak,” “twisted rhetoric artfully aimed at the hearts and minds of the West, originated by the Arabs, and rivaling the Soviets, who are veterans of ‘semantic infiltration’ and the word war. Just as, in their lexicon, totalitarianism translates into ‘democracy,’ and degradation becomes ‘freedom,’ so has the flawed but democratic Israel been branded ‘Zionist imperialist’ and ‘racist.’” First used in 1939 to describe German propaganda after its invasion of Czechoslovakia, “turnspeak” in that instance was used to invert truth, enabling Germany to blame the Czechs for the aggression and belligerency they themselves were perpetrating.

On campuses today, turnspeak is still alive and well, the latest instance of its use being the case of Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that investigates, documents, educates about, and combats anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in the U.S.

Rossman-Benjamin has been tirelessly campaigning for years against what she describes as “an advanced anti- Israel and pro-Palestinian discourse [that] has really dominated the campus square for over a decade, negatively affecting perceptions of literally hundreds of thousands of California university students,” and, more specific to this discussion, creating a hostile environment on California campuses for Jewish students and others who support Israel, or are assumed to, based on their Jewishness.

And those same activist student groups who have been spreading virulent anti-Israelism, often morphing into anti-Semitism, throughout the California public university system – and who have done so obsessively and without sanction – are now exhibiting turnspeak of their own by accusing Rossman-Benjamin of being a racist, not for attacking their beliefs or pro-Palestinian cause, but for her efforts to reveal the presence of anti-Semitism at her own university and elsewhere. She is now being branded a purveyor of hate speech and Islamophobia because she revealed the corrosive speech and behavior of pro-Palestinian campus activists.

Critics specifically pointed to a June 2012 speech which Rossman-Benjamin delivered at the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Massachusetts, during which she described anti-Semitic incidents at the University of California, and attributed some responsibility for contemporary campus anti-Semitism to two organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Rossman-Benjamin also conveyed widely-published reports indicating ties between the MSA and terrorist organizations.

In response, in April the student senate at UC Berkeley passed a resolution condemning Rossman-Benjamin’s “Islamophobic hate speech” by claiming that she “has been responsible for inciting racist and Islamophobic rhetoric,” that her comments and views are “hateful and inflammatory,” and that University of California President Mark Yudof should be called upon  “to condemn these inflammatory, hateful, and racist assumptions by  . . . Rossman-Benjamin against Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian students, and Palestinian rights activists.”

Campus radicals who promote the Palestinian cause may purport to be guided by “political ideals of equality and respect for universal human rights,” but it will come as a surprise to no one that they are less than willing to extend those same rights and ideals of equality for Israelis or Jews, and for anyone on North American campuses—Jewish or not—who wishes to articulate his or her own support for the Middle East’s only democracy. This is precisely why they responded so viciously to Rossman-Benjamin’s evaluation of their behavior and why riotous Muslim, pro-Palestinian students at UC Irvine, to cite another particularly egregious example, shouted down Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and prevented him from speaking at all when he came to that campus in 2010.

The moral uprightness that anti-Israel activists feel in denouncing what they perceive to be Israel’s racist, apartheid character, combined with its role as the illegal occupier of stolen Muslim land, has manifested itself in paroxysms of ideological assaults against Zionism, Israel, and, by extension, Jews in general. A central part of that cognitive war against Israel and Jews involves the speech and behavior that Rossman-Benjamin sought to address, namely, the demonization and venomous intellectual attacks on the character, moral standing, legality, and social and military behavior of Israel, and its perceived role as colonial occupier, and racist and apartheid state. Where that anti-Israel speech and behavior has seemingly crossed the line of civil discourse, and why Rossman-Benjamin initiated her own campaign in the first place, is in those frequently, and ever increasing, instances when what is described by activists as merely “criticism of Israel” has devolved into speech, representations, and tropes that can be considered raw anti-Semitism, not the political discourse or academic inquiry it is said to be by those who perpetrate it.

In her assessment of the presence of anti-Semitism on campuses, Rossman-Benjamin relied on “working definitions” of anti-Semitism used by, among others, the U.S. Department of State, Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which observe “that in context certain language or behavior demonizes and delegitimizes Israel or attacks Israel with classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli police to that of the Nazis, and accusing the Jewish people, or Israel, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust”—exactly the type of expressed attitudes and accusations regularly seen in the events, speech, and publications of Muslim student groups and other pro-Palestinian activists, prevalent in such events as “Holocaust in the Holy Land,” “Israel: The Fourth Reich,” “Israel: The Politics of Genocide,” not to mention the yearly Israel Apartheid Weeks that have sprouted up on campuses world-wide.

