Commentary Magazine


Topic: Organization of the Islamic Conference

Jihadist Prayer Sessions on Capitol Hill?!

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster: Read More

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster:

Randall “Ismail” Royer, a former communications associate for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who confessed in 2004 to receiving jihadist training in Pakistan. He is serving a 20-year prison term.

Esam Omeish, the former president of the Muslim American Society, who was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2007 after calling for “the jihad way,” among other remarks.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was forced to step down from a national terrorism committee post in 1999 for pro-terrorist comments.

— Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, the head of a division of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, considered a foreign agent by the U.S.

While their convictions and most egregious actions postdated their sermons on the Hill, these were controversial, extremist figures. For example:

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, can also be seen at the Awlaki prayer session. Awad has spoken out in support of Hamas and attended a 1993 Hamas meeting in Philadelphia that was wiretapped by the FBI, according to public record and court documents from the Holy Land Foundation trial. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial.

Last year, the FBI severed ties with CAIR due to evidence of the group’s ties to networks supporting Hamas, which the State Department has designated as a terrorist group, according to documents obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a watchdog group.

The staffers who organized this and their defenders will no doubt attribute all the concern to Islamophobia and plead that they are loyal Americans opposed to violent jihad. But here’s the problem: CAIR had “a heavy hand in selecting and bringing in outside guests.” So what is CAIR — which the FBI has tagged as a terrorist front group — doing acting as a sort of  speakers’ bureau for Capitol Hill Muslims?

Even when there was abundant evidence of their terrorist connections, the preachers still led the prayer groups. A case in point is Anwar Hajjaj:

Hajjaj, tax filings show, was president of Taibah International Aid Association, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004 for its ties to a network funneling money to Hamas.

Hajjaj and Usama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah bin Laden, co-founded World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which the FBI has deemed a “suspected terrorist organization” since 1996, according to a complaint filed in New York federal court on behalf of the families of Sept. 11 victims. The judge refused to dismiss the charges against the World Assembly in September, saying the charges against it were “sufficient to demonstrate that they are knowingly and intentionally providing material support to Al Qaeda.” Hajaj’s involvement with CMSA dates back at least to 2006, according to reports.

Fox has other eye-popping examples. So what in the world were the CMSA staffers and their congressional bosses thinking? Are they oblivious to the radical nature of their guests? Or are they sympathetic to their views? But more important, what will Congress do about the CMSA and the congressmen who attended? Isn’t a full investigation warranted at the very least?

Be prepared for the “Islamophobe!” hysterics. We’ve no right to meddle in the prayer groups of Muslims? Oh, yes we do when those attending are jihadists committed to the murder of Americans and those attending are charged with defending our country. And let’s find out who the true “moderate” Muslims are. They will be the ones calling for an inquiry and condemning the jihadist-led prayer sessions.

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Krauthammer and Dean Agree: Obama Blew It

Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency, he writes:

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam’s alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor’s offer to help find another site.

In his own way (with the required sneers at conservatives), Howard Dean, of all people, makes the same point:

This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are “justified” or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong.

But not Obama — the great healer, the no-Blue-America-no-Red-America politician. In reality, Obama is stymied when he can’t charm his opposition or shame them into accepting his position.

We have seen this consistently in his Middle East policy. In fact, it is his habitual mode of Muslim outreach — whether in his fawning engagement of Iran (which demanded neglect of the Green Movement), his failed attempt to dispatch an ambassador to Syria, his Cairo speechifying, or his appointing an envoy, who voiced suspicion of the prosecution of terrorists by his own government, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Obama imagines that by simply telling Muslim leaders (certainly, not democracy advocates or human-rights protesters) what they want to hear, we will improve our image and cool their ire toward the U.S. But this is childlike and shortsighted.

If one is really going to advance our interests or mediate successfully between parties with conflicting interests and values, it won’t do to simply stamp your foot and simply insist everyone show empathy toward and defer to the Muslims’ point of view (or that of one segment of Muslims). It’s not going to win over the 68 percent of Americans. It’s not going to bring peace to the Middle East. It’s not going to make Obama an effective or popular president.

Of course I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. But his excessive deference to Muslim states abroad and now to the American Muslim community has set many Americans’ teeth on edge and fueled conspiratorialists’ suspicions. There’s not much he should or can do about the latter. But the American people, not to mention our allies, sense that there is something very much amiss in all the genuflecting. That, in part, is why the mosque controversy has been so devastating for Obama.

Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency, he writes:

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam’s alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor’s offer to help find another site.

In his own way (with the required sneers at conservatives), Howard Dean, of all people, makes the same point:

This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are “justified” or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong.

But not Obama — the great healer, the no-Blue-America-no-Red-America politician. In reality, Obama is stymied when he can’t charm his opposition or shame them into accepting his position.

We have seen this consistently in his Middle East policy. In fact, it is his habitual mode of Muslim outreach — whether in his fawning engagement of Iran (which demanded neglect of the Green Movement), his failed attempt to dispatch an ambassador to Syria, his Cairo speechifying, or his appointing an envoy, who voiced suspicion of the prosecution of terrorists by his own government, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Obama imagines that by simply telling Muslim leaders (certainly, not democracy advocates or human-rights protesters) what they want to hear, we will improve our image and cool their ire toward the U.S. But this is childlike and shortsighted.

If one is really going to advance our interests or mediate successfully between parties with conflicting interests and values, it won’t do to simply stamp your foot and simply insist everyone show empathy toward and defer to the Muslims’ point of view (or that of one segment of Muslims). It’s not going to win over the 68 percent of Americans. It’s not going to bring peace to the Middle East. It’s not going to make Obama an effective or popular president.

