Friday, December 23, 2011

State Department 'Panders' to Islamists on Free Speech

by IPT News

The Obama administration is drawing fire for yielding what critics see as a huge propaganda victory to Islamist regimes seeking to curb American speech deemed "offensive" to Muslims.

The State Department hosted a three-day, closed-door meeting last week with representatives of the Saudi Arabia-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on measures to fight religious "intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization."

In her closing remarks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton portrayed the conference as a sign that Washington and the OIC are working together to protect religious freedom around the world.

"We have to get past the idea that we can suppress religious minorities, that we can restrict speech, that we are smart enough that we can substitute our judgment for God's and determine who is or is not blaspheming," Clinton said. "I think if we do our work right, in years to come, people will look back and say this was a great step forward on behalf of both (sic) freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and our common humanity."

But according to the Hudson institute's Nina Shea (who attended portions of the conference as an observer), the event was actually a step backward for religious liberty. The meeting seemed to be an exercise in "moral equivalency and pandering to Sunni tyrants in the Middle East," she said.

"The general theme seemed to be that the U.S. has problems just like Saudi Arabia with religious tolerance," she added. "There was a total absence of perspective on all counts."

Pointing to familiar events such the Muhammad cartoon violence, Quran burnings and Muslim objections to the film "Fitna," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu argued that his organization regarded bigotry as a primarily Western phenomenon. He wrote that "no one has the right to insult another person for their beliefs or to incite hatred and prejudice," and that "freedom of expression has to be exercised with responsibility."

Zamir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative of the OIC before the U.N. Human Rights Council was more emphatic. He claimed that Resolution 16/18, which expressed concern about "negative profiling" and religious "stereotyping," was driven by Western discrimination against Muslims. Akram also questioned whether Muslims engaged in discrimination, and said Muslims would not compromise on permitting "anything against the Quran, anything against the Prophet."

Given these comments – and Saudi educational materials that encourage the spread of Islam through jihad and demonize Jews, Christians and polytheists – Shea believes U.S. officials are "naïve" to think there will be reciprocity from the OIC when it comes to combating discrimination.

Despite Saudi Arabia's abysmal record of persecuting non-Muslims, the Kingdom received a note of dubious praise from the United Nations General Assembly, which on Monday passed a resolution condemning religious intolerance. According to Shea, the UNGA resolution – passed by consensus with U.S. support – singled out for praise a single program: A Saudi-built "religious dialogue" center in Vienna, Austria.

Given Saudi Arabia's relentless persecution of non-Muslims, the praise is "Orwellian," Shea told the IPT. "They don't dare establish such a program on their own territory."

OIC member states spearheading the anti-blasphemy campaign include Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – all of which jail or execute "blasphemers." In nations like Egypt and Iraq, Christians are attacked and their churches torched while Muslim-dominated governments are unwilling or unable to protect them.

"In these countries, you have 'cleansing' tolerated by the authorities," Shea noted. "Religious cleansing [of Christians] is underway right now in Egypt and Iraq. It's been completed in Saudi Arabia. Jews have been cleansed from the Sunni Muslim world."

By any measure, Muslims and other religious minorities in the United States face no dangers comparable to religious minorities in the Muslim Arab world. Indeed, like the Bush administration preceding it, the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to court American Muslims and portray their situation in a very favorable light.

Clinton's Dec. 14 remarks included a rebuke to Islamists who seek to silence people of other faiths. "But is our religion so weak that statements of disapproval will cause us to lose our faiths?" Clinton asked. She added that there is nothing wrong with "hav[ing] good debates with others."

But Shea emphasizes that the behavior of OIC participants like Saudi Arabia gives no indication that they are interested in dialogue with minorities in their countries. She said that at the conference, participants largely ignored the vast differences between the United States and OIC member nations in protecting religious minorities.

One legal official (State Department confidentiality rules barred observers from identifying him or his country) gave a "one-sided depiction of American bigotry against religious minorities, including Muslims" in his opening keynote address, Shea said, telling representatives of some of the world's most repressive regimes that America can learn from them about protecting religious tolerance.

But the official never bothered to explain that, when compared with other countries, America has an extraordinary record of "upholding individual freedoms of speech and religion," Shea told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The tolerance of the American people is misrepresented by omission."

Pointing to mounting reports of atrocities and intimidation against Middle East Christians and mass slaughter by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, Shea didn't mince words in characterizing the attitudes of the American conference participants toward their OIC counterparts.

"It's the equivalent of saying to Hitler: 'Well, you have a real problem with the way you treat minorities and we have a problem with limiting the rights of Aryans here.'"

Washington Retreats on Speech Codes

The OIC (previously called the Organization of the Islamic Conference) has pushed for a universal blasphemy law for more than a decade. Since the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands and the 2006 riots protesting cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammad, the group has pressured Western European nations to implement speech codes punishing criticism of Islam.

In March, the Obama administration thwarted the OIC's attempt to win United Nations Human Rights Council passage of a resolution calling for criminal penalties for the "defamation of religions." The following month, Washington engineered Council passage of Resolution 16/18, a nonbinding measure which did not censor speech.

The victory didn't last long. In July, Secretary of State Clinton revived the issue when she co-chaired an OIC session in Istanbul dealing with "religious intolerance." Clinton called on countries to "counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue and public debate," while emphasizing that speech restrictions were unacceptable. She invited conference attendees to a follow-up meeting to continue the dialogue.

OIC officials seized on Clinton's offer by stepping up their campaign for blasphemy laws and speech codes.

Based on conversations with U.S. officials, Shea believes that many of them fail to grasp what the OIC represents. They lack essential information about apostasy and blasphemy laws and have "very little knowledge of the illiberal nature of the OIC," she said. "There's a sense of political correctness that prohibits probing of that organization and what it stands for."

Although the United States is unlikely to emulate Western European countries in enacting speech codes, "what we see is self-censorship" by agencies like the State and Homeland Security departments which are barred from discussing issues such as Salafism and jihad. Moreover, "in the media, academia and the entertainment world, we see self-censorship on behalf of Islam. Certain issues are off the table."

Shea believes that this "politically correct" approach to Islamism has disturbing implications for U.S. national security. In the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who massacred 13 of his fellow servicemen at Fort Hood in 2009, co-workers emphasized that they were deeply troubled by his jihadist ravings regarded him as a radical Muslim "but didn't report it for fear of being labeled "Islamophobes,'" she noted.

Similarly, a Senate committee issued a report documenting a culture of timidity at the Pentagon on the subject of Islam. Shea said the Fort Hood massacre is a "perfect example" of the danger posed by the U.S. government's failure to address the danger Islamism poses to our liberties.

