Tariq Ramadan misrepresents his views on terrorism in Guardian op-ed

Tariq Ramadan is a renowned Muslim intellectual born in Geneva, and currently serves as Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al Banna, one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood

He’s also a frequent contributor to the Guardian.


On Jan. 9th, Ramadan published a Guardian op-ed titled ‘The Paris attackers hijacked Islam but there is no war between Islam and the west‘, which opens with the following declaration:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo compels us to be clear and to be consistent. We have to condemn what happened in Paris absolutely. I said the same after 7/7 and after 9/11

Later in his Guardian op-ed, Ramadan speaks more broadly about terrorism.

We condemn the violent extremism that is targeting westerners.

However, the evidence suggests that Ramadan is mischaracterizing his views.

Continue reading

Guardian columnist acknowledges Muslim Brotherhood’s antisemitism

Among the themes often addressed at the blog is the Guardian’s consistent failure to report on the pervasive antisemitism within the Arab and Muslim Middle East – what we’ve characterized as their antisemitic sins of omission.

This ideological proclivity to ignore explicit manifestations of Jew hatred in the region, we’ve argued many times, egregiously skews their coverage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, as well as the regional political upheavals over the last few years.

So eager are many to view reactionary Islamist movements through a progressive lens that even Yousuf al-Qaradawi – one of the intellectual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood - has been characterized as something akin to a moderate by Guardian contributors, despite his record which includes calling on Allah to murder every Jew on earth and literally endorsing the Holocaust.



Indeed, the Guardian’s coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt last year ignored the group’s long and well-documented antisemitic record (consistent with the paper’s tendency to obfuscate other groups’ extreme Judeophobia), all of which makes Giles Fraser’s recent ‘CiF’ column on the Brotherhood quite unique.

Though Fraser still advanced some characteristic moral apologetics for the group, he did nonetheless include the following:

And, of course, I have no love in my heart for Islamist terrorism, nor the hateful antisemitism that is often present within the Muslim Brotherhood

Whilst this one painfully obvious acknowledgement wouldn’t ordinarily be notable, given that it represents such a rare expression of moral sobriety regarding the problem of Islamist antisemitism – at a paper with an institutional aversion to such clarity – the Guardian columnist should nonetheless be commended for his honesty. 

Peace through martyrdom: Muslim Brotherhood leader poses as a liberal at ‘Comment is Free’

‘Comment is Free’ published an essay today (Aug. 21) by Muhammad Al-Baltaji, “deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the Egyptian parliament”, titled ‘The Muslim Brotherhood will not turn to violence to fight the coup in Egypt‘.  

cif profile

Al-Baltaji used his Guardian platform to blast the military government of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for “pushing the country to an unprecedented level of chaos and state violence”, in contrast to what he portrays as the Brotherhood’s progressive, pro-democratic non-violent Egyptian revolution.

Here are excerpts from his piece:

The Muslim Brotherhood is committed to peaceful protests and has pledged never to resort to violence in response to the violence perpetrated against it by the coup authorities.

I address world conscience and public opinion. I appeal to world humanitarian and human rights organisations. I appeal to the international delegations that came to see us in Rabaa and who testified that we were completely peaceful, to stand for democracy and expose these war crimes.

The sacrifices made so far by the defenders of legitimacy have been made in order to put an end to the military rule that humiliated the Egyptians and persecuted them for more than 60 years. We made these sacrifices in order for Egypt to become a true democratic civil state in which human dignity is sanctified and human rights respected.

Whilst Muslim Brotherhood-led attacks on Egypt’s Christians, and the burning of churches, since the July coup alone makes a mockery of such claims, it’s interesting to note that back in 2010, as one of two members of Egypt’s delegation to the Gaza flotilla, Al-Baltaji was singing a different tune concerning peace, justice and the dignity of man.


Al-Baltaji…said at a March 2010 conference, “A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.” He also said that his movement “will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance,” and that “resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.

(Andalusia is of course Spain. Islamists believe that Palestine, or any land that was once part of the caliphate, can not ‘fall’ to infidels.)

Moreover, Al-Baltaji’s exaltation of the values of death and martyrdom demonstrate that, as with so many Islamist extremists, he cynically used his forum at ‘Comment is Free’ to run interference for the true goals of his movement – jihad as a means to religious tyranny. Here’s the protagonist of Al-Baltaji’s Guardian tale, former President Mohamed Morsi, explaining quite clearly the values of the movement:


‘Comment is Free': continuing in its passionate mission to become the demopath’s platform of choice. 

The intoxicated anti-Zionist rants of Rachel Shabi

Professional Jewish critics of Israel – those commentators who in some manner leverage their connection to Judaism to garner more credibility when launching often hysterical attacks on the Jewish state – are as much defined by their hubris as their political orientation.

Writers like Peter Beinart, Richard Silverstein, or Daniel Levy truly believe they are equipped with a superior intellect and moral understanding, and often suggest – when offering criticism indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the most ardent anti-Zionists – that they are actually engaging in a political form of ‘tough love’.  They are saving Israeli Jews from their own destructive tendencies – “saving Israel,” as it were, “from itself.”

The following is the headline from Rachel Shabi‘s latest ‘Comment is Free’ commentary, opining on recent news regarding European Union guidelines which restrict EU funding for Israeli projects across the green line.

screen shot

Whilst the quote concerning water thrown at a “drunk” was actually from the site of the far-left group Gush Shalom, it was specifically cited by Shabi (in the passage which follows) to illustrate Israel’s collective state of mind in refusing to bow to such international criticism over the construction of homes across the green line.

