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

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

The Muslim Community & the Issue of Identity and Belonging

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

[These are my notes from The Washington Forum Lecture Series* program on “The Muslim Community & the Issue of Identity and Belonging” held in Fairfax, VA on April 4, 2018. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription.]

Summary of the Introduction by Ustadh Anwar Haddam:

The first lecture in this series was on liberty and democracy. We need a clear vision. It should be society oriented to face the challenge and to benefit from the opportunity the challenge has provided.  Liberty and democracy must be the central focus for Muslims. Liberty means, first, to be free to be what you want to be and, then, to be free to do what you want to do. Unless you are free to be who you want to be you are susceptible to manipulation in deciding what you want to do.

Lecture by Dr. Esam Omeish:

Simply put the question of identity is “Who am I?” A person can have multiple identities that, collectively, make the individual.  According to psychology, belonging is near the top of the hierarchy of human needs: physical needs, security, and belonging. It is the need for love, welcome and acceptance. It is the stepping stone to esteem and actualization. Our identity determines where we belong. The act of belonging requires an ability to formulate a status that allows you to assess what belonging looks like.

We look at the Islamic faith as a set of tenets that allow us to embrace the components of our internal identity without conflict. Islam is not only about rituals but has a mission-driven component. The American experiment is a human experiment that we embrace naturally because we come from a background that embraces the same principles. We remain a community impacted by the same social factors that impact any community, but we have a mission to actually embrace the challenge.

We have recommended as a reading assignment A Nation of Nations by Tom Gjeltan (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015) in which he looks at Fairfax County as typical of the challenges and transformations immigrants have experienced. For immigrants, questions of identity and belonging are manifest. He selected my family and me as one of the examples, including the issue of Islam. There is a bit of each of our stories in this story. America could not reach its potential until immigration was recognized as one of its organizing principles. I believe that we have the resources not only deal with the challenges, but to be strengthened in our identity and belonging in the process.

We are adopting a broad definition of Islam not to enable us to restrict ourselves to a religious identity but because the expansive definition is the true one: Islam is a universal religion compatible with the human condition. The Islamic Civilization definition of our din is the realm in which we find our Islamic identity. It is important that we not view our Islamic identity as opposed to all other identities. In refusing to do so, we shall be be confronted by resistance within our own Muslim communities using arguments such as al-walaa wa-l-baraa (loyalty and disavowal, that is embracing that which pleases God and opposing that which displeases God).

Al-walaa wa-l-baraa is irrelevant unless we distinguish that which opposes the Islamic religion from that which simply comes from outside the tradition. About half of our community are first generation immigrants and imams who address these issues without being aware of the cultural sensitivity involved will be unprepared for the backlash. Younger Muslims and the children of immigrants are better prepared to consider these issues, but they still want to know how Islam plays a role (what is its relevance?), like the young American who went to Algeria to learn how their understanding of Islam became a force in the resistance to colonialism.

Remarks by Ustadh Youssef Yaghmour:

We should not shy away from theses controversies. The Prophet (pbuh) addressed the disbelievers with “Ya kawmii,” (O my people). The compatibility of being an American with being a Muslim has become an issue, but questions of allegiance only arise in times of war. If we see ourselves at war with the rest of our American community, then we have a bigger problem than a debate over identity, one that will affect how people look at us. Is there a conflict between being a Muslim and an Egyptian? Between being a Muslim and an Indian? Then why between being a Muslim and an American.

The question am I a Muslim-American or an American-Muslim is the wrong question. The style of government in an empire-state is not the case in the world of nation-states in which we live, and it cannot be the model for our time. There is an identity conflict between being a Muslim and an atheist, but not between being a Muslim and an American. That is a contrived conflict. I want to use Islam to help solve America’s problems, and there is nothing in this nation to stop that.

Comments by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.:

We can learn by critically observing the variety of experiences of the multipicity of religions in this country as case studies of identity and belonging. The Jews integrated more as an ethnic group than a religion; the Amish insulated themselves from the “English;” the Catholics set up their own schools, dominated police departments and political power centers and openly challenged social policies of the Protestant majority; the Mormons homesteaded an entire state; the Quakers exerted influence as peaceful activists.

The United States is unique among nation-states. It is the only one in which of the five factors that define a national identity (ethnicity, language, culture, language, and historical narrative) historical narrative thoroughly overshadows the other factors. That narrative is one of liberty and resistance to tyranny, and the immigrant experience is thoroughly intertwined with it.