The Berkeley resolution against Rossman-Benjamin also asserted that her “attempts to mischaracterize and chill Palestinian activism [emphasis added] . . . on Berkeley’s own campus, with a lawsuit [she] filed [contained] extremely Islamophobic and anti-Arab rhetoric referring to Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslims Students Association as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘pro-terrorist.’” But this view of the darker side of pro-Palestinian activism, channeled through Muslim Student Associations, is not merely conjecture on Rossman-Benjamin’s part; in fact, there is considerable evidence that there was, and remains, a sinister and dangerous side to anti-Israel activism on college campuses.

In October 2009, for example, the U.S. Justice Department initiated an investigation into possible illegal fundraising on behalf of Hamas participated in by UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union. Based on a formal complaint by the Zionist Organization of America, the investigation would look into allegations that the far-Left, Israel-hating British MP George Galloway had raised funds at UC Irvine for his Viva Palestina project, a “philanthropy” with the purported purpose of providing humanitarian need to Palestinians blockaded in Gaza, but which has been revealed as a funding device to provide cash directly to Hamas—designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department, Canada, and the EU.

Galloway, who has referred to members of Hamas “as heroes [who] are opening the eyes of the world to the siege in the Strip,” had attended a May 2009 event on the Irvine campus sponsored by the University’s Muslim Student Union, and used the opportunity not only to condemn Israel for its many alleged transgressions, but also to raise money to assist its enemies in arming themselves to further their ambition of extirpating the Jewish state.  His real intention, and the spurious purpose of Viva Palestina’s fundraising, was on full display later that year when Galloway presented a satchel of cash to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The Muslim Student Association is actually an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical, terroristic group founded in Egypt in 1963 with the express purpose of destabilizing democratic movements and imposing Islamism on the Middle East. And while the purported intent of MSA chapters is to provide Muslim students with some social interaction, discussion of religious practices, and programs for interfaith understanding, a look at a strategy memo from the Muslim Brotherhood reveals a far more sinister and pernicious tactical purpose for the creation of the MSA. During the 2007 trial by the Justice Department against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), which was accused of being a front used to channel funds to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, an interesting 1991 document was offered as evidence. In it, the true intent of the Brotherhood was exposed as being a subtle, gradual process of subversion, and members were advised of an overarching strategic objective to their movement: they “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

The way that would be accomplished would be to establish, through “charities” and other social organizations, ideological beachheads in America—in mosques, in clubs, and, not insignificantly, on university campuses.

And the record of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is hardly pristine, either. Paralleling the moral incoherence of anti-Israel activists demonstrating elsewhere in American and European cities, SJP members from Northeastern University in Boston sponsored a November 15th rally in support of Gaza and, presumably, its genocidal thugocracy, Hamas. The members of SJP who attended that demonstration in Copley Square, only blocks away from where the Boston Marathon terror attacks were to occur in April, apparently were not sufficiently concerned when some 12,000 rockets and mortars were launched almost daily into southern Israeli towns from Gaza by Hamas over the past seven years, aimed at civilian targets for no other reason than the intended victims were Jews.

What was also particularly revealing, and chilling, about the Boston rally was the virulence of the chants and messages on the placards, much of it seeming to suggest that more sinister hatreds and feelings—over and above concern for the current military operations—were simmering slightly below the surface. Several of the morally self-righteous protestors, for instance, shrieked out, to the accompaniment of drumbeats, “Long live Intifada,” a grotesque and murderous reference to the Second Intifada, during which Arab terrorists murdered some 1000 Israelis and wounded more than 14,000 others.

Another deadly chorus emanated from protestors during the rally: “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” That is an oft repeated, but disingenuous and false notion that stateless terrorists have some recognized human right to murder civilians whose government has purportedly occupied their territory. When pro-Palestinian activists and critics of Israel repeat the claim that Palestinians somehow have an internationally-recognized legal “right” to resist occupation through violent means, they are both legitimizing that terror and helping to insure that its lethal use by Israel’s enemies will continue unabated, and this is the point made by Rossman-Benjamin in her speech.
The core issue at hand is not that Rossman-Benjamin, or anyone else for that matter, wishes to stifle or, as it is normally described by the supposed victims of such efforts, “chill” the speech of pro-Palestinian activists, or anyone else on campus, for that matter. The issue is that just as the activists have the right under the umbrella of academic free speech to express their views—no matter how factually inaccurate, vitriolic, or repellant they may be—those on campus with opposing views also have the right under the same precepts of free expression to question the activists’ views, and to call them anti-Semitic, or racist, or genocidal, or merely historically inaccurate or incorrect if, in fact, that is the case.