IPT News (The Investigative Project on Terrorism)


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

The Middle East: The Obama Administration Doesn't Get It

by Barry Rubin

The Obama administration has comprehensively lost its way on Middle East policy to an extent that poses tremendous dangers to the United States, Western interests, and the region as a whole. The cost of these mistakes will be–and already has been–serious losses, crises, and violent conflicts. People in the area will pay heavily in blood and suffering due to these miscomprehensions and miscalculations.

Despite these obvious problems, the mass media and academic experts have tended to ignore, misunderstand, or apologize for them. This failure of critical institutions to fulfill their watch-dog and evaluation tasks has worsened the situation, since corrections have not been made and honest debates have not taken place. Nothing illustrates the depth and extent of the problem more than a balanced survey. Consequently, this article presents three aspects of contemporary U.S. Middle East policy and the problems it faces. The first section provides the basic premises of the situation under the Obama administration. The second section discusses what its strategy should be. The third section looks at the various current issues with brief discussions on the gap between actual policy and preferable policy.


To an extent greater than any modern predecessor, the Obama administration has abandoned traditional diplomatic and international affairs concepts. This does not mean that they have been abandoned completely or that there is no continuity on Middle East policy, but the basic change has been greater than in the past. In particular, ideas such as realpolitik, power politics, leverage, rewarding allies and punishing enemies, credibility, and deterrence have been questioned or undermined. While the onset of the “Arab Spring” starting in January 2011 altered administration policy from the original framework in favor of reform and democratization–though, as shall be seen, not always–the same basic pattern continued. Some of the administration’s “new thinking” attitudes are discussed as follows.

First, is the importance of popularity. While wanting to be liked by other countries and their people is something of a theme in U.S. foreign policy history–in sharp contrast to almost every other government in the world–it has never become as high a priority as in the Obama administration. The desire to be popular has shaped administration policies. That Obama had made the United States popular again was one of the administration’s main claimed successes–though reliable polls did not necessarily show this to be true. To be popular, of course, required avoiding confrontations with others (even at times when there were conflicting interests) and showing special sensitivity (at times pandering) to what others wanted to hear. This was a perceived contrast with the preceding Bush administration, which was seen as making America especially disliked.

Together with popularity was the idea that the administration must get along with Islam. The interpretation was that being liked required a hypersensitivity toward Islam, going beyond the strong effort at carefulness followed by the preceding president in the wake of the September 11 attacks. While it was not noticed, there was far less emphasis on getting along with Arab nationalism. The president’s unique personal experience and sympathy with Islam was a partial factor in this orientation, seen in his Cairo and Istanbul speeches, his banning of anything that even seemed to hint at a problem with radical political Islamism, and such symbolic gestures as ordering the head of NASA to focus on appreciating (that is, largely forging) some great Muslim contribution to space exploration.

The next policy adjustment was the redefinition of the Middle East in Islamic terms. This is a revolutionary, albeit virtually unnoticed, change and was the core idea of Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech. Since the 1950s, the Arabic-speaking world’s politics functioned largely within the framework of Arab nationalism. Western policies dealt with the area in those terms. Yet Obama’s “Islamic” approach undermined that. This would become tremendously important with the development of the “Arab Spring,” when Arab nationalist regimes and identity clashed with Islamist identity and opposition movements.

Another new attitude has been the administration’s very specific view of terrorism and the threat to U.S. interests. According to the Obama administration concept, al-Qa’ida is a dangerous enemy because it attacked the United States directly. However, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and even the Taliban (it allegedly has a moderate wing with which the United States is negotiating) can be moderated and rendered non-hostile to the United States. If not for pressure from pro-Israel forces, the administration would probably extend this to Hamas (a position that Obama’s terrorism advisor, John Brennan, has stated privately). Thus, there is no war on terrorism (since only a small portion of terrorism is hostile and dangerous) and there is no war on revolutionary Islamism (since that might offend Muslims and many Islamists can be managed) but only a war on al-Qa’ida.

The Obama administration has also shifted its emphasis to reconciling enemies rather than supporting friends. Believing in the importance of popularity, the potential moderation of Islamists, the avoidance of conflict, the priority on conciliating Islam, etc., the administration has put the emphasis on winning over enemies. The Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and Syria are to be engaged. Compromise is possible with the Taliban (or part of it). No criticism is to be made of the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the Islamist-oriented Turkish regime.

At the same time, the concerns not only of Israel but also traditional Arab allies–former President Husni Mubarak’s Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and smaller Gulf Arab monarchies–have been neglected. These factors are not fully consulted and the Obama administration quickly backed Mubarak’s downfall. Similarly, while showing great consideration for the Egyptian and Tunisian oppositions that were challenging pro-U.S. governments, the Obama administration gave little help or even verbal support to the oppositions in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, or Turkey, which opposed anti-American governments.

Further, the administration has been downplaying American leadership. It very explicitly criticized U.S. policy in the past as being insensitive, imperialistic, and bullying while expressing a desire to be merely an equal partner. It placed more dependence on the choices of allies, the UN, and even the Arab League (notably on the Libya issue).

In addition, while other administrations criticized Israel and supported the Palestinians, the Obama administration went further in trying to distance itself from Israel in public perception. This situation should not be exaggerated. U.S.-Israel relations continued to function well on the military level, and there was no real pressure applied. Yet that is the point: the Obama administration wanted to be seen as further away from Israel and more supportive of the Palestinians as part of its strategy intended to win support from Muslims and Arabs.

Similarly, the Obama administration was not unique in its highlighting of Israel-Palestinian issues and putting a priority on the “peace process.” What made the administration different from its predecessors is that it continued this orientation even after failures might have been expected to make it change priorities. Thus, it seemed as if its attitude on the issue had a stronger aspect of ideological preconception rather than a pragmatic belief that progress could be realistically expected.

—The last element of the Obama strategy is the belief that change must be good and democracy inevitably triumphant. Similar to its domestic worldview, the Obama administration enthusiastically embraced the “Arab Spring,” clearly arguing that nothing could go wrong and that a revolutionary Islamist “hijacking” of these events and takeover of power was not possible. Ironically, this was a caricature of the Bush policy that Obama’s supporters had ridiculed.

All of these ideas are wrong, dangerous, and likely to lead to defeats for the United States, the weakening of its allies, the strengthening of its enemies, and the spawning of future crises.


To understand what U.S. policy should be, it is necessary to understand the current reality of the Middle East. The central issue is the struggle of revolutionary Islamists to seize control of individual countries and the region as a whole. They are seeking to overthrow existing governments, fundamentally transform those societies, wipe Israel off the map, and expel Western–and especially U.S.–influence from the region.[2] This is, to say the least, a critical challenge. Yet it is a threat that the Obama administration does not even recognize. The Islamist forces are not united and there are three basic groupings.