Israel sees international policy on settlements as simply a guideline or position statement, as opposed to actual law. This escalating sense of hubris over settlement expansion – and getting away with it – is what makes the EU move such a shock for Israel: Gush Shalom, Israel’s peace bloc, likened the EU decision to “a bucket of cold water poured on the head of a drunk”.

Of course such gratuitous pejorative depictions and smears of the Jewish state are nothing new for the frequent ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.

Since 2002 Shabi (born to Iraqi Jewish parents) has published over 100 essays at ‘Comment is Free’ on the topic of Israel, and the themes have been as predictable as they have been facile. Israelis (or Jews as such) are almost never the object of Shabi’s  sympathetic imagination, and she quite excels at imputing to Israel the the very worst motives, regardless of the issue being addressed.

Themes explored by Shabi at ‘Comment is Free’ include the following:

  • Israelis oppressing Palestinians
  • Israelis oppressing its Arab citizens and other minorities
  • Israelis oppressing foreign workers
  • Narratives attempting to deny Israel’s democratic advantages
  • Suggestions that Israel is moving to the extreme right politically

Themes not explored by Shabi:

In addition to downright petty critiques of even the most benign aspects of ordinary Israeli life – such as accusing the state of, in effect, ‘colonising’ hummus – her capacity to twist and turn prose in a way which assigns maximum malice to the Jewish state has few limits.  In one ‘CiF’ essay she mocked Israel’s efforts to unfairly ‘smear’ Hamas as a terrorist group, and once even managed to spin Israeli concerns over the potential rise of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as evidence of Israeli racism – unmoved, it seems, by the genocidal racism expressed by the group’s spiritual leader, who called for Allah to literally kill every Jew on earth.

An essay she published at CiF last year, commenting on anti-immigrant rhetoric by some Israeli politicians, suggested Israeli parallels with European fascism.  But, perhaps her most insidious accusation was leveled in a piece which appeared shortly after the 2008-09 Gaza War, where she wrote the following:

Likewise, mention the civilian casualties in Gaza and the stock response is to blame Hamas, cast as a bloodthirsty, death-worshipping cult, a terror group that by definition forces Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children. One email that did the rounds during the assault was a cartoon depicting two fighters, facing each other. The Israeli fighter aimed his gun with a baby in a pram behind him, shielded; the Palestinian fighter had the baby in front of him, as a shield. What’s astounding is not how often this circular jammed email boxes, but how often Israelis repeat the cartoon set-up as though it were fact, or as though it thereby legitimises the bombing of civilians. 

Most Israelis, in other words, seem to have convinced themselves that their own moral superiority somehow sanctions and justifies their own acts of moral repugnance

In addition to her dangerous flirtation with antisemitic narratives of so-called ‘Jewish Supremacism‘, the final passage represents the ultimate projection, and anti-Zionist leftist critics’ most pronounced deceit: their belief that they are uniquely equipped with the penetrating moral intelligence necessary to see through the racism which informs Israelis’ “belief” in their state’s moral advantages over reactionary Islamist extremists.  Jewish anti-Zionist agitprop artists like Shabi, inebriated by post-colonial ideology, fancy themselves more sophisticated and politically enlightened than Israeli Jews, whose obtuse nationalism and ethnocentric loyalties, it is suggested, blind them to the dangerous folly of their path.

Such condescension and visceral animosity towards her fellow Jews, under the guise (of course!) of “progressive” political thought, is as risible as it is repugnant.  

Anti-Zionism of fools: What Egypt and the Guardian can learn from Israeli democracy


Israeli woman votes in 2013 election

An Egyptian opposition activist named Himda Hamdi was interviewed on Israeli TV last night and, buoyed by the fall of Mohammed Morsi, told citizens of the Jewish state that if her country could overturn the Muslim Brotherhood led regime then surely Israelis can do the same and remove Prime Minister Netanyahu. While the site of this young, progressive Arab woman speaking Hebrew was in many ways exhilarating, she perhaps needed reminding that Israeli voters peacefully decided the fate of their government in free and fair elections earlier in the year.

When the nineteenth Israeli Knesset was sworn in March, it represented merely the latest chapter in a 65 year history of non-violent democratic political transitions in the Jewish state.

Though Israelis of course disagree on any number of domestic and foreign policy issues, extremes within the country remain at the margins, and the centre continues to hold.  And, whilst there are factions lobbying for evolutionary change in social policy, and with regard to negotiations with the Palestinians, the country’s economy is exceptionally strong, their democracy remains robust and there is no serious political faction agitating for revolutionary change.

As the dramatic developments unfolding in Egypt now demonstrate, democracy isn’t one single event but rather a persuasion – a political habit of mind nurtured by the behavior of a nation’s citizenry, its cultural, media and religious gatekeepers and political class. It generally can not be imposed by a foreign power, nor brought to life by a (temporary) strongman. Political parties with no ideological propensity towards progressive, representative forms of government can not be trusted to govern in a manner which shows fealty towards such democratic norms as the separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and a system of laws which fiercely protect the rights of women, minorities and political opponents.

As the brief reign of the reactionary movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood shows us, political Islam – as with the Pan-Arabism and statist dictatorships which preceded its rise within the region – is fundamentally at odds with truly liberal political aspirations within the Arab world.