Of course I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. But his excessive deference to Muslim states abroad and now to the American Muslim community has set many Americans’ teeth on edge and fueled conspiratorialists’ suspicions. There’s not much he should or can do about the latter. But the American people, not to mention our allies, sense that there is something very much amiss in all the genuflecting. That, in part, is why the mosque controversy has been so devastating for Obama.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Max Baucus is criticizing Obama’s latest recess appointment, Donald Berwick, who is to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Baucus said he was “‘troubled’ that Obama chose to install Berwich without a formal confirmation process. ‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ Baucus said in a statement.”

Even CNN can’t employ an editor (Octavia Nasr) who bemoans the death of Hezbollah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The New York Times dryly reports: “Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ Ayatollah Fadlallah routinely denounced Israel and the United States, and supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s writings and preachings inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of militants, including the founders of Hezbollah.”

Even Obama has figured out that direct negotiations are the only viable way to proceed with his “peace process.” The Palestinians are now miffed that their patron is starting to wise up. PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat: “I hope [Obama’s deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don’t move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank.”

Even the “international community” will find it difficult to dispute the IDF’s evidence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. It won’t do anything about it, of course.

Even Democrats must realize that this is not the most transparent administration in history: “The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).”

Even Jewish cheerleaders for Obama have to be a little miffed that he — shocking, I know — isn’t going to Israel anytime soon: “President Barack Obama left the impression he had accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but don’t expect the trip any time soon. During Obama’s relationship-patching meetings at the White House on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president and first lady Michelle Obama to come. Netanyahu said, ‘It’s about time.’ Obama replied that he looked forward to it.”

Even the ACLU should be upset about the NASA flap. The administrator said of Obama, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Charles Lane asked, “[S]ince when is it U.S. government policy to offer or refuse cooperation with various nations based on the religion their people practice? Last time I checked, the Constitution expressly forbid the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to ‘reach out’ to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?” A good reason to abolish the ambassadorship to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Even Max Baucus is criticizing Obama’s latest recess appointment, Donald Berwick, who is to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Baucus said he was “‘troubled’ that Obama chose to install Berwich without a formal confirmation process. ‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ Baucus said in a statement.”

Even CNN can’t employ an editor (Octavia Nasr) who bemoans the death of Hezbollah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The New York Times dryly reports: “Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ Ayatollah Fadlallah routinely denounced Israel and the United States, and supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s writings and preachings inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of militants, including the founders of Hezbollah.”

Even Obama has figured out that direct negotiations are the only viable way to proceed with his “peace process.” The Palestinians are now miffed that their patron is starting to wise up. PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat: “I hope [Obama’s deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don’t move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank.”

Even the “international community” will find it difficult to dispute the IDF’s evidence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. It won’t do anything about it, of course.

Even Democrats must realize that this is not the most transparent administration in history: “The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).”

Even Jewish cheerleaders for Obama have to be a little miffed that he — shocking, I know — isn’t going to Israel anytime soon: “President Barack Obama left the impression he had accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but don’t expect the trip any time soon. During Obama’s relationship-patching meetings at the White House on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president and first lady Michelle Obama to come. Netanyahu said, ‘It’s about time.’ Obama replied that he looked forward to it.”

Even the ACLU should be upset about the NASA flap. The administrator said of Obama, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Charles Lane asked, “[S]ince when is it U.S. government policy to offer or refuse cooperation with various nations based on the religion their people practice? Last time I checked, the Constitution expressly forbid the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to ‘reach out’ to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?” A good reason to abolish the ambassadorship to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

When debating illegal immigration, let’s remember who wants to come here: “those ill-used souls who, having braved coyotes both literal and figurative to get here, are now, with the submissive resignation of the most forbearing lama, slaving away washing dishes in restaurant kitchens, or bent double picking grapes in Napa, or cleaning the toilets of people who look right through them as if they were not flesh and blood, and whose children are serving honorably in the United States military.” Read the whole thing.

When looking for media bias, you can always count on the New York Times. In this hatchet job, it’s pretty obvious that the Humane Society and MADD roped the Gray Lady into going after their antagonist, the libertarian activist Richard Berman, who seems to be doing nothing illegal despite the Times‘s inferences. (Indeed, the IRS investigated a Berman entity and “found nothing that would warrant a revocation of its tax exemption.”)

When world leaders awoke from their Obama daze, they reacted like many Americans: “They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West. Obama feels, fairly enough, that America must be contrite in its dealings with the Muslim world. … America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies.”

When will Jewish non-leaders start demanding that we withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council? “The United States and its allies suffered a series of setbacks at the United Nations on Friday as the Human Rights Council flirted with media censorship and was poised to elevate an anti-American politician and a Cuban to key positions. Concerns about censorship were raised after the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has tremendous sway in the United Nations, successfully pushed through a resolution that creates a watchdog to monitor how religion is portrayed in the media.” (And for this, we needed a new ambassador to the OIC? Doesn’t seem like the ambassador is persuading the OIC of anything — or is the point to demonstrate that we don’t care to oppose its totalitarian impulses?)

When you see evidence like this, you also see just how lacking in goodwill toward Israel Obama is, such that he would insist the Jewish state be the subject of an inquest: “New footage from the Mavi Marmara was released by the Foreign Ministry on Friday afternoon, this time showing IHH head Bülent Yildirim inciting to violence against Israeli commandos hours before the encounter that claimed the lives of nine Turkish passengers. ‘We follow in the footsteps of the martyrs,’ Yildirim could be seen declaring to a large crowd of activists. ‘You shall see, we will definitely claim one or two victories. … If you send the commandos, we will throw you down from here and you will be humiliated in front of the whole world. … If they board our ship, we will throw them into the sea, Allah willing!'”

When Obama can’t decide whether to send an aircraft carrier to take part in South Korean naval exercises because it might upset North Korea and China – after promising our ally unequivocal support — you get an idea of how much trouble we and our allies are in.

