Archive for the ‘Dr. Ahmad’s blog’ Category

The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy (2019)

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

[These are my notes from the 2019 conference on “The Israeli Lobby and American Foreign Policy” held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 22. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription. The entire program may be viewed here. ]

Walter Hixon (Author of American Foreign Relations: a New Diplomatic History). Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generations of the Palestine Conflict

The Biltmore Conference 1942 was start of the Israel lobby. It quickly lined up both political parties in support of the new state. From the beginning the purpose was to insulate the new state from criticism. Palestinians and Arabs had no comparable lobby. Truman sided with his Zionist advisers against his State Department. Israel appeared vulnerable when Sharon executed the Qibya massacre, but the lobby successfully managed the fallout. In 1957 Eisenhower successfully pushed back on Israel’s invasion of Egypt, but Israel was rewarded with critical new navigation rights that enables it to precipitate the 1967 War. Kennedy announced the “special relationship with Israel” and in response Israel lied to Kennedy about Dimona and to this day has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 1951 Isaiah L. Kenen, [who until that year was a registered foreign agent for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “Israel Office of Information”] founded the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (AZCPA), the forerunner of what has been known as AIPAC since 1959. In 1967, Israel launched the June war as a first rather than last resort, attacking a U.S. spy ship and exploiting the military victory to pursue a messianic vision of an expanded Jewish state. By 1968 Israel had achieved a stranglehold on American political life. Isaiah Kenen frankly asserted the policy was to write letters to the President to overrule the State Department. Diplomats were falsely accused of being pro-Arab or antisemitic. Palestinians and Arabs have made many mistakes, but the conflict is rooted in Zionist aggression and a host of actions in violation of international law. Israel, like the U.S., South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Canada and others, is a product of “settler colonialism.” For most of its existence Israel has been led by men who should be held accountable for war crimes. Like other settler states, Israel is not content to have its crimes overlooked, but demands praise and affection for its liberality and democracy. Israel has mastered the concept of tropes and manipulating them. While Ilhan Omar never used the trope of dual loyalty, the Lobby used it to accuse her of antisemitism. Such abuse of the trope of antisemitism undermines the force of the concept applied to actual antisemitism such in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville. Yet, it is perfectly acceptable to use the trope of Islamic terrorism to inspire atrocities like the Christchurch massacre. A tenacious propaganda campaign can cover up most crime. We live in dangerous times reminiscent of the antebellum era in this country. In 1858 Lincoln observed that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” That is as true today of Palestine/Israel as it was of the U.S. in 1858. The juxtaposition of Lincoln and Trump is reminiscent of Henry Adams’s observation “[t]he progress of Evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.” In 1864 Lincoln declared, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” I conclude in the same spirit: If declaring your right to exist while denying it to your neighbor is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If slaughtering children for throwing stones at their oppressors is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If supplying $125 billion dollars to finance a regime that commits such crimes against humanity is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If antisemitism is not wrong, nothing is wrong. If cynical deployment of baseless charges of antisemitism, however, to stifle criticism of such policies is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada). What Does a Censored Undercover New Investigation Reveal About the Israeli Lobby in America?

The suppressed Al-Jazeera documentary on the Israeli Lobby is available at Electronic Intifada. It was censored after Qatar was intensely pressured by the Arab states. Qatar claims the film was stalled by “outstanding legal issues,” yet a comparable film was released about the lobby in Britain and, notwithstanding that the U.K. has no first amendment, every single complaint against that film was dismissed as without merit. Israel is running covert and semi-covert black ops from the ministry of external affairs in collusion with a number U.S. organizations not registered as agents of a foreign power, including the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Some operations were being run out of the Israeli embassy. An operative explains how Israeli operatives such as Israel on Campus Coalition use anonymous websites to sabotage anti-Israeli activists (mentioning Canary Mission as a model). In one case accusations that a young Muslim woman was engaged in late night drinking and sexual activity were used in an attempt to shame her and bring her into disrepute. The director general of the Israeli mission boasts that the FDD and other groups are working with the Israeli government, yet neither FDD nor its principals are registered as agents of the Israeli government. The film’s undercover reporter got an internship at the Israel Project, which works closely with the Israeli government. One of the Facebook sites set up called “A Cup of Jane” that describes itself a “sugar and spice and everything nice.” It tries to present itself as a progressive and cute site that weaves in pro-Israeli propaganda portraying an Israeli fighter jet painted pink in support of breast cancer awareness month, even as dozens of cancer patients (many of the women) died because Israel would not let them out of Gaza to get needed treatment. Facebook has partnered with the Israeli government to shut down pro-Palestinian pages but replied to complaints that the Israeli propaganda network did not violate any of their rules.

“Watch the film the Israeli lobby didn’t want you to see. “ Even with the attacks on Ilhan Omar, we are seeing something that the Israeli lobby does not want: an open discussion about them. Eric Gallagher, Israeli project official, says that the foundation is rotting. I don’t think AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it once was.

Forget the explosive content of this film, consider, if Russia pressured a major news organization to suppress a film about Russian influence, Rachel Maddow and Jake Tapper would be shouting from the rooftops and Washington Post and the New York Times would have it on the front pages but in this case silence.

Dual loyalty is a trigger term that has been used in a way that suggests bigotry. This film does not use that term and is in no way antisemitism. This film focuses on certain organizations, the lobby is larger than that and the mass base of the Israel lobby are the Christian Zionists.

Legal antisemitism is real and visible and its ally is Israel. The far right parties in Europe are not only pro Israel but have close ties to Netanyahu. Netanyahu ordered the withdrawal of a statement critical of a former Nazi Victor Orbin. Israel is providing a whitewashing and laundry service for anti-Semites and racists of all kinds.

Grant F. Smith (Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy). US Foreign Aid and the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program

Although Lyndon Johnson and Dean Rusk told Abba Eban that they felt strongly that Israel should sign the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons), Johnson caved under pressure and sold them planes without conditions. U.S. agencies and officials want to avoid confirming or denying Israeli possession of nuclear weapons, despite “prior official disclosure” such as the CIA 1974 Special National Intelligence Assessment which confirms Israel has a  nuclear weapons site and the DoD’s “Critical Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations” confirming Israel’s work on hydrogen bombs. “Nuclear Ambiguity” since 1993 has been maintained through “presidential letters” demanded and held by Israel, but two Senators were not satisfied. Stuart Symington and John Glenn in 1976 passed a law prohibiting foreign aid to any non-NPT country without a waiver. This law has never been followed and no waivers have been issued.