First are al-Qa’ida and its constituent groups organized in a loose umbrella, to mix a metaphor. This bloc can cause serious trouble and kill people, but its dependence on a single tactic, terrorism, also makes it much weaker than Islamist forces that are strategically wise and tactically flexible. Al-Qa’ida can blow things up, but it cannot seize state power. Consequently, this bloc that the Obama administration has focused on as the main threat is by far the least dangerous.

The second Islamist force is the Iran-led bloc. This consists of Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Iraqi insurgents. The Turkish regime has aligned with this group as well. It came into control of Lebanon too.

Last, is a possible Muslim Brotherhood bloc. The “Arab Spring,” however, strengthened Sunni Islamists, especially in Egypt and Syria while to a lesser extent in Libya and Tunisia. Consequently, a new Muslim Brotherhood bloc has emerged to some extent and has been attractive for both Hamas and Turkey. It is still far behind the Iran-led bloc, but a measure of power in Egypt would promote its interests greatly. If it can align many Sunni Islamists behind it in opposition to Shi’a, the Iran-led bloc could be circumscribed and lose some of its appeal.

There should be no illusion, however, that the problem is “only” al-Qa’ida or that radical Islamist elements from any grouping could be won over. They are all anti-American and anti-Western due both to their ideology and interests. When Islamists and radicals complained, for example, about U.S. support for the Mubarak regime, they were not decrying a lack of democracy but how Washington was blocking their own revolutionary success.

To meet this threat, the U.S. course should be clear. What is needed is American leadership of a broad and loose coalition opposing the spread of revolutionary Islamist power and rule. Such a non-institutionalized alignment would consist of the United States and Canada, European democracies, relatively moderate Arab states, and Israel. In terms of cooperation, it would also include opposition movements opposing radical regimes, notably in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. Eventually, it might also work with democratic forces horrified by growing Islamist power in their countries, notably in Egypt and Tunisia.

In order to provide such leadership, the U.S. government would have to have a clear view of friends and enemies, understand the revolutionary Islamist ideology and methods, maintain its credibility, and reward friends while punishing enemies. Unfortunately, this approach is virtually the opposite of the Obama administration’s policies, which have in fact undermined what is required for success. Without making any actual strategic gain, U.S. interests have suffered four serious defeats during the first half of the Obama administration:

First, was the loss of Egypt as America’s main Arab ally and its possible turn toward the other side. Second, was the consolidation of Hamas’ control over the Gaza Strip, now further fortified with its growing status as an Egyptian protectorate. The third factor was Lebanon’s takeover by a Hizballah-led government that looks to Syria and Iran as patrons. Last, was the virtual defection of Turkey, governed by an Islamist regime, to the other side.

Not all of these are completely Obama’s fault, but he bears a large measure of the responsibility. Moreover, potential gains–represented by revolts in Iran and Syria–were given no support by Washington. Additional secondary losses could also be listed.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict, which so often is put at the center of the region (and even crowds out every other issue in the consciousness of policymakers, “experts,” and the mass media), is of minimal importance in all this. One could provide a blow-by-blow description of the administration’s flailing about on this issue, but it is not really worthwhile. In the end, despite the sound and fury involved, the “peace process” diplomacy changed little and signified nothing.


The shortcomings of the Obama administration’s policy emerge with startling clarity when one inventories precisely what has happened and how it has managed these challenges. These are presented in alphabetical order:


The U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan was based on the erroneous belief that American military forces could help create a stable and developing democratic polity in that country. After an overly long decisionmaking process, Obama opted for withdrawing U.S. forces while seeking a deal with the “moderate wing” of the Taliban. The problem is that a war in Afghanistan is unwinnable; that the Taliban will not disappear and is already going on the offensive in anticipation of U.S. withdrawal; Pakistan is a thoroughly unreliable ally; and the Afghan government is a mess. The Obama administration might get credit for withdrawing U.S. forces, but the situation in Afghanistan will be a disaster. Clear anarchy at best, and a Taliban reconquest at worst, will not make the Obama administration’s Afghan policy look so good in future.


The situation in Egypt is arguably the greatest single setback to U.S. interests since Iran’s 1979 Revolution. In the first phase, the Obama administration strongly supported the overthrow of the long-allied Mubarak regime, trading this for an uncertain future. Thus, it lost the best U.S. partner in the Arabic-speaking world, a government that opposed revolutionary Islamism in general (and especially Hamas) along with Iranian ambitions.

The second phase seems likely to produce an anti-American government of fixed Islamist and radical nationalist views that is unlikely to support U.S. goals, likely to empty of content the Egypt-Israel peace (and conceivably go to war with Israel), and probably to become itself a supporter of anti-American and revolutionary Islamist forces in the region. It is difficult to conceive of a more total setback, yet the most basic points of the above analysis remain generally unrecognized in Washington.


After a long effort at engagement, which wasted time, the administration did finally support strong sanctions on Tehran in late 2010. The problem is that a number of loopholes were built in, which essentially excused China, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates from having to implement the sanctions in practice. Moreover, while the administration was ostensibly tough on Iran’s nuclear program, it did not even seem to recognize Iran’s strategic threat. That is, little was done to oppose the expansion of Iranian influence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, or elsewhere. The principal Iranian challenge is through the use of backing revolutionary Islamist groups, covert warfare, funding, propaganda, and sponsoring terrorism–all elements to which the Obama administration has no serious response.

The Obama administration’s concept of “containing” Iran almost exclusively focuses on preventing Iran from using nuclear weapons, a worthwhile endeavor but far from the entire picture. Moreover, despite some escalation of verbiage, the administration made no systematic effort to support the Iranian opposition. Thus, Iran’s expanding power and influence was scarcely troubled by administration policy.


Although the Obama administration’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq makes sense on its own terms, in the context of a perceived weakening of American resolve and failure to confront Iran and other radical forces, it contributes to a sense in the region that–for allies–America is not reliable and–for enemies–that it is highly vulnerable. The Iraqi government is faction-ridden and plagued with internal problems. This, of course, is not the Obama administration’s fault, but it makes the future of U.S.-Iraqi relations most insecure. While Iranian influence will not easily gain hegemony there, it is a serious competitor for the United States, especially if Iran seems to be the winning side in Gulf regional terms.


The best way to characterize U.S.-Israel relations during Obama’s presidency is as relatively unchanged in material terms but very much undermined in terms of mutual trust and strategic cooperation. In other words, the bilateral military relationship has continued with little alteration and after all the storm and fury of administration rhetoric, there has been no real pressure on Israel or withdrawal of basic support. Still, the administration’s obvious eagerness to distance itself from Israel and its lack of understanding of that country’s needs reduce confidence in U.S. reliability. Specific mistaken U.S. policies have made Israeli leaders wary of trusting Obama, taking risks, or making concessions at his behest.

