February 23, 2011

Meanwhile in Gaza…

You might remember that last June, Israel, after coming under international condemnation for murdering nine humanitarian aid workers aboard the Mavi Mamara, promised that it would ease its blockade on the people of Gaza.  “The announcement, which offered few details, said that the security cabinet had decided to ‘liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza’ and to expand the inflow of construction materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision” (NY Times).

Well it turns out—brace yourselves for this—that Israel hasn’t substantially changed its policy.  According to a December 2010 report issued by Amnesty International and a host of other human rights organizations, Israel has continued banning items that don’t fall under “the international definition of dual-use items” and has kept total imports into Gaza to just 35% of pre-blockade levels.  The report also stated that:

  • “[Israel] has so far only approved 7 per cent of the building plan for UNRWA’s projects in Gaza, and of that 7 per cent only a small fraction of the necessary construction material has been allowed to enter for projects including schools and health centres.” 
  • “Although there has been a significant increase in the amount of food stuffs entering Gaza, many humanitarian items, including vital water equipment, that are not on the Israeli restricted list continue to receive no permits.”
  • “Two thirds of Gaza’s factories report they have received none or only some of the raw materials they need to recommence operations.”
  • “More Palestinian businesspeople than before have been allowed to leave Gaza, but ordinary Gaza residents are still denied access to their friends and family, and to educational opportunities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and abroad.” (Amnesty et al.)

After the European Union admonished Israel for “fail[ing] to live up to its commitments on easing the blockade” and urged Israel to both increase the number goods entering Gaza and also begin allowing exports out of the territory (Haaretz), Israel’s cabinet, sensing the need for some quick damage control, announced on December 8 that it would “significantly increase exports of goods from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and abroad” (Haaretz).  According to the above Amnesty report, “[e]xcept for the humanitarian activity of exporting a small amount of strawberries, not a single truck of exports has left Gaza since the ‘easing until now.’”

The importance of allowing exports from Gaza cannot be stressed enough.  Gaza’s businesses, just like businesses in most small economies, depend upon exports for their survival.  “[P]revious goods regularly exported from Gaza included 76 percent of all Gaza-manufactured furniture products, 90 percent of garments and 20 percent of all food products.”  Not surprisingly, then, as a result of the blockade, 95 percent of Gaza’s “industrial establishments were forced to shut down and “the remaining five percent were forced to reduce their level of activity” (OCHA).  Today, 39% of Gazans are unemployed and 80% of Gazans depend upon international aid for their survival (Amnesty et al.). So, in other words, without the ability to export goods, Gaza’s economy can’t survive, which means that, even are satisfactory number of goods are entering Gaza, few people can afford to buy them. 

Well it turns out—again brace yourselves for this—that Israel still isn’t allowing exports to leave Gaza, this according to a recent report from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Just thought I’d remind ya’ll that Palestinians are still suffering. Most people’s attention lately has been on Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, etc., and understandably so. But let’s be sure not to forget Palestine.

February 22, 2011

Bill O’Reilly Fact Check: The Wisconsin Protests

Times columnist Paul Krugman, a far left zealot, says that Wisconsin state workers make less than those doing corresponding jobs in the private sector…That seems to be false.  For example, a state worker in Wisconsin making $48,000 a year gets a monthly pension of $1,700.  A worker in the private sector making $70,000 a year gets $400 less than the state worker. 

But Paul Krugman never said that.  What Krugman said was that “public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications.” As Alternet's Joshua Holland explains: “Public sector workers have, on average, more experience and higher levels of education than their counterparts in the private sector (they are twice as likely to have a college degree). When you adjust for those factors, they make, on average, 4 percent less than their private-sector counterparts.

Krugman’s article, by the way, is excellent.  I suggest you read it.  For other great articles on the protests in Wisconsin, I recommend the following: 

Also, please take the time to sign this petition.

February 19, 2011

The Great Tea Party Sell Out: The Truth About the House Republican Budget

(Updated Below)

What the House Republican budget would do

  • Cut about $60 billion in spending from last year’s levels in many domestic programs, including education, environmental protection and community services.
  • Eliminate federal family planning and teen pregnancy prevention grants. 
  • Cut the Social Security Administration, which the agency has warned might force it to furlough workers.
  • Prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing regulautions curbing emissions of gases that cause global warming.
  • Reduce Pell Grants for lower-income college students by $5.6 billion.
  • Cut $747 million in food aid for poor pregnant women and women with children up to the age of 5.
  • Halt financing for the Americorps national service program, which pays people to do public service jobs and encourages volunteerism.
  • Prevent the administration from enforcing a proposed rule making it harder for students at for-profit colleges to get federal loans and grants.