The Obama administration, notwithstanding it talked about a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, not only signed the nuclear ambiguity letter, but went so far as to promise to fire any employee or contractor who even mentions any fact from the public record contradicting the policy. Thus, former nuclear policy specialist James Doyle wrote an article that had been cleared for security issues in which he pointed out, “Nuclear weapons did not deter Egypt and Israel from attacking Israel in 1973, Argentina from attacking British territory in the 1982 Falklands War or Iraq from attacking Israel during the 1991 Gulf War in the Feb.-March 2013 issue of Survival. After a Congressional staff member noticed this, the Department of Energy retroactively classified Doyle’s story, raided his home, fired him, and took away his clearance clearances.

One measure of the cost of nuclear ambiguity since the passage of the Symington-Glenn bill is $260.9 billion dollars which does not include any of the black budget aid. This is far more than the aid spent to rebuild Europe under the Marshall plan. There has been $99.9 billion in aid to Israel just since 1993.

Susan Abulhawa (Palestinian poet and author of Mornings in Jenin, The Blue Between Sky and Water, founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.) Keynote Address.

I will look at Israel from a number of angles that may seem unrelated. Every country has good and bad elements, but one can find an overall picture of societies and their impact. Spending is a useful tool. When we look at Israeli arms spending per capita it is second only to that other bastions of civil liberties, Saudi Arabia. From such absurd claims as that Israel invented falafal to that it is one year away from curing cancer, popular international media do not merely spin reality, they completely misrepresent the reality. Consider an article in Scientific American on Israeli desalinization efforts that recalls the myth that Israel “made the desert bloom.” Not only does it ignore the work of Arab societies on desalinization, but it ignores the fact that Ramallah’s annual rainfall exceeds London’s and Jerusalem’s rainfall is nearly on a par with London’s. Pollution in a Promised Land documents how rather than make the desert bloom, Israel has harmed the ecology of Palestine. Rather than “creating water from nothingness”, Israel has diverted water from the locals to try to recreate a European lifestyle in Zionist settlements that is destroying the Palestinian water systems. They transformed the al-Awja river (which they renamed the Yarkan) which was reduced from a life-giving river to a polluted trickle of sludge. Settlements have destroyed the land’s natural biological diversity. Massive forest fires have scorched the earth, and Palestinians’ olive trees have been deliberately destroyed.

Israel leads the word in death, surveillance, and suppression tactics. They test their weapons on Palestinians and Gaza is their primary laboratory for maximum control and minimum service to a population. Israel is 4th-8th largest exporter of arms (depending on year and currency), but this is an underestimation since off-record arms deals are not included. My own analysis based on the database of top arms exporters from 2010-2018 from CIPRI and the world population database from the World Bank shows that Israel leads the entire world in per capita arms exports with the peculiar except of a tie with Sweden in 2011.

Over 60% of global drone exports come from Israel. They boast of being “combat tested.” Only three weeks after Israel used still-in-test-phase Hermes 900 drones in the slaughter of 2200 people and maiming tens of thousands in Gaza, it was the hit product at a trade show. In South Sudan’s civil war Israel continued to provide the regime with weapons despite a U.S. and U.N. arms embargo. In the Bosnian massacres Israel sold weapons to the Serbians long after the U.N. embargo was imposed. Israelis at the highest levels were involved in the arms trade. Israel’s high court rejected a lawsuit on the grounds that exposing its role in the war crimes would harm Israeli interests. Israel sold arms to Myanmar long after the U.S., Europe and the U.N. instituted an embargo. Israel provided the rifles, ammunition and grenades that made the Rwandan massacres possible. An Israeli arms dealer boasted the he saw himself as a doctor who helped the victims to die quickly. Israel later backed a move at the U.N. to rewrite the history of the genocide. Israel was South Africa’s closest ally, its biggest arms supplier, and eventually its only friend in a world that had become intolerant of apartheid. The relationship went beyond trade and coordination. It was a spiritual affinity articulated by former Israeli chief of staff Rafael Eitan who said of blacks in South Africa that “they want to gain control over the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us. And we, like the white minority in South Africa must act to prevent them from taking over.” When school children went into the streets of Soweto to protest apartheid, they were mowed down with Israeli-supplied weapons. Israel had offered to provide the apartheid government with nuclear arms as far back as 1975. South Africa abandoned its nuclear weapons after the fall of apartheid. In 1987 Ehud Olmert warmed that Israel might one day face a South African style demand for equal voting rights and, that once that happened, the State of Israel was finished. There were many other examples of sub-rosa armaments and funding of unsavory and terrorist regimes and movements. Israel armed all sides of the Angolan civil war and Guatemalan death squads. It also provides surveillance equipment to oppressive regimes. It also provides wares and training to governments and corporations for suppression of domestic dissent. Cooperation between the Israeli military and American police departments came to light after the Ferguson uprising “in which robocop police appeared in military gear to suppress unarmed protesters.” In Dallas Texas a kind of robot suicide bomber was deployed to kill a suspect after the police chief was on a ten-day “anti-terrorism” training junket to Israel. And now we know Israelis have spied on American citizens and the Mueller investigation has revealed Israeli interference in American elections.

“Despite claiming to be the guardians and protectors of Jews everywhere, Israel has … courted some of the wold’s most notorious anti-Semites, as long as they support the occupation and buy their arms.” In 1976 Itzhak Rabin heaped praise on South Africa’s Nazi sympathizing PM John Vorster. Israel has cozied up to Brazil’s ultranationalist, homophobic, racist Jair Bolsonaro who calls refugees “the scum of the earth,” told a female colleague she was “too ugly to rape,” threatened to destroy or imprison his political opponents, spoke favorably of torture, lamented that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the America soldiers who exterminated the Indians, and said he would rather hear his son died in a car crash than learn that he was gay. Israel is arming neo-Nazis in the Ukraine and opened its doors to the anti-Semitic prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orban who “praised his country’s WWII leadership that presided over the murder of Jews … and employed … anti-Semitic tropes to demonize George Soros.” Netanyahu signed a joint declaration with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki whitewashing Poland’s role in the Holocaust and even “went so far as to say Hitler isn’t quite the monster we thought he was but that … it was a Palestinian Hajj Husseini who convinced him to actually kill European Jews.” He crossed a red line with that last one and was given a foul card.

