Tuesday, September 24, 2002

"Pro-Democrocacy" Think Tank is Front for Israeli Lobby

A new think tank reports it has "joined forces" with a Saudi dissident (what are they, the Wonder Twins?) in the neocon campaign to smear the Saudi government and Saudi-based Islamic groups. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the so-called "Saudi Institute," a one-man show run by disgruntled Shi'ite Ali Al-Ahmed (above), claim in a new report that Saudi Arabian religious authorities are spreading "hate literature."

The report is totally bogus, rife with mistranslation and selective quoting. For example, the report cites a passage from a book distributed by the Virginia-based Instititute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences, part of the Saudi university system, in which it is written that Muslims should feel hatred toward non-Muslims. He neglects to mention that this refers to what a Muslim’s attitude toward the enemy should be during a period of war. He juxtaposes this with a quote 20 pages away that Muslims should not take the Christians and Jews as friends, regardless of whether or not they are combatants. They translate the word "awliyaat" as "friends," when the term actually means patrons or protectors ("isdiqaa" means friends).

He conveniently avoids passages like this from the book:

“Treat them with gentleness and in the best manner. You may give charity to the poor among them, give them presents and accept their presents, give them condolences, answer their greetings…and travel to their countries if there is no religious oppression. You may visit them, you may interact with them freely.”

As a long time observer of the neocon anti-Islam industry, a think tank with a name like "Foundation for the Defense of Democracies" just begs me to delve a little deeper. Turns out it was co-founded by neocon godfather Richard Perle, one of "a group of high-ranking hawks in the Pentagon--led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz--that some DC insiders call the 'Kosher Nostra.'" Perle heads up the quasi-official Defense Policy Board, which sponsored the controversial Pentagon briefing in July that described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States.

Look a little further and we find that the FDD’s vice president, Nim Boms, is a former Officer of Public and Academic Affairs for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. Heading up the FDD is Clifford May, currently Vice Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group with a stated goal of “continuing foreign aid to Israel.” Other FDD officials include veteran pro-Israel activists like Charles Jacobs, who has been active with the National Unity Coalition for Israel (NUCI), a group he tells the New York Times (1/21/98) gives “voice to evangelical Christians who are ardent Zionists.”

And violent groups? They apparently don't have a problem with them as long as they support their favorite country. Jacobs’ NUCI has posted materials on its web site by an official of Kach, the violent Israeli militant group outlawed by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. And FDD Senior Advisor Walid Phares has had a long and close relationship with the Guardians of the Cedar, a pro-Israel Lebanese militia. The group, which in 1976 led the massacre of at least 3,000 Palestinian men, women, and children at the Tel al-Za’atar refugee camp near Beirut (and continues to call the massacre a "cleansing"), is labeled “an extremist Christian group” by the US State Department. The Congressional Research Service labels them an “extremist Maronite militia and terrorist organization.”

The FDD says it believes that "terrorism ...is never justifiable, and must never be condoned or tolerated by civilized peoples." Obviously that's a lie, since two of its senior officers condone terrorists, at the very least. So what do they really want? The degradation of America’s relationship with the Muslim world in general and with Saudi Arabia in particular, a strategy they hope will result in a proportionate gain for Israel.

Monday, September 23, 2002

I’m not a martyr, but I play one on TV

Islam is routinely attacked as a religion whose adherents are “fanatics” because they have such faith in their convictions that they are willing to die for them. But some of Islam’s most outspoken detractors seem to desire martyrdom so fervently that they rival the most zealous Hamas bomber—even to the extent that they publicly fantasize about their impending demise in the name of their cause.

The fashionableness of martyrdom began with Salman Rushdie, who had the good fortune to be the target of an actual, non-imaginary fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini calling for his assassination. Despite the inconveniences the edict caused for Rushdie, it had the positive effect of boosting his career to a level he could never have reached on the strength of his dull, laborious writing alone.

Since then, for Islam-bashers, having a “fatwa” issued against them has acquired a status rivaling that of the Pulitzer Prize for normal authors—a phenomenon I call “Rushdie envy.” Mavens of the increasingly lucrative anti-Islam industry compete with one another for the honor of being stalked by swarthy, wild-eyed fanatics.

Arch-Muslim-basher Steven Emerson tells a fishy tale of what he calls “an actual hit team” (just to make sure we know it’s not an “imaginary hit team”) of “radical Islamic fundamentalists” being dispatched to do away with him as payback for his courageous reporting. As a man so desperately in need of redeeming his reputation that he had to hire a PR firm, I’m sure he was at least as pleased with this news as he was with the news of 9/11 (assuming there’s even a grain of truth to his story). Certainly it impressed Emerson’s supporters, who trumpet the claim as evidence of his legitimacy.

Mystery man Detlev Herschler, I mean Detlev Khalid, oops, I mean Detlev B.K. Duran, no, wait, I mean Khalid Duran (I guess that’s his name this week) and his American Jewish Committee patrons spawned a hilarious fiasco when they falsely claimed Duran was the target of a death sentence by a Jordanian political party. Duran and AJC shopped the manufactured story around to journalists for weeks before anyone finally bit. Duran made a histrionic show of “going into hiding,” until the alleged authors of the “fatwa” inconveniently denied ever making any threat. One year later, it is unclear whether Duran is still going through the motions, skulking around “in hiding” under the protection of his pistol-packing, scam-promoting lawyer Michael J. Wildes.

Even Muslims looking to promote themselves as “moderates” trumpet dubious stories of receiving death threats as a means of proving themselves to those whose approval they seek. Hisham Kabbani, a self-styled Sufi promoted by pro-Israel neoconservatives, says he’s a victim. In interviews with media outlets hostile to Islam, UCLA professor Khaled Abou El Fadl—who describes himself as an “ex-fundamentlist”—glories in stories of death threats against him.

It is of course true that there is at least one case of a Westerner being threatened with death for writing blasphemous and insulting material about Islam. Such threats are not only illegal, they play into the hands of those who are hostile to Islam and eager for the validation they provide. These exaggerated and fabricated threats serve as a smokescreen to divert attention from the flawed arguments of authentic Islam’s detractors that would otherwise be easily and effectively refuted in the public forum.