Ironically, Obama himself has been the greatest saboteur of an already stricken “peace process.” His mistaken initial focus on the stopping of all construction on settlements, his refusal to criticize or pressure the Palestinian Authority, his ill-fated call for quick negotiations in the fall of 2009, and many other actions eliminated any possibility for negotiations. The truth is that Obama and his White House team have little understanding of the issues involved and none at all of Israeli interests and motivations. The administration made the greatest mistakes on these issues not only by having bad policies but in having policies that were so visibly mistaken and failed.

Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is one of the administration’s greatest failures, though not one of the better understood ones. The policy of Israel, Egypt, and the Bush administration was to maintain pressure on the Gaza Strip to ensure that the Hamas regime remained weak and unstable, and thus less able to launch war on Israel or spread revolutionary Islamism. In addition, the idea was that a gap between a prosperous PA-ruled West Bank and a relatively impoverished Gaza Strip would increase popular support for the PA and decrease support for Hamas in both places.

The Obama administration trampled on this strategy. After the first Gaza flotilla, the administration could have done nothing. Instead, it handed the flotilla (and Hamas) a victory while getting nothing in exchange, by pressuring Israel to reduce sanctions on the Gaza Strip to a minimum. Then it paid hundreds of millions of dollars to the PA for use in subsidizing former PA employees in Gaza, an understandable step but a damaging one. Finally, by helping to bring down the Mubarak government, the White House guaranteed a pro-Hamas regime in Cairo and a virtually open border for shipping in weapons, money, and terrorists. By this behavior, the administration laid the foundation for a future Hamas-Israel, and possibly Egypt-Hamas versus Israel, war.


The deterioration of the political situation in Lebanon was not helped by the policy of the Bush administration in its latter years. Obama, however, made the situation much worse. Rather than back the moderate Sunni-Christian-Druze coalition, the administration followed a policy based on both non-intervention and a pro-Syrian stance. Despite some occasional statements, the U.S. government did nothing to stem a Hizballah-led, Syrian- and Iranian-backed takeover of the Beirut government.

The lack of U.S. support demoralized the moderate forces, while the openness of the U.S. government to Hizballah’s empowerment was also most damaging. During Obama’s watch, Lebanon has changed over to the anti-American, pro-Islamist bloc camp. Again, the administration does not even seem to comprehend the seriousness of the defeat there.


As with several other aspects of Obama administration policy, its dealings with Libya are close to being beyond belief. Frightened by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Libyan dictator Mu’amar Qadhafi was “scared straight,” abandoned his nuclear program, and behaved himself internationally. Of course, there is no doubt that Qadhafi was a terrible dictator, yet the U.S. decision to back an unknown opposition in a civil war with NATO forces seemed precipitate to say the least. The fact that it was explicitly based on “protecting civilians,” rather than on U.S. interests, was obviously arbitrary in terms of Middle East situations where this principle could have been better applied elsewhere.

Regarding Libya, the Obama administration made every mistake that its leaders and supporters had spent years criticizing when done by previous governments: a military intervention that had not been thought through, overstretching U.S. forces, and putting U.S. prestige into the hands of a questionable ally.

Muslim Brotherhood

One of the many remarkable shortcomings of Obama policy is its inability to figure out that the Muslim Brotherhood is an anti-American, revolutionary Islamist group that wants to wipe Israel off the map and transform Egypt into an Islamist state. To reach that conclusion did not seem the most difficult of tasks. Yet high administration officials asserted that the Brotherhood was moderate, nonviolent, non-Islamist, and even secular.

Before anyone even asked for his opinion, Obama declared early on in the revolution that the United States had no problem seeing the Brotherhood in government. In short, the administration took a major gamble on little intelligence that either the Brotherhood would not win elections or that if it did gain power, the group would be moderate. This could well turn out to be one of the greatest miscalculations in U.S. diplomatic history.

Palestinian Authority

The Palestinian Authority was discussed earlier under the Gaza Strip and Israel categories, but it should be added that the administration seemed totally incapable of dealing with PA intransigence. In fact, the White House intensified the problem. The PA refused to negotiate with Israel, rejected Obama’s public call for talks in late 2009, wasted the nine-month Israeli freeze on construction, broke its promise to Obama not to push for UN adoption of the Goldstone Report on Gaza, made a partnership deal with Hamas, and abandoned all of its previous commitments in order to push for unilateral independence without any prior deal with Israel. Yet none of these actions had the slightest effect on the administration’s virtually uncritical support for the PA.

Saudi Arabia

While Saudi Arabia is not an ideal society, it certainly has been an important U.S. ally for many years. The Obama administration virtually rubbed the monarchy’s face in the dirt–provoking the biggest rift in many years–and hardly noticed that it was doing anything to create a problem. It did not back Saudi efforts to keep Lebanon from becoming a Syria-Iran satellite. Then it did not consult the Saudis over Egypt.

Indeed, from the tone of U.S. rhetoric, one might have concluded that the White House backed the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy. As if that were not enough the U.S. government did not make the Saudis feel that it was going to protect them from Iran. Finally, it at first advocated the overthrow of Bahrain’s government, whose shortcomings in the treatment of the Shi’a majority did not outweigh the dangers of the country coming under the rule of an Iranian client regime. As a result, the Saudis–and the smaller Gulf states that had similar perceptions–intervened in Bahrain themselves; tried to develop their own ability to counter Iran; and drew another neglected and endangered moderate state, Jordan, under the protection of the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Even in a list of remarkably bad policies, the Obama administration’s approach to Syria stands out as especially misconceived. The idea that the United States would pull Syria away from Iran (a patron that backed its ambitions, lavishly subsidized Syria and Syria’s clients, and provided it with both religious cover and strategic protection) was simply ludicrous, as if the Tehran regime had embarked on a high-priority effort to turn the United Kingdom or Canada from being U.S. allies to partners with Iran. Equally misconceived was the belief that the United States could moderate the most radical and anti-American of contemporary Arab regimes, which has behaved in that way because such a posture well served the regime’s interests.

The Obama administration thus undid many of the Bush era sanctions while ignoring Syria’s help to terrorists killing Americans in Iraq, backing for Hamas and Hizballah, efforts to seize control over Lebanon, sabotaging of the peace process, and other actions. Then, when the Syrian people revolted against the regime–at a time when the Obama administration had proclaimed a policy of promoting change and democracy–the U.S. government gave Syria an exemption and continued to support the dictatorship. It would be hard to imagine a policy more totally opposed to U.S. interests and sheer common sense.


As in other cases, regarding Turkey, the Obama administration failed to perceive a major shift and thus developed a policy totally out of sync with the situation and contrary to U.S. interests. The Turkish regime, whatever the cleverness of its tactics and the patience of its progression, is an Islamist one. That government moved into alignment with Syria (at least before that country’s upheaval) and Iran, while backing Hamas and Hizballah, and becoming passionately anti-Israel.