Resistance to the state and even to prevailing public opinion is a major element of Americanism. White Supremacy was at one time part of the American ideology. While it as not been completely eliminated, the fight against it is hailed not as opposition to Americanism, but as a fulfillment of it. Thus Martin Luther King did not have to change the words of the Declaration of Independence, only to stress a single word, when he said, “All men are created equal.”

Even though Muslim immigrants understandably distinguish themselves from the African-American community on the grounds that the latter were forced to come here, we must recognize that their experience too is instructive and that they must not be excluded either as a model nor as participants in programs such as this one.

In addressing these issues we face resistance from both within and without the Muslim community. It is the resistance from within that is most difficult. Non-Muslim resistance is manageable if you know how to do it. I have lived in this country all my life. One of the most difficult challenges to belonging was my refusal to drink alcohol because it is considered a “social lubricant.” Declining to drink on the grounds that it is bad for you or because I don’t like it only alienated those who offered it to me. But I learned that if I just said, “It’s against my religion” they were satisfied, because Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christian Scientists don’t drink either. (And even Baptists, supposedly, some would say, aren’t supposed to.) Not so easily managed are Muslims like the one who anonymously called my office and told my employee, “Dr. Ahmad shouldn’t play guitar.”

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

*On January 30, 2018, some Muslims in the Washington, DC area initiated “The Washington Forum Lecture Series” to address the challenge and opportunity posed by recent events to Muslims in the USA and abroad by a new approach aiming at inspiring and leading change, instead of managing the status quo.

The Israeli Lobby

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy

[These are my notes from the 2018 conference on “The Israeli Lobby and American Foreign Policy” held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 2. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription  The entire program may be viewed here. ]

Grant F Smith (Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy). An Overview of the Israel Lobby Agenda

In 2012, the organizations that make up the Israel Lobby had 3.7 billion revenue, employed 14,000 paid staff, and 350,00 volunteers. Those numbers are all increasing. One asks why is the U.S. moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem now? In 1990s AIPAC got serious about passing a law to force the embassy move as a means of thwarting the Oslo peace process. The “Jerusalem Embassy Act” passed in 1995 with a presidential waiver provision “to avoid separation of power issues.” President Clinton allowed it to pass without signing it. All major party candidates campaigned on moving the embassy, but until Trump all winners invoked the waiver.  In polls, Americans have never supported the move.

Now, the Lobby wants to pass a federal law equating certain criticism of Israel (especially on college campuses) with anti-Semitism. The “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” would withdraw federal funding from institutions of higher learning that permit certain criticism of Israel. 61% of American polled knowing that major civil liberties organizations oppose this law also oppose it. The government increasingly punishes truth-tellers about Israel. The Dept. of Energy already has a gag rule that any U.S. government contractor or employee who writes or says that Israel has a nuclear weapons program will lose their job, security clearances and will be treated as a criminal.  That rule, WPN-136, impacts the nuclear proliferation debate.

70% of Americans do not consider themselves to be Zionists, so maintaining a contrary illusion is important to the Lobby. Thus the importance to the Lobby of cultivating Evangelicals. Support for Israel among college students has dropped 32%. On the other hand, support among Republicans has never been higher. Despite the wide partisan split, the Republican and Democratic platform planks on Israel are nearly identical.

Last year, Al-Jazeera’s investigation of the Lobby in the United Kingdom made a splash. They also did an investigation of the Lobby in the U.S. but the Lobby succeeded in suppressing the American report using threats that included “getting the U.S. government to deny landing right to Qatar Airways … [and] having the Justice Department register Al-Jazeera’s reporters as foreign agents [cutting] off their access to government officials and limiting their access to U.S. government facilities.”

The Lobby now seeks to criminalize support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement with fines of $1 million and sentences of 20 years in jail. It’s key backer Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) is heavily supported by Israeli affinity organizations.

There is also the issue of provoking confrontations with Iran. There was a Dec 12 secret agreement at the White House to take joint military action.

Massive unconditional foreign aid is on the table. 58% of Americans informed of the massive amounts of aid to Israel say foreign aid to Israel ($258 billion since 1948, even more than the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan) is “too much” or “much too much.”

Dr. Virginia Tilley (Southern Illinois University). Does the US Support an Apartheid State?