Interestingly, the Guardian earlier today published an editorial not only criticizing the military coup by praising the Muslim Brotherhood as, yes, defenders of constitutional democracy, demonstrating again – as with their defense of Hamas’ ‘democratic’ legitimacy – the institution’s inability to recognize the difference between democrats (those who seek genuine representative democracy) and demopaths (those who seek democratic legitimacy in order to destroy liberal society). As one Arab pundit recently observed about Morsi’s ‘reforms’ which had the effect of merely solidifying Brotherhood control of the country and codifying illiberal Islamist doctrine: “Morsi proved that political Islam seeks to use democracy only to seize power only to bury the democratic dream later.”

Additionally, if the strength of a democracy can in part be measured by how well the nation treats the proverbial ‘other’, Morsi’s government – which nurtured a society in which the beleaguered Christians and Bahais (and even Shiites) faced increasing discrimination and violence – failed miserably.  Further, while it may be a bit cliché to note that the health of a society can be gauged by how well they treat their Jewish minority, the following passage, from an essay written by a Muslim named Ahmed Hashemi, commenting on the increased antisemitism in Egypt (a nation with a Jewish population of, at most, 40) after the revolution, rings true.

…if we are going to establish a healthy, tolerant society that respects differences, and pursues a pluralistic democracy, we have to accept that Jews and the Jewish community have been part and parcel of our own communities. This affirmation of coexistence represents the essence of today’s civilization. An ‘Arab Spring’ without religious tolerance that rests on strong anti-Semitic attitudes cannot bring about genuine democracy and freedom. In a peaceful and democratic Middle East, everyone can prosper and flourish.

In reading the Guardian daily, it seems that the most pronounced effect stemming from their largely uncritical advocacy on behalf of Arabs (including Palestinian Arabs), and their hostility towards Zionism, relates not to its injurious influence on Israel, but the harm it inflicts upon their Arab protagonists by legitimizing their sense of victimhood and their immutable grievances against the Jews.

As the most successful democracy in the region, Hashemi added, “possessing a strong and diversified economy and a dynamic multiparty political system in a tyranny-affected region, Israel can be a role model.”

The Guardian’s ideologically inspired legitimization of the Arab world’s hostility towards Israel nurtures their continuing social pathos and sclerotic economies, and ensures that, regardless of whom takes power in Egypt, the shining example of diversity, tolerance sober, and liberal self-government to their north will never be leveraged to their advantage.

The anti-Zionism of fools makes it more probable that the ‘Arab Spring’ will continue to be merely a chimera.

‘Comment is Free’ contributor: Is the “Global war on Terrorism” all about Israel?

For well over a decade now the U.S. has been “a nation at war”, explains Andrew Bacevich in a May 28 essay at ‘Comment is Free’, before asking: “Does that war have a name”?

namelessBacevich employs the opening query to lament that the ‘Global War on Terror’ which began on September 11, 2001 is nameless, writing thusly:

When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about. To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others

After providing a bit of background on the imperfect names given to other wars – such as the Civil War, World War I, and World War II – Bacevich considers some possible monikers for the current military enterprise “we’ve been waging…in Iraq and Afghanistan [and] other countries…across the Islamic world”.  He proposes names such as “The Long War”, “The War against al-Qaida”, “The War for the Greater Middle East”, and even “The War Against Islam” or “The War for/against/about Israel“.  

Bacevich devotes a bit of space making the case for each possibility, and writes the following as a possible justification for the latter Israeli-centric title: 

It began in 1948. For many Jews, the founding of the state of Israel signified an ancient hope fulfilled. For many Christians, conscious of the sin of anti-Semitism that had culminated in the Holocaust, it offered a way to ease guilty consciences, albeit mostly at others’ expense. For many Muslims, especially Arabs, and most acutely Arabs who had been living in Palestine, the founding of the Jewish state represented a grave injustice. It was yet another unwelcome intrusion engineered by the west – colonialism by another name.

Recounting the ensuing struggle without appearing to take sides is almost impossible. Yet one thing seems clear: in terms of military involvement, the United States attempted in the late 1940s and 50s to keep its distance. Over the course of the 60s, this changed. The US became Israel’s principal patron, committed to maintaining its military superiority over its neighbors.

In the decades that followed, the two countries forged a multifaceted “strategic relationship”. A compliant Congress provided Israel with weapons and assistance worth billions of dollars, testifying to what has become an unambiguous and irrevocable US commitment to the safety and wellbeing of the Jewish state. Meanwhile, just as Israel had disregarded US concerns when it came to developing nuclear weapons, it ignored persistent US requests that it refrain from colonizing territory that it has conquered.

When it comes to identifying the minimal essential requirements of Israeli security and the terms that will define any Palestinian-Israeli peace deal, the US defers to Israel. That may qualify as an overstatement, but only slightly. Given the Israeli perspective on those requirements and those terms – permanent military supremacy and a permanently demilitarized Palestine allowed limited sovereignty the War for/against/about Israel is unlikely to end anytime soon either. Whether the US benefits from the perpetuation of this war is difficult to say, but we are in it for the long haul.

This remarkably ahistorical account of the Israeli-Palestinian (and Israeli-Islamist) Conflict – which erases over six decades of Arab wars, terrorism and belligerence – is provided to buttress the argument that the ‘Global War’ against Islamist extremism is arguably rooted in an understandable grievance against Israeli policy.  

Bacevich’s facile analysis of course ignores Islamism’s expansionist and reactionary political pedigree (the Muslim Brotherhood movement which gave birth to modern Islamism seeks the universal imposition of Sharia law, and proclaims that violent jihad and martyrdom is their path), as well as the obvious timeline (the Brotherhood was founded twenty years before Israel’s birth, and by the 1930s was already calling for boycotts against Jewish owned businesses in the Middle East).

