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

What Can the U.S. Do to Restore Democracy in Tunisia?

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

[On May 23, 2022, Radwan Masmoudi moderated a Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy panel discussion of what the United States can do to restore democracy in Tunisia. This is my summary of highlights of the program, not a transcript. Use of the first person is for convenience only. For a video of the entire discussion click here.]

Sharan Grewal (College of William & Mary; Brookings Institution). We should learn from the mistakes we made in responding to the coup in Egypt.  Aid restatement must be clear about what Kais Saied must do to restore suspended aid. We should delegate decision to restore aid to a third party to depoliticize the decision. We should call the coup a coup since the word is effective in delegitimization. The belief that Saied has the popularity to sell IMF reforms to the Tunisian public is misplaced.  He has already lost popularity and would not want to delegitimate it further by alienating his remaining base who are leftist Nasserists, not Islamists or free market supporters. He needs an off-ramp, a means of being able to claim victory even as democracy is restored. This requires a negotiated solution.

Sara Yerkes (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). Partially agreed with Sharan.  There is more the international committee needs to do to stop Saied’s power grab that is harming Tunisia. The threat of a new constitution means we have only a couple of months to act. Constitutional referenda usually pass. This will allow him to claim popular support. I do not believe aid suspension will work. I know Tunisia is not Egypt. Sharan made good points about things that could have been done better. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi knew the U.S. would never abandon Egypt. But the language to trigger aid cutoffs is military coup, which does not apply to Tunisia, so while it may affect the conversation, it makes no legal difference. The aid to Egypt was much larger, and it didn’t matter because others stepped in, as they would in the case of the much smaller aid to Tunisia.  Russia needs friends now and could easily fill the gap. Removing aid only removes what leverage we do have. Further, cutting aid could adversely affect Tunisian security on both its borders and internally. Economically it would be counterproductive in that it would hurt not Saied, but the common people.  I suggest a different approach. Keep existing aid levels but rejigger it by giving the money not to the government but to the civil society among whom we have strong partners on the ground.  Redirect aid out of hands of the police. Reward Saied for good behavior by offering to increase the total amount of aid. I agree with conditioning IMF loan on reforms, but you need more than that.  Offer diplomatic carrots like a visit to the White House. Offer clear, public benchmarks. Vague goals like “return to democracy” won’t do the trick.

Shadi Hamid (Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings; Fuller Seminary). This is a the conversation we should have had nine months ago. We must act in the next few months or throw in the towel. I called for suspension of aid and IMF talk last year. Responses that Tunisia is different from other coups have been proven wrong. Partial aid cuts don’t work. The failed aid cut in Egypt was incredibly partial, consisting of only 8% of the aid. It  dilutes the message. Even U.S. officials were unsure of what it meant. Kerry said to his Egyptian counterpart aid is “a very little issue.” I would agree that aid cuts are not the only answer.  I call for the maximalist option in which the IMF is our primary lever. It is a little messy to involve the IMF in political questions, but the U.S. has the ability to do it if it has the political will and brings its European partners on board. Anything less than a full-throated approach runs the risk of alienating Saied without affecting things. Tunisia is at risk of default. IMF support also opens up other financial lines and is the key to the Tunisian economy. Tunisia needs the U.S. much more than we need them. There is no excuse to tiptoe around Kais Saied when he is in such a weak position. We say that the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism is the most important struggle of our time, but we suffer from Middle East exceptionalism in which we act as if we do not believe democracy is appropriate to the Middle East.

Larry Diamond (Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University). We should not be overly offended by the Biden administration’s lack of attention to democracy in the Middle East because the administration has similarly slighted the issue elsewhere, including India, where Muslims make up one of the largest minority groups anywhere in the world. The same for the Philippines. There are few countries in the world that have so disproportionate an impact on the future of democracy for their population size as Tunisia. Although the law banning aid to countries in which a coup has taken place refers to military coups, the signaling impact of calling this a coup is essential to undermining its legitimacy. If we do not call a spade a spade here, where in the world shall we do so? The difference between Sharan and Sara’s positions may not be as great as it sounds because the impact of cutting government-to-government aid cannot be overstated. If we can cultivate training and lending for small and medium enterprises in Tunisia, it can help to separate the regime from the people while emphasizing our commitment to the Tunisian people. The goal of private diplomacy can and should be to manipulate the cost/benefit analysis. We must make clear to Saied what will happen to him if he continues down the path of institutionalizing this coup.  It is simply not correct to say constitutional referenda always succeed. We should urge our friends to not boycott the election.

Radwan Masmoudi (Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy).  As head of a civil society organization, I would welcome support for civil society; but I have been very disappointed by civil society in Tunisia which has been largely silent and in some cases supported the coup. Civil society organizations in Tunisia are afraid of standing up to Saied. The military has supported Saied in shutting down the parliament. Why don’t we have leverage on the military, which cares about its relationship with the United States?

Grewal. I agree that the military’s actions suggest support of the coup. They might argue that they are just following orders, but the order is unconstitutional, and they have resisted unconstitutional orders in the past. I think if a message is sent from the U.S. military to the Tunisian military, it would be effective in leveraging U.S. military aid. Although this is a presidential rather than military coup, presidential coups are becoming more common, and that increases the importance of sending the right message. Although Algeria and the Saudis have given some money to Tunisia, I am not sure that our taking a stronger stance would increase the aid. Even if it does, let it happen; the Tunisians need the money.

Yerkes. The U.S. has used the IMF as leverage since day one, but it has not worked. It is a good idea, but it is not sufficient. Suppose we cut off all aid and end IMF involvement: the result is starvation of the Tunisian people. I don’t see how that helps. I agree that the military should exert pressure.

Hamid.  We have not used the IMF lever to this point.  We are talking about suspending talks (including talks about talks) if certain conditions are not met. There is no prospect of Tunisia moving towards Russia or China. The equipment we have given Tunisia can’t run on Russian or Chinese support.

Diamond. Russia is so overextended now that a Tunisian turn to Russia does not seem plausible. When a military has been trained by the United States, we have a lot of leverage; but when the boom is lowered it sets into a motion a new set of dynamics.  A careful evaluation of costs and benefits is needed, but we should try to separate Saied both from the Tunisian people and the Tunisian military.

Grewal. Sarah’s proposal to redirect aid to civil society is clever. Another approach would be to reinstate aid in stages as incremental goals are met.

Hamid.  The United States has actively supported authoritarians in the Middle East. It has been a bipartisan strategy that goes back for decades. It cannot be changed at the margins. It requires a major change in strategy.

Grewal. The question has been raised: “Is Saied a rational actor?” There is one overriding issue for him: a new republic.

Yerkes. The U.S. had no interaction with Tunisia before the Arab Spring. We care about Tunisia because we care about democracy in Tunisia.