Meanwhile—and please brace yourselves for this shocking revelation, dear reader—the bill leaves corporate welfare and military spending essentially unscathed.[1]  Let me repeat that: House Republicans have proposed $60 billion in spending cuts that will hurt middle-class and lower-income Americans—yet they refuse to touch the Corporate Welfare Queens and Parasites in the Military Industrial Complex. 

There’s a word for this: Immoral.

Even if you’re a Ron Paul-loving libertarian who believes we need to scale back social welfare, you have to admit that this is the wrong way to do it.  You don’t start by taking subsidies away from people at the bottom.  You don’t start by slashing food aid programs.  You start with the Corporate Welfare Queens, who currently receive around $90 billion every year from taxpayers.  You start with the Military Industrial Complex, which, when all is said and done, receives over $1 trillion every year from taxpayers. 

I can’t tell you how sick I’ve grown listening to conservatives tell us that the days of reckless spending are over, that it’s time we all tighten our belts and make some sacrifices.  Bullshit.  The poor and middle class have made enough sacrifices.  In fact, we’ve been the only ones making sacrifices.  We’re in this shitty condition—unemployed, underemployed, losing our homes, watching our 401Ks struggle to recover—because politicians and their evil corporate buddies have spent the past several decades screwing us over. 

It’s time that Washington’s fuck fest with Big Corporations comes to an end.  It’s time that we start following the example of all those brave men and women in Wisconsin and finally stand up for ourselves. 
I agree we need to cut spending.  Absolutely, let’s cut spending.  Let’s start by ending the war on Afghanistan, which will cost us an additional $100 billion this year.  One hundred billion dollars for a completely insane, immoral, unnecessary, and ultimately unwinnable war.  And then let’s go all the way and finally end the American Empire, which benefits nobody but our politicians and all the sociopaths at Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and the like.  I’m all for national defense.  But I don’t see why we need to be the world’s police force.  I don’t see why we need to have over 1,000 overseas military bases, bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Guam, Greenland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Bulgaria, Brazil, Spain, Diego Garcia, the Philippines, and many other countries.  I don’t see why need to continue spending as much on defense as the entire rest of the world combined

And then once we’re done with the Military Industrial Complex, let’s move on to the other Corporate Welfare Queens.  No more bailouts for big banks, no more “direct cash payments” for agricultural firms and automobile manufacturers, no more “loans, research, and marketing support” for every other corporate slimeball who can afford to buy himself or herself a congressperson.

That’s the responsible, moral way to cut spending. 

So please take a stand and contact your congressman and senators and demand that they cut military spending and corporate welfare, not programs that people actually need.  

* * * * *


[1] Over the past several days, Republicans voted against amendments which would have: (1) cut $19 billion from the Defense budget, (2) prohibited the Pentagon from sponsoring cars in Nascar races, (3) eliminated the Innovative Research Fund, (4) eliminated money allocated for alternative energy in the Pentagon, and (5) cut the Pentagon’s research and development budget by 10%.  As far as I can tell, the only defense cut they approved was an amendment to eliminate $450 million in funding to develop a second engine for the F-35 fighter jet, hardly a controversial vote given that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has long demanded that this program be cut.

* * * * * 

Update: Please see Kevin Zeese's excellent article, The Security Budget vs. the Necessities of Americans

February 14, 2011

More Lies About the Muslim Brotherhood

(Updated Below)

Adding to the anti-Muslim Brotherhood frenzy that’s currently consuming much of the American right, Evangelical leader Chuck Colson writes:

The sad truth is that while Mubarak can’t be called a “friend” of the Copts, he at least tried to reign in his and their common enemy: the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is the original and still most influential Islamist group in the world. Its progeny include al-Qaeda and Hamas.

While the Brotherhood has participated in the electoral process, it’s with an eye to creating an Islamic republic at the center of the Arab world. To call the Brotherhood a force for democracy is insane—and dangerous.

In its vision of a society where the Qur’an is the “sole reference point” for the ordering of family and social life, there is no room for the Copts. The Brotherhood has been implicated in the burning of churches, seminaries and Copt-owned businesses, as well as the murder of Coptic Christians.

All of this makes talk about “democracy” in Egypt and “everyone being an Egyptian” a bit premature. It’s not at all clear whether Copts, whose ancestors have lived there since time immemorial, would be recognized as “Egyptians” in a new government.