Finally there is Israel’s tireless effort to wipe out the memory of the many other religions and people who resided in the land before during and after the Jewish presence. Centuries old mosques and churches have been torn down. Non-Jewish places of worship have been turned into night clubs, animal pens and brothels. Non-Jewish cemeteries have been dug up and built over. Israel has weaponized archaeology. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed on the pretext of archaeological research. In Silwan archaeology was the pretext for destroying a neighborhood to build what is being called a Jewish Disneyland. A 1200 year old village of mixed Muslims and Christians is now marked for destruction. No matter how good the Israeli National Orchestra makes you feel on tour, the way Israel exists in the world is “antithetical to life and liberty not only for Palestinians but to all people who struggle against tyranny, oppression, white supremacy, and ecological destruction.” Israel now wants to ban the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) for the first time since the dawn of Islam. “But I believe that Israel’s current escalation of their ethnic cleansing is in many ways a desperate though counter-productive response to the growing international repudiation of them, including by young Jews whose moral compass is not guided by Zionism. The conversation is changing here and around the world.”

Martin M. McMahon (Attorney at Law). The Legal Battle for Justice Against Israeli Settlers and Their American Financiers

[He filed a lawsuit seeking damages from illegal Israeli settlers and their American backers and those who enabled them to commitment war crimes including genocide against the Palestinians.] This is the first time ever that the political doctrine question has not blocked a lawsuit by Palestinians. It is a landmark case. We lost in district court and then won on appeal. Eventually we will start discovery and I will ask for defendant Sheldon Adelson’s last five years of tax returns. He writes off the weapons and body armor he gives to illegal settlers. 501(c)3s give two billion dollars a year to Israel for arms. This lawsuit will allow us to identify the founders of hate. Netanyahu’s people characterizing Palestinians as carcinogenic agents, savages, beasts, and snakes, not human beings, is evidence of genocidal intent. What happened in Charlottesville was a re-enactment of Kristellnacht. It was not an accident. Bobby Kennedy warned many years ago that more Americans turned to or became tolerant of violence as society teaches people to hate one another. Hatred is being taught to young settlers. Shin Bet has confirmed that settlers now have a how-to-do-it manual for burning down Palestinian homes. (Arson for Dummies?) An Israeli rabbi said that “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” When an Israeli pilot refused to drop cluster bombs on Gaza on the grounds that it is a war crime, he was rebuked by a general who explained, “Don’t you know that Jewish actions must be evaluated from the perspective of Jewish superiority to the Arab, moral and otherwise.”

Saqib Ali (Founder of Freedom to Boycott in Maryland). Why I Am Suing Maryland to Protect My Constitutional Right to Boycott Israel.

When we defeated a legislative attempt to punish boycott of Israel, Governor Hogan issued an executive order towards that end. Governor Hogan’s overreach in requiring one to pledge not to boycott Israel even to just apply for a government contract gave me standing to sue him as having violated my civil rights by requiring me to give up my first amendment rights as condition of seeking to do business with the state of Maryland. We filed on Jan. 9 and the governor has attempted to block the suit, but we think we shall prevail. Claybourne v ACLU says political boycotts enjoy the highest level of free speech protection. We would live to see similar cases in the other affected states.

Brad Parker. Defense for Children International–Palestine. What Lessons Activists Take Away from Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act?

Every year the Israeli military arrests and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children. Nowaytotreatachild.org has had success with narrow issues through “dear colleague” letters.  No matter with what a child has been charged, he has a right not to be tortured. We know not everyone in Congress will agree, but their opposition will come at a cost. We urge you to invite representatives from congressional offices to events.

Kathy Drinkard. How the VCHR (Virginia Coalition for Human Rights) Is Preventing Israel Affinity Organizations from Politicizing K-12 Textbooks

Edits proposed to Virginia textbooks would give an inaccurate picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Edits were submitted during the 30-day comment period of an annual textbook reviews.  The edits qualify Islamic claims as “expressing Muslim religious belief” while referencing those of Judaism as “God’s covenant.” They impose sanitizing language so that “settlements” become “communities” and the “wall” becomes the “security fence.” Arab culpability for crisis initiation is always emphasized and Israeli culpability never emphasized. Students are discouraged from conducting open Internet research. Labels on maps are changed, and any reference to “Palestinian Territories” is deleted. In describing the Rabin-Arafat declaration of principles, the “occupied territories” is changed to “West Bank and Gaza” on the pretext that “occupied territories” is a political term, even though it is actually their status under international law.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel.

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

[This is a summary of author Ben White‘s remarks at an Arab Center of Washington DC round table about his book Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel. held on March 29, 2019. It is not a transcript, but a summary of my impressions of his presentation and the discussion.]

There is a de facto single apartheid state in all of Palestine, but the good news is the cracks in the wall developing internationally. I myself favor a single democratic state, but I will focus on the cracks in the wall that reflect trends that go a way back, not only changes in how jews see themselves, but how the Palestinians are being seen. J street, JVP, If Not Now, etc. are important developments. We are witnessing the ending of the era of bipartisan support for Israel. There is a huge change and now a big disparity in how the grass roots in each party see Israel. From 2014 to 2017 Israel dropped on the survey of American allies from 6th to 16th, but more importantly the disparities between the two parties widened. This phenomena can be seen in other countries where even liberals and progressives have become more critical of Israel while Israel right had become more willing to collaborate with far right parties abroad. The third factor is how the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has grown. It’s economic impact has been marginal, but it has changed the discourse and given activists a way to get on board. It says this is ultimately about rights.