Hamid. I do not deny American political actors prefer democracy, but when they calculate cost and benefits democracy carries little weight. Otherwise we would not have seen the moral stains of the last twenty or thirty years.

Diamond. We all agree that the next few months are critical and that the Biden administration must be pressed to act.

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

Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home & Abroad

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home & Abroad 

[These are my notes from the 2022 conference on “The Israeli Lobby and American Foreign Policy” held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 4. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription  The use of the first person in the paraphrase is mainly for convenience. I am completely responsible for any errors. The entire program may be viewed here.]

Dr. Walter L. Hixon (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs) What’s so important about the Israel lobby?

The “lopsided U.S. support for Zionism has fueled a long history of ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate  violence …, an illegal occupation, a proliferation of illegal settlements, relentless police state repression, the emergence of a full-blown apartheid state, Israeli militarization from introducing nuclear weapons to the Middle East to worldwide arms trafficking, and, finally, determined effort to repress free speech and to smear critics of Israel’s egregious policies.” How is it that the self-professed freedom-loving people of America have provided so much unquestioned support (over $100 billion–before adjusting for inflation)  “to a militarized police state that routinely violates international law, demeans and marginalizes its own Palestinian population, and regularly dispossesses, incarcerates, and kills Palestinian people, men women and children, in the illegally occupied territories? It is true that both countries have a settler-colonialist history. But Israel “inaugurated its violent removal policies at the very moment that the global community renounced racialized violence and embraced universal human rights.” The propaganda and disinformation disseminated by the Israeli lobby is essential to the denial and cover-up of its violent removal policies and shift of blame onto the indigenous people seeking to “defend or return to their homeland.”

“Israel’s status as a U.S. ally has been vastly overrated. Its main accomplishment has been encouraging American intervention in a series of disastrous ‘forever wars’…. Today Israel and the lobby are laying the groundwork for another war, this time involving Iran.”

“Faced with the palpable threat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, the lobby has responded with smears and coordinated attacks on freedom of speech. Not content with taking away the rights of Palestinians, Israel and the Lobby want to take them away from Americans as well.”

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi (MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy). Changed policies since Trump & new hope for Palestine’s future.

Has anything changed between Trump and Biden? American policy has a continuity. The U.S. protects Israel from accountability. Since Camp David all American policy towards the Palestinians has been within the frame of limited self-government, with no recognition of any Palestinian right to self-determination or sovereignty. Trump emphasized the worst of these principles while disdaining others such as the role of international law, leaving UNESCO and the Human Rights Council when Palestinians were admitted there. His administration recognized and reinforced annexation, primarily of Jerusalem, not only moving the embassy there (an “American settlement”) but closing the consulate to Palestine which had been established in 1844, over  a century before the creation of Israel. They recognized the nation-state law that says that Israel is state of all Jewish people rather than of its multi-ethnic and multi-religious citizens, with no self-determination for anyone in historical Palestine except the Jews. They sided with extreme Christian and Jewish fundamentalism. It was no longer a matter of the Executive caving in to a Congress influenced by the Israeli Lobby, but of right-wing Zionists in the White House. We see the emergence of anti-Semitic Zionists. They not only increased funding for Israel beyond the Obama administration promises but defunded the Palestinians and even UNRWA. They adopted the extreme Israeli right definition of Palestinians refugees as only those who left in 1948, only 20-40,000 people as opposed to the 5.5 million refugees registered with UNRWA (let alone the unregistered refugees). Kushner’s economic plan was premised on the Palestinian abandonment of any rights claims in exchange for a few handouts. Through blackmail and bribery they brought a few Arab countries into normalization, making peace where there had been no war, violating Arab League resolutions and weakening the Arab league.

What of Biden’s promises, policies and priorities? His promises are a two-state solution, opposition to unilateral steps and to settlement expansion, reinstating assistance to Palestinians (consistent with U.S. law) and aid to refugees, reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, and a pivot of U.S. policy away from the Middle East. That said the peace process is not a priority. They have bought Israel time for unilateral actions and de facto annexation and left Israel to fill the power vacuum and supported the status quo. Most dangerously, the Biden administration has allowed Israel to set the agenda, calling the Palestinian narrative “incitement” and proposing censorship of Palestinian textbooks as the means to peace.  The promise to reopen the consulate has been indefinitely postponed on the lame pretext of the fragility of  Israel’s bizarre governing coalition. The human rights discourse in the whole region rings hollow. They have not only allowed the assaults on Gaza and on Jerusalem and ethnic cleansing, settlers on the rampage, and executions of Palestinians with full impunity, but home demolitions now occur at twice the rate as during the Trump administration. They have become agents of Israel in denying accusations of Israeli crimes and apartheid while accepting the smearing of criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. They continue to pressure Palestinians not to join international organizations or appeal to international conventions. Appeals to both the ICC and the Rome Statute have been put on hold. It took six days to open an investigation into Russia’s aggression against Ukraine but six years to obtain an agreement that there should even be an investigation of Israel’s crimes. Nancy Pelosi called Israel “the greatest political achievement of the twentieth century.”  More than the U.N.? They have increased aid for the Patriot missiles.

Despite the Biden administrations’ policies, there continues to be a growing awareness of the Israeli settler-colonial enterprise and apartheid system and displacement/replacement paradigm of the rogue state based on ethno-sectarian nationalism as an exclusivist and exclusionary system seeking to erase a whole people, their history and their culture.

Paul Noursi (Virginia Coalition for Human Rights ). The victorious battle for the 1st Amendment against Virginia’s anti-boycott bill.

“[T]his year there was another attempt to … suppress free speech by carving out an exception to the First Amendment in Virginia against … anyone who speaks out for Palestinian human rights or who criticizes Israel.” HB 1161 would have prohibited participation in the boycott of Israel by contractors (and all their subcontractors) doing more than $10,000 in business with the state. This restriction on contracts based on political views is clearly unconstitutional, as were three previous direct legislative attempts, an indirect attempt, and a fifth attempt is brewing in the Governor’s office now. Such attempts are being made across the country. In 2016  our coalition stopped an almost identical bill, which had been amended several times until it was basically an authorization for a blacklist to be maintained by a state government organization many of us didn’t even know existed called the “Virginia Israel Advisory Board.” In 2017 HB 2261 would have redefined the definition of anti-Semitism prohibited by Virginia law to include any criticism of Israel. We have been joined in this fight by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace and the attempt this year was dropped in committee. Other states facing such attempts can contact us for advice.

Jeanne Trabulsi (Virginia Coalition for Human Rights Education Committee). The fight against Israeli propaganda in Virginia textbooks.

In the past the Israeli lobby has been highly successful in tampering with textbooks used in Virginia, deleting any reference to Palestine or to the occupation. VCHR has succeeded in preventing such censorship this past year. They are organizing a teacher-training institute at Shenandoah University for 2023. She gave advice on how to fight similar propagandizing in other states.