Before dealing with the specifics of Colson’s argument, I think it’s important to address his assumption that a democratic Egypt would more than likely be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Out of a population of some 80 million people, the Brotherhood only has around 100,000 members.  Writing shortly after the uprising began, Scott Atran noted that support for the Brotherhood has been

less a matter of true attachment than an accident of circumstance: the many decades of suppression of secular opposition groups that might have countered it. The British, King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat all faced the same problem that Hisham Kaseem, a newspaper editor and human rights activist, described playing out under Mr. Mubarak. “If people met in a cafe and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the cafe and arrest us,” Mr. Kaseem said. “But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”

If Egyptians are given political breathing space, Mr. Kaseem told me, the Brotherhood’s importance will rapidly fade. “In this uprising the Brotherhood is almost invisible,” Mr. Kaseem said, “but not in America and Europe, which fear them as the bogeyman” (New York Times).

A recent poll conducted by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy shows that the Brotherhood has an approval rating of just 15% and that “its leaders get barely 1% in a presidential straw vote. Asked to pick national priorities, just 12% choose shariah over national power, democracy, or economic development. Asked to explain the uprising, economic conditions, corruption, and unemployment (30-40% each) far outpace ‘regime not Islamic enough’ (7%)” (Washington Post).

Now moving on to Colson’s argument. 

First, it’s absurd to lump the Muslim Brotherhood together with such jihadist groups as al-Qaeda and Hamas. Although it’s true that both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were once associated with the Brotherhood, Colson fails to mention that these individuals left the Brotherhood because, as they became more and more radical, their beliefs became incompatible with the group’s.  As Robert Leiken and Steven Brooke write, “The Brotherhood is a collection of national groups with differing outlooks, and the various factions disagree about how best to advance its mission. But all reject global jihad while embracing elections and other features of democracy” (Foreign Affairs).  The Brotherhood has repeatedly condemned al-Qaeda and other radical groups and has in turn been condemned by these groups (AFP, New English Review, Foreign Affairs).   

Colson’s claim that the Brotherhood is against the Copts, that there would be “no room” for the Copts in a Brotherhood-dominated Egypt, is equally absurd.  The Brotherhood has long defended Egyptian’s Coptic Christians.  Last November, for instance, when an al-Qaeda group declared that all Christians were “legitimate targets,” the Brotherhood, not only condemned this belief, but called upon all Muslims to protect Christians (The National, Xinhuanet).  After radicals bombed an Alexandrian church on New Year’s day, the Brotherhood put its words into action and attended “Christmas Masses with their Coptic Christian brethren, serving as human shields against further potential acts of extremist violence on the Christian holy day” (Washington Post, Juan Cole, ABNA).  As anti-Mubarak protests began last month, the Brotherhood again “called on prominent members of the Muslim clergy in Egypt to help protect the churches in the country” (Waging Nonviolence, The Peninsula).

While Colson insists that the Brotherhood intends to impose an Islamic system upon Egypt, the group insists that it’s committed to democracy.  Last week, it publicly rejected calls by Iran’s Ayatollah Kahmenei for an Islamic revolution, maintaining instead that it “regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution” and “asserting that the Egyptian People’s Revolution includes Muslims, Christians, from all sects and political [sic]” (Eurasia Review).

After spending two weeks talking to members of the Brotherhood, James Traub, an American journalist and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, remarked how struck he was “by their reluctance to impose their views on others and their commitment to [the] democratic process.”  As one member told Traub, “We do not want to establish a country like Iran, which thinks that it is ruling with a divine mandate. We want a government based on civil law, with an Islamic source of lawmaking.”    Traub proceeds to write:

And just what is an “Islamic source of lawmaking?” Muhammad Habib, then the Muslim Brotherhood's deputy supreme guide—its second-ranking official—explained to me that, under such a system, parliament would seek the advice of religious scholars on issues touching upon religion, though such views could never be binding. A democratically elected parliament, he asserted, would still have the “absolute right” to pass a law the Brotherhood deemed “un-Islamic.” And the proper redress for religious objections would be a formal appeal process in the constitutional court.

Maybe they were lying. But I didn’t think so. More to the point, the Muslim Brotherhood's then 88-member caucus in the legislature studiously avoided religious issues and worked with secular opposition members on issues of democracy and human rights. They all lived together in a hotel, showed up for work every day, and invited outside experts for policy briefings. It was widely agreed that the Brothers took parliament far more seriously than members of the ruling party ever had. (Foreign Policy)

(See also Carrie Rosefsky Wickham’s “The Muslim Brotherhood After Mubarak.”)