When you return a terrorist to the heart of Wahhabism, guess what happens? “The United States have sent back around 120 Saudis from the detention camp at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, set up after the U.S. launched a ‘war on terror’ following the September 11 attacks by mostly Saudi suicide hijackers sent by al Qaeda.” The Saudi running the fake rehab operation (“religious re-education by clerics and financial help to start a new life”) blames “strong personal ties among former prisoners but also tough U.S. tactics as the reason why some 20 percent of the returned Saudis relapsed into militancy compared to 9.5 percent overall in the rehabilitation program.” The Saudis consider the plan such a smashing success that they are building five new centers. Yes, it is madness for us to facilitate this.

When debating illegal immigration, let’s remember who wants to come here: “those ill-used souls who, having braved coyotes both literal and figurative to get here, are now, with the submissive resignation of the most forbearing lama, slaving away washing dishes in restaurant kitchens, or bent double picking grapes in Napa, or cleaning the toilets of people who look right through them as if they were not flesh and blood, and whose children are serving honorably in the United States military.” Read the whole thing.

When looking for media bias, you can always count on the New York Times. In this hatchet job, it’s pretty obvious that the Humane Society and MADD roped the Gray Lady into going after their antagonist, the libertarian activist Richard Berman, who seems to be doing nothing illegal despite the Times‘s inferences. (Indeed, the IRS investigated a Berman entity and “found nothing that would warrant a revocation of its tax exemption.”)

When world leaders awoke from their Obama daze, they reacted like many Americans: “They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West. Obama feels, fairly enough, that America must be contrite in its dealings with the Muslim world. … America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies.”

When will Jewish non-leaders start demanding that we withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council? “The United States and its allies suffered a series of setbacks at the United Nations on Friday as the Human Rights Council flirted with media censorship and was poised to elevate an anti-American politician and a Cuban to key positions. Concerns about censorship were raised after the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has tremendous sway in the United Nations, successfully pushed through a resolution that creates a watchdog to monitor how religion is portrayed in the media.” (And for this, we needed a new ambassador to the OIC? Doesn’t seem like the ambassador is persuading the OIC of anything — or is the point to demonstrate that we don’t care to oppose its totalitarian impulses?)

When you see evidence like this, you also see just how lacking in goodwill toward Israel Obama is, such that he would insist the Jewish state be the subject of an inquest: “New footage from the Mavi Marmara was released by the Foreign Ministry on Friday afternoon, this time showing IHH head Bülent Yildirim inciting to violence against Israeli commandos hours before the encounter that claimed the lives of nine Turkish passengers. ‘We follow in the footsteps of the martyrs,’ Yildirim could be seen declaring to a large crowd of activists. ‘You shall see, we will definitely claim one or two victories. … If you send the commandos, we will throw you down from here and you will be humiliated in front of the whole world. … If they board our ship, we will throw them into the sea, Allah willing!'”

When Obama can’t decide whether to send an aircraft carrier to take part in South Korean naval exercises because it might upset North Korea and China – after promising our ally unequivocal support — you get an idea of how much trouble we and our allies are in.

When you return a terrorist to the heart of Wahhabism, guess what happens? “The United States have sent back around 120 Saudis from the detention camp at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, set up after the U.S. launched a ‘war on terror’ following the September 11 attacks by mostly Saudi suicide hijackers sent by al Qaeda.” The Saudi running the fake rehab operation (“religious re-education by clerics and financial help to start a new life”) blames “strong personal ties among former prisoners but also tough U.S. tactics as the reason why some 20 percent of the returned Saudis relapsed into militancy compared to 9.5 percent overall in the rehabilitation program.” The Saudis consider the plan such a smashing success that they are building five new centers. Yes, it is madness for us to facilitate this.

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The Shocking Rashad Hussain Interview

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending “hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending “hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: President Obama’s Priorities: Human Rights Be Damned

The UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended in Geneva on Friday, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights. The president insisted that America join the UN’s lead human-rights body for the first time very early in his presidency, and the consequences are now painfully clear. The enemies of democracy and freedom are having a field day at the expense of American interests and values.

The Council is the personal playground of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They hold the balance of power by controlling the Asian and African regional groups, which together form a majority at the Council. The Council’s agenda is accordingly fixated on issues of priority to the Islamic bloc — number one, delegitimizing Israel; number two, trumping free speech in the name of Islam; and number three, avoiding any criticism of human-rights violations in their own backyards. None of which has anything to do with protecting human rights.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

The UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended in Geneva on Friday, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights. The president insisted that America join the UN’s lead human-rights body for the first time very early in his presidency, and the consequences are now painfully clear. The enemies of democracy and freedom are having a field day at the expense of American interests and values.

The Council is the personal playground of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They hold the balance of power by controlling the Asian and African regional groups, which together form a majority at the Council. The Council’s agenda is accordingly fixated on issues of priority to the Islamic bloc — number one, delegitimizing Israel; number two, trumping free speech in the name of Islam; and number three, avoiding any criticism of human-rights violations in their own backyards. None of which has anything to do with protecting human rights.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Do We Ever Leave the Human Rights Council?

It is apparent that the U.S. is not playing any constructive role in holding back the tide of international efforts to delegitimize Israel. This report explains:

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed three resolutions on Wednesday condemning Israel over its policies related to what it called Palestinian and Syrian territories, but the United States voted against them all.

A further resolution, calling for a fund to compensate Palestinians who suffered losses during Israel’s offensive in Gaza 14 months ago, is expected to be passed on Thursday. …

The United States, which itself is in a diplomatic row with Israel over settlements which the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to pursue, told the Council that the three resolutions would do nothing to help peace.

It said the body was too often being used as a platform to single out Israel for condemnation while rights violations by other countries were ignored.

Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday in a row over forged U.K. passports, voted for the settlements resolution, against on Palestinian rights, and abstained on the Syrian vote.