It is vital to express how little is on the table for Palestinians across the Israeli political spectrum. The mainstream spectrum has only three offers for the Palestinians: the status quo, annexation, or separation. The last group is too often mistaken for viable peace partners but they provide no timetable for a Palestinian state and set conditions that make its realization impossible. The blue and white list has hardly spoken about this issue and Benny Ganz kicked off his campaign by boasting about how many Palestinians he has killed in the Gaza Strip. The parties differ about what to do about the fact that there are Palestinians in the land but their fundamental assumptions are all the same.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad: You made a profound point about how the effect of the BDS movement on the discourse has been more important than its economic impact. I invite you to comment on the narrower issue of how the attempts to suppress the BDS movement by executive orders and legislation provokes a backlash as Americans realize that these attacks on First Amendment rights demonstrate that Israel threatens democracy in America as well as in Israel/ Palestine.

Ben White. It not only threats to freedom of speech but is a sign of weakness. The Jewish nationality law was in part a reaction to Palestinian demands to equal national rights, but it has dragged into the spotlight the same type of reaction. Such acts produce conversations that their movers eventually wish they hadn’t started. As the supporters of Israeli apartheid realize this, new non binding resolutions are being introduced to silence the free speech objections, but their impacts are still provocative.

For a number of years the UK had a conveyor belt theory of terrorism that nonviolent extremists would eventually become terrorists, resulting in the PREVENT policy that institutionalizes Islamophobia. I believe that in the UK you must make case by case decisions as to whether to push back or just go in with work at hand.

There is no JVP in Britain because it is a much smaller community in Britain. There are smaller groups. JVP is unique in the world. There is a kind of J Street equivalent but it is smaller and doesn’t do lobbying as internal conversation.

The BDS in South Africa in South Africa was different in that it had a simple end point: one person one vote. The Palestinian situation is more complex, but I see an advantage to the difference. This BDS movement is about ending one’s own complicity in the oppression. As and when there are significant developments in the Palestinian movement, there will be a ceiling on the impact of the BDS movement, but it’s ingenuity is in taking the political issues off the table and focusing on human rights.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Statement on the Terror Attack in Christchurch

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

The Minaret of Freedom Institute stands in solidarity with Muslims around the world, and all people of good will, in condemnation of the horrific murder of 49 innocent people in Christchurch, New Zealand. May God be with the victims and their families, and guide us all through this time of grief and sorrow.

We deeply appreciate the kind words, gestures and continued support of people of all religions and those who follow no particular faith, but whose conscience as to right and wrong remains pure and uncorrupted. We renew our commitment to defeat hatred and bigotry with compassion and love.

We are well aware that such disgraceful incidents are enabled by those politicians, hate-group leaders, and trolls who seek to advance their own power and status by dividing us against one another, but we refuse to respond in kind and will continue to support and comfort one another with an unshakable faith in the Oneness of the Divinity that has created us all and challenged us to compete in the doing of good.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
President
Minaret of Freedom Institute

Anwar Ibrahim on Conscientious Governance

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

[This is a summary of Anwar Ibrahim’s remarks on Conscientious Governance at the International Institute of Islamic Thought. It is not a transcript, but a summary of my impressions of his presentation and the discussion.]

Hisham Altalib (Introduction). Anwar Ibrahim was chairman of ABIM when UNMO asked him to join in 1982. He rose to be deputy prime minister of Malaysia. Politically he is pro democracy, rule of law, anti-corruption, and for the eradication of poverty. Margaret Thatcher said if she had to appoint a team of finance ministers she would appoint Anwar as the captain of that team. When urged to lie low in the 1980s he said, “Silence mow is a betrayal.” Later urged to leave the country, he refused to let down his supporters. He is a man to forgive and forget and when Muhatir invited him to join the coalition he said I forgive and forget. He said his country cannot spend its tax money on defense and military because it could never compete with his neighbors, but instead put 25% of the budget into education saying it is in trade and technology that Malaysia could compete. When Anwar was pardoned he was to be moved, like Prophet Yusuf, from prison to power. Somebody had a theory that the enemies of truth slander the good people with fake news. Yusuf of scripture was accused of adultery. The modern charge was sodomy. Like Yusuf, Anwar is honest and professional. Bad governance is easy. Conscientious government is hard.

Anwar Ibrahim. We have united Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists in Malaysia behind the call for change going against a time in which the appeal of racism around the world is pronounced. We are making change in a majority Muslim country without the loss of a single life.

Academics and elites think they have all the answers, but their ideas do not connect with the aspirations of the masses. It is not enough to understand liberty and equality and democracy unless we understand the atrocities committed against certain groups. Not just democracy, but accountability, is required. It is a strong part of our religious tradition even if not observed in practice. I am less concerned with the designs of the West than with the dynamics within our own societies.

We were raised to admire Salahuddin because he defeated the Westerners, but he also created a new level of conscientious governance. For the first ten years his concern was not expanding territory, but strengthening society by enhancing trade relations and promoting education. It is important for our intellectual leaders to reintroduce these great leaders, not just as military heroes, but also as pioneers of good governance. Without good governance who will provide an environment of free flow of ideas necessary for education and creative thought? Who decides whether creative thinking will be allowed in educational institutions? Who disburses money to the educational institutions? Ali ibn Abu Talib’s letter to the governor of Egypt deserves republication with fresh notes. I encouraged Muhathir to use this letter to emphasize the importance of ethics to governance.

Soon after the elections Yusuf Qaradawi called me and said the last few years have been news of despair, gloom, and destruction, until this news of change in Malaysia. People expect you to immediately rid the county of corruption and bring in economic reform and growth. Beyond the problem of high expectations, the environment has changed: some people are not ready to see the prime minister criticized. The problem of freedom of speech has been replaced by the problem of freedom after speech. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus all believe that marriage must be between a man and a woman, but one must allow those who disagree to express their views. There are different views of economic policies and their cost, but the problem of grinding poverty must be addressed. The needs of every citizen must be addressed, and Umar ibn Abdul Aziz is the best example of caring about this. We have reduced poverty from 40% to 15% but if you are in the 15%, it is still a problem for you. The same for those without access to medical care, etc. As long as there is injustice to one person I think it is the duty of government to deal with it. In my mind that is economic and social stability.