Now I don’t write any of this to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood is a perfectly benevolent organization and that, if it somehow gains power, we should blindly trust it to do the right thing.  No group of people, especially one given power over others, should be trusted blindly.  But I do think it’s important to understand that the narrative being forwarded by such people as Chuck Colson has almost no basis in reality.  

* * * * * 


Some more reading on the Muslim Brotherhood: 

February 13, 2011

Not Yet Time to Celebrate, cont'd

LA Times (h/t Antiwar.com)

[A]nalysts in Cairo, Washington and Tel Aviv say the situation remains too volatile to be sure that the military council will ultimately permit free elections, accede to civilian control and allow transparency.

No popular civilian leaders or independent political parties were allowed to emerge during Mubarak's long tenure. His departure has left a political void, and some analysts fear that the generals may seek to stifle any threat to the status quo…

Post-Mubarak Egypt could follow the path of Turkey and Indonesia, Muslim nations where the army remains strong but democratic reforms have flourished. Or it could go the way of Pakistan, where military and intelligence services hold the levers of power…

U.S. officials say the Egyptian military is avidly interested in ensuring no reduction in the aid Egypt has gotten annually from the United States since it signed the peace treaty with Israel, and has bitterly fought any effort in Congress to withhold the money or place conditions on it.  [And the US government isn’t exactly known for bribing armies to do the right thing.  Sorry all you brave protestors in Egypt, sorry all you suffering souls in Gaza, Uncle Sam is probably conspiring against you right now.]

In hindsight it appears that the military top brass very cleverly choreographed Mubarak's removal in order to achieve two ends. First, by distancing itself from the crumbling authority of the president it aimed to demonstrate to the protestors that the military was not opposed to their demands and aspirations. Second, by permitting a certain amount of anarchy in Cairo and elsewhere it intended to create enough fear of chaos among the general public that the latter would come to appreciate the army's role as the keeper of order in the last resort…

Despite the conciliatory rhetoric emanating from the military brass, the officer corps as an institution continues to have a vested interest in the political and economic power structure created and preserved by the regime under Sadat and Mubarak. To expect the military to relinquish its corporate interests for the sake of popular welfare is likely to turn out to be delusion…

One should not underestimate either the staying power of the military or its capacity to seek revenge on those who attempt to force it out of the political arena. It took Turkey sixty years, from 1950 to 2010 - from the first democratic elections to the Ergenekon affair - to impose a respectable amount of civilian control over the military…

Democracy in the true sense of the term will remain a mirage as long as the military is seen as the guarantor of law and order and/or as the agent for political transition. The only transition that the military brass likes is the transition of power to itself. The democracy activists in Egypt must learn this lesson quickly otherwise the gains they have made will soon be frittered away. The tyrant may be dead but tyranny is lurking around the corner.

Egypt Turns ‘Clash of Civilizations’ Thesis on Its Head

Arun Kundnani (h/t Paul Woodward):

Since the end of the Cold War, conservatives have argued that the world should be seen through the lens of a clash between civilizations. The world could be divided, they argued, on the basis of different cultures and their distance from Western values…

Liberals had their own version of such thinking, particularly after 9/11. Rejecting the necessity of a clash between civilizations, they spoke of a dialogue between civilizations. But they shared with conservatives the assumption that culture was the primary driving force of political conflict…

Significantly, both sides in the debate assumed that the fundamental divisions in the world were cultural rather than political.

In the case of the Middle East, conflict was seen as rooted in a cultural failure of Islam to adapt itself to modernity, rather than a political aspiration to freedom from regimes the West was backing.

The Egyptian revolution has finally demonstrated in practice that this cultural assumption no longer holds. Popular sovereignty, not God's sovereignty, has been the basis of the revolution. Muslims and Christians have marched together on the streets. [More on this here.]  The slogans have been universal demands for rights, dignity and social justice. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood has been one among the many strands of the movement, accommodating themselves to its democratic and pluralist thrust. [According to a recent poll conducted by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy: “Asked to pick national priorities, just 12% [of Egyptians] choose shariah over national power, democracy, or economic development. Asked to explain the uprising, economic conditions, corruption, and unemployment (30-40% each) far outpace ‘regime not Islamic enough’ (7%).”]

All of this confounds the "clash of civilizations" thesis which holds that the 'Islamic world' has necessarily "bloody borders." It also confounds the "dialogue of civilizations" approach, which seeks to address the people of the Middle East as a culturally distinct "Muslim world" rather than as populations whose demands are political and universal.