The Council is effectively dominated by a developing country bloc in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has a strong influence and which is routinely supported by China, Russia and Cuba.

A couple of lessons can be drawn from this. First, the decision by the Obami to rejoin the Human Rights Council was disastrous. It has given the group new legitimacy and visibility, and no resolution is too heinous and no hypocrisy too great to impress upon the Obami the importance of leaving this body of thugs. The notion that we are improving the council’s behavior or improving our own standing by sitting by as vote after vote is taken against Israel is farcical.

Second, the U.S.’s “row” with Israel seems to be encouraging not only the thugocracies but also our allies to get into the Israel-bashing act. As Jackson Diehl aptly put it: “Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States. Would Britain have expelled a senior Israeli diplomat Tuesday because of a flap over forged passports if there were no daylight between Obama and Netanyahu? Maybe not.”

Once again, we see the results that flow from the Obami’s fetish with multilateral institutions and from their efforts to prove our bona fides, not to Western democracies, but to the despotic regimes that populate those institutions. Israel’s security and our own credibility are undermined as the world learns there is little downside from taking continual pot shots at the Jewish state.

It is apparent that the U.S. is not playing any constructive role in holding back the tide of international efforts to delegitimize Israel. This report explains:

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed three resolutions on Wednesday condemning Israel over its policies related to what it called Palestinian and Syrian territories, but the United States voted against them all.

A further resolution, calling for a fund to compensate Palestinians who suffered losses during Israel’s offensive in Gaza 14 months ago, is expected to be passed on Thursday. …

The United States, which itself is in a diplomatic row with Israel over settlements which the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to pursue, told the Council that the three resolutions would do nothing to help peace.

It said the body was too often being used as a platform to single out Israel for condemnation while rights violations by other countries were ignored.

Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday in a row over forged U.K. passports, voted for the settlements resolution, against on Palestinian rights, and abstained on the Syrian vote.

The Council is effectively dominated by a developing country bloc in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has a strong influence and which is routinely supported by China, Russia and Cuba.

A couple of lessons can be drawn from this. First, the decision by the Obami to rejoin the Human Rights Council was disastrous. It has given the group new legitimacy and visibility, and no resolution is too heinous and no hypocrisy too great to impress upon the Obami the importance of leaving this body of thugs. The notion that we are improving the council’s behavior or improving our own standing by sitting by as vote after vote is taken against Israel is farcical.

Second, the U.S.’s “row” with Israel seems to be encouraging not only the thugocracies but also our allies to get into the Israel-bashing act. As Jackson Diehl aptly put it: “Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States. Would Britain have expelled a senior Israeli diplomat Tuesday because of a flap over forged passports if there were no daylight between Obama and Netanyahu? Maybe not.”

Once again, we see the results that flow from the Obami’s fetish with multilateral institutions and from their efforts to prove our bona fides, not to Western democracies, but to the despotic regimes that populate those institutions. Israel’s security and our own credibility are undermined as the world learns there is little downside from taking continual pot shots at the Jewish state.

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Gartenstein-Ross Defends Rashad Hussain

I am interested to see Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a terrorism researcher and zealous foe of Islamism, defend Rashad Hussain, the White House attorney who has been chosen as envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Hussain has been accused of being, essentially, a terrorist sympathizer. Gartenstein-Ross, who has known Hussain since 1998 (when Gartenstein-Ross was himself a Muslim), isn’t buying it. He is shocked at the attacks on his friend written by people who don’t know him — from “the proverbial view” at “50,000 feet.” He concludes that Hussain “is a Kerry-supporting Democrat rather than a bin Laden-supporting jihadist.”

I haven’t taken a close look at the case, but Gartenstein-Ross’s statement seems at first blush to be convincing — not least because it reminds me of a similar controversy in which I was involved. Back in 2008, Samantha Power, then a Kennedy School professor who was advising candidate Obama (now a NSC staffer), was accused of anti-Israel animus. I had known Power for a number of years and defended her against the charge. I, too, was shocked at how a real person had been chopped up in the Cuisinart of politics and reassembled into a caricature.

I am by no means suggesting that friends of a nominee or staffer should have the final word on their fitness for office. As Gartenstein-Ross notes, “Friendship can be a double-edged sword. It can truly illuminate for us how a person views the world, show us what he cherishes and fears, give us insight into his character. It can also have a distorting effect, causing us to be defensive when we should not be, and to overlook our friend’s flaws.” But as a general rule, I would suggest approaching these debates with some degree of humility and sympathy, and an understanding that a few statements often pulled out of context do not necessarily constitute the totality of a person.

I am interested to see Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a terrorism researcher and zealous foe of Islamism, defend Rashad Hussain, the White House attorney who has been chosen as envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Hussain has been accused of being, essentially, a terrorist sympathizer. Gartenstein-Ross, who has known Hussain since 1998 (when Gartenstein-Ross was himself a Muslim), isn’t buying it. He is shocked at the attacks on his friend written by people who don’t know him — from “the proverbial view” at “50,000 feet.” He concludes that Hussain “is a Kerry-supporting Democrat rather than a bin Laden-supporting jihadist.”

I haven’t taken a close look at the case, but Gartenstein-Ross’s statement seems at first blush to be convincing — not least because it reminds me of a similar controversy in which I was involved. Back in 2008, Samantha Power, then a Kennedy School professor who was advising candidate Obama (now a NSC staffer), was accused of anti-Israel animus. I had known Power for a number of years and defended her against the charge. I, too, was shocked at how a real person had been chopped up in the Cuisinart of politics and reassembled into a caricature.