Why is the U.S. (as well as some other countries) supporting an apartheid state in Israel-Palestine? While international law does not define “apartheid state” it defines “apartheid” and one may ask if a particular state engages in the practice. Legal definition of apartheid: Article 2 of the International Convention on the Suppression of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines apartheid to include “inhuman  acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines the crime of apartheid to mean “inhumane acts …. committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli apartheid comprises a comprehensive system that ensures Jewish national privileges while dominating and oppressing Palestinians. Four interwoven discursive/territorial domains: (1) Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote but not to eliminate Jewish national privileges nor their own minority status. in the question of their minority status. (2) Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have no national vote and no secure residency. (3) Palestinians in the occupied territories have no vote except for the Palestinian Authrity. (4) Palestinian refugees and forced exiles are denied the right of return.

The system requires Israel maintain the occupation lest population mixing threaten the system. Annexation would also threaten the system. The vision of stopping apartheid by a two state solution is fatally flawed. Under the apartheid regime, any Palestinian State is a bantustan. The apartheid imperative is to prevent racial mixing, and that is served by the system. The main function of the security forces is to suppress dissent. Oslo Accord areas were almost identical to the South Africa bantustans. Mandela warned Arafat of this. Settler colonial apartheid is ended only by by eliminating settler domination and racial discrimination. Palestininian must be recast as a multi-sectarian identity.

Ian Williams. The Israel Lobby and the UN

There is a good reason the Lobby concentrated on the UN. They can’t get clear title without UN collusion. Remember East Timur. Israelis have a great respect for law, but in a Talmudic way of elevators that stop on every floor on the Sabbath. There are legal consequences to a finding of apartheid. Israel is the only state ever created by a UN resolution, yet they keep saying UN resolutions are not binding. We could say, “Amen!” In almost every resolution to which the U.S. is a signatory, Israel is an exception: nuclear nonproliferation, settlements, etc. At least the State Department still won’t identify Jerusalem as Israel on passports. Israel is running for a seat on the Security Council as a “Western Europe and Other.” The Israeli Ambassador is on the Legal Committee which is like putting Casanova on the Chastity Committee. Israel is running against Germany and Belgium. I am concerned Belgium may be leaned upon to withdraw. Because the UN is so unpopular with certain parts of US community, it serves as a great fundraising device. We have seen this with the reports that get quashed. Remember Robert Goldstone. But the embassy move is directly in contradiction to the UN charter. Trump has basically ripped up the UN charter. Yet at the same time Nikki Haley is arguing Iran is in violation of UN Resolutions. This is the road to World War III. UNWRA has been doing what Israel should be doing under the Geneva Conventions. The Israelis tried to keep Ban Ki-moon from going to Gaza, but once he went he was consistent that the drive against it must stop.

Noura Erakat (George Mason University; Jadiliyya e-zine; Journal of Palestine Studies). How Support for Israel’s Violations of International Law Puts the U.S. on the Wrong Side of History.

Anything that the law tells us can be subjected to controversy by a lawyer. Occupation Law has failed to stem settlement, but has been used to advance settlement. The settler enters the colony with an intent to stay, to assert sovereignty and to remove the native. Settler colonization is the framework for apartheid and occupation toward the end of replacing the native with the settler.  In the late 18th century, annexation fell into disrepute, but in any case annexation would require Israel absorbing the Palestinian people, making them the majority. Rather than annex or occupy the land Israel claims the land is sui generis (distinct and unlike any other category), that the Palestinians are not a people and there is a sovereign void in which this is an occupation not by law but by fact, allowing them to incrementally take the land under two legal fictions, temporality and military necessity. The civilians are temporarily and indefinitely present, meaning that it is not permanent and yet has no end. The U.S. is central to this interpretation because the U.S. recognizes occupation as a matter of law but has failed to act accordingly seeking instead to maintain an Israeli qualitative military edge over its neighbors. The Johnson administration also inaugurated the “land for peace” framework enshrined in UN resolution 242. When Israel attacked and destroyed the Egyptian Air Force the issue of whether that was an act of aggression or a pre-emptive strike is pivotal. Johnson disagreed with Eisenhower’s Sinai policy that forced Israel (and its allies) to withdraw from the Suez Canal. Johnson saw the ’67 War as an opportunity to revisit the issue. In every UN draft resolution except the one that finally passed the definite article “the” appears before “Occupied Territories.” Its omission in the final draft allows the flexibility of “defensible borders” for Israel. This would not have been possible without Palestinian presence and acquiescence. It is the realization of autonomy without sovereignty. This has been rejected by the international courts, the Security Council, and human rights organizations, yet it stands because of American policy.