Jeanne Trabulsi (Virginia Coalition for Human Rights Eject Energix Committee). The fight against an Israeli human rights violator. One of Israel’s largest renewal energy companies, Energix Renewable Energies, is a UN designated human rights violator. Among their violations is seizing land in illegally occupied territory from its owners to build a solar energy farm and partnering with the IDF to build more illegal wind turbines. They have established 22 sites in Virginia by taking advantage of undue influence in the Virginia legislature, using taxpayer funding to promote an Israeli business over Virginia businesses. In 2020 Energix received one-third of all Federal PPP loans to the Virginia solar scale sector despite being flush with cash from overseas stock sales. While they cannot take land away from Virginians as they do from Palestinians, they do subject Virginians to environmental danger by their planned use of toxic CdTe panels on or near vulnerable or historic land. When such panels were destroyed by a tornado in California in 2015, they were treated as toxic waste.

Radihika Sainath (Palestine Legal). The Israel lobby’s attacks on freedom of speech and successful legal challenges.

There is a growing tide of support for Palestinian rights in the U.S. that has provoked accelerating attempts to suppress free speech. In 2021 Palestine Legal saw a 30% rise in attempts to suppress speech in favor of Palestinian rights. Now everyone understands the Palestinian exception to free speech in the U.S. From 2016-2019 the Israeli government allotted over $100 million to fight the BDS movement. 2021 saw record solidarity for Palestinian rights in the U.S. Palestinian Legal noticed some new trends in Israel’s tactics to stop it. One was smear tactics against ordinary people (farmers, make-up artists, therapists, nonprofit workers, doctors, K-12 teachers, etc.), for example,  being fired for speaking out, or being ordered by their bosses to delete tweets. After Israel bombed the building housing the AP offices, journalist Emily Wilder was fired by AP for comments made in support of Palestinians years during her college years. The head farmer at a luxury resort was fired from his job of seven years after using the hashtags #endthe occupation and @End Zionism. 7amleh and Access Now have documented hundreds censored by social media companies and leaks by FaceBook revealed that posts by Palestinians have been censored. Even children’s book are censored. Since 2014, 32 states have adopted anti-BDS laws. In 2021, 20 new bills were introduced (of which 4 passed). Four would have defined virtually any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. None of these laws has been sustained by the courts.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell (Council on Islamic-American Relations): How to fight joint Israel/lobby espionage & infiltration.

An anti-Muslim hate group in the U.S., registered as a nonprofit organization, working for the benefit of a foreign government (Israel), spent over $100,000 over ten years to infiltrate and spy upon American Muslim organizations including mosques and civil rights groups and individual community leaders.  The organization is Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism. The infiltrator was Romin Iqbal, director of CAIR Columbus OH. IPT was paying people not only to spy on CAIR but on a wide variety of Muslim organizations. They were providing information on any work in defense of Palestinian rights or against Islamophobia. This is not only unethical, but the recording of conversations without consent of other parties is in some states illegal. Emerson received and forwarded email from the Israeli PM and from Israeli intelligence officials seeking information about American college students hoping to connect them to Hamas. Emerson mentions in his emails his trips to Israel to meet with intelligence officials. Another informant came forward to confess that he he came to realize that he was being used not to defend the U.S. from terrorist threats, but to protect Israel from legitimate criticism. An example of the use they put to the intelligence they gathered was their release of a secret recording of Keith Ellison at a campaign fundraiser asserting his criticism of American foreign policy with regard to Israel and Palestine, leaked to prevent Ellison’s access to the  chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Another informant stepped forward to report that the purpose of IPT’s spying was to insure that there would never be a Muslim version of AIPAC, that is to insure the American Muslim community would never become powerful enough to alter American Middle East foreign policy. A 2017 CAIR study found that about $150 million of had been funneled from mainstream charities, foundations, and donor advised funds (a tax-advantaged vehicle for making charitable donations) to anti-Muslim hate groups. Since that report that amount has dropped to about $105 million. In ten years of spying they found no connections to terrorism, but that was never their main goal. The main goal was always defending Israel.

John Kiriakou (Author, journalist and former CIA officer specializing in the Middle East). Israel’s negative influence on the U.S. national security state.

I was recruited into the CIA by an undercover agent working as a grad school advisor. I started by writing papers no one read. Bored, I moved into counter-terrorism operations. After ten years in the field I came back and the 9/11 hit. When I joined the CIA in 1990 an FBI agent addressed us and said that the Israeli embassy was unusual in that it had two declared officers and 187 undeclared officers spread all over America in academia and the defense industry. I passed on the opportunity to go to Jerusalem and went to Bahrain instead. The man who took the position in Israel found himself subject to a campaign of harassments. They came home from a party one night to find all their furniture rearranged. On another occasion, they came home to find that someone defalcated in all four toilets. A third time they found their dog’s tail had been cut off and reattached with tape. On a fourth occasion they found thousands of dollars in Christmas presents stolen. The Israelis do such things all the time. We never do such things to the Israelis. In counter-terrorism we want lots of cooperation and we rarely said no to anyone who offered to cooperate. None were more cooperative than the Palestinians, and the State Department has found the same thing. The warm relationships with Palestinians (and all Arabs) at CIA and State is not duplicated at the White House or Congress where the Israeli Lobby prevents it.

I worked with Chas Freeman in Riyadh. He is an honest giant in diplomacy, but AIPAC prevented him from being confirmed as Obama’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for National Security, but Israel said no. Senators told Obama that there is no way they could confirm him over Israel’s objections.

Of fourteen people asked to be trained in the enhanced interrogation program, I was the only one to refuse. We learned those techniques from the Israelis. The CIA says they are not doing it any more, but we have no way of knowing.

Gideon Levy (Haaretz). The nature of democracy and human rights in Israel.