I would end by emphasizing the need to change our traditional views. In Malaysia we have been relatively successful in encouraging Islamic banks, and they have become effective and influential, but they have been criticized for making halal conventional instrument. But such questions must be addressed according to the maqasid ash shariah, the higher objectives of the Islamic Law, to guarantee peace, security, and social justice.

Ovamir Anjamin. The Prophet is reported to have said that to be given the duty of ruling is to have been slaughtered with a blunt knife, but who manages to rule with justice will be in the highest rank of the afterlife. Since the Arab spring, the view that Islam can only prosper in the modern world under force has become the dominant view. The alternative of a just distribution of wealth is seen as unislamic and Marxist. How is social justice viewed as undercover Marxism? How can ‘adl be seen as unislamic? Abdul Malik ibn Marwan had been known as the pigeon of the mosques, but once he became Khalifah, he eliminated people who stood in the way of his power and et aside the demands of his din when necessary. There were idealists like Ali and Abdullah ibn Zubaid who failed in practice while trying to lead Arab tribes who thought their own customs and Islam were the same thing. Umar ibn Abdulaziz was able to implement his ideals opposing a kind of Arab racism and putting the life of a single Muslim above the winning of any territories. The example of the Khalifah Rashidun serves not only the Medina city-state but the needs of empire.

Kamran Bokhari (Center for Global Policy). Skillful leadership manages the expectation of the public while dispensing justice. In Muslim majority countries it is intrareligious rather than interreligious diversity that is the challenge. In the West we like categories, and we speak of secularists and Islamists as categories, whereas in the Muslim world they are poles and most people fall between those poles. The people who want to overthrow the autocrats have autocratic tendencies themselves. There should be confidence to let people talk, but for a level playing field, conscientious governance is a prerequisite. Turkey was once put forward as a model, but they now fall back into autocracy. All ideals of conscientious governance are great, but we must aware of the underlying constraints on the ground where people are on the verge of giving up hope. All incoming governance inherits a situation. You need both to mobilize people and to manage their expectations.

Anwar Ibrahim. This session has been too serious. Remember the movie love story: where do we begin? Even the most secular Malay will pray and will not insult Islam. This is not laïcité. Who wants to be unfree? Jeffersonian or Islamic, who wants to be dictated to? People who contrast my current language with that I used in my youth must understand that then I was 21 and now I’m 71. I am called a hypocrite for quoting Shakespeare in New York and the Qur’an in the villages, but I would be stupid to quote the Qur’an in New York and Shakespeare in the villages. The core of my message is the same. Shakespeare is not just the core of Western literature, he is a universal man. Appreciating him is not to reject the Islamic classics.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad. No one rejects `adl; the problem is in defining it. It encompasses both social justice and the prohibition on theft. How do you propose to establish justice.

Anwar Ibrahim. While we depend on trade with China we need to review some dubious dealings with particular companies. When the economy does not allow us to afford huge price increases we have a right to review, we will honor all commitments, but when we have compelling questions about the legitimacy of agreements, we have a right to renegotiate. You cannot discriminate on the basis of race or religion. It is a difficult position because some Malay demagogues will say, “He has given up on the Malays.” We also need judicial independence. What is religion after all if it is not about justice and compassion, about peace, security, and justice for everyone. Let us remember Umar’s advice: “Do not be hasty my son.”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Emir abd El-Kader: A Teacher for the World (A Story of True Jihad)

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

[On September 12, 2018 the Abd Elkader Project held a seminar  introducing  the Muslim scholar turned fighter turned PoW, turned exile, turned hero to the world, honored by Abraham Lincoln with a gift of dueling pistols and by a small town in Iowa that named itself after him, and by the International Red Cross for being the man whose humane treatment of prisoners of war according to Islamic law inspired the Geneva Conventions. The following account is my impressions of the highlights of the program and is not intended as a transcript.]

Civil Society Voices.

Tamara Shehadah (Our Muslim Voices and The Abdelkader Ambassador Program) said that Abdelkader’s parents taught him to seek and respect diversity. The Abdelkader Ambassador Program focuses on bridge building between different people and cultures, starting with food. She quoted Emir Abdelkader: “Knowledge is the box, the keys are the questions.”

James Patton (International Center for Religion & Diplomacy) explained that telling stories of faith heroes can be a bulwark against recruitment for extreme and violent groups. He feels that the key to encouraging the young by Emir Abdelkader’s example is to present him as one who struck a balance between piety and strength. Promoting him as a model among young people unaccustomed to taking historical figures as heroes may be done through new media. The celebrated values of the Emir could be advanced by highlighting current figures who share his values.

Daisy Khan (WISE), focused on the need to flesh out heroes in the current climate. Muslims around the world are unable to mention a single hero other than the Prophet Muhammad. There are two busts in headquarters of the Red Cross: its founder Henry Dunant and Emir Abdelkader, whom Dunant credited as the inspiration for the Geneva Conventions. He insisted on the respectful treatment of prisoners. He was also admired by an American lawyer in Dubuque who named his settlement in Iowa after him. When the Emir died, the New York Times called him one of the great men of the century. Explaining his protection of Christians, he said, “That which we did for the Christians we did to be faithful to Islamic law.” He believed that after spiritual knowledge the most important knowledge is political knowledge. He was deeply Muslim but he also grew while in prison in France. He saw no conflict among religion, science, and politics, although he “discovered that politics shrinks the spirit while the sacred enlarges it without limit.”

Tamar Miller (AEP) said her first visit to Iowa was to Elkader. She proposed a list of questions to provoke reflection on Emir Abdelkader, starting with “What? Iowa, Islam and Muslims?” Think about the fact that the Mother Mosque of America is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Reflect on the power of words to evoke (jihad, shariah, hijab, ijtihad, etc.). Why did Emir Abdelkader lay down arms after seventeen years? Why did Lincoln give the Emir a pair of colt pistols?