Panel on Suppressing Free Speech

Dr. Barry Trachtenberg (Wake Forest University). Challenging the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Pushing Back Against Jewish Exceptionalism Politics.

The effect of this bill is to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and Zionism with Judaism. The backers of this bill are less concerned with fighting white supremacy than with suppressing criticism of Israel. They conflate of Israel’s right to exist with its right to exist as a Jewish State at the expense of non-Jews within its borders. In the same way they conflate rising pro-Palestinian activism on campus with bigotry against Jews. We must distinguish actual Israeli power from historically imagined Jewish power. Broadening the definition of anti-Semitism will only making fighting actual anti-Semitism more difficult. We have to see anti-Semitism as part of the history of modern bigotry rather than as something unique.

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi (San Francisco State University). How and Why the Israel Lobby Is Suppressing Free Speech and Academic Freedom on College Campuses.

Dr. Abdulhadi demonstrated Dr. Trachtenberg’s point by describing in detail how the Israel Lobby has smeared pro-Palestinian activists at San Francisco State University, herself included.

Thomas R. Getman. When and How Did Evangelicals Become Zionists?

Dr. Getman said that he himself was a complicit Evangelical Zionist, albeit an unwitting one. Many years working in the Middle East opened his eyes. “Those who lay traps get their own feet ensnared.” American Christians speak in two theological languages. Mainstream Christians, and Evangelicals even more so, operate in a 2000 year-old tradition involving not only creed but social justice, but Zionism operates in recent one starting in the 19th century aimed at moving all Jews to Palestine towards the end of advancing the End Times. This view purports Christians suddenly disappear, presumably to Heaven, and Armageddon follows and then a 2000 year reign of the Messiah. In the process 2/3rds of Jews are killed and the rest convert to Christianity. Even Billy Graham declared himself as agnostic as to the end times, but silence in the churches has allowed Palestinians to be defined by the Zionists.  Christian Zionism preceded by 50 years and influenced the development of Jewish Zionism. “How did we arrive here? The 200 year progression of this history is at once instructive and frightening. The law of Love has been replaced by violence.” It is the fault line running through Western civilization. “The majority has been silent. We must stir them up…. It is bad for Israel as well as America’s place in the free world…. It is important to see the progression of  Christian Zionism’s development. It has roots at least as far back as the 16th century European reformations. The early literal readership of the local language translations like the King James Bible, later in Scofield reference editions, had footnotes and commentary that promoted dispensational Zionism. It led to several centuries of anti-Semite Jewish persecution, ultimately the Holocaust, and all the way to mid-twentieth century best-selling fictional works of The Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind.” Eccentric British restorationists lacking formal theological training led by John Darby “began to lobby for Jewish return to Palestine as the necessary precondition for the Second Coming of Christ.” They gained traction in the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French, and German colonial interests. “These Christian Zionists who preceded Jewish Zionism were some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates and ironically were both clergy and lay people who embraced the anti-Semitic theology and genocidal images around racial nationalism.” Herzl had an understandable resentment and anger over treatment of Jews in the previous centuries, but he undergirded his appeal to the British with misinterpreted scripture. Arthur Balfour and Lloyd George were predisposed towards Zionism, but their primary goal was the advancement of British imperialism. Billy Graham remained silent, not warning of the dangers. Harry Truman was influenced by his dispensations beliefs but even more by the campaign and Zionist contributors. Dispensationalist interpretation gained impetus with the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967. The election of Ronald Reagan, a convert to Christian Zionist beliefs was important. 9/11 sealed the marriage as both feared and hated Muslims. With the election of Donald Trump arose a movement against Christian Zionism among mainstream Christians. The Israeli Lobby is increasingly seen as an agent of the foreign power, especially as BDS has caused Israeli and American legislators to turn to Draconian suppression. The arc of history is being bent towards justice and young people, now even among Evangelicals are turning towards social justice texts. The promise that “God will bless those who bless you” was made to Abraham, not to Israel. The theological stance of Christian Zionism is now being explicitly rejected and even a body of Evangelical Christians has expressed unease at moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Evangelicals are working to reform or abandon their brand to distinguish themselves from the Michael Pences and the Roy Moores. “Anglican theologian Nadeem Atiq states we must oppose Christian Zionism by asserting one clear principle: ‘any religion that does not promote justice, truth, peace, justice and reconciliation among people has lost its rudder and is undeserving of respect. Their religion and teachings are a destructive rather than a liberating force in the world.”