I am by no means suggesting that friends of a nominee or staffer should have the final word on their fitness for office. As Gartenstein-Ross notes, “Friendship can be a double-edged sword. It can truly illuminate for us how a person views the world, show us what he cherishes and fears, give us insight into his character. It can also have a distorting effect, causing us to be defensive when we should not be, and to overlook our friend’s flaws.” But as a general rule, I would suggest approaching these debates with some degree of humility and sympathy, and an understanding that a few statements often pulled out of context do not necessarily constitute the totality of a person.

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Muslim Envoy Lied: He Did Vouch for Terrorist

When last we left the tale of Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, he had denied vouching for a convicted terrorist. Yesterday was Friday, the official news dump day, so of course that’s when the confession came. He really did. Jake Tapper reports:

Presented with a transcript of his remarks at a 2004 conference, Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s nominee to be special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, issued a statement Friday evening acknowledging having criticized the U.S. government’s case against Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Originally, the White House claimed that Hussain denied having made the comments, attributing them instead to Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila. But Politico’s Josh Gerstein obtained an audiotape of the remarks, in which Hussain said that Al-Arian’s case was one of many “politically motivated persecutions.”

But it gets worse. You see, he tried to cover his tracks:

Hussain, currently in the White House counsel’s office, said, “I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated.” The controversy was all the more confusing because the remarks were reported in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in 2004, but the editor, Delinda Hanley,  later removed the comments from the Web site, though she didn’t recall why. The then-intern who reported Hussain’s comments, Shereen Kandil, who currently also works for the Obama administration, stood by the remarks. Now we know at least part of the story as to why the comments were removed: Hussain called the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to protest.

So let’s get this straight. The president’s choice to represent us to the OIC complained that a convicted terrorist was the victim of political persecution. That sounds a lot like what you’d hear from CAIR. But that makes sense because Hussain goes to CAIR training events. Then he lies about his comment and tries to conceal the evidence. Is he still the president’s choice? Hmm. It’s not an auspicious debut, to put it mildly.

But it is revealing of the sort of characters whom Obama thinks fit to conduct “outreach” to the “Muslim World” — those that will confirm the victimization mindset, which is at the root of much of what prevents peace from being processed as well as real economic and political reform from being advanced in many of the member nations of the OIC.

Perhaps we instead should find someone who can deliver this sort of message to the “Muslim World”:

“When the Palestinian leadership visits and honors families of those who have murdered innocent Israeli civilians, or when produce is destroyed rather than used only because it originates from the West Bank, that sets back our confidence of peace. . . . The Israeli prime minister is clear about Israel’s needs to be recognized as a Jewish state. Yet, not only do the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge Israel’s Jewish nature, but clearly state, in Article 19 of the Fatah constitution, that there must be an armed struggle with the Zionist entity.”

No, I don’t think Alan Solow wants the job. But that message, as opposed to the suck-uppery of a dishonest envoy, is precisely what we — and the “Muslim World” — need. And in the meantime, unless the Obami want to once again be on the side of an indefensible appointee, they should dump the candor-challenged Hussain.

When last we left the tale of Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, he had denied vouching for a convicted terrorist. Yesterday was Friday, the official news dump day, so of course that’s when the confession came. He really did. Jake Tapper reports:

Presented with a transcript of his remarks at a 2004 conference, Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s nominee to be special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, issued a statement Friday evening acknowledging having criticized the U.S. government’s case against Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Originally, the White House claimed that Hussain denied having made the comments, attributing them instead to Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila. But Politico’s Josh Gerstein obtained an audiotape of the remarks, in which Hussain said that Al-Arian’s case was one of many “politically motivated persecutions.”

But it gets worse. You see, he tried to cover his tracks:

Hussain, currently in the White House counsel’s office, said, “I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated.” The controversy was all the more confusing because the remarks were reported in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in 2004, but the editor, Delinda Hanley,  later removed the comments from the Web site, though she didn’t recall why. The then-intern who reported Hussain’s comments, Shereen Kandil, who currently also works for the Obama administration, stood by the remarks. Now we know at least part of the story as to why the comments were removed: Hussain called the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to protest.

So let’s get this straight. The president’s choice to represent us to the OIC complained that a convicted terrorist was the victim of political persecution. That sounds a lot like what you’d hear from CAIR. But that makes sense because Hussain goes to CAIR training events. Then he lies about his comment and tries to conceal the evidence. Is he still the president’s choice? Hmm. It’s not an auspicious debut, to put it mildly.

But it is revealing of the sort of characters whom Obama thinks fit to conduct “outreach” to the “Muslim World” — those that will confirm the victimization mindset, which is at the root of much of what prevents peace from being processed as well as real economic and political reform from being advanced in many of the member nations of the OIC.

Perhaps we instead should find someone who can deliver this sort of message to the “Muslim World”:

“When the Palestinian leadership visits and honors families of those who have murdered innocent Israeli civilians, or when produce is destroyed rather than used only because it originates from the West Bank, that sets back our confidence of peace. . . . The Israeli prime minister is clear about Israel’s needs to be recognized as a Jewish state. Yet, not only do the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge Israel’s Jewish nature, but clearly state, in Article 19 of the Fatah constitution, that there must be an armed struggle with the Zionist entity.”

No, I don’t think Alan Solow wants the job. But that message, as opposed to the suck-uppery of a dishonest envoy, is precisely what we — and the “Muslim World” — need. And in the meantime, unless the Obami want to once again be on the side of an indefensible appointee, they should dump the candor-challenged Hussain.

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Calling a Crime a Crime

It’s a measure of how badly the “peace process” has warped Israel’s language of values that the most intelligent response to Friday’s torching of a mosque near Nablus, allegedly by extremist settlers, came from the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Its secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, correctly identified the crime as “blatant aggression against the sanctity of sacred places.”

That’s more than Israeli politicians seemed capable of doing. Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak, for instance, sounded as if the real crime were the potential damage to the peace process. “This is an extremist act geared toward harming the government’s efforts to advance the political process,” he declared. Similarly, opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned it as a “despicable act of provocation” — as if the crime were the response it might provoke.