February 7, 2011

Bill O’Reilly Slanders Al Jazeera, Again

tizzy (ˈti-zē) verb: to get really confused, agitated, irrational, and pissy all at once

That anti-American operation is spurring on the revolt. Many Arabs get their information from Al Jazeera. That network is extremely powerful and is encouraging uprisings all over the Muslim world. Al Jazeera very rarely condemns the jihadists, and I believe the network would be happy to see them take power.

Al Jazeera makes a living blaming most problems in the Middle East on the USA and Israel. And any Arab leader who supports America is barbequed on the network, while those who hate America are praised…

Any fair-minded person who follows Al Jazeera knows it is anti-American and anti-Semitic. Only on the far left can it find acceptance.

As proof that Al Jazeera is anti-American and anti-Semitic, OReilly tells us that the network sometimes—brace yourselves for this—sometimes reports on the sayings and doings of individuals who are themselves anti-American and anti-Semitic.

For example, O’Reilly tells us, “When the vicious pro-Iranian mullah al-Sadr returned to Iraq recently, Al Jazerra covered it live.”  Not recorded, mind you, but live.  Certainly Fox News would never, never give airtime to the rantings of this “vicious pro-Iranian mullah”—except, of course, when it does exactly that:

And not only does Fox News give voice to the oh-so-sinister al-Sadr, but it also gives airtime, lots and lots of airtime, to other sinister fellows.  For example, whenever Osama bin Laden has something to say, you’ll always hear about it on Fox News, and if you go onto their website you can often find a complete transcript:

Raw Data: Video Transcript (12/13/01)

Transcript: Bin Laden Video Excerpts (10/29/04)

Raw Data: Bin Laden Transcript (01/19/06)

Now I don’t know about you, but I kind of think that reporting on the sayings of such men doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with them; it just means that, you know, you’re doing what journalists are supposed to do.  But that’s just my opinion. 

As further proof that Al Jazeera is anti-Semitic, O’Reilly plays clips from two Al Jazeera guests who said some things which might be construed as anti-Semitic.  (One man, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, claimed that Jewish guards had used witchcraft to subdue him; another guest, a Jordanian reporter, spoke against “the Zionist enemy,” i.e., Israel.) 

But, of course, having a bigoted guest on your network doesn’t make your network bigoted.  If such were the case then we’d have to conclude that Fox News was the most bigoted network around, for it has had the following bigots, among others, on its programs:

Of course, when it comes to hate and bigotry, these individuals have nothing on Bill O’Reilly himself, but I’ll save that discussion for another time. 

Why Democracy in Egypt is Good for America

Arab Revolts Bad News for Al Qaeda 

If the popular revolts that have rocked Tunisia and Egypt gain momentum and spread across the Middle East, they could strike a catastrophic blow to al Qaeda’s violent ideology, experts say. While some in the West fear protests in the Arab world could see authoritarian secular regimes overthrown by equally hardline religious parties, other observers say the movements pose a far greater threat to militants.

Groups like Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda have long preached that peaceful protest is useless in the face of autocracy. They condemn electoral politics and urge Muslims to use violence to combat injustice and oppression. But if street protests in Tunisia can force an dictator into exile and in Cairo can force a regime to promise free elections and sit down with its opponents, why should angry young Arabs turn to bombs and guns? “Ultimately, it works against the idea of the resort to violence,” Maha Azzam, who studies the Middle East for the London-based think tank Chatham House, told AFP in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which is occupied by protesters

“All people and all groups in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, demand a democratic transition to power. They all condemn political violence,” said Azzam. “If it succeeds and if the transition is peaceful and successful, if it leads to a political system that includes all groups, it will be detrimental for the radical groups,” she added...

Al Qaeda, whose intellectual head and number two figure is the Egyptian doctor Ayman al Zawahiri, has long condemned any participation in elections, indeed any participation in secular political life. The Muslim Brotherhood, in contrast, has battled for representation. In Egypt, where it is banned, the group fields candidates under the “independent” banner and it is now pushing to be involved in political reform.

The militant groups are at a crossroads,” said Dominique Thomas, an expert in radical Islam at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris. “If these events snowball, and raise democratic expectations in the region and people are able to overthrow dictatorships with pressure from the street, that would be a stunning blow to their theories,” he said.