However, even if we were to give credence to such specious ‘Zionist root cause’ arguments for modern terror (which ignore both chronology and ideology), proponents of such arguments often go further than merely asserting causation, suggesting that there’s in fact something reasonable, or even just, about such ‘grievances’ about Israel’s very existence.

No, the ‘War on Terror’ – or whatever Bacevich prefers to call the West’s battle with global jihadism – isn’t about Israel.  However, even if a malign obsession with Israel did indeed represent the root cause of their violence, its difficult to understand how any truly liberal commentator could implicitly assign blame to the Jewish target of such antipathy.    

Indeed, Bacevich – quite interestingly in light of his gig at ‘Comment is Free’ – has also contributed to Pat Buchanan’s paleo-conservative magazine, the American Conservative’, and penned a piece there in 2012 titled ‘How we became Israel‘.  His essay includes a characterization of the US ‘War on Terror’ – and America’s willingness since 9/11 to use force around the globe – as a dangerous sign that “U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state”, what he terms the “Israelification of U.S. policy”.

The Zionist footprint on the war on terror, for Andrew Bacevich, is simply undeniable, and arguably global.

A nation so racist that the cinematic depiction of Jews is deemed a security risk

The most egregious example of bias against Israel demonstrated by the mainstream media is the dynamic by which they quickly frame events in the state in a manner consistent with the most unserious caricatures – narratives which impute the worst faith, the most malicious motivations, and often devoid of relevant context.

In such a journalistic paradigm, a street fight between Jewish and Arab teens becomes fodder for an ‘examination‘ of institutional Israeli racism, some Jewish soccer hooligans expressing bigotry towards Muslims suggests the urgent need that Israelis engage in national ‘soul-searching‘, a question of whether Ethiopian immigrants to Israel were provided enough information on a contraceptive injection morphs into a systemic attempt to reduce the black population; and the introduction of new bus lines to serve Palestinians who work in Israel is framed as an insidious form of segregation.

In all these examples, the prejudiced actions of a few Israelis, or policies which may have the effect of being injurious to minority groups in the state, are exploited by Israel’s critics to suggest a ‘dangerous lurch right’, or to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong – immutable and beyond repair – with the state or indeed with the idea of Zionism itself.

When pro-Israel bloggers and advocates attempt to refute such charges by demonstrating racial diversity in Israel, mainstream acceptance towards sexual minorities, and other examples of the state’s liberal advantages, it is often portrayed as propaganda – a cynical attempt to ‘wash over its fundamental moral flaws.

If such hyper criticism of Israel by activists and journalists reflected a commitment to truly universal values, in which all people – and certainly all governments in the Middle East – were held to the same standard, such scrutiny would of course be justifiable.  However, coverage of the region by the MSM and especially the Guardian shows that even the most outrageous displays of Arab racism are unreported, dramatically downplayed, and rarely contextualized as indicating a national or regional pathos.

So, while the Guardian provided saturation coverage of the bigoted reaction by some football hooligans to the introduction of two Muslim players to the Beitar Jerusalem team, an Egyptian football match in which fans hung banners explicitly calling for anther Holocaust against Jews went unreported.

When some rabbis in Safed encouraged Jews not to rent property to Arabs (an act universally condemned by Israeli leaders), ‘Comment is Free’ published a piece characterizing the event as nothing short of an example of a rising tide of fascism.  However, news that the President of Egypt had called Jews ‘sons of apes and pigs‘ and called on the country to nurture their children on antisemitic hate was only mentioned in passing in Guardian reports about other topics – and wasn’t the subject of righteous condemnation by contributors or editors.

The most recent example of the Guardian downplaying a story about institutional racism in Egyptian society involves the country’s decision to ban a film about Egypt’s Jews on ‘national security’ grounds. The film, ‘Jews of Egypt‘, according to the director, attempts to document the history of the Jewish community in Egypt, and “to understand the change in the identity of the Egyptian society that turned from a society full of tolerance and acceptance of one another…into a society that rejects the others”


The ancient Jewish community of Egypt, which totaled nearly 80,000 citizens in 1948, is now practically extinct – the result of state sponsored ethnic cleansing in the late 40s and early 50s which included the seizure of Jews’ assets and property, the revocation of their citizenship, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and pogroms.

Whilst the question of how the mere cinematic depiction of Egypt’s Jewish community could possibly represent a security threat is a staggering one, and what the film’s censorship’s portends for other minorities in the country a serious subject, the first indication that the Guardian will not be taking the broader implications of the ban seriously is that news of the decision was covered, not by their Middle East editor, or another political analyst, but by their film critic Ben Child.

ben child

Child is out of his depth on the issue and the report fails to explore the most intuitive questions about what this official act of censorship implies about a nation evidently in complete denial about the fact that, due to state-sanctioned racist politics and official incitement over the course of little more than fifty years, they’ve eradicated a Jewish community which dated back to biblical times.

If Egyptians were held to the same moral standard as Israelis, critical, progressive minds would be demanding that Egyptians come to terms with their antisemitic history, that a national soul-searching is in order to account for racism so endemic that the President of the country can publicly lecture about the importance of passing down antisemitic values to the next generation of children and not the slightest national shame or outrage ensues.

As progressives won’t demand such a moral accounting of the ‘Egyptian soul’, nothing will change and nothing will be learned. The injurious effects of the hard bigotry of no expectations will continue to prevent a ‘Arab Spring’ worth its name from ever taking root.

Cruel siege on Gaza by neighboring state: Tunnels, flooded with raw sewage, now to be destroyed

The smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt are a security threat and must be destroyed, a Jerusalem Cairo court ruled on Tuesday, responding to a petition brought by a group of activists in the wake of rocket firing and cross border attacks on Israel a cross-border attack, by jihadist elements who infiltrated from Gaza through the tunnelsthat killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August.