The pro-Palestinian activists who are currently vilifying Rossman-Benjamin may, of course, believe that they are entitled to express themselves and to have their point of view accepted without reservation because they are morally committed to it and feel that there is a special righteousness to their cause. But every proponent of every cause feels the same way and should not presume that they can reasonably be inoculated from critique of their ideas merely because they feel that their ideas are morally and ideologically superior to all others.

The concept of academic free speech, and the reason that the university is supposed to be a place where unfettered speech and a free exchange of ideas can take place, is based on the notion that vigorous debate will result in strong ideas emerging from weaker ones. The fact that pro-Palestinian activists do not like someone critiquing their tactics or their ideology is beside the point. And it is naïve of them to think that they can enjoy the protection of academic free speech themselves and not have others enjoy the same freedom, as well, to critique and evaluate what they do and say, that it would ever be reasonable or equitable that one group could claim “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Richard Cravatts


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

Make Room for Islamistgate: The Obama Administration’s New Scandal

by Barry Rubin

photo: Rob Rudloff
photo: Rob Rudloff

Up to now the Obama Administration has faced three big scandals—the IRS, the bugging of AP and Fox, and Benghazi. And now here is scandal Number 4:

For the last four years the Obama Administration has conducted a major “outreach” program to Islamic groups in the United States and in the Middle East. Patrick Poole has been investigating this project and in a comprehensive article now presents the full scoop and scope of what’s been going on. His article, “Blind to Terror: The U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Policy” in the new, Summer, issue of MERIA Journal is a gamechanger

You may think that you know about this subject but it goes far beyond what you have heard about. The majority of groups and individuals promoted by the Obama Administration have been radical Islamists, particularly Muslim Brotherhood cadre, and more than occasionally people involved in terrorist activity.

Moderate Muslims have been neglected and isolated by this project which has helped the radicals, Islamists, and pro-terrorists gain hegemony in the Muslim community in America.
Again, you may think that you know this story but it is far more extensive than has ever before been revealed. Often, the White House and FBI have granted access and worked with those who were simultaneously being investigated on serious charges of terrorism.

The whole “outreach” program has been a farce and it would be charitable to describe it as incompetent on the part of the Obama Administration.  Patrick Poole pulls all of the material together for the first time and shows serious flaws that have endangered Americans in scores of cases.

Radicals have been given credentials as moderates, been provided with information that should have remained secret, been allowed to advise and influence U.S. policy. The kind of government mishandling of terrorist threats that characterize the Fort Hood case and the Boston bombing has been business as usual.

Here is a portion of Patrick Poole’s article:

“When President Obama hosted his annual Iftar dinner in August 2010 to commemorate the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, the list of invitees published by the White House was curiously missing the names of several attendees – all of whom were top leaders of organizations known to be purveyors of jihadist ideology and implicated by federal prosecutors in financing terrorism.

“But it wasn’t like they had crashed the party. In fact, one of the individuals missing on the official White House list, Mohamed Majid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), was pictured in a news service photograph sitting at the front table just a few feet from the president as he spoke When Majid was hailed by Time Magazine in November 2005 as a “moderate Muslim cleric” that was helping the FBI fight terrorists, he quickly published an open letter to his congregation on the mosque’s website assuring his congregants that he was doing no such thing stating that his relationship with the FBI was a one-way street only to communicate Muslim community concerns – not to report on individuals suspected of terrorist activity.[iii]

“It was just a few years ago the Attorney General of the United States was canceling Muslim outreach events for the sole reason that Majid would be present at the meeting, because the Department of Justice had just named ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history.

“But Majid’s connection to terrorism goes back even farther than that, since the offices of the mosque he leads, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, were raided by U.S. Customs authorities in March 2002 in a wide-sweeping terror finance investigation. In an affidavit requesting a search warrant for the raids, Customs Agent David Kane testified that Majid’s mosque was being used to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars for the targeted terror finance network that shared offices withADAMS.An appendix to the Customs Service affidavit also names eleven ADAMS Center officials as targets of their terror finance investigation.And yet Majid and the ADAMS Center are still considered legitimate outreach partners by the FBI.

“This was just the most recent episode in the disastrous attempts at outreach to the Muslim community since the 9/11 attacks. And with the release in 2011 of President Obama’s strategic plan to combat “violent extremism” to expand outreach to these same terror-tied groups, the present administration seems intent on compounding the disaster wrought by previous administrations.”