Gideon Levy (Ha’aretz). The Zionist Tango: Step Left, Step Right.

“The only place on earth that Donald Trump is beloved, admired, adored, and  appreciated is Israel. The only place that Benjamin Netanyahu is admired, adored, beloved is the United States. If this is not shared values, what is …? I can tell you in the United States, as an Israeli, we don’t have a bigger enemy than the” Israeli Lobby. One has no worse enemy than the one who thinks it is an act to friendship to supply the addict with more drugs. He finds it hard to understand from the outside how an ideology became part of the DNA. He knows of no other case where an ideology is so unquestioned. The only difference between left and right in Israel is one of rhetoric. Labor and the left have a different rhetoric, but at the end of the day there is no policy difference. Shimon Perez could not stop talking about ending the Occupation, but he was the father of the settlements project. The old joke that two Israelis share three views is no longer valid. “Today three Israelis share hardly one view…. Even Israeli propaganda has lost its shame.” If Israel has sunk so low as to claim that the wound from shooting a child in the head actually came from a fall off a bicycle, then you know things have hit bottom. “In many ways the leftists are worse than the right wingers because feel so good about themselves” because they are not fascists, but they believe the crimes must continue “because we have no choice.” Levy thinks four values explain everything in Israel. First the belief that “We are the chosen people.” International Law is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t apply to Israel. Second, Israelis are not only the biggest victims but the only victims. Levy cannot recall another occupation in which the occupiers consider themselves the victims. Golda Meir could “never forgive the Arabs” for forcing her to kill their children. Third, there is a deep belief that Palestinians are not human beings like us. They don’t love their children like us; they don’t love life like us. Fourth, the lie that the situation is temporary. Our dreams will never come true as long these core issues do not change. Soldiers who bravely testify about the crimes they committed in the occupied territories lead to nothing. At least the left has some kind of commitment to democracy for Jews, but there is no incentive for change within Israel. Levy says his only hope is people like this audience. Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is a big victory for Israel and the Occupation. What it means is the U.S. has officially declared the funeral of the two state solution and that America cannot be a fair mediator. Levy sees it as he end of the hypocrisy. He says he feels sorry for Amb. David Friedman who must now move from a beautiful villa on the sea to Jerusalem, but adds that “he deserves it.” What better gift than to see him in midst of Orthodox and the soldiers than before the sea in Herzliya. Levy asked what kind of society criminalizes any one who speaks out for justice and praises those who violate International Law. He calls Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) the only game in town. One has the right to boycott what deserves boycott. Look how nervous Israel gets about BDS. That shows you it is the right way. We need you desperately to expose the lie that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It does not deserve to be called a democracy at all. Finally expose the lie that this is all temporary. The occupation is there to stay. This colonialist project has no intention of ending.

For many years Levy supported the two state solution as a reasonable if imperfect solution. Today there are six million Palestinians and six million Jews between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Zionism’s core principle is that one people is privileged over the other. That is apartheid. Let’s challenge Israel to equal rights and to one person one vote, and when they say no they will have indicted themselves as an apartheid state with no desire for democracy.

In response to a question from the audience he said the occupation could not continue for even a few months without American support.

Andrew Kadi (U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights). The Palestinian BDS Campaign. What It Is, How It Is Growing, and Why the Efforts to Stop It Will Fail.

In 2005 a wide range of organizations formed the BDS coalition aimed at enforcing ICJ ruling on the wall and settlements. This is rights-based discourse influenced by discussions with South Africans. Unlike the South Africa boycott there are some exceptions to BDS.  The website is Bdsmovement.net.

Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada). Israel vs. Russian Media Influence.