A Palestinian smuggler moves refrigerators through a tunnel from Egypt to the Gaza Strip under the border in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: AP)

A Palestinian smuggler moves refrigerators through a tunnel from Egypt into Gaza under the border in Rafah. (Photo: AP)

The Israeli Egyptian court ruling makes it obligatory that the government destroy the tunnels, according to Reuters.

Israel Egypt cannot tolerate a porous border that will continue to destabilize the Sinai Peninsula, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s national security adviser reportedly said.

Gaza, home to roughly 1.7 million people, has lived with border restrictions since Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory in 2007. Smuggling under the 15-kilometer border has circumvented official crossings and bypassed restrictions for many years.

Restrictions on the influx of goods into the territory has prompted Palestinians in Gaza to smuggle in luxury goods, weapons and cash through the illegal tunnels. Hamas officials are known to collect fees from tunnel operators.

An estimated 30% of goods that reach Gaza come through the tunnels

An Israeli Egyptian lawyer, Wael Hamdy, instigated the case because he was “worried about the state of national security” in his country after terror attacks prompted by lawlessness in the Sinai desert region.

The lawyer also said that, in addition to recent efforts by Jerusalem the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Cairo to close some tunnels Israel Egypt has recently resorted to other draconian and inhumane measures such flooding some of the more than 2000 active tunnels with raw sewage.


The systematic siege on Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world has been met with  fierce condemnation silence from pro-Palestinian groups, assorted “human rights” organizations and, even more strangely, the Guardian.


Guardian Gaza page, Feb. 27, 2013

Meet Egyptian peace activist Maikel Nabil: Pro-democracy, pro-Palestinian & pro-Israel

The word “bravery” is pranced around way too frequently these days, but a young Arab, in a country struggling to free itself from the yoke of tyranny – who defiantly promotes the causes of democracy, tolerance and peace between Arabs and Israelis deserves such recognition. 

Liberal Egyptian blogger, human rights dissident, and peace advocate Maikel Nabil spent over 302 days in prison for criticizing the Egyptian Military after it took power in early 2011. Before he was released on Jan. 24, 2012 – after a “Free Maikel” Twitter campaign captured the support of millions worldwide, and after his 130-day hunger strike – Nabil was subjected to beatings, torture and other cruel forms of abuse.

I met Nabil, one of the genuine heroes of Tahir Square, briefly today in Jerusalem while he was on a peace tour of the Jewish state – where he’s delivering lectures, meeting with leading public figures and peace activists, and visiting the Palestinian territories – and it was clear while speaking to him that he’s as passionately patriotic towards Egypt as he is sincere in his benevolence towards both Palestinians and Israelis.  


Nabil today in Jerusalem

Nabil believes there is a much greater degree of goodwill on behalf of Egyptians towards Israelis than what the media is reporting, and it would be fair to characterize his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories (sponsored by UN Watch) as a genuine “peace mission” aimed at dispelling myths about both Egyptians and Israelis – all of which makes the disruption of his speech at Hebrew University yesterday, by “pro-Palestinian activists” almost inexplicable.

Israelis who advocate on behalf of Palestinians – either Arabs or Jews – should, it seems, be heartened by a genuine human rights activist who’s working to bring about a peaceful, democratic Middle East where the rights of all in the region are respected.

However, undeterred by such criticism, Nabil is remarkably optimistic.

Nabil believes that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government is indeed a step backwards for Egyptian democracy (and for Egyptian-Israeli relations), but he expressed confidence that the truly liberal values of the revolution will ultimately prevail.

“It might take 3 or 4 years”, he told me, but a democratic Egypt which respects the human rights of all its citizens, secular and religious, will, he fervently believes, eventually emerge.

In one blog post, written while he was in prison, Nabil reiterated his refusal to engage with the military’s interrogators, and – evoking the courageous resistance of Natan Sharansky during his imprisonment in the Soviet gulags vividly described in ‘Fear No Evil‘ – wrote “I don’t beg for my freedom from a group of killers and homeland-stealers.” He added:

The military council is the one that has to apologise for my imprisonment, my torture, silencing my mouth, spying on my life, my relatives and my friends,” he wrote. “The military council is the one that has to apologise [for] its crimes of killing, torturing and unlawful prosecutions.

Finally, I’d highly recommend reading Nabil’s blog post about Israel, also written while in an Egyptian prison, titled “Why am I pro-Israel“, which provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the truly liberal activist, and should offer a glimmer of hope even to the most cynical among us.


The Muslim Brotherhood are turning into Leninists in Islamist dress. Egypt is in real trouble

(Alan Johnson’s essays on the the dangers posed by the rise of Islamism are truly in a league of their own.  And, his most recent analysis, published on Nov. 5 at The Telegraph and excerpted below, is clearly no exception.  A.L.)

Hardliners are gaining the upper hand in Egypt

Paul Berman, the New York intellectual, is perhaps the most penetrating and imaginative essayist writing about Islamist movements and ideas alive today. In 2010 he published The Flight of the Intellectuals, a stylish account of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Islamist political movement founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen). According to Berman, the party was shaped decisively in both its ideology and organisational methods by mid-century European totalitarianism and was a politically hardened, ideologically driven and anti-Semitic movement. It was from this inconvenient truth that much of the western media and many public intellectuals were in flight.