“If it’s the will of the people that topples regimes, al Qaeda and other militant groups will find it hard to bounce back and modify their narrative,” he said. “And, amid all this excitement, they’ve been strangely quiet. They’re probably confounded. Bin Laden or Zawahiri will have to speak out soon, or their whole discourse will lose credibility,” he said.

February 1, 2011

Pay No Attention to the Lunatic Right: Why Americans Shouldn’t Fear the Muslim Brotherhood

(Updated Below)

The Hosni Mubarak Fan Club just keeps growing bigger and bigger.  From Bill O’Reilly and Pamella Geller (those two really ought to tie the knot) to John Bolton and Mike Huckabee, the Lunatic Right continues explaining why we can’t let democracy prevail in Egypt.  Because, they warn, if Egyptians are given freedom, then they’ll just turn to the Muslim Brotherhood, which, don’t ya know, is an organization comprised of “jihadists who hate America and who will help al-Qaeda all day long” (O’Reilly).    

Unsurprisingly, all this shrieking about the Muslim Brotherhood being in league with al-Qaeda has no basis in reality.  The Brotherhood has long renounced violence.  Writing in Foreign Affairs, Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke chronicle [.pdf] how the Brotherhood rejected the more radical teachings of Sayyid Qutb (rightly referred to as the father of global Islamic terrorism) in the 1950s and 1960s.  In the years that followed, the group “followed the path of toleration and eventually came to find democracy compatible with its notion of slow Islamization.”
On the other hand: “Having lost the internal struggle for the Brotherhood, the radicals regrouped outside it, in sects that sought to topple regimes throughout the Muslim world. (Groups such as al Jihad would furnish the Egyptian core of al Qaeda.) These jihadists view the Brotherhood’s embrace of democracy as blasphemy.”

Far from engaging in terrorism, Leiken and Brooke write that it appears that the Brotherhood today “works to dissuade Muslims from violence, instead channeling them into politics and charitable activities.”  It’s not surprising then that, as Nathan Brown of George Washington University writes, al-Qaeda “openly and consistently attacks the Brotherhood as having sold out.” 

Of course, such facts as these aren’t going to get in the way of the Lunatic Right.  Writing in the Weekly Standard, Thomas Joscelyn insists that the Muslim Brotherhood really does have al-Qaeda ties.  As proof, he points to “Rajab Hilal Hamida, a member of the Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliament,” who has publicly defended the likes of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.  Of course, if you do a simple Google search, you’ll learn that, unlike Joscelyn claims, Rajab Hilal Hamida isn’t actually a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  He’s a member of the secular Ghad Party, as can be evidenced here and here and here. So much for Joscelyn’s first argument.

Trying to further establish the Muslim Brotherhood-al-Qaeda connection, Joscelyn writes that “just this week CNN reported that the Saudis found in a recent investigation that the Muslim Brotherhood maintains ties to al Qaeda.”  But if you read the CNN report, you’ll learn that Saudi Arabia didn’t conclude that “the Muslim Brotherhood maintains ties to al-Qaeda.”  Rather, Saudi Arabia concluded that “some in the Muslim Brotherhood had ‘historic sympathies and connection’ with members of the terror group.”  Given that there are millions of members within the Muslim Brotherhood, this is hardly surprising, and it doesn’t prove anything about the organization as a whole.  In the same way, noting that some US soldiers kill Afghan civilians for fun and collect their fingers as trophies doesn’t prove that the US Army [as a whole] does this.

Now I don’t write any of this to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood is a perfectly benevolent organization with perfectly pacifistic members who have all fully embraced the tenets of secular democracy.  It definitely has its problems. (For more on this, see the Crisis Group’s 2008 report, “Egypt’s Muslim Brothers: Confrontation or Integration?”)  But although the group has its problems, it’s simply preposterous to conclude, along with O’Reilly and Joscelyn, that it is allied with al-Qaeda. 

As Leiken and Brooke write, “The Brotherhood is a collection of national groups with differing outlooks, and the various factions disagree about how best to advance its mission. But all reject global jihad while embracing elections and other features of democracy.”  For this reason, it’s important that the Obama administration follow the advice of former CIA Officer Bruce Riedel and “not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won’t be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy.” 

* * * * *  

Update, 2/7/11: 

From Eurasia Review:
Egypt’s main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, have rejected calls by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for an Islamic Revolution similar to the Iranian revolution of 1979 to be established in Egypt. 
“The MB regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution” said a statement published on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website just hours after Khamenei’s remarks on Friday, while “asserting that the Egyptian People’s Revolution includes Muslims, Christians, from all sects and political.”