We can’t start this conversation without talking about Ukraine. On the second day of the war Israel’s foreign minister condemned the “violation of the international order.” Israeli has the highest level of self-denial, but Ukraine has left Israel naked. They have mainly remained silent because they need Russian indulgence for their attacks on Syria. The huge Israeli rescue operations on behalf of its own citizens in Ukraine and other Jews revealed Israel’s racism. Non-Jewish refugees must pay a $3,000 cash deposit at the airport and agree to leave within a months. This from the state that was built on condemning the world for (except for Sweden and Denmark) closing their gates to Jewish refugees in the 1930s. They salute the Ukrainians for throwing Molotov Cocktails at the occupiers while at the same time they shoot dead Palestinians for throwing Molotov Cocktails at the tanks of the occupiers of their country.  Jewish Supremacy is the core of Zionism. Laws that apply to every other country of the world do not apply to Israel, because we are a special case. This government does not differ from its predecessors in this respect. It is not just the state, but citizens of Israel who believe Jewish lives are the most valuable of all and those of Palestinians the least valuable. It might be that Israel’s initial failure to stand with the West may have a positive outcome. Westerners might finally begin to ask, “This is our ally?” The main difference between these two occupations is that the Russian one has been for ten days and the Israeli one for 70 years. As has been noted the ICC is investigating Russian war crimes after one week, while we are still waiting for the investigation of Israeli war crimes that have gone on for over fifty years. All the the “peace efforts” were aimed not at ending the occupation but at making the occupation easier. There are no signs that the occupation will ever end, but we may be surprised as we were by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the fall of apartheid in South Africa. If you do not call it apartheid, what word do have for a village deprived of water and electricity next door to a settlement on land taken from those villagers with plentiful water and electricity? What is your word for the plight of a people who are citizens of no country whatsoever? Golda Meir said, “After the Holocaust the Jews have the right to do whatever they want.” Ask any Israeli Jew if Palestinians love their children like Israelis love their children and you’ll get a lecture. But I have never seen such devotion to their children as shown by Palestinians who struggle to care for and educate their children under unbelievable conditions.

How can Israelis be so oblivious to what is happening less than an hour from them? First, the Israel media self-censors. They can be very good at investigative reporting except when it comes to challenging Jewish supremacy. For example, everyone on Hamas is a “senior” official. This is not a joke. When the IDF killed a 7 year-old boy the press reported it had killed a “senior” Hamas official. Also at fault is the Israeli left. It pains me  to say it. It was the left and not the right that started the settlement project. But worse, they are the “laundry” that allows Israelis to feel good about themselves. The last mechanism that enables Israeli self-delusion is the international community. Can you imagine the Israeli community disconnected from SWIFT? Would the occupation last ten hours or twenty hours? The hope of people like me is in people like you. The two-state solution might have been the best solution, but that train has left the station, and to continue to talk about it only serves to perpetuate the occupation. The only solution is one state, one person, one vote. You must choose between a Jewish state or a democracy. Sanctions must enter the international discourse. Why is it moral to boycott the meat industry for killing animals but immoral to boycott Israel for committing war crimes?

Sut Jhally (University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Media Education Foundation). Are U.S. news organizations getting better or worse in their Middle East reporting?

Students should not be the ones on the front lines defending against attempts to shut down free speech at universities. When I was on the front lines at U. Mass, the university president was happy to defend me against CAMERA and the rest of the right wing, but the moment pressure came from donors, he caved. When asked what he would do if he was ruler of the state, he said he rectify the language, that is control the language by which people understood the world. You need no police if you control peoples thoughts. The Israel Lobby has mastered this technique and reframed vicious settler-colonialism into the defense of civilization against Barbaric terrorists. This was not always the case. When Israel killed 17,000 and injured 30,000 mostly civilians in the 1982 war on Lebanon in the 1980s some in the media took note. This would not happen today. The “Hasbara” project, drawing on the expertise of marketing executive Carl Spielvogel (famous for rebranding Miller light), now frames the media response in advance. Talking points are developed with focus groups. Pollster Frank Luntz (famous for reframing the “estate tax” as the “death tax”) wrote up his recommendations in The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary. The key recommendation is that Israel must talk about “terror not territory.” Israel will lose any discussion of the history of the land dispute. It will win if it keeps using the word “terrorism.” The only problem is the imbalance casualties on the Palestinian side. The solution is to express sympathy for the innocent Palestinians hurt and then immediately pivot to Israeli victims or, since there are relatively few of them, on “rockets raining down” on your cities. Israeli behavior must always be presented as a reaction to unprovoked Palestinian violence. The difference between advertising and Israeli propaganda is that in advertising you know who is speaking, but Israeli words are put into the mouths of “hapless and helpless” American journalists making propaganda appear like news. Does Jake Tapper know what he is doing or is he just completely deluded? But with the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the land grab at Sheikh Jarrah something different has happened. The Palestinian-American community has managed to crack into the mainstream media. I think this is the result of work like Phillip Weiss and the voice of elected Palestinian officials, and of Bernie Sanders who actually mentioned Palestinian rights in a Presidential debate, as well as the Black Lives Matter Movement, which has put liberal Zionists in an awkward position. Israeli officials are terrified of the international consequences of the increasing use of the word “apartheid.” Social media is relatively free from the usual controls, although there are efforts now to impose control. There has even been a break on Fox News where Geraldo Rivera (!) shocked fellow Fox personality by just stating the facts about Gaza. I think that the shift is in part due to the establishment of context. When focus shifted to evictions at Sheikh Jarrah the story no longer started with Hamas rockets. It will be hard to get the genie back in the bottle, especially for younger generations. The categories of language are created by human beings and can be changed by human beings. It is there that the struggle will be fought.

Don Wagner (Recently retired national program director of Friends of Sabeel-North America). Christian Zionism and growing backlash inside American churches.

On March 2, Pat Robertson predicted that God is using Putin to prepare the way for Armageddon. I grew up with that. I pulled out of it at age thirteen, but when I went to seminary I was confronted with mainline Christian and Catholic Zionism rooted in a reaction to the Holocaust that forced progressives to be good on every issue except this one. For me the struggle between the Palestinians and the Zionists began not in Palestine at all, but in Europe in the 1840-1900 period when mainly Christian anti-Semitism provoked European Jews to conclude that they would never be safe outside a a homeland of their own due to “Judeophobia.” While political Zionism was formally launched in 1897, they were preceded by four hundred years of Christian Zionism. One practitioner was William Heckler who adopted political Zionism after meeting Theodore Herzl, who called Heckler the father of Christian Zionists. Another was William E. Blackstone who organized the first Zionist lobby in 1891, financed by John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, petitioning to create a Jewish State in Palestine, six years before the first Zionist Congress. The movement of John Hagee has now become more numerical powerful than the Jewish Zionist Lobby, AIPAC and all of the others.

In 1967, Christians were 13% of the West Bank population. Today they are less than 1%, not because of militant Islam, as the Zionists would have us believe, but because of the brutality of the occupation. In 2020  a group of Christians met in Jerusalem and issued what they called “a cry for hope” calling on not just churches but the global Muslim and Jewish community as well to take urgent action to organize legislative action, theological analyses against misuse of the Bible, solidarity with Palestinians, and using all the tools of nonviolent action, especially BDS, stand with Jews in fighting anti-Semitism, and come and see the situation on the ground in Palestine. Three additional demands have come from churches in the US: declare Christian Zionism a heresy; close the tax loopholes that benefit Zionist organizations and the apartheid system; decolonize Palestine. Our hope is the next generation.

Roger Waters (Musician). The positive impact of artist boycotts targeting Israel and how to educate fans.