When I praised Berman’s insights to a group of normally super-astute democracy promotion analysts in DC, to my surprise most took the view that Berman’s thesis was “crazy” and that the Muslim Brotherhood were really like the Christian Democracy in Europe; they had confessional roots, for sure, but were pragmatic folk and could be a force for “moderation”. I responded that the Brotherhood was exactly like the CDU – apart from its party structure, ideology, rhetoric, policy, and goals.

Back in 2010 ours was an academic argument. Well, not any more. The Brotherhood will dominate the region’s politics over the next decade. It is already regnant in Egypt, the most populous Arab country and the intellectual fulcrum of both the Arab and Muslim worlds, after sweeping to power earlier this year by winning the parliamentary and presidential elections, marginalising the secular democrats and knocking the military off their perch. In Tunisia the Brotherhood sits in government in the form of Rachid Ghannouchi’s Ennahda. The Justice and Construction Party (JCP) in Libya only won 17 of the 80 seats available for parties in the elections for Libya’s 200-strong national congress in July, but hopes to do better next time (the Brotherhood is very patient). The Syrian branch will be a force in any post-Assad regime (in the early 1980s the Syrian branch conducted an armed rebellion) and in Jordan it grows in strength. Hamas, of course, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.


CiF contributor Mona Eltahawy and ‘Islamophobia’

This essay was written by Petra Marquardt-Bigman, and originally published at the Jerusalem Post

Addressing Congress just a few days after the devastating terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush repeatedly emphasized the need to distinguish between the peaceful teachings of Islam and the fanaticism of those “who commit evil in the name of Allah.”

The terrorists who had struck on 9/11, were, Bush asserted, “traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Even Bush’s most vitriolic critics would echo this view for years. Writing in the Washington Post in July 2007, John L. Esposito, Founding Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – which in 2005 was renamed The HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – insisted: “In our post-9/11 world, the ability to distinguish between Islam itself and Muslim extremism will be critical.”

But soon enough, this was no longer good enough. With a new administration in Washington trying to distance itself from Bush’s “war on terror” at least rhetorically, there were determined efforts to avoid any reference to Islam

By now, however, it seems clear that this avoidance strategy hasn’t been helpful in any way.

In a scathing essay peppered with lots of sarcasm, Walter Russell Mead recently commented on the “War That Nobody Wants,” arguing:

“But roads paved with good intentions don’t always take you where you want to go, and denial does not look like an effective or sustainable strategy in the current state of what is and remains a multi-theater war against a set of armed religious fanatics and bigoted zealots with a crazed world view and the capacity to make a lot of trouble in a lot of places at the same time. […]

If you want to stoke Islamophobia, don’t level with the people about the nature of the problems we face. […] sometimes truth needs to be told. […] We are fighting a battle first to contain and then to defeat a vicious ideology of murder and hate that masks itself as religious zeal. We are fighting this war both at home and abroad, and there is not an inhabited continent anywhere on Planet Earth where this threat is not a serious concern. All Muslims are not our enemies — far from it, and many of our most important allies and associates are decent, pious, enlightened Muslims who loathe the hate-spewing murderers as much as anybody else — but all of our enemies claim to be fighting in the name of Islam.”

Unfortunately it seems that Mead’s common sense arguments won’t be welcomed by those who prefer to complain loudly about “Islamophobia” while they themselves dismiss the distinction between Muslims and violent extremists who justify savage acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. 

As the recent controversy about ads in several US cities that denounce violent jihad as “savage” illustrates, we apparently live in a time when it is “anti-Muslim” to feel it is “savage” that self-described jihadists would consider videos of beheadings “very, very important” tools for recruiting volunteers to their ranks. And apparently, it’s also beyond the pale to recoil at the savagery of Muslim fanatics who proudly announce that they will keep trying to kill a fourteen-year old girl that they already injured grievously to silence her demands for education, respect and dignity.

The prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy, who is widely considered a liberal activist, has done much to publicize the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as “savage.” As I have documented, she responded to the ads by declaring herself a “proud savage;” she then proceeded to deface one of the ads and, in the aftermath of being arrested and charged with misdemeanor and criminal mischief, she started a very successful publicity campaign to style herself as a latter-day heroine of the Civil Rights movement – while boasting at the same time that she and her supporters succeeded in getting the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to announce revised advertising guidelines.

After all this agitation, Eltahawy has now decided that it was finally time to do what one could have expected from a prominent writer long ago, and she has taken to the pages of the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website to make her case in writing.

It is quite obviously a weak case. The headline of her post announces “If anti-Muslim ads are protected, so must be my free speech right to protest” – but the text reveals that even Eltahawy is aware that her act of vandalism wasn’t really an exercise of free speech, because she admits: “I broke the law, yes.”

But Eltahawy adds defiantly: “So what? I broke it to make a point of principle. Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims are still being bullied and vilified.”

Indeed, Eltahawy tries hard to make the case that there is at least some “coincidental correlation” between the ads that denounce violent jihad as savage and various incidents of anti-Muslim violence and bigotry. Her article opens with a reference to a recent arson attack on the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo:

“Five days after I spray painted over a racist and bigoted advertisement in the New York subway, a man set fire to my brother’s local mosque. He struck just a few hours after the mosque’s kindergarten had been filled with children at Sunday school, including my four nieces and nephews.

It was a coincidental correlation but there was nothing casual about either the hate speech on the walls of the subway […] or the arson in Ohio, which was described as an ‘act of terrorism’ by officials who announced federal hate crime charges against the suspect.”