The results of this investigation should be a serious embarrassment for the Obama Administration and should be distributed as widely as possible. It involves the expenditure of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and the promotion of the forces most dangerous to American interests and to the American people in the world today.

Barry Rubin


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

Happy Israel

by Daniel Pipes

In a typically maladroit statement, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry recently complained that Israelis are too contented to end their conflict with the Palestinians: "People in Israel aren't waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity."

While Mr. Kerry misunderstands Israelis (Palestinian rejectionism, not prosperity, caused them to give up on diplomacy), he is right that Israelis have a "sense of security and … of prosperity." They are generally a happy lot. A recent poll found 93 percent of Jewish Israelis proud of be Israeli. Yes, Iranian nuclear weapons loom and confrontation with Moscow is possible, but things have never been so good. With thanks to Efraim Inbar of Bar-Ilan University for some of the following information, Let us count the ways.

Israel has more children per capita than any other advanced country.
-- Women need to give birth to 2.1 children to sustain a country's population; Israel has a birthrate of 2.65, making it the only advanced country to exceed replacement. (The next highest is France at 2.08; the lowest is Singapore at 0.79.) While Haredis and Arabs account for some of this robust rate, secular Jews are the key.

-- Israel enjoyed a 14.5 percent growth of gross domestic product during the 2008-12 recession, giving it the highest economic growth rate of any OECD country. (In contrast, the advanced economies as a whole had a 2.3 percent growth rate, with the United States weighing in at 2.9 percent and the Euro zone at minus 0.4 percent.) Israel invests 4.5 percent of GDP in research & development, the highest percentage of any country.

-- Due to major gas and oil finds, Walter Russell Mead observes, "the Promised Land, from a natural resource point of view, could be ... inch for inch the most valuable and energy rich country anywhere in the world." These resources enhance Israel's position in the world.
Natural gas from Israel's Tamar field has just begun flowing to customers.
-- With Syria and Egypt consumed by internal problems, the existential threat they once posed to Israel has, for the moment, nearly disappeared. Thanks to innovative tactics, terror attacks have been nearly eliminated. The IDF has outstanding human resources and stands at the forefront of military technologies; and Israeli society has proven its readiness to fight a protracted conflict. Mr. Inbar, a strategist, concludes that "the power differential between Israel and its Arab neighbors is continuously growing."

-- The Palestinian diplomatic focus that dominated the country's politics for decades after 1967 has receded, with only 10 percent of Jewish Israelis considering negotiations the top priority. Mr. Kerry may obsess over this issue but, in the acerbic words of one politico, "Debating the peace process to most Israelis is the equivalent of debating the color of the shirt you will wear when landing on Mars."

-- Even the Iranian nuclear issue may be less dire than it appears. Between the vastly greater destructive power of Israel's nuclear arsenal and its growing missile defense system, military analyst Anthony Cordesman predicts that an exchange of nuclear weapons would leave Israel damaged badly but Iranian civilization destroyed. "Iranian recovery is not possible in the normal sense of the term." Maniacal as the Iranian leadership is, will it really risk all?

-- Successes of the "boycott, divestment, and sanctions" movement are pretty meager (Stephen Hawking snubbed the president's invitation! A United Nations body passed another absurd condemnation). Israel has diplomatic relations with 156 out of the United Nations' 193 members. Looking at multiple indices, Mr. Inbar finds that, globally, "Israel is rather well integrated."

-- In public opinion surveys in the United States, the world's most important country and Israel's main ally, Israel regularly beats the Palestinians by a 4-to-1 ratio. And while universities are indeed hostile, I ask handwringers this question: Where would you rather be strong, the U.S. Congress or the campuses? To ask that question is to answer it.

-- Ashkenazi-Sephardi tensions have diminished over time due to a combination of intermarriage and cultural cross-pollination. The issue of Haredi nonparticipation is finally being addressed.

-- Israelis have made impressive cultural contributions, especially to classical music, leading one critic, David Goldman, to call Israel a "pocket superpower in the arts."

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1936 is a leading cultural institution.

Listen up, anti-Zionists and antisemites, Palestinians and Islamists, extreme right- and left-wingers: You are fighting a losing battle; the Jewish state is prevailing. As Mr. Inbar rightly concludes, "Time seems to be on Israel's side." Give up and find some other country to torment.

Mr. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.


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Syrian Army, Rebels Battle near Israel Border Crossing

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

"There are heavy explosions and fierce clashes ongoing in the area," says head of Syrian human rights group • Event marks first time rebels temporarily seize border crossing with Israel • IDF agrees to treat wounded combatants.

The Israel-Syria border, Thursday
Photo credit: Gil Eliyahu/JINI
Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff  


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