That regime also acted contrary to U.S. policy on a number of issues, noticeably trying to sabotage the U.S. sanctions effort against Iran. It also steadily diminished freedom of speech within Turkey and arrested many critics. Yet despite some mention of the human rights issue, by mid-2011, the Obama administration acted as if nothing had changed and that Turkey was still a stalwart ally with no real problems in the relationship.

As the Turkish government whipped up anti-American fervor (and it is known–thanks to Wikileaks–that the U.S. embassy in Ankara was sending warnings to Washington), the U.S. government continued to be blithely ignorant about the danger. The administration constantly praised the Turkish regime–even holding it up as a model for Arabic-speaking states. This, of course, made the Turkish opposition feel betrayed and public opinion conclude that there was no cost for sticking a finger into America’s eye.


To say that Obama policy in the Middle East has been disastrous is not a partisan or ideological statement but merely a recounting of the facts. The damage to U.S. interests and regional stability are perilous indeed and will take years to reverse–if in fact it can be reversed. Yet to focus on U.S.-Israel relations or on U.S. policy and the Israel-Palestinian conflict is to miss the main point. For all the drama and passion expended on those issues, they are essentially a sideshow. The real problem is the decline in the U.S. strategic position in the region, the failure to address the great conflict taking place in the region, the self-inflicted reduction of U.S. credibility and leverage, and even actions that have strengthened America’s enemies.

None of the points made in this article are unknown in the Middle East. On the contrary, all of them are well understood both by America’s worried friends and by its emboldened enemies. Of equal importance is the failure of the Obama administration to learn from its mistakes and experiences.

While many career officials in the State and Defense departments are aware of the mistaken conception and strategy, they are unable to affect policy except at the margins. The Defense Department and military commanders are forced to fight three wars simultaneously based on a strategy set by the White House, despite many misgivings. When Robert Gates was secretary of defense, until July 2011, he made clear his discontent with several aspects of policy–notably the Libyan war. His replacement by a politician close to Obama, Leon Panetta, removed that impediment to White House strategy.

Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, also disagreed with aspects of Obama’s policy and was seconded by career Middle East experts in the department. On two issues–White House support for the overturn of the governments in Bahrain and Egypt–the State Department and the president came into open disagreement. On Egypt, the State Department lost; on Bahrain it won after convincing the president that a revolution would increase Iranian influence and might lead to the closure of the U.S. naval base there.

The secretary of state is the president’s former chief political rival and her own views have been repeatedly dismissed, thus making her into a cynical transmission belt for Obama’s own views. Although much of State Department embassy reporting has been good, its points–for example, the threat from the Turkish regime–do not penetrate into the highest levels. Consequently, there is no place in the policy process from which corrective ideas can come.

Moreover, Obama’s top tier of national security advisors on policy is extremely weak, further undermining a president with little knowledge of international affairs or the Middle East. The national security advisor is a political operative with no real authority or informed views. The first secretary of defense was a holdover from the Bush administration and did not enjoy the president’s confidence, while his replacement is a former congressman with little knowledge of military or strategic affairs (except, perhaps, on budgetary issues).

Aside from Obama himself–who lacks experience on war-making, national administration, international affairs, and the Middle East–those who played the main role in policymaking were relatively junior staffers at the National Security Council. These individuals had little experience or knowledge in the region but deep-seated ideological premises based on theory and academic backgrounds. In contrast to some previous administrations, there was no strong national security advisor to advise the president and affect his views. Another important factor in shaping policy was the CIA, which advocated the view that only al-Qa’ida was a real threat and that dialogue with revolutionary Islamists was the correct approach, even before Obama’s election. This view was also embodied in John Brennan, the president’s advisor on terrorism, who was outspoken in his belief that befriending Islamists would moderate them.

A more detailed picture, of course, will have to await the availability of first-person memoirs on policymaking from inside the administration. Nevertheless, it is already apparent that four more years of the same policy is not something one wants to contemplate. A number of crisis scenarios based on the developments presented above would pose tremendous challenges to an administration ill-equipped by both ability and worldview to handle them.


[1] This section is based on a thorough reading of statements by President Barack Obama and administration officials as well as documents and actions. Many examples are provided by the current author’s writings during the period since the administration took office.

[2] This author anticipated the challenges and responses of the Obama Administration in an article written just as he was taking office. More than two years later, this analysis looks quite accurate on both counts. See Barry Rubin, “U.S. Middle East Policy: Too Many Challenges and yet a Single Theme,” Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, June 2009,

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia. His latest books include Israel: An Introduction (Yale, 2012); The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).


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Wash. Post Transforms Hamas into a 'Moderate' Pussycat

by Leo Rennert

For years, the Washington Post has refused to call Hamas as a terrorist group -- the designation given it by the United States and the European Union, and of course, by Israel, which still mourns hundreds of its citizens murdered by Hamas. To avoid use of the T-for-terrorism label, the Post substituted "militant," its most favorite euphemism.

But hold the presses: Hamas has gone beyond "militant" and turned into a downright "moderate" and "pragmatic" organization that no longer may resort to violence against Israel, according to Joel Greenberg, the Post's Jerusalem correspondent.

In a Dec. 22 article, Greenberg happily reports that, with the advent of the Arab Spring, Hamas is evolving from a terrorist -- sorry, militant -- past into an adherent of far more peaceful tactics ("Hamas signals willingness to deal with moderates -- Arab Spring prompts thaw; talks with Fatah planned in Cairo" page A13)

Here's how Greenberg makes this great leap in presenting the "new" Hamas. In his lead paragraph, he starts by assuring Post readers that Hamas "is showing signs of pragmatism as its sense of isolation fades." He then further explains that Hamas wants to "strengthen ties with Arab countries where moderate Islamists have made political gains," like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In its long quest to sanitize Hamas, the Post now is shifting from "militant" to a presumably even more kosher "moderate Islamist" label. Remember it well: "Moderate Islamist" -- what a neat oxymoron. "Islamist" for a long time has been a media favorite to distinguish peaceful Muslims from radical, violence-bent ones, like Islamists. But now we're to understand that there is a sub-brand of "Islamist" with a "moderate" bent. Well, tell that to the 8 million Cops in Egypt who are not exactly thrilled with the prospect of being ruled by the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, and by the somewhat less "moderate Islamist" Salafis, who together are winning 70 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections.

But Greenberg, ever a delusional optimist in his Palestinian coverage, ignores or dismisses any concerns about what the Arab Spring really has wrought. And where others have observed continued tensions between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Fatah, which reigns in the West Bank, Greenberg sees a happy coming together of the two rival factions.

"On the political front," he writes, there have been signs of flexibility on a key issue that has divided Hamas and Fatah: the use of arms in the confrontation with Israel." While he grants that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh only recently asserted that "armed resistance is the only way to liberate our land from the sea to the river (i.e. eliminate Israel altogether), Greenberg puts more weight on a newly stated position of Khaled Mashal, Hamas's top leader, who raised the option of "popular resistance."