Azhar Hussein (Peace & Education Foundation, Pakistan) spoke of Abdelkader’s Reception in Pakistan. An Urdu version of John Kiser’s book, Commander of the Faithful, was introduced into Pakistan. Al Shariah magazine wrote three articles about the book. An al-Qaeda propagandist criticized the Emir for giving up his fight against the French. Hussein’s organization seeks to expand the program by engagement with religious leaders and work with madrassas. They met with a salafi leader who has completely turned around by the Emir’s story.

Lakhdar Brahimi (Former Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister and UN diplomat) explained that Algeria’s struggle for independence in the 1950s and 60s was a continuation of his struggle against French occupation in the 19th century. If Abdelkader has been Algeria’s George Washington, his struggle took several generations and it is not over today. He is a leader for the 21st century, but not the only one. Among today’s youth are a tiny minority who speak of jihad as random acts of violence and cruelty. (At times the desire to understand is seen as a desire to condone.) There was a call in France to amend the Qur’an put out by those who seem to have no familiarity with it. Are those who divide their compatriots against one another fighting terrorism or are the planting the seeds of further radicalism? Brahimi quoted Muhammad Arkoun’s phrase “the clash of ignorances” (ignorance not only of the Other but of contexts).

“The forms of worship may change but not the Master.”–Emir AbdelKader

Andrea Bartoli, Ph.D. (Seton Hall School of Diplomacy) said that Emir Abdelkader invites us to look at the military in a much different way, something closer to the origin of America when the military was much closer to the people. What do you do when your country is invaded? The Emir’s answer is to look to knowledge–not just military knowledge, but to know your enemy, which is difficult when you are talking about people far away and speaking in another language. The French wondered who is this person who is treating prisoners well and challenging us to do the same. He taught Europeans how to treat prisoners in a way that years later we call the Geneva Conventions. History is made when years later we go back and ask the meaning of what happened. It is appropriate for a Catholic to be speaking at a Protestant seminary about a Muslim and to be grateful we are not killing one another. We need to deepen the American conversation because America is very important. Religious freedom comes to Catholics through American Catholics. Look at how many Sunnis outside America do not consider Shi’a to be Muslims.

Major Matthew H. Peterson (US Marine Corps–NOT speaking for the Marine Corps) told how John Kiser read an article he had written on cultural knowledge and the value of relying on knowledge from people in the region and doing cultural training in advance. “The Cargo Pocket Koran” was born of his meeting with Daisy Khan. Major Peterson noted that whenever we were successful on the battlefield it was because of people we knew and not because of superior firepower. The Qur’an is too big for an infantryman to carry on his back, and thus the need for a condensation that would fit into the pocket of his cargo pants. In primitive languages the word for stranger and enemy are the same. Next year we will be sending young men and women to Afghanistan who were not even born on 9/11. There are one million members in the military compared to a thousand in the state department. The face of America is an armed 19-year-old from a conservative Christian state. For Peterson, the Emir’s main contribution is in the area of just war theory. There are just wars fought unjustly and unjust wars fought justly. John McCain said, “War is wretched beyond description.” Sun Tzu also argues the mastery of war is to win without firing a shot. You can’t defeat thought with military weaponry.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

The Passing of Sulayman Nyang: Connecting the Dots

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Yesterday we laid in the ground the physical body of one of the most influential American Muslims of our time. Prof. Sulayman Nyang, for many years the head of the Dept. of African Studies at Howard University, was a member of the Minaret of Freedom Institute Board of Advisers for almost its entire history. He was a force in the Muslim community in America and his passing constitutes the loss of a scholar, a teacher, and an inspiration.

For us at the Minaret of Freedom Institute, we will miss his enthusiasm. When other Sunni Muslims tried to discourage us from the unprecedented inclusion of the general public at American University in 2007 for a discussion of Sunni-Shi’a relations on the grounds that it “would only make things worse” Prof. Nyang enthusiastically jumped into the program which was such a success that ISNA emulated it two months late. Later, when the Amman Declaration was issued declaring that there are eight schools of Islam, not just the Sunni or Shia schools, Br. Sulayman eagerly urged us “to connect the dots” from our breakthrough at American University to Detroit to Amman.

“Connect the dots” became a persistent theme for Sulayman as he urged us all to put all the little pieces of the events happening around us into the big picture. He did this with a deep knowledge of history, a pastoral appreciation for the human spirit, an activist’s commitment to fairness and justice, and a refreshing sense of humor. When we published Islam and the Discovery of Freedom he urged me to consider writing a paper on “How to Be an Entrepreneur Without Being White.”

A man of immense energy, Sulayman not only supported the Minaret of Freedom Institute, but served on the boards of the African Studies Association, the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. Despite his ill health in recent years he continued to show up at events urging us to connect the dots.

As I observed the galaxy of Muslim intellectuals, activists and community leaders at the funeral, I considered how every one must have been touched by Sulayman Nyang’s erudition, insights, and integrity. We are the dots connected by Sulayman’s great life. His spirit lives on.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Iran’s Currency Crisis Is an Opportunity

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Donald Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA (“Iran Nuclear Deal”) poses many problems for everyone, including both the U.S. and Iran.  The biggest problems for Iran are the economic crisis threatened by the loss of foreign investment and the currency crisis threatened by denial of access to the dollar denominated banking system, a vulnerability demonstrated by the Iranian rial’s 12.5% plunge last Saturday. The degree to which it can avoid the first depends on the willingness of international actors to resist American pressure, but the latter can be easily sidestepped if Iran will just apply modern technology to a classical Islamic economic principle on what constitutes valid money.

There is a hot debate over the future of cryptocurrencies. The blockchain technology on which they are built offers privacy, security, and an independence from both government intrusion and traditional banks. On the other hand they possess many of the same flaws as government fiat currency. They are not backed by anything tangible and their value is nothing more nor less than the confidence of people in the marketplace.

Crisis presents both danger and opportunity. Iran can be the first to offer a blockchain account for a currency denominated in a well established monetary unit and backed by a valuable commodity. They can create a blockchain cryptocurrency denominated in Islamic gold dinars (4.25 grams of gold) and payable in demand in Iranian oil at the current market price. This currency would combine the benefits of a backed government fiat currency with the benefits of blockchain accounting.