I need a microscope to find the positive impact of artist boycotts targeting Israel because for the most part my colleagues ignore me. One positive thing is principled pro-Palestinian stance by the the New Zealand Musician Lorde. Anyone who agrees with the UN Declaration of Human Rights must ask whether they will stand behind that agreement or cross over to the other side. The claim of some of my fellow performers that they perform in Israel to promote peace is BS. Such gigs are inordinately lucrative and doing them normalizes occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the routine slaughter of unarmed protestors. Accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against me are a smokescreen. My opposition to Myanmar persecution of Muslims does not make me anti-Buddhist. I urge all people young and old alike, including Madonna, to read the Declaration of Human Rights. Were we all to abide by that document we might yet save our home from its imminent destruction. Australian musician Nick Cave accused me of trying to censor his music, but this is not about music, it is about human rights. Would he have the same arrogant unconcern if it were his demolished home, his invaded country, his villages and trees razed to the ground, his brothers and sisters in refugee camps, victims of ethnic cleansing? Of all the social issues in which I am involved this is the one the provokes, by far, the most condemnation.

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

When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom

Friday, February 11th, 2022

[In her book “The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom,” Sahar Aziz applies critical race theory to ask how it is that a country that privileges religious freedom has an open rabid Islamophobia. This is my summary of her ideas presented at an online book forum organized by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding on February 9, 2022.]

There is an interconnectedness of race and religion in American identity. Religious freedom has always been racially constrained. Rather than act independently, race and religion are elements in an interconnected hierarchy. What is often perceived as religious bigotry is actually racism. Whiteness, like blackness, is a social construction and is no longer understood as it was 250 years ago. It was Anglo-Saxon protestants who enjoyed normative presumptions (such as the presumption of innocence).  Italian and Irish Catholic immigrants, like Eastern European Jewish immigrants, were legally considered white, but were not perceived as socially equal. What we today would call their national origin impeded their status, but it was racial quality in that it was understood as an innate inferiority. There has been a shift in how their identity is seen. They are seen now as whites with a different ethnicity. Today, if they successfully assimilate, cease speaking their ancestral language, and move into prosperous neighborhoods, their national origin is seen as endearing rather than threatening. They have gained agency. The line of inclusion has been expanded, but it is still restricted to Europeans.

In the past it was argued that Catholics could never be loyal Americans because their primary loyalty must always be to the Pope, and the same held for Jews whose primary loyalty must always be to the Jewish people. The Cold War and the Holocaust forced much of the change in the perception of Catholics and Jews. Protestants realized that Catholics were a natural ally against the “Godless Communists.” The immigration quotas that were specifically intended to exclude southern and eastern Europeans and laws meant to exclude Asians and Africans were dropped in the 1965 immigration reform. Yet, a series of key events such as the creation of Israel, the oil embargo, the 9/11 attacks, etc., have racialized Muslim identity. Each event was accompanied by an influx of media images that erased the existence of Arab Christians and Jews, homogenizing Muslims as an undemocratic misogynistic racialized other.

Often scholars discussing racialization introduce a distinction between “Good Muslims” and “Bad Muslims.” Coercive assimilation is the tax Muslims must pay to avoid being classified as bad. The subgroup most harmed by racialization is the pious, practicing, politically dissident Muslim. For example a bearded man or hijabi woman who oppose the occupation of Iraq, or who think America is pro-Israeli to the point of ignoring the rights of Palestinians, or who are opposed to American alliances with Middle East dictators, are the first to be targets of surveillance, sting operations, screening at airports, etc. The public sees this and believes it is permissible to suspect and discriminate against such people on the grounds that they form the threat to our religious freedom. Polls show Americans have unfavorable views of Muslims ranging from 50 to 70%. These Americans do not want for Muslims what they want for themselves because they see them as an inferior race. For a long time Mormons were call “Muhammadan Turks” because of their practice of polygyny despite the fact that most of them were Anglo-Saxon.

This hostility starts with the religious dissident, but it comes to include all the pious and the secular dissidents as well. Only the apolitical, nonpracticing, assimilated Muslim is accepted, and the former Muslim becomes politically weaponized, paid (well) to go on book tours to validate the perception that any religious Muslim is not a good person.

Muslims in America are the most diverse group by almost any standard (ethnically, racially, immigration status, etc.). About one-third of American Muslims are African-American. Probably 40% of the slaves brought here were Muslims. If caught practicing their religion they would be beaten. Initially forbidden to practice any religion, they were eventual forced to become Protestants. With the closing down of the slave trade there were fewer slaves knowledgeable in the religion of Islam to teach new generations. In the twentieth century Drew Ali instituted the Moorish Science Church, and the Nation of Islam was established, both tying Black nationalism with some version of Islam. After the death of Elijah Muhammad, his son Warith Deen Mohamed brought the group into Sunni Islam, with Louis Farrakhan splitting off to try maintain the Nation of Islam as it had been.

The fear of the “Great Replacement” is not new. A hundred years ago, in the era of eugenics, it was expressed as the fear of the “Mongrelization” of the nation by the White Supremacists of that era in response to immigration at that time. (In the U.S. Immigration Commission’s 1911 “Dictionary of Races” there were 42 races of which 36 were from Europe.) To stem the increasing racial polarization, we must find a way to ameliorate the existing segregation.

The problem with the “color-blind narrative” perpetuated by some conservatives is that it is only superficially color-blind in a system in which various proxies for overt racism serve the same purpose of keeping some groups down. It allows racists to pretend that the system is a meritocracy in which the reason some groups are advantaged over others is because of an inferred inherent superiority.

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

The Two State Solution Is Dead: What Next?

Friday, January 14th, 2022

[On January 13, 2022, Jonathan Kuttab moderated a Nonviolence International discussion of what comes next in Israel/Palestine now that the two-state solution is dead. Discussants were Jeff Halper, author of Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: Zionism, Settler Colonialism, and the Case for One Democratic State, and Noura Erakat. author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. This is my summary of highlights of the program.]

Jeff Halper opened the discussion by asserting that the two-state solution is premised on a fallacy.  It is an attempt at conflict resolution (or at least conflict management) to an issue with two sides, each of which has some legitimacy.  To the contrary, he denies that Zionism has any legitimacy. He does not deny that Jews have a genuine affiliation with the land, but rather rejects the premise of Zionism that ONLY Jews have any rights in the land. His position is that as a colonial settler state Israel cannot accept granting any part of the land to which they make an exclusive claim to another party. Palestinians may leave, be eliminated, or even stay (as long as they know their place), but no claim of theirs to legitimacy to the land, or to any part of it,  may ever be recognized.  One attendee noted how this parallels Canadian (and also U.S.) attitudes towards the indigenous people, to which I replied that that is precisely the meaning of “The land without a people for the people without a land.”