Another bright ray of hope! Gone is a bellicose term like "armed resistance," replaced now by "popular resistance" -- a term, according to Greenberg, "for the unarmed protests that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has encouraged in the West Bank." In case you're not up to this vital semantic difference in Greenberg's vocabulary, be advised that "armed resistance" is bad; but "popular resistance" is OK.

Never mind that under his Gandhiesque "popular resistance," Abbas has yet to disband his own terrorist wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades" and keeps glorifying terrorist killers and naming public places after them. Greenberg, in full delusional mode, is sticking by his Panglossian confidence that all's now for the best in the best of Palestinian society -- Hamasland.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.


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The Muslim Brotherhood Unmasked

by Herbert I. London

While the current administration has a stake in referring to the Muslim Brotherhood as "moderate" and "largely secular," there is a reality very different from the view at Foggy Bottom.

The Brotherhood is a popular movement of Islam founded in 1928 by Hasan al Banna, the most prominent representative of what is sometimes referred to as Islamism. For al Banna, whatever ails the Muslim world – the umma – can be addressed by the simple sentence: "Islam is the solution." Religious law – Shariah, or "The Way" – is to be restored to its central place as an organizing principle for every sphere of life.

From the Muslim Brotherhood's point of view, whatever ails the world can be traced to the West's pernicious influence. The West stole scientific secrets, deprived Muslims of their religious faith and converted them into docile subjects. While resentment is the main current of Islamism, it has curiously united with modern mass media to spread the faith. Similarly, while the West is deplored, the technical achievements of the West are often welcomed, and even aspects of democracy – such as the civil code – which can be exploited to advance Islam, are admired. The Brotherhood openly calls for free elections, but only as a way to gain and legitimate its authority. This duality is what confuses the detractors of Islamism. Hoping for the best, some critics rely on their assertions of what we would like to believe, that the Muslim Brotherhood is indeed "moderate" and "largely secular."

In the recent Egyptian elections, journalists distinguished between the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood and the extreme Salafists -- without noting that al Banna considered himself a Salafist, as apparently do most of the members of the Brotherhood. The Islamist synthesis of modernity and tradition is attractive to those torn between these two ideological perspectives. But make no mistake, the Muslim Brotherhood accepts modernity only to the extent it confirms an uncompromising commitment to religious dogma and imperial political designs.

According to the Islamist world view, Allah has vouchsafed to mankind a full and perfect doctrine of human behavior. And to the extent the political order is predicated on divine decree, there isn't room for rejection, whether it be in the name of democracy or individual rights. Laws cannot be passed that explicitly challenge the commands of Allah. If people can be permitted to do what Allah has forbidden, Shariah law can never be compatible with liberal democracy. If the Koran, written by the Archangel Gabriel, at the behest of Allah, says the consumption of alcohol is forbidden, there is no authority that can grant legislative sanction. In this case, as in so many others, the religious value system guarantees "civilized" behavior. So when Islamists say they want representative government, what they mean is legislation compatible with the Koran.

Who is the ultimate arbiter of state-based legislation? The imams who reflect the wisdom and compassion of Allah. For the Brotherhood, there must be absolute loyalty to fixed and eternal rules, a condition that inevitably suffocates research, free will, science and art.

Egypt is now caught in a web woven by the Muslim Brotherhood. Democracy without the Brotherhood is inconceivable, and democracy with the Brotherhood is impossible. The movement cannot be denied if free elections are permitted, but the infrastructure of democracy cannot be created so long as there is a formal adherence to Shariah.

Yet ,in most Arab countries the Muslim Brotherhood is the best organized group. This grants it an advantage over liberal rivals that are splintered into many fractions. If the West confronts the Brotherhood's leadership, it merely confirms the belief that the conspiracists are right in their belief that the West is trying to undermine Islam. If the West does not confront the Islamists, the liberals are bound to be defeated. Damned if you do; damned if you don't. In a Kantian sense, democratic impulses should – at some point – rise to the surface, especially if Brotherhood policies do not produce jobs or adequate food supplies. Dictatorships have a way of destroying themselves when the "eternal verities" that they hold onto cannot yield the basic human needs that have been promised. It is one thing to be a good Muslim who prays five times a day; it is quite another thing to rely on one meal a day for sustenance.

Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Books).

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Radical Islamic Television Arrives in Spain

by Soeren Kern

Two radical Islamic television stations will begin 24-hour broadcasting to Spanish-speaking audiences in Spain and Latin America from new studios in Madrid.

The first channel, sponsored by the government of Iran, will focus on spreading Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran. It began broadcasting on December 21.

The second channel, sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia, will focus on spreading Wahhabi Islam, the dominant religion in Saudi Arabia. It will begin broadcasting on January 1.

The inaugural broadcasts of Islamic television in Spain were deliberately timed to coincide with the Christmas holidays, and represent yet another example of the gradual encroachment of Islam in post-Christian Spain.

The new Iranian channel, Hispan TV, will focus on news and television series produced in Iran and dubbed into Spanish. The main program on the network will be a show called "Debate Abierto" (Open Debate), which the government of Iran views as a key tool for promoting Shia Islam in Spain and Latin America.

"This new television network in Spanish will play a crucial role in reflecting the ideological legitimation of our system in the world," according to Ezzatollah Zarghami, Director General of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the government-owned media corporation in charge of controlling Iranian national radio and television broadcasting.

The new Saudi channel, Córdoba Televisión, will broadcast documentaries and debates on religion with the aim of propagating the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam to audiences in the Spanish-speaking world. Wahhabism is a violent fundamentalist doctrine that not only rejects all other forms of Islam, but also seeks to challenge and destroy Judaism and Christianity.

Córdoba Televisión, based in the Madrid suburb of San Sebastian de los Reyes, is the brainchild of the radical Saudi cleric Abdul Aziz al-Fawzan, the spiritual mentor for one of the Islamists who carried out the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001.

Al-Fawzan, who has a reputation for preaching inflammatory sermons on Saudi television, is especially noted for his hatred of Christianity and his calls for the marginalization of women. He also preaches hate against the United States and Israel, and believes that "slavery is a part of Islam, slavery is a part of Jihad, and Jihad will remain as long as there is Islam."

The name Córdoba Televisión, which also plans to branch out into Spanish radio, is a masterpiece of Islamist propaganda. Córdoba is a city in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, once the capital of the Islamic Emirate of Al-Andalus, which ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to 1492.

Many Muslims believe that the territories they lost during the Spanish Reconquista still belong to them, and that they have a right to return and establish their rule there – a belief based on the Islamic precept that territories once occupied by Muslims must forever remain under Muslim domination.

As a result, the name Córdoba continues to represent a potent symbol of Islamic conquest to many Muslims around the world.