Hilary Clinton was entirely capable of losing the 2016 election on her own. In 2006, two days after the Palestinian elections she told Jewish Press (that’s the name of a publication, not a conspiratorial code phrase), “I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake. And if we were gong to push for an election, we should have done something to determine who was going to win.”  That’s what Russia stands accused of, but Max Blumenthal and Aaron Matte have shown there is nothing there. What the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about is Israelgate, where there is lots of evidence of collusion. Michael Flynn spoke to Russia on behalf of Israel at the behest Jared Kushner as a favor to Benjamin Netanyahu. Steve Bannon is quoted in Michael Wolfe’s Fire and Fury that the entire Trump policy on Jerusalem was dictated Sheldon Adelson. That Adelson will buy the U.S. embassy is treated as something normal. The Russiagate hysteria helps the Israeli propaganda machine. RT was forced to register as s foreign agent, which strangely AIPAC has not done. In October Al-Jazeera revealed that they had done an undercover investigation in the U.S. akin to the one they did in Britain in which they busted an Israeli plot to bring down the British politicians. The RT registration is being cited as the precedent to force Al-Jazeera to register as foreign agents. Qatar and the Gulf states see the Israel lobby as the shortcut to Washington’s heart. Abunimah is willing to bet we are going to see the Al-Jazeera documentary, but only if we keep up the pressure. Electronic Intifada leaked two reports from ADL and another anti-BDS organization saying that despite their twenty-fold increase in spending to suppress the BDS movement they have been unable to do so. All decent people are deserting their cause and rather it is the far right of Richard Spencer’s that is flocking to support Israel. Young people, including American Jews and even young Evangelicals are fleeing. I used to think it was a waste of time to talk to Congress but my mind as has been changed in part by the No Way to Treat a Child campaign. It prohibits use of US aid to be used for the detention and torture of Palestinian children. It now has 21 cosponsors. We are not powerless against the Israel lobby.

We are more locked out of the mainstream media than ever before, but the mainstream media is less powerful than ever before and the alternate media stronger than ever before. They are still strong but we have broken their monopoly.

Jefferson Morley (author of The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton). CIA and Mossad: Tradeoffs in the Formation of the US-Israeli Strategic Relationship.

James Angleton was an avatar of the Deep State. He embodied and shaped the CIA ethos. Deep State is a colloquial term for the array of intelligence agencies that operate covertly. The oversight is weak. Secret government is the norm in America. As a student at Yale he shared anti-Semitic sentiments of Ezra Pound, but the Holocaust transformed his attitudes when he joined the CIA he became Chief of Foreign Intelligence. While sympathetic to Jewish suffering, he was wary of Israel as untrustworthy in the Cold War. In 1950, Reuven Shiloah the founder of Israel’s first intelligence organization visited the CIA and organized what would become Mossad. Angleton became the CIA’s exclusive liaison with Mossad. His Israeli friend were the architects of the Israeli state. While he was seen as divisive in the CIA he was uniformly admired in Israel “as a stalwart friend.” His rise in the CIA got a huge boost when the Israelis provided him with a copy of Khrushchev’s secret speech to the Communist Party criticizing the cult of personality around Joseph Stalin. His “formative and sometimes decisive influence on U.S. policy towards Israel can be seen in many areas from nuclear proliferation policy in the region to Israel’s triumph in the ’67 Six-Day War, to the feeble U.S. response to the attack on the Liberty, to the intelligence failure represented by the Yom Kippur War in 1973.” Although the relationship of Angleton and Israel is enormous, one very important question is “why didn’t the CIA help the FBI investigate the diversion of U.S. weapons-grade material from the United States to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s? And The short answer is because Jim Angleton didn’t want them to. He played a key role in helping them to obtain nuclear weapons… He was not a man to investigate himself…. Angleton thought collaboration with Israel was more important than non-proliferation.” His friend Meir Amit called him “the biggest Zionist of the lot.”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (formerly with U.S. Army and Department of State). Is the US Ramping Up Its Military Presence in Syria and Preparing to Attack Iran for Israel?

Is the U.S. ramping up its military presence in Syria in preparation to attack Iran on behalf of Israel? We believe that LBJ knew not only of the Israeli attack on the Liberty, but its diversion of U.S. nuclear materials. Avigdor Lieberman is the living face of Netanyahu’s policies. A Russian emigre, he is reminiscent of both Dick Cheney and Joseph Stalin. He is at the forefront of promoting this new war. Lieberman, Netanyahu, and their acolytes in this country (e.g., Nikki Haley) have declared that it is in the best interests of the U.S. to commit to make a regime change in Iran. Wilkerson believes that “the legitimacy of great power” is what Israel desires, and what Saudi Arabia and its “new boy king” desires. The excuse for war will be “Iran’s alleged existential threat to Israel in Syria, Hezbollah’s accumulation of some 150,000 missiles, the need to set Lebanon’s economy back … (look at what they’re deliberating right now regarding the new very, very rich gas find in the eastern Mediterranean)….”

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