I identified the advantages of a backed fiat currency in an open letter to the then-president of Iran in 2008: “Such a currency will never lose its value as long the oil backing it is sufficient to buy back the currency in circulation. It will provide you with a non-inflationary way to share the oil wealth of Iran with its people. Once established, such a currency would be attractive to all the peoples of the world who would want to denominate their foreign debts in it as the world used to use the U.S. dollar before America foolishly abandoned the gold standard and silver backing, paving the way for their recurrent inflation and the current credit crisis.” By creating a blockchain account for the trade of such a currency, the international banking system would be completely bypassed.

That is not to say that such a currency is without risk. It is very dangerous to tick off the international banking community. We recall that the overthrow of Qaddafi was triggered by the U.S. “desire to quash the gold-backed African currency” he proposed. Iran, however, may not be easily intimated. Nor would regime change be as easy to implement in the case of Iran. Even if the regime were overthrown, any new regime might be reluctant to undermine the new currency for the same reason revolutionary governments usually honor the debts of the government they overthrow (not to undermine their own credit rating). Any successor Iranian government would have the additional incentive that the Iranian people themselves favor the nuclear deal that the American sanctions seek to undermine.

If Iran creates a gold-denominated blockchain currency account that they pledge to back with Iranian oil they will doing themselves and the world a favor. Of course, any other government, including the U.S., could do the same thing, but as long as they believe they can continue playing the same game of running up huge deficits they have no incentive to do so.  The current crisis provides Iran with a unique opportunity to write a new chapter in the history of monetary policy.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Interview by Reza Saiedi on Iranian-American Relations

Monday, July 9th, 2018

[This is the text of free-lance journalist Reza Saedi’s interview with Minaret of Freedom Institute president Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad on Iranian-American relations.]

Q. Please comment: US sanctions have a direct impact on the Iranian civilian population– limiting medical and research supplies, limiting machinery used to maintain civilian transportation systems, etc. While such actions are criticized by the UN and other world organizations dedicated to improving civil society worldwide, the US gives itself (and Israel) permission to ignore the rule of law. 

A. The great economist Frederic Bastiat observed, “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” Sanctions in the form of a blockade or embargo constitute an act of war, and if the Trump sanctions fall short of that on a technicality, they nonetheless open the door for war which is precisely what the Neoconservatives and Israel who are behind the sanctions are hoping will be the result.

Q. The parameters by which the US is seeking to keep the sanctions against Iran in place are in violation of international laws. With this being the case, why are other nations willing to comply with American pressure to abide by those sanctions and cut their own relationships with Iran? 

A. The nations willing to comply with the American sanctions are unwilling to bear the short-term costs that are being inflicted upon them by America’s strong economic position, especially as regards American dominance of the international banking due to the central role of the dollar. They could free themselves from this dependence on the dollar by returning to a gold standard, but that is a long-term commitment that short-sighted politicians are loathe to deal with and in any case they perhaps remember that Moammar Qaddafi’s intention “to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar” was followed by violent and undignified overthrow

Q. Pres. Trump met with Kim Jong-un and plans to talk with Putin, however in spite of these “diplomatic” steps, Trump has also alienated long-time US allies Europe and Canada and launched a trade war with them and China. How will this schizophrenic foreign policy balance out?

A. As President Trump aligns himself with dictators, oligarchs, and absolute monarchs to the detriment of America’s relationships with liberal democracies and republics, the decline of the American empire will accelerate.

Q. Please comment on the disconnect between the how marches to protest domestic problems in the United States is never portrayed in the media as an attempt to bring down the government, however the smallest march in Iran is blown up to a larger scale and made to appear that Iranians are seeking “regime change”.

A. Although the American media certainly exaggerates the connection between Iranian demonstrations about particular issues and opposition to the regime in general, it would be to Iran’s benefit to understand that such misrepresentations are facilitated by the harshness of the Iranian government’s response to demonstrations against it as compared with the response of the American government to its domestic critics.

Q.The United States is spending billions of dollars on the military, in particular invading Iraq and Afghanistan and also playing a role in Syria. While Trump states that these invasions have brought no positive results for American interests, the help and involvement of Iran in these same conflict zones has been very strategic, although that point goes unnoticed by the mainstream media. Were it not for Iran’s assistance in fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria, the US would be faced with two newly formed terrorist states in those areas. Would you say that this is a fair assessment? Your comment?

A. This is a fair assessment. The U.S. media that accepts without comment or criticism claims of the Trump administration that it, rather than Iran and the Kurds, has been responsible for the decline of Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Squaring the SCOTUS Decision on the Muslim Ban with the Masterpiece Cakes Decision Is a Disturbing Exercise

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

When confronted with many interesting and important questions about how to weigh religious freedom against the government’s place in fighting invidious discrimination in the Masterpiece Cakes case, the Supreme Court of the United States chose to sidestep all questions but one. They said they didn’t need to decide whether a creative designer of cakes should be forced to create a cake designed to celebrate a marriage unrecognized by their religious tradition. They insisted they don’t need to decide if this cake shop is depriving gay people of a public accommodation. All they needed to know was that the government agency that made the decision was overtly hostile to the religious views of the person they ruled against.

While some of us were disappointed that the Court elected to dodge other important questions for the time being, at least, we thought, this bodes well for their upcoming decision on the Trump travel ban, for Trump’s hostility to Muslims has been trumpeted even more loudly and clearly than the Colorado Civil Rights Division’s antipathy to Christians. Oh, how naive we were! It turns out Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kennedy, Roberts, and Thomas sing a different tune when the victims of overt hatred belong to a religion other than their own. Now, the public statements and tweets of the discriminating agency are suddenly irrelevant to the text of the administrative ruling. Instead they want to address whether the President has a right to fight terrorism by controlling immigration. (But not does the Colorado Civil Rights Division have a right to fight homophobia by regulating cake sales.) The President’s open hostility to Muslims is ruled irrelevant on the grounds that the means used to implement it are “ineffective,” banning a mere 8% of the world’s Muslim population.  (This makes as much sense as saying the KKK can’t be accused of racially motivated terrorism because they killed less than 8% of the black population.)