Noura Erakat noted that Zionist colonization from the beginning viewed itself as part of a European project that rejects everything indigenous to the land, to the point that even the indigenous Jews were required to reject their Arab language and heritage. It is not about an indigenous resurgence, but about colonization. It was the weak position of Palestinians that led them into the Oslo trap. But Oslo was an autonomy plan, not a two-state solution, as has become clear. What is the pathway to de-Zionization? We need Jewish Israelis to reject Zionism. This is a spiritual transformation, not just a political one. It requires a rejection of the notion that Zionism is exceptional and unlike other settler-colonial movements. She called for a rejection of privatization of land in favor of making it a Palestinian commons, which, as I objected in the chat, is effectively calling for the Palestinian movement to turn into a mirror image of the Zionist project.

In response to the question of what would a solution offer Israeli Jews, Halper said he envisions a democracy with equal rights, both individual and collective, for everyone. An open question is would it be a binational state or a unitary state. Many Palestinians reject bi-nationalism as a Zionist idea. A book How Do Settlers Become Natives? puts its finger on the problem: Once Israeli Jews abandon colonialism they become “sufficiently nativized” that they can go on with their lives, which is what everyone wants. Halper does not believe that an anti-Zionist movement among Israeli Jews will happen.  The ANC never tried to get the Whites in South Africa to overthrow apartheid.  The FLN in Algeria also knew they would never get the French settlers to reject their status. Halper says we’ll try to bring in as many Israeli Jews as we can, but it will always be a fraction of a percent of the population and Palestinians must go to the international community which is their most powerful ally. Then the Israeli Jews will, like the Whites of South Africa, see that they have no choice.

Erakat asked why would the privileged ever give up their privileges? They need an incentive. We must offer a situation to which Israeli Jews can feel they belong and in which they can feel safe. Zionism never combatted White supremacy, but internalized a racial hierarchy that was used against them and turned it against the Palestinians. Anti-racism is an entry point for a joint movement that, unlike Zionism, can effectively fight anti-Semitism. Our battle against White supremacy in the United States in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement is part of that effort. The ANC never collaborated with the apartheid government, but the PLO has. The PLO hasn’t even endorsed the BDS movement beyond the West Bank and Gaza.

In response to an objection that the speakers offered no practical roadmap, Erakat argued that freedom movements offer visions, not roadmaps. Attendee Gerald Serotta expressed the view (with which I agree) that Jonathan Kuttab’s book Beyond the Two State Solution is very practical.

Another attendee suggested that churches need to do a better job of refuting Christian Zionism. He noted that on a global basis the churches delegitimized South African apartheid making mobilization against it much easier. Halper agreed that Christian Zionism has an impact well beyond the Evangelical movement. He felt churches need to begin to think more politically.

A member of an Israeli group seeking a federal solution the problem, asked if stressing commonality between the peoples might not be a more promising route. Erakat responded that the common ground is opposition to oppression.

One attendee asked how you deal with Israeli Jewish fears of living in a Muslim-majority state. Mary Neznek (a regular participant in the “Friends of Palestine” Zoom meetings hosted by the Minaret of Freedom Institute) argued that given America’s role as enabler, American politics is essential and asked what U.S. citizens can do.

Erakat emphasized that Palestinians do not object to Jewish presence in the land. Most Palestinians are secular and the religious ones respect Jews as “People of the Book.” Jews are welcome as neighbors, but not as conquerors. Her hope for change in the U.S. is in the effect of a transnational movement.

Halper argued that hard work and organization and “a hard-headed strategy” is what is required. There is already one state here; it is Israel. We don’t need to make one state, we need to end settler-colonialism. Why do people only ask about Israeli security and not Palestinian security, when it is the Palestinians who are the least secure? The colonized can never accept their oppressed status and will always resist. As South Africa showed, once you reach a just resolution with equal rights for everyone the security issue goes away. Those who want a detailed program will find one at onestatecampaign.org. As for a common goal, Halper noted that neither the Palestinian nor Israeli soccer teams have ever made it to the World Cup.  A single team with the best of players from both those teams would be something for which both Israelis and Palestinians could cheer. Bi-nationalism perpetuates borders between us that he would like to see fall.

Kuttab said that what is ultimately important is to address the needs, wants, and concerns of ordinary people. States exist to serve and have no right to exist on their own. He emphasized the necessity of nonviolent tools to bring about a desirable solution.

Mubarak Awad closed the meeting with the observation that people hunger for justice and the purpose of such programs is to motivate people to work to help Palestinians and Israelis by speaking out without fear for human rights and against oppression, discrimination, and war. Noting the recent death of a great advocate of freedom and human rights, he called “for more of us to take the place of Desmond Tutu.”

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

Religion and Populism

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

[On January 6, 2022, the Council on Foreign Relations held an on-the-record discussion of the relationship between religion and populism, and how this relationship is affecting the politics of Europe and the United States, featuring Jocelyne Cesari, chair of religion and politics at the University of Birmingham, and Tobias Cremer, junior research fellow in religion and the frontier challenges at Pembroke College, Oxford. This is my summary of some highlights of that program.]

Jocelyn Cesari sought to make a distinction between the American and European populist movements based on the fact that the European is Christian in identity only and, unlike the American movement, makes no attempt to impose Christian morality through the state. Tobias Cremer recognized that the fundamentalist Evangelicals are not the only members of the American populist movement.

Cesari argued that America was founded as an inclusivist, rather than exclusivist, Christian country.  I pointed out in the chat that, according to the 1797 treaty of Tripoli, ratified by a Senate that included many of the founding fathers, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Cesari noted that America is the only country that truly separates religion from state, notwithstanding the religious dimensions of its founding. She offered Martin Luther King as an example of a Christian motivated inclusivism. In America, the Christian populists want laws against abortion, while in Europe they want laws against hijab. In Europe populists see Islam as a direct threat to freedom of women. In America people with a high degree of religiosity do not advocate exclusivity.

Cremer argued that white Christian nationalism is not a matter of religious practice, rather, there is an anti-correlation between church attendance and populism. There are people who say they became Evangelicals because of Donald Trump, but they do not attend church.

A Muslim participant mentioned Abu Kalam Azad along with Martin Luther King and Ghandi in the context of  religious political actors whose use of religious texts had an influence on their movements. He recommended Richard Bulliet’s The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization. Cesari argued that the divide in America is not only religious but even more an economic and especially a class divide.

In response to a question about the populist appropriation of Christian and pagan symbols, Cremer noted that some see Christianity as a Jewish sect rather than a white European religion and accordingly adopt pagan European symbols. I noted that the Nazis appropriated the swastika. A member of the World Parliament of Religions responded, “The swastika is an ancient sacred and very auspicious symbol of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and those communities are now seeking to correct misperceptions based on 20th century history and to reclaim the symbol.” I suggested that perhaps the anti-correlation between religiosity and populism observed Christians in the West may also apply to Hindus in India.