Córdoba Televisión will not only provide Al-Fawzan with a new platform from which to spread Wahhabi doctrine to some 500 million potential viewers in the Spanish-speaking world, it also forms part of "an extremist Islamist offensive to recover Al-Andalus, the lost Muslim paradise that is being occupied by the Spanish," according to anti-terrorism experts interviewed by the Madrid-based newspaper ABC.

Spanish intelligence analysts are especially concerned that Córdoba Televisión will become a key Saudi tool for preaching Jihad in Spain and Latin America. They are also worried that by preaching radical Islam, al-Fawzan will destabilize the Muslim community in Spain.

They point to the long-standing rivalry between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Morocco for control over the estimated 1.5 million Muslims in Spain. Both governments have been accused to trying to establish a Muslim protectorate in Spain by vying for control over the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) and the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE), the two most important Islamic associations in Spain.

The broadcasting licenses for the two Islamist television channels, approved by the outgoing Socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, represent a significant advance for radical Islam in Spain.

During his seven-and-a-half years in office (his term ended on December 21, 2011, the same day the Iranian government began its broadcasting and proselytizing operations in Spain), Zapatero, a leftwing anti-clerical ideologue known for his deep-seated hatred of Christianity, pursued a close partnership with Islam aimed at displacing Judeo-Christian influences from Spain.

In an effort to transform Spain into a European mecca of postmodern multiculturalism, Zapatero opened the floodgates of Muslim immigration from North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Spain is now home to literally thousands of hardline Islamists who are permitted to preach their extremist ideologies with impunity in mosques and prayer centers around the country.

According to some estimates, more than 100 mosques in Spain have Wahhabi imams preaching to the faithful each Friday. These imams are preaching hatred for the West and the need to establish a parallel Muslim society in Spain. They teach that Islamic Sharia law is above Spanish civil law, and some have gone so far as to set up Sharia tribunals to judge the conduct of both practicing and non-practicing Muslims in Spain. Others have established religious police in Spanish towns and cities that harass and attack those who do not comply with Islamic law.

It remains unclear how the incoming Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will deal with the problem of radical Islam in Spain. On the campaign trail, he signaled that he would take a harder line when he promised that, if elected, he would implement a burqa ban similar to the one in France.

The new government can also be expected to monitor closely the rhetoric aired by the two new Islamist television broadcasters. But beyond that, Spain already has been transformed by Islam to such an extent that any significant government pushback will encounter fierce resistance from the Islamists who believe history is on their side.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.

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Berkeley Hillel’s Betrayal of Israel

by Daniel Greenfield

The University of California, Berkeley is ground zero for the campus war against Israel. Students for Justice in Palestine emerged on the Berkeley campus and its annual Israel Apartheid Week is a festival of hate with chilling overtones. But it’s also a campus where Jewish student groups are divided between a pro-Israel majority and an anti-Israel minority that includes Hillel.

When the Berkeley Jewish Student Union voted not to admit J Street, the left-wing Soros-funded group, Hillel leaders at Berkeley came out in support of the anti-Israel organization, writing: “we encourage JSU to reconsider its vote and include JStreetU as a member” while touting themselves as an inclusive community.

The letter authored by Berkeley Hillel Board of Directors President Barbara Davis and its executive director, Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, claimed that the Berkeley campus affiliate of J Street adheres to Hillel’s Israel guidelines and promised that it would receive their support. In reality though Hillel’s own guidelines exclude organizations that delegitimize Israel, apply a double standard to it or that promote boycotts against it.

Naftalin has said, “We will not allow anyone calling for a boycott against Israel to become part of us.” But J-Street’s national convention featured a panel on BDS whose official description reads, “Our panelists will discuss their views on BDS’s efficacy as a means to end the occupation and move towards final-status talks, and the ways BDS may influence campaigns for peace in the United States and the region.” The panel included Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace, a major boycott promoter.

While J Street’s official position is to distance itself from the BDS movement because some of its proponents call for the destruction of Israel, that same position statement also describes campus boycott efforts as arising from “legitimate and urgent concerns related to peace, justice and human rights” and opposes barring BDSers from events. That means the J Street campus group at Berkeley can feature BDS activists so long as it doesn’t blatantly endorse their views. And the Berkeley Hillel will indirectly be supporting the BDS movement. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

The Berkeley Hillel’s support for J Street shows just how far outside the mainstream it has gone. The Naftalin-Davis letter described a list of other “pro-Israel” organizations that they work with. “Bears for Israel, Tikvah: Students for Israel, Israel Action Committee, Tamid and Kesher Enoshi.”

Kesher Enoshi is, if anything, even worse than J Street. Eyal Mazor, the Kesher Enoshi leader at Berkeley, spoke out in support of the anti-Israel divestment bill in front of the Associated Students Senate and after graduation participated in a Jewish Voice for Peace protest against Netanyahu. Kesher Enoshi conducts campus demonization campaigns against Israel in partnership with groups such as Breaking the Silence, the Israeli equivalent of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which attacks the right of Jews to live in Jerusalem. One of Kesher Enoshi’s co-founders has gone on to work for Breaking the Silence.

Paradoxically Kesher Enoshi is a member of the Berkeley Jewish Student Union and advertises its events within the Berkeley Hillel, turning the organization into a recruiting center for anti-Israel activism. And Kesher Enoshi collaborated with Students for Justice in Palestine in a bid to push its candidates through into the Jewish Student Union.

Some may view the attitude of the Berkeley Hillel leadership as cowardly, but the campus chapter has a long history of disdaining pro-Israel activism while leaving an open door for left-wing anti-Israel activism. Kesher Enoshi meetings within Hillel have included Students for Justice in Palestine activists, and the former director of the Berkeley Hillel discouraged students from participating in pro-Israel rallies and even displaying the Israeli flag.

Photos taken this year during Israeli Apartheid Week show Naftalin in conversation with Husam Zakharia who later would go on to assault a pro-Israel student and who had earlier attacked Jewish students during a concert. A number of Berkeley Hillel student leaders, including Avital Aboody and Itamar Haritan, have turned into rabidly anti-Israel activists, with Haritan working together with a major Students for Justice in Palestine figure on a blog demonizing Israel.

Newspapers and magazines have run vocal condemnations of the Jewish Student Union for refusing to bring J Street into the fold. An editorial in the Jewish Weekly called it a hit for democracy, even though the denial of membership was based on a democratic vote and the attacks on it are actually an attack on democracy. At The Atlantic an indignant Jeffrey Goldberg blasted the decision as “appalling” and huffed, “Would the Berkeley Jewish Student Union prefer that they join anti-Zionist organizations?”

But assuming, for the sake of argument, that J Street is not an anti-Zionist organization, the same pipelining that allows Students for Justice in Palestine to use Kesher Enoshi to show up in Hillel and Jewish Voice for Peace to show up at J Street means that the line cannot be drawn only at organizations that actually call for the destruction of Israel, but also at organizations that collaborate with them.