If the perpetrators were settlers, they probably did intend to undermine the peace process by provoking a violent Palestinian response. But that’s not what made their act criminal. The crime isn’t the impact on the peace process; it’s the wanton destruction of a house of worship.

This perversion of language began when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres deemed the suicide bombings that followed the 1993 Oslo Accord “crimes against the peace process” and the victims, “sacrifices for peace.” For them, this was a political necessity: If Oslo were seen as producing more anti-Israel terror rather than less, Israelis would turn against Oslo — and its sponsors. Hence they had to paint the attacks not as the same old anti-Israel terror, but as a new form of terror, aimed equally at Israel and its Palestinian partner — i.e., at the peace process itself.

This recasting of the crime led inevitably to the next perversion: the frequent labeling of settlers by leftist politicians and journalists as Israel’s equivalent of Hamas. If Hamas’s crime is mass murder, this comparison is clearly false: Blowing up buses and cafes is not a standard practice of settlers. But if the real crime is opposition to the “peace process,” the comparison becomes plausible: Settlers were trying to stop Oslo. The only difference was their choice of tactics: demonstrations and lobbying rather than violence.

And that is precisely what makes this new language, and the value system it embodies, so warped. If the crime is what you oppose rather than how you choose to oppose it, there is no difference between a peaceful protest and blowing up a bus. So why shouldn’t settler extremists torch a mosque, if they deem that a more effective means of “harming … the political process”? Their very opposition to the process makes them criminals regardless of what tactics they use.

Clearly, most Israelis think no such thing. But language does shape thought. So if they don’t want to raise a generation that indeed sees no difference between peaceful and violent tactics, Israelis need to realign their language with their values. That starts with saying clearly that the crime is torching the mosque — not its impact on the peace process.

It’s a measure of how badly the “peace process” has warped Israel’s language of values that the most intelligent response to Friday’s torching of a mosque near Nablus, allegedly by extremist settlers, came from the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Its secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, correctly identified the crime as “blatant aggression against the sanctity of sacred places.”

That’s more than Israeli politicians seemed capable of doing. Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak, for instance, sounded as if the real crime were the potential damage to the peace process. “This is an extremist act geared toward harming the government’s efforts to advance the political process,” he declared. Similarly, opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned it as a “despicable act of provocation” — as if the crime were the response it might provoke.

If the perpetrators were settlers, they probably did intend to undermine the peace process by provoking a violent Palestinian response. But that’s not what made their act criminal. The crime isn’t the impact on the peace process; it’s the wanton destruction of a house of worship.

This perversion of language began when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres deemed the suicide bombings that followed the 1993 Oslo Accord “crimes against the peace process” and the victims, “sacrifices for peace.” For them, this was a political necessity: If Oslo were seen as producing more anti-Israel terror rather than less, Israelis would turn against Oslo — and its sponsors. Hence they had to paint the attacks not as the same old anti-Israel terror, but as a new form of terror, aimed equally at Israel and its Palestinian partner — i.e., at the peace process itself.

This recasting of the crime led inevitably to the next perversion: the frequent labeling of settlers by leftist politicians and journalists as Israel’s equivalent of Hamas. If Hamas’s crime is mass murder, this comparison is clearly false: Blowing up buses and cafes is not a standard practice of settlers. But if the real crime is opposition to the “peace process,” the comparison becomes plausible: Settlers were trying to stop Oslo. The only difference was their choice of tactics: demonstrations and lobbying rather than violence.

And that is precisely what makes this new language, and the value system it embodies, so warped. If the crime is what you oppose rather than how you choose to oppose it, there is no difference between a peaceful protest and blowing up a bus. So why shouldn’t settler extremists torch a mosque, if they deem that a more effective means of “harming … the political process”? Their very opposition to the process makes them criminals regardless of what tactics they use.

Clearly, most Israelis think no such thing. But language does shape thought. So if they don’t want to raise a generation that indeed sees no difference between peaceful and violent tactics, Israelis need to realign their language with their values. That starts with saying clearly that the crime is torching the mosque — not its impact on the peace process.

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The Panama Precedent

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has made several welcome changes to his ministry’s priority list, with perhaps the most noteworthy being the section on bilateral relationships. Strengthening ties with Arab states, which was at the top of that section under his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, is now at the bottom. Instead, Lieberman assigned priority to strengthening ties with the hitherto neglected regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, this is a smart move. No Arab state is going to be anything but hostile in the foreseeable future. And while it is obviously preferable for states like Saudi Arabia to remain at their present hostility level rather than to escalate to Iran’s level, any investment beyond the minimum needed to ensure this much is just wasted time and effort.

In contrast, few non-Muslim states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are inherently hostile to Israel; hence an investment of time and effort might well improve relations. And while most of these countries have little clout, they could nevertheless do much to boost Israel’s global image.

To understand why, consider this month’s UN General Assembly vote endorsing the Goldstone Report. The resolution passed 118-18-44, with another 16 countries not voting. That is a lopsided condemnation of Israel.

But of the 16 countries that skipped the vote, all were from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Of the 44 abstainers, 18 were from these regions (most were European). And of the 118 who voted in favor, almost half belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; most of the rest were non-Muslim states from Africa, Asia, and Latin America (plus five European states). Thus the vote could clearly have been made much less lopsided by flipping some of these states from “yes” to “abstention” and others from “abstention” or “not voting” to “no.”

Why does this matter? Because the fact that resolutions condemning Israel consistently pass by such lopsided margins contributes greatly to Israel’s pariah image, portraying it as a country with scarcely a friend in the world. If, instead, such condemnations passed only narrowly, this would portray it as a country that, despite many enemies, also has many friends. And countries with many friends are by definition not pariahs.