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

In Memorium: Mahmoud Ayoub, Robert Crane, and Safei El-Deen Hameed

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

Among the remarkable Muslims who passed away in 2021 were three who, in different ways, supported the Minaret of Freedom Institute.

Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub, one of the most outstanding scholars of his time, was knowledgeable in both Islamic jurisprudence and in Sufism.  We were honored to work with him on a number of occasions and to benefit not only from his knowledge and insights but from his profound love. His work advanced both inter-faith and intra-faith cooperation. His ideas are often cited on our website, including his insistence that no matter how much he disagreed with the words or actions of anyone who called himself a Muslim, he would never deny the he is Muslim, but only say he is wrong or mistaken.

Dr. Robert Farooq Crane was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the work of the Minaret of Freedom Institute. An old-fashioned paleoconservative who converted to Islam while he was a diplomat in the Muslim world, he despised seeing traditional institution being hijacked for imperialistic purposes or to justify oppression. He saw in Islam’s commitment to social justice, as he saw in his own Cherokee heritage, an expression of commitment to “every person’s human right to ownership of the means of production,” which he called “the just third way.” His motto was “own or be owned.”

Dr. Safei El-Deen Hameed was most intimately connected with the Minaret of Freedom Institute, having served on our Board of Directors from 2016 until his death. He was especially interested in the relationship of Islam and science. His concerns for the difficulties of civil society in his native Egypt helped him to appreciate how our work on Islam’s encouragement of rationality and inductive science was related to our concerns over human rights abuses against and within the Muslim community. His passing is a personal loss for us.

May Allah forgive them all and grant them paradise and comfort their family and loved ones.

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

Tunisia’s Democracy Under Threat

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

[These are my notes from the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy program on “Tunisia’s Democracy Under Threat: What is at Stake for the MENA region?” held on October 26, 2021, moderated by Khalil Jahshan (Executive Director of the Arab Center in Washington DC). These notes summarize my impression of selected highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription. I have retained the first person voice in my paraphrase for convenience. I bear responsibility for any errors.]

Jaouhar Ben Mbarek (Prof. of Constitutional Law and one of the main leaders of the anti-coup movement in Tunisia): President Kais Saied’s power grab was enabled by Tunisia’s failure to deal with the economic and social issues that gave rise to the Arab spring.  The progress towards democratic government did not improve the daily lives of the Tunisian people. Saied assumes that the public toleration of his authoritarian exercise of executive power in the absence of a counterbalancing legislature to this point will continue in the future. He refuses to establish the constitutional court on the grounds that it can only be done by constitutional amendment yet the constitution cannot be amended in the absence of a constitutional court. He interprets his position as head of the armed forces as meaning that he is also head of the security forces. He would take away direct election of the legislators at the same time that he institutes direct election of the president. A vocabulary of demonization has arisen unseen since the fascist era in which he describes his political opponents as demons who must be stoned as the demons at Mecca are stoned. Now that his populist narrative that his will is the will of the people has been challenged by the rise of popular movements in opposition to his rule, he has switched to a narrative in which he is the state itself.

Radwan Masmoudi (President of The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy, Washington DC): When Saied outlined his intentions during his campaign I thought it was a joke because it seemed impossible for him to dissolve parliament, nor could he get the army, which has historically stayed out of Tunisian politics, to support him. However, with promises of logistical and financial support of Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, he has moved forward with his plans.  Phase one, on July 25 was a “temporary” closing of parliament for some unidentified crisis for one month. On August 23, he indefinitely extended the closing of the parliament. On September 22 he suspended the constitution completely, openly ruling by decree, denying any other party a legal right to challenge his decrees.

Nader Hashemi (University of Denver): The axis of Arab autocracies backing the coup are allies of the U.S., and some of them have become allies of Israel under the “Abraham Accords.” The rise of the dictatorship has been hailed by these quarters as a victory over “the Muslim Brotherhood.” Saied no longer needs to depend on direct aid from the U.S. or the E.U.  There will be strings to the aid: no return to democracy and the complete removal of the Ennahda Party from politics. While these countries are implacable enemies of democracy, they are also strong allies of the U.S. which provides a path for U.S. pressure. [Which Joe Biden will never exert, because of his support of Israel-IDA.]

Sarah Leah Wilson (Executive Director, Democracy for the Arab World Now, Washington DC): The U.S. government has deliberately avoided labeling what happened as a coup because they don’t want to be forced to suspend aid. Contrast this to Biden’s response to Sudan in which the Biden administration has quickly announced suspension of $17 million in assistance. Perhaps Biden would defend the distinction by the relative absence of popular resistance to the Tunisian coup. Democracy in Tunisia did not produce desired economic consequences, but Tunisian unions and business associations are beginning to realize that Saied is producing no improvement there either. We advocate that the U.S. should suspended assistance because the bulk of that assistance was instituted as a reward for the now-aborted transition to democracy.

Jaouhar Ben Mbarek: Ten years of democracy building were insufficient to establish a broad culture of democracy. The wide majority of Tunisians are not concerned with institution building; they were looking for an improvement in their daily lives. Instead of a decentralization of economic power, we remained in an economy dominated by a number of aristocratic families. This was accompanied by a polarization between the political Islamists and the secularists that permitted the enemies of democracy to blame Islamists for the failures and convince the public that the fall of democracy was an acceptable price to pay for the destruction of political Islam.

Radwan Masmoudi: We did not yet have  democracy in Tunisia. Building a democracy requires at least twenty years, so we cannot blame democracy for the corruption and inefficiency and bureaucracy that was still in place. A lot of economic reforms are needed, but they also take time.

Nader Hashemi: The existence of democracy anywhere in the Arab world is an existential threat to the authoritarian states in the region. The Emiratis and the Saudis have repeatedly warned Western diplomats that socio-political pluralism will lead to chaos in the region.

Sarah Leah Wilson: If there is a big enough economic bailout, the new prime minister may have a chance to survive, but the installation of a woman prime minister by these means is an insult to all who want to see women in elected positions of power.

Radwan Masmoudi: The intelligence communities of the U.S. and the E.U. have the proof of the foreign intervention into Tunisia. A friend in the Tunisian government has confirmed the influx of Egyptians military officers in Tunis. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain sent representatives to Tunis within days of the coup to express their support.

Nader Hashemi: I can show you a Wikileaks cable arguing that you cannot allow democracy in the Arab world.

Radwan Masmoudi: We have many who are disappointed by the lack of economic growth, but remember that the Coronavirus has contributed to the decline of the economy in the past year and a half. Democracy has to deliver, but it takes time. You wouldn’t ask a one-year-old baby, why have you not written a book or built a house? The Tunisians I know are not going to give up this fight. They love their freedom and their right to criticize the government. Even North Korea has a parliament. There is a democratic way to resolve this dispute.  Instead of propaganda polling, have elections and let people choose.