The Court acknowledged that the wisdom of the ban as a means of fighting terrorism was debatable, but insisted that the Congress must address that issue. In America’s system of separation of powers, however, it is the judiciary that is supposed to protect the Constitution. This Congress, in particular, has shown no capability of standing up to an executive branch bent expanding its power. We are left, ironically, to rely on the people themselves to stand up to the threat of populism, as they did when they flocked to the airports to defend American values and the immigrants who came here in search of them during the first Muslim ban.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

Gaza and the Future of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Nikki Haley has created a meme about the Israeli massacre of Palestinians demonstrating for the right to return to their homes at the Gaza border: “No country would act with more restraint than Israel,” she says with a straight face. Many countries would act with more restraint than Israel has, but let me not draw on just “any” country as the counter-example. Consider Donald Trump’s United States, which faced with a caravan of 150 Central American immigrants camped on its border with Mexico somehow manages to restrain itself from shooting them down in cold blood. And this despite the fact these would be invaders don’t even have the Palestinians’ excuse of wanting to return to their own  homes!

Rather than Israel, it is the Palestinians who have shown remarkable restraint. Had Nikki Haley the curiosity to ask what motivates the protests and what do they signal about Gaza’s future, she might ask Brian K. Barber, a fellow with the New America Foundation’s International Security program, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies, and Professor Emeritus of child and family studies at the University of Tennessee, where he founded and directed the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict. Barber is working on a book narrating the lives of three men and their families from the Gaza Strip who he has interviewed regularly for more than 20 years since they emerged as youth from the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-93).

At the New America Foundation on May 8, Barber sought to answer the question: Why would Gazans continue to protest after six weeks despite a harsh response from Israel? [The following notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription.]

His premise is that if the policy is to have harmony among the peoples of that region there must be peace of mind for those people and progress requires understanding what the ordinary person thinks and feels and why they do what they do. When he first went to Gaza in March of 1995, he realized that, although he is an experienced traveler, he was unprepared, naive, uninformed and misinformed, encountering nothing that he expected to find. Rather than harsh, vengeful, and devastated people, the people he met were friendly, pleased that he was there. Instead of psychologically dysfunctional youth, he saw a population functioning well. He says he learned to listen and warns one cannot understand what is happening inside Gazans’ mind unless you’ve been there. (Are you paying attention, Nikki?)

Gaza is about 25 miles long and averages five miles in width. There are only three viable crossings, two pedestrian and one for goods and materials. There is an outside fence that is either electrified or electronic (which is debated). The air is full of drones and the cyber-grid is controlled. There are eight refugee camps. He was commonly asked “Do you like Gaza?” and “Would you come back?” They are marginalized and ostracized and this hurts. One young man said, “We can handle the electricity problems, the water problems and the sewage problems, but being made to feel subhuman is what really hurts.” About 80% of the population had their home raided at least once since 1987. The theory is that that such humiliation should quash their ability to resist, but instead it seems to trigger in us, “by no means in Palestinians alone,” an opposition and rather than quiet the population contributes to the willingness to fight for their survival as worthy human beings.

During his time there the occupation changed from direct to indirect. There is no more daily contact, apart from incursions. That is why you no longer see mass protests inside Gaza. Instead the protests have moved to the fence. The world ignores Gaza unless the situation turns violent or dramatic. Things are different in the West Bank. You can as likely find Gazans to protest against a political faction as against the outside occupation. There are a couple of million highly opinionated, but not monolithic, Gazans. When President Sisi took control of Egypt in 2015, he virtually closed the borders and the tunnels (called smuggling tunnels by some and supply tunnels by others) driving up prices and solidifying the physical restrictions on movement.

Palestinians are uniform in their desire for a home, self-determination, and justice, but they are not united as to what that entity should be like. There are divisions between the secular PA and various Islamic groups, but as recently as a few days ago Hamas indicate a willingness to recognize 1967 borders, etc. Until now Hamas has been successful in tamping down the more radical groups and rendering them ineffectual.

The Gaza Community Mental Health Program is very much alive. They are completing an impressive new building and continue their in and out-patient programs. At least 50% of Gazans are children or youth, which has an impact on the employment situation. At least 40% of the employable population is unemployment with little hope for improvement of job opportunities. The endemic industries (fishing, agriculture) are suppressed.

The humiliation is not targeted at any particular group and poor and wealthy alike go through the same experiences. The youth have less historical memory to bring with them and have not experienced the level of direct humiliation their parents have.

Before Barber’s presentation, the volume of protesters has dwindled from 30,000 to 10,000 or less, but he correctly predicted that that would change on May 15 not only because it is the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, but because of the move of the U.S. embassy. He is aware of no evidence that this movement was part of or an offshoot of any broader movement rather than a Gazan demand of the right of return. Among Gazans basic rights has come to dominate the conversation over any particular political vision. He thinks Gazans are cynical of any political settlement being achieved especially under the auspices of the United States.

Gaza’s populations are concentrated in eight refugee camps, two major cities, and some small villages and towns. There are hundreds of schools. Education is a prime value for Palestinians.. The literacy rate is 95%. The UN predicted the environment would be unlivable by 2020. Sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean and leaks along the way, contaminating the aquifer. Parts of Gaza are still in rubble from the war. The solution requires lifting the siege, importing goods and materials and reviving the Gazan industries, especially fishing and agriculture. There is deliberate contamination of the agricultural field.

There is a historic sense of betrayal that goes back to the First World War. Gazans are aware of the machinations of realignments going on, but the everyday citizen has not the time or energy to compute that but the politically inclined do. The reasons for Gazans participating in social movements is not unique except in the degree that they have. Barber was present at the Egyptian Revolution and the dynamics were much the same. People were most thrilled not at the fall of the government but at the prospect of no longer being abused and humiliated by the police.

Gazans have had a lot of hope that someday things will be better. Barber thinks that hope has dwindled on the accumulation of evidence that nothing has changed. He doesn’t think the young people participating in these marches think that they will be allowed home soon and they are more motivated to symbolically demonstrate that they are here and that they deserve dignity. There is hope of reconciliation, although not soon; there is no hope that Palestine or Israel will change their policy.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org