Could an investment of diplomatic effort flip some of these countries? It’s hard to know, given that Israel has never tried; for decades, its diplomacy has focused almost exclusively on the West and the Middle East. Nevertheless, another datum from the Goldstone vote is suggestive: the only Latin American country that did vote “no” on Goldstone — Panama — did so two weeks after its president met personally with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

And that’s the point: Most of these countries know little about Israel, and therefore care little. But if Israel made an effort to fill the knowledge gap, the caring gap might shrink, too. At the very least, it’s worth a try — especially when the alternative is for Israeli diplomats to waste their time battering their heads against a hostile Arab wall.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has made several welcome changes to his ministry’s priority list, with perhaps the most noteworthy being the section on bilateral relationships. Strengthening ties with Arab states, which was at the top of that section under his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, is now at the bottom. Instead, Lieberman assigned priority to strengthening ties with the hitherto neglected regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, this is a smart move. No Arab state is going to be anything but hostile in the foreseeable future. And while it is obviously preferable for states like Saudi Arabia to remain at their present hostility level rather than to escalate to Iran’s level, any investment beyond the minimum needed to ensure this much is just wasted time and effort.

In contrast, few non-Muslim states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are inherently hostile to Israel; hence an investment of time and effort might well improve relations. And while most of these countries have little clout, they could nevertheless do much to boost Israel’s global image.

To understand why, consider this month’s UN General Assembly vote endorsing the Goldstone Report. The resolution passed 118-18-44, with another 16 countries not voting. That is a lopsided condemnation of Israel.

But of the 16 countries that skipped the vote, all were from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Of the 44 abstainers, 18 were from these regions (most were European). And of the 118 who voted in favor, almost half belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; most of the rest were non-Muslim states from Africa, Asia, and Latin America (plus five European states). Thus the vote could clearly have been made much less lopsided by flipping some of these states from “yes” to “abstention” and others from “abstention” or “not voting” to “no.”

Why does this matter? Because the fact that resolutions condemning Israel consistently pass by such lopsided margins contributes greatly to Israel’s pariah image, portraying it as a country with scarcely a friend in the world. If, instead, such condemnations passed only narrowly, this would portray it as a country that, despite many enemies, also has many friends. And countries with many friends are by definition not pariahs.

Could an investment of diplomatic effort flip some of these countries? It’s hard to know, given that Israel has never tried; for decades, its diplomacy has focused almost exclusively on the West and the Middle East. Nevertheless, another datum from the Goldstone vote is suggestive: the only Latin American country that did vote “no” on Goldstone — Panama — did so two weeks after its president met personally with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

And that’s the point: Most of these countries know little about Israel, and therefore care little. But if Israel made an effort to fill the knowledge gap, the caring gap might shrink, too. At the very least, it’s worth a try — especially when the alternative is for Israeli diplomats to waste their time battering their heads against a hostile Arab wall.

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More Iranian Hypocrisy

Following the release of MP Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic film Fitna, the Dutch government unequivocally denounced the project. In a televised statement, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende condemned the film for serving “no purpose other than to cause offense.” Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen wrote an op-ed for the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, arguing that, “Islam must not be equated with the commission of atrocities.” Verhagen later addressed the ambassadors of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, vowing that Fitna did not represent the official position of the Dutch government.

Well, apparently none of this was good enough for Iran, where the Majlis is now considering severing economic ties with the Netherlands. Yesterday, the Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Commission asked the ministers of commerce and economic affairs to produce a report on the current state of Dutch-Iranian economic relations, while Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel called on Muslim countries to boycott products from any country involved in blasphemy against Islam.

At what point does the international community call Iran on its hypocrisy? After all, when it comes to sanctioning the production of offensive media, Iran is an absolute beacon of freedom. For example, in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons controversy of 2006, the major Iranian daily Hamshahri—with the support of the municipally owned House of Caricatures—announced a Holocaust cartoon competition, purportedly to test the West’s commitment to free speech. Of course, the competition was really just another example of Iran scapegoating the Jews in a moment of cultural crisis—an impetus that was again on display yesterday. Indeed, while announcing the proposed boycott against the Netherlands, MP Kadem Jalali declared, “It is quite natural that the Zionists have masterminded the plot and since they have suffered a crushing defeat in Palestine and Lebanon they seek to insult Islamic sanctities.”

As I have previously argued, winning the public diplomacy war against Iran requires that we challenge Iranian orthodoxies head-on. In this vein, just as the international community was swift to condemn Fitna, it must immediately condemn Iran’s attempt to incite Muslim publics against the Netherlands. It should further throw Iran’s constant invocation of anti-Semitic rhetoric back at Tehran, asking how Iran—which aimed to challenge western free speech with its Holocaust cartoons conference—pathetically failed the challenge of free speech when faced with a peripheral, Internet-only film produced by a political pariah.

Following the release of MP Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic film Fitna, the Dutch government unequivocally denounced the project. In a televised statement, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende condemned the film for serving “no purpose other than to cause offense.” Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen wrote an op-ed for the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, arguing that, “Islam must not be equated with the commission of atrocities.” Verhagen later addressed the ambassadors of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, vowing that Fitna did not represent the official position of the Dutch government.

Well, apparently none of this was good enough for Iran, where the Majlis is now considering severing economic ties with the Netherlands. Yesterday, the Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Commission asked the ministers of commerce and economic affairs to produce a report on the current state of Dutch-Iranian economic relations, while Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel called on Muslim countries to boycott products from any country involved in blasphemy against Islam.

At what point does the international community call Iran on its hypocrisy? After all, when it comes to sanctioning the production of offensive media, Iran is an absolute beacon of freedom. For example, in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons controversy of 2006, the major Iranian daily Hamshahri—with the support of the municipally owned House of Caricatures—announced a Holocaust cartoon competition, purportedly to test the West’s commitment to free speech. Of course, the competition was really just another example of Iran scapegoating the Jews in a moment of cultural crisis—an impetus that was again on display yesterday. Indeed, while announcing the proposed boycott against the Netherlands, MP Kadem Jalali declared, “It is quite natural that the Zionists have masterminded the plot and since they have suffered a crushing defeat in Palestine and Lebanon they seek to insult Islamic sanctities.”