Leaving aside the fact that Eltahawy of course knows full well that the accused arsonist was reportedly motivated by his anger about recent anti-American violence in the Middle East, it is noteworthy that it apparently wouldn’t occur to her that, due to the fanaticism of violent jihadists, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children live daily under the threat that her nieces and nephews might have faced attending Sunday school in a mosque in Ohio.

One could also recall in this context the terrorist attack on a religious seminary in Jerusalem in spring 2008 that resulted in the killing of eight students and the wounding of 11 others – a result that was cheered and celebrated by Hamas supporters in Gaza.

In the world of Mona Eltahawy, it is “anti-Muslim” to denounce any of this as savage. And in Mona Eltahawy’s world it is also “anti-Muslim” to point out that there is not just a “coincidental” but a very direct “correlation” between the thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians as well as the many brutal terrorist attacks and the ringing endorsements of a divinely ordained genocidal battle against the Jews by leading clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who – according to Eltahawy herself – is “mainstream” and “commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels.”

While Eltahawy would not hesitate to express her loathing of Qaradawi’s views on women in the strongest terms, she apparently takes no offense when Qaradawi tells his “huge audience” of followers that the extermination of Jews by Muslims is divinely ordained – so much so that even the “stones and trees” will do their part by betraying any Jew who might hide behind them.

Whether Eltahawy and her supporters like it or not, the kind of Jew-hating jihad preached by Qaradawi and recently threatened by the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s  Muslim Brotherhood is indeed savage in the context of 21st century civilization.

The claim that it is “anti-Muslim” to say so unfortunately makes sense only if one accepts that Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred is and should be part of mainstream Muslim beliefs. Mona Eltahawy seems to accept that when she rails against the condemnation of jihad as savage and adopts the hashtag #ProudSavage, but fails to even acknowledge the appalling ideology and acts of the violent jihadists of our time. 

Rather bizarrely, she concludes her CiF-article by emphasizing that her nieces – who apparently live in the US – “will not grow up to be scared or apologetic for being Muslim, or Egyptian, or brown.” She also praises the “refusal to be intimidated by bullies” shown by many young Muslims who “were just 10 or 11 when 9/11 happened, and […who] refuse to apologise for something they had nothing to do with.”

Very different from what Eltahawy suggests, nobody who wants to be taken serious will demand that young Muslims apologize for “something they had nothing to do with.” But it is entirely reasonable and justified to expect Muslims – whether younger or older – to understand that demands to ignore the horrors advocated and perpetrated by violent jihadists won’t do much to combat anti-Muslim bigotry.

Mona Eltahawy clearly doesn’t understand that and concludes her article declaring: “The only hashtag I will consider is #ProudSavage.

Video: Egyptian cleric launching Pres. Morsi’s campaign promised new Arab empire with Jerusalem as capital

It was announced late this afternoon that Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate Mohamed Morsi won Egypt’s Presidential elections, and will become the country’s first Islamist head of state.

While the American educated Morsi campaigned on the promise of a modern, inclusive, democratic agenda, those familiar with the ideology and history of the the MB would be wise to doubt the possibility of such a “moderate” Islamist-led regime.

As such, the following (broadcast on Egyptian Al-Nas TV on May 1, 2012), translated and originally posted by MEMRI, is instructive. The clip shows selected segments of Egyptian Cleric Safwat Higazi officially launching the campaign of the then new Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, in front of tens of thousands of MB supporters in Cairo.

(The introductory text on the YouTube video misleadingly implies that the speaker is Morsi himself. However, the original MEMRI video confirms that it is the Egyptian cleric, Safwat Higazi, selected by the campaign to announce Morsi’s candidacy, who is speaking.)

The danger of Western projection: Egypt’s ‘Spring’ devolves into atavistic authoritarianism

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, an Anglo-Israeli writer who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind

Egyptians are choosing between a radical Islamist and Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister in the second day of a presidential runoff greatly dominated by the country’s military.

Two days before the second round of the country’s first “free” presidential elections, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled to invalidate the parliamentary election there. With parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, being dissolved, the military has taken over total authority.  

Egyptian protesters chant slogans against country’s military ruling council & Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, as one holds a poster with merged photos of Mubarak and Ahmed Shafiq with stars of David, at Tahrir Square on Thursday.

The highest court in the land also ruled that the army-backed candidate, Ahmad Shafiq – the last president to serve under Hosni Mubarak- could stay in the race, in what was widely seen as a double blow for the Muslim Brotherhood

The decision was denounced as a coup by opposition leaders, who fear that they will lose much of the political ground they have gained since Mubarak was ousted 16 months ago. 

What do these latest developments mean for the much ballyhooed ‘Arab Spring’? Does the West now find itself in the awkward position of condemning the Egyptian military and simultaneously demanding that the Muslim Brotherhood be put into power?  

This thoroughly misunderstood revolution has laid claim to the hearts and minds of many an erudite Western observer. Did not the awakening that flowered with the removal of Hosni Mubarak usher in a new dawn of social cohesion, economic vibrancy and political democracy

Evidently not. In a country woefully unprepared for democracy, the apparent choice for the good citizens ofEgypt is now between a Sharia state and a military junta. 

One reason that that the West got it wrong was that it fell under the spell of several tantalizing myths, including the one that attributes Mubarak’s ouster to the Facebook generation. While the young and wired up may have played a role in sparking the Arab Spring, they have not been its main beneficiaries. 

The West also overestimated the significance of the democratic secularists and the degree to which demonstrators across Egypt were committed to Western-style democracy rather than a quasi democracy that represented Islamist values.  

Indeed, pro-democracy activists may have induced a gullible Western public to swoon, but they never succeeded in generating a grass-roots following inside of Egypt, which in the end is more important.