A campus organization that repeatedly collaborated with the KKK and included KKK members in its events would not be able to hide behind the flimsy excuses that J Street, Kesher Enoshi and the Berkeley Hillel use to defend their pipelining of radical anti-Israel extremism to Jewish students. While left-wing pundits bemoan the shrinking “big tent” and wage war on the student democracy of the Jewish Student Union, a tent which includes Kesher Enoshi, J Street and their Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine partners, is not a pro-Israel tent. Not by even the lowest standards.

At Haaretz, Bradley Burston complained that the Berkeley JSU has sent the message that “You can be welcomed as a Jew, or you can speak your mind on Israel.” But why shouldn’t there be a consensus that Jewish identity is incompatible with the rejection of the Jewish State? Identities may be diverse and pluralistic, but they cannot be inconsistent with their own nature.

Hillel’s failure to stand up for such a Jewish identity denotes its own failure to come together around a meaningful and consistent Jewish identity. And that failure represents a betrayal of its mission and of the students that depend on it. By endorsing Kesher Enoshi and J Street, the current Berkeley Hillel leadership has shown itself to be as bankrupt as the previous leadership.

Daniel Greenfield


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The Pessimists Win in the Middle East

by Joseph Puder

In the Arab Middle East, a betting man should always bet on a pessimistic outcome to life changing events, because generally speaking, he will be proven right. The so called Arab Spring that began early this year created a sense of euphoria around the world, as well as in America and Israel and especially in the liberal press. Even in Egypt, the largest Arab state, Christian Copts and Muslims shared optimism as to the outcome of the people’s uprising. Although in the minority, the pessimists who warned of an Islamist takeover were dismissed and in fact castigated for their views.

The pessimistic minority however was proven right. In Libya, where longtime dictator Gaddafi was ousted and killed by the revolutionary forces aided by the Obama administration and NATO, the interim leader of Libya, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council declared in his ‘liberation’ address that Sharia law would govern the new Libya. Sharia – the source of the doctrine of jihad that triggered the attack on America on 9/11. Mustafa Abdel Jalil was careful not to utter the word ‘jihad,’ which is obligatory to anyone following the application of Sharia in the public domain. Rather Jalil’s pronouncement took on the more salacious aspect of Sharia: “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic Sharia as the source of legislation; therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified. This includes changing marriage laws to allow men to more easily take on a second wife.” In other words, bigamy is now lawful in Libya.

In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions, the “moderate” Islamic party won 41.47% of the vote in free elections where liberals and Islamists faced off this past weekend. Thousands of Islamist supporters swooped down on central Tunis on Saturday to confront liberal demonstrators rallying against extremism as MPs were drafting a new constitution for Tunisia. The protest was partly a response to ongoing demonstrations at a university outside the capital, where Islamists disrupted courses, demanding a stop to mixed-sex classes and the wearing of full-face veils or niqabs for female students. Shaikh Rashed al-Ghanushi, the leader of the winning Islamist Party Al-Nahdha (“The Revival”), called for jihad against Israel, but in the West he is considered a “moderate Muslim.”

Similarly in Morocco, the Islamic Justice and Development party (PJD), called moderate by the British Guardian newspaper, won the majority of the votes in the parliamentary elections, and for the first time an Islamist, Abdelillah Benkirane, will likely serve as Morocco’s next Prime Minister.

President Obama and his administration are particularly fond of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. In February this year, the White House demanded that the next government in Egypt “has to include a whole host of non-secular actors (the Muslim Brotherhood fit this bill) that give Egypt a chance to be a stable and reliable partner.”

Fortunately for the MB in Egypt, which adopted the benign name of Freedom and Justice Party and became the largest party in the parliament with 36.6% of the vote, another Islamist party that is far more extreme took second place in the recent elections. The salafist Al-Nour party having garnered 24.4% of the vote in the recent parliamentary elections in Egypt obscures (for many in the press) the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. At this point in Egypt’s unfolding history the Islamist parties now control a large majority of the parliament. The difference between the two parties is significant. The salafist Al-Nour seeks to bring 21st century Islam back to the Islam of the 7th century, while the Muslim Brotherhood/Freedom and Justice Party alleges that it wants to fashion 7th century Islam into a 21st century reality. Both parties however intend to see Egypt governed by Sharia Islamic law.

Iran’s Major General Qassem Suleimani, Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, delivered a speech on May 22, 2011 at the Haqqani Theological Seminary in Qum during which he stated that the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa “…provide our revolution with the greatest opportunities. Iran’s victory or defeat no longer takes place in Mehran and Khorramshahr. Our boundaries have expanded and we must witness victory in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. This is the fruit of the Islamic revolution.” Suleimani sent a clear message to the Obama administration that in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, and for that matter anywhere else in the Arab world where a revolution might occur, a new Islamist Iran-like state will emerge.

The Arab world is marching towards an “Arab Winter,” as the authoritarian regimes that fell by the wayside have given way to the emergence of even darker regimes, steeped in Islamist intolerance and hatred of the West and Israel. The Islamist victories in Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Egypt were not supposed to happen according to the Western governments, including the Obama administration. In Washington, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the House Intelligence Committee, and declared that Egypt’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement is “largely secular…” It prompted Richard Engel, NBC’s News Chief Foreign correspondent to call Clapper’s statement “a wild misreading of the organization.”
Last month a pre-election Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest with attendants vowing to “one day kill all Jews.” This is the same MB that we are told by members of the western media and governments is “moderate” and “marginal.” The same MB that liberal western pundits claimed is only 20% of the vote.

Interviewed by Fox News, Frank Gaffney, head of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, articulated the contrast in how Obama dealt with the aftermath of the stolen 2009 elections in Iran when millions of Iranian demonstrated against the theocratic regime, and last February demonstrations in Egypt. The Obama administration’s cautious response to the uprising in Iran – a vicious US enemy – was explained as being part of President Obama’s attempt to “engage” Iran. In Egypt however, Obama called for the swift departure of former President Hosni Mubarak – a US ally. According to Gaffney, “The President of the United States in both cases did the bidding of the Islamists, who wanted to preserve the regime in Iran and who wanted to remove the regime in Egypt. Gaffney told Fox News, “I think that quite apart from what his intentions were, in so doing, he made all the more predictable the very unhappy outcome that I think is playing out before our eyes.”

In Egypt, the largest Arab Muslim country, secular liberals and especially Christian Copts are no longer harboring illusions about the revolution called the “Arab Spring.” For them it is already a dreadful “Arab Winter.” And, for all the optimists in the West, next time they’ll be better off betting on the worst case scenario when it comes to revolutions in the Arab Muslim world.

Joseph Puder


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