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

What Happened in Afghanistan?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

It seems everyone is asking some version of the question “What happened in Afghanistan?” Of course, what happened is exactly what many predicted from the moment the invasion of that country was announced almost twenty years ago.  While not everyone can be expected to understand the reasons why America’s defeat was a foregone conclusion, everyone, surely, must have heard of Afghanistan’s reputation as “the graveyard of empires.” The British council not conquer the land, nor the Soviets.  The notion that an American exceptionalism extended to occupation of a land in which the usual tools of state control (such as last names, forget about Social Security numbers) are in rare use was absurd from the outset. As for the chaotic withdrawal, that was a given.  Other withdrawals have been more chaotic. Not just Vietnam. Remember Dunkirk?

Americans never even have grasped why their government invaded Afghanistan in the first place. It was not about establishing democracy or about women’s rights.  The reason that the U.S. government turned against the Taliban (a movement that they created in collaboration with the Saudis and Pakistanis) had zero to do with the reactionary interpretation of Islamic law they had been taught by the Saudis.  (Actually, the Taliban version is even more harsh than that of their Saudi teachers.  The Saudis have contact with their mothers, sisters and aunties which smooths the rough edged of their ideology.  The original Taliban were students (that’s what the Arabic word talibān means) in orphanages who knew no female relatives.) The reason for the invasion was simply that the Taliban refused to extradite bin Ladin after 9/11, deeming the evidence the U.S. provided of his role in the attack unconvincing. That was it. On this account the invasion should have ended when bin Ladin was assassinated.

The mystery is not why the Taliban defeated the American’s puppet government.  The mystery is how they managed to dislodge the government in a single day.  This, I admit, surprised even me.  In retrospect, however, I understand how it happened.  I knew the government was corrupt, I just didn’t realize how corrupt. Now everyone knows.

So now the question on everyone’s mind is will the Taliban be as oppressive as they were the first time around.  God knows best, but I doubt it.  They are not as naïve as they were the first time out. It noteworthy that violations of their promise of general amnesty have been so few that the warmongers in America have had to resort to trying to blame them for the attack at the Kabul airport by their sworn enemy, ISIS-K. The Taliban intend to rule over a society as divided and therefore (almost) as ungovernable by any of its domestic factions as it is by the foreigners who have tried and failed throughout history. They will either learn to moderate their domestic interventionism to the point at which the people tolerate it or the people will not tolerate it and they too shall join the great empires in the dustbin of history to which the people of Afghanistan have relegated them.

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

The Hamas Charter

Monday, June 28th, 2021

The original HAMAS charter, written in 1987 by a single person and adopted in the crush of the first intifada in 1988 without critical scrutiny, has been an embarrassment to HAMAS to the extent that it is still cited by Zionist propagandists years after its replacement in 2017.  The new and official HAMAS charter is available online. Contrary to the wishful thinking of some it contains no acceptance of the Israeli state as a Zionist entity.  Contrary to the wishes of the Hasbara propagandists, it contains no declarations of hostility towards Judaism as a religion or to or Jews as practitioners of their own faith tradition. Nor does it reject armed resistance. Rather, it makes clear that the resistance is directed against occupation and settler colonialism and would do so regardless of the religious affiliation of the occupiers whether they were Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.

Some would like to dismiss the 2017 charter as a mere attempt to sanitize HAMAS’s image. Yet, the document explains HAMAS’s position in 42 articles and cannot be ignored by anyone who, for whatever reason, wants to know what HAMAS’s current position is on the conflict that affects not just the lives of millions of Israelis and Palestinians but, through  geopolitics and American domestic politics, affects the lives of billions around the world. Diplomats, activists, and intellectuals take notice.

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

Stop Anti-Semitism Now

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

You have heard reports of an upswing in anti-Semitic (i.e., anti-Jewish) incidents lately, and in any case anti-Semitism was already a serious problem with over half of the religiously based hate crimes in the U.S. being directed against Jews. A concern has been expressed that at a time of rising opposition to Israeli aggression, the condemnation of attacks on Jews because of their religion or ethnicity has been muted.  We appeal to all lovers of justice to rise to the occasion and oppose anti-Jewish bigotry in the strongest terms NOW. We invite you to join forces with us to condemn three groups of bigots who attack Jews out of confusion between or an attempt to sow confusion between protesting Zionism and hating Jews.

The first group is those who claim to support the Palestinians but don’t seem to understand that the problem bedeviling the Palestinians is rooted in the same sort of crude collectivism they themselves exhibit when they misdirect anger over Zionist violence against people who identify as Jewish for religious or ethnic reasons.  A man is not a villain for wearing a yarmulke.  Even if he does support the Israeli policies of settler colonialism and apartheid, it is for those things he must be criticized, not his yarmulke. If he engaged in a peaceful demonstration in support of Israel, you have no right to violently interfere with his right to peacefully demonstrate his bigotry in public. I do not know who you are, whether you are just sorely misguided or a cynical opportunist, but unless you can strip your support for Palestinian rights of gratuitous violence against Jews, your support is neither helpful nor desired.

The second group whose anti-Semitism we must condemn are those neo-Nazis who declare “Hitler was right.”  Hitler was NOT right. His policies were the same collectivist nationalism we denounce in Zionism, taken to an even more vicious extreme. When you say “Hitler was right” you are saying Zionist nationalism doesn’t go far enough. Your views are the opposite of those of us who call for the defense of the rights of all human beings and oppose the dehumanization of any human beings. All people have basic human rights.   Any friend of Hitler’s is an enemy of ours.

The third group whose anti-Semitism must be condemned are the Zionists themselves. Their attempts to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism fuel the passions of the anti-Semites in the other two groups. They also slur the many Jews who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the demand for the end of apartheid and settler-colonialism. Zionists often conflate Judaism with Zionism, but progressive Jews like Jewish Voice for Peace know that Judaism stands for justice not oppression, and religious Jews like the Neturei Karta know that Zionism poses a threat not just to Palestinian rights but to the religion of Judaism itself. Like my dear late friend Murray Rothbard and so many others, all these good people are my allies. I understand that not all Zionists are intolerant of Jews who do not share of their support for the Israeli state, but of those who are I demand that you immediately cease your treacherous attacks on Jews who remain true to Micah’s appeal, “He has told thee, man, what is good and what the L-rd requires of thee. Only to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy G‑d!”

I hope I have condemned anti-Semitism strongly enough. If so, please join me in condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms: the thinly disguised, the overt, and the treacherous.  If I have not been clear enough, just say the word and I’ll condemn it in terms harsher yet.

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