Grossly underreported in the media coverage coming out of Tahrir Square was the rise to prominence of the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood. The leading Islamist party in Egypt, which had been banned from participating in national politics by Mubarak, reaped the benefits of a suddenly open political system. 

Last Thursday’s decision by the supreme constitutional court -whose judges were appointed by Mubarak - brings into sharp focus the old regime’s complete lack of public support.

Such machinations bode ill for the Arab world’s newest ‘free society’. In fact, Egypt remains a ‘fear society’ – whose rulers lack the legitimate support of the people. In order to remain in power, Mubarak’s coterie must apparently resort to extraordinary judicial maneuvers. 

As such, despite the West’s infatuation with the image of pro-liberty demonstrations and protests occurring across the Arab world, there’s actually nothing new taking place underneath the Cairo sun.  

In fact, the rise of religious revolutionary forces that drove a nation’s strongman to leave his country bears a striking resemblance to the events leading up to 1979’s Iranian Revolution. 

Once the Western powers realized that Iranian society was on the verge of a fundamental change, they chose to accommodate this change. After recognizing the opposition groups, they facilitated them with opportunities such as media coverage. Through this action, changes accelerated with an unexpected speed.  

It appears, then, that the West is once again on the wrong side of history. What’s behind this chronic inability to get it right? Besides buying into a few unexamined assumptions about the ‘Arab Spring’, Westerners have also tended to lean heavily on the Eastern European revolutions of 1989 as point of reference. Indeed, the unpopularity of these regimes in 1989 is comparable to the loathing expressed across theMiddle East at inert and intolerant authoritarian rulers in 2011. 

However, the role of foreign forces in 1989 and 2011, respectively, is strikingly different. The unpopularity of regimes swept out of power by in 1989 originated in the fact that they were imposed from the outside — from the Soviet Union after World War II — and the governments were seen as tools of a foreign government.  

The Arab Spring was different. The regimes did not come into being as foreign impositions. Nasserism, the ideology of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who founded the modern Egyptian state, was not imposed from the outside. Indeed, it was an anti-Western movement, opposed to both European imperialism and what was seen as American aggression. 

Until the West learns to read and interpret events on the ground with better accuracy, it will continue to find itself waking up in bed with Iranian Mullahs and Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Ultimately, such diplomatic naiveté only serves to arouse public suspicion in these countries towards Western intentions in the Middle East. 

European conference organised by ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ launches new initiative.

Last weekend the tenth ‘Palestinians in Europe’ conference – this year sponsored by Tunisian interim president Monsef Marzouki – was held in Copenhagen. The event was co-organised by the Palestinian Forum in Denmark and the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) of London which is a permanent organiser of the annual event. 

The conference’s president was Majed al Zeer of the PRC and also of the Hamas-linked European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) which was set up by the Muslim Brotherhood’s European arm in 2007 and takes part in organizing the various flotillas, including the fatal one of 2010. 

The Palestinian Return Centre is a Hamas-supporting organization which promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and is banned in Israel due to its links with a terrorist organisation. Besides its General Director al Zeer, others of its staff are well-known for their anti-Israel activities. 

PRC spokesman and chair of trustees Zaher al Birawi recently acted as spokesman for the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’. He has also functioned as spokesman for George Galloway’s ‘Viva Palestina’ convoys, is an official of the Palestinian Forum in Britain and trustee of a UK charity named ‘Education Aid for Palestinians’ which is a member of the Hamas-supporting Union of Good

The PRC’s operational director, Arafat Madi Shoukri, is also connected to the ECESG as well as director of the Brussels-based European parliament lobbying group called the Council for European Palestinian Relations. Ghassan Faour – a trustee of the PRC – is also linked to the UK charity ‘Interpal’ which is a member of the ‘Union of Good’. Another PRC trustee Majdi Akeel – a known Hamas activist and also connected to ‘Interpal’– was mentioned in the Holy Land Foundation trial in the US. The PRC’s senior researcher and editor, Daoud Abdallah, is also the director of MEMO and well-known as a signatory of the Istanbul Declaration

Speakers at the recent conference included former British MP and Minister Clare Short (also a patron of ICHAD UK and an activist with the ECESG, as well as a member of the advisory board of Res Publica) and leader of the Palestinian party ‘al Mubadara’ (aka Palestinian National Initiative) Mustafa Barghouti who was recently involved in the organization of both the Global March to Jerusalem‘ and the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ flytilla.

According to a ‘Union of Good’-linked website: 

“The Conference called on the Arab countries and the countries sponsoring Palestinian refugees to improve these refugees’ conditions reminding the Europeans of their historical responsibility for the Palestinian problem, and stressing on the steadfastness and great sacrifices of the Palestinians people to defend their land.

The conference’s organizers also launched an initiative in which many European Communities will take part entitled “the wall and settlements’ removal” and aiming at pressuring “Israel”.

Meanwhile, a number of participants in the conference agreed unanimously on the key issues that must be supported, most importantly opposing the Judaization of AlQuds, the Palestinian prisoners’ issue and the internal situation stating that these issues can be solved only after a Palestinian reconciliation.”

The conference launched a new PR initiative on the subject of Palestinian prisoners, claiming that:

“Thousands of Palestinian and Arab prisoners are deprived of their basic freedom and incarcerated in Israeli prisons, lacking the basic standards required in any jail. They have endured many unjust practises (sic) inflicted by the Israeli government which is violating its own commitment to International law and Charters of Human Rights. These violations are committed with total impunity and International accountability.”

Given some of the recent media coverage on the subject of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, we may well assume that the campaign is already in full swing.