As I have previously argued, winning the public diplomacy war against Iran requires that we challenge Iranian orthodoxies head-on. In this vein, just as the international community was swift to condemn Fitna, it must immediately condemn Iran’s attempt to incite Muslim publics against the Netherlands. It should further throw Iran’s constant invocation of anti-Semitic rhetoric back at Tehran, asking how Iran—which aimed to challenge western free speech with its Holocaust cartoons conference—pathetically failed the challenge of free speech when faced with a peripheral, Internet-only film produced by a political pariah.

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Free Speech, UN-Style

If George Orwell had never lived, we would lack a word to describe the UN’s serial logical inversions of the term “human rights.” Under the banner of human rights, entire office parks of the Canadian court system have been commandeered and charged with the task of silencing those who, in fact, defend such rights. Political correctness and radical Islam have conspired to brand anyone who dare speaks ill of jihadists as human rights violators.

So where better than the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s foremost Petri dish of PC and jihad, to make it official? The Canadian Press reports that last Friday afternoon the Council passed an amendment that calls for their “expert on freedom of expression to report on people who abuse their free speech rights to espouse racial and religious discrimination.”

Friday afternoons are the best times to get shady propositions okayed by bureaucrats in a rush to start their weekends. But in this case I think the amendment would have made it even if it was the first order of business on a Monday morning. Here’s the Canadian Press:

The 47-nation council is dominated by Arab and other Muslim countries.

Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan, who was speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, denied that the resolution would limit free speech.

This is the UN’s version of free speech: free from criticism of radical Islam.

If George Orwell had never lived, we would lack a word to describe the UN’s serial logical inversions of the term “human rights.” Under the banner of human rights, entire office parks of the Canadian court system have been commandeered and charged with the task of silencing those who, in fact, defend such rights. Political correctness and radical Islam have conspired to brand anyone who dare speaks ill of jihadists as human rights violators.

So where better than the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s foremost Petri dish of PC and jihad, to make it official? The Canadian Press reports that last Friday afternoon the Council passed an amendment that calls for their “expert on freedom of expression to report on people who abuse their free speech rights to espouse racial and religious discrimination.”

Friday afternoons are the best times to get shady propositions okayed by bureaucrats in a rush to start their weekends. But in this case I think the amendment would have made it even if it was the first order of business on a Monday morning. Here’s the Canadian Press:

The 47-nation council is dominated by Arab and other Muslim countries.

Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan, who was speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, denied that the resolution would limit free speech.

This is the UN’s version of free speech: free from criticism of radical Islam.

Read Less

Greenwald and Vilks

When I postulated in a short post last week that comedienne Kathy Griffin would have faced a more dire fate than being hectored by the Catholic Leauge’s Bill Donohue had she made a joke about Muhammad rather than Jesus, Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald succumbed to his usual hysterics, running off a thousand-plus word screed grouping me alongside “right-wing warmongers” like Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Mark Steyn, and calling my fears fantasies.

Not to needle the ever-excitable Greenwald, but in related news about the over-exaggerated Muslim threat that only exists in the minds of “right-wing warmongers,” the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, has called for the death of Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks for—what else?—drawing a picture of Muhammad. Demonstrating a real entrepreneurial spirit, al-Baghdadi offered a “50 per cent bonus if Mr. Vilks was ‘slaughtered like a lamb’ by having his throat cut.”

Swedish police have placed Vilks under their protection. According to the Times (London), a spokesperson for the Swedish phone company Ericsson says that it has instructed its employees “to keep a low profile in Muslim countries and to take extra care in deciding where to go or park their cars.” The feckless Swedish ambassador to Saudi Arabia met with the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, offering his “deepest apologies for the controversy created by the publishing of the hurtful depiction.” I must have imagined this, too, right?

Fortunately, Mr. Vilks has responded to the bounty placed on his head with good humor, telling the Times, “I suppose that this makes my art project a bit more serious. It is also good to know how much one is worth.” Greenwald might want to consider emulating Lars Vilks’s sense of humor. All those tantrums have to be taxing.

When I postulated in a short post last week that comedienne Kathy Griffin would have faced a more dire fate than being hectored by the Catholic Leauge’s Bill Donohue had she made a joke about Muhammad rather than Jesus, Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald succumbed to his usual hysterics, running off a thousand-plus word screed grouping me alongside “right-wing warmongers” like Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Mark Steyn, and calling my fears fantasies.

Not to needle the ever-excitable Greenwald, but in related news about the over-exaggerated Muslim threat that only exists in the minds of “right-wing warmongers,” the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, has called for the death of Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks for—what else?—drawing a picture of Muhammad. Demonstrating a real entrepreneurial spirit, al-Baghdadi offered a “50 per cent bonus if Mr. Vilks was ‘slaughtered like a lamb’ by having his throat cut.”

Swedish police have placed Vilks under their protection. According to the Times (London), a spokesperson for the Swedish phone company Ericsson says that it has instructed its employees “to keep a low profile in Muslim countries and to take extra care in deciding where to go or park their cars.” The feckless Swedish ambassador to Saudi Arabia met with the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, offering his “deepest apologies for the controversy created by the publishing of the hurtful depiction.” I must have imagined this, too, right?

Fortunately, Mr. Vilks has responded to the bounty placed on his head with good humor, telling the Times, “I suppose that this makes my art project a bit more serious. It is also good to know how much one is worth.” Greenwald might want to consider emulating Lars Vilks’s sense of humor. All those tantrums have to be taxing.

Read Less




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