This week: congress, campaigns, and Palestinian rejectionism with Clifford Smith, Oren Litwin, and Oded Forer.

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Strengthening Congressional Decision-Makers
An interview with Clifford Smith - Defending America against radical Islam

smith.jpg Clifford Smith is the director of the MEF's Washington Project, serving as liaison to decision makers and opinion leaders in Washington, D.C. He earned an M.P.P with a focus on International Relations from Pepperdine University and a law degree from the Catholic University of America. He is a member of the Maryland Bar, an experienced political operative, and has held several positions in Congress, most recently as communications director for U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL 6th District).
The Washington Project informs Congress and the administration beyond the basics of Middle East challenges.  Our scholars detail the specific identities of America’s friends and foes as they pertain to radical Islamic ideology.  Updating those tasked with safeguarding the values of a free-market secular society enables them to do their jobs more effectively.

A key issue is the threat posed by radical Islamic charities that fund terrorism. Beyond the obvious danger, our investigation revealed that Obama administration bureaucrats were complicit in waiving sanctions against ISRA, a charity purportedly supporting the needy in Sudan that was designated as an al Qaeda-funding charity in 2004. 

Nonetheless, ISRA was issued U.S. government grants in excess of $100,000 by those with full knowledge of the organization’s designation.  The Obama administration minimized the threat of radical Islam to the point of categorizing Nidal Hassan’s jihadi rampage at Fort Hood as “workplace violence.”  The extension of that administration’s sympathies for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, reflected Obama’s willful blindness toward the threat of Islamist ideology.

The Obama administration was pressured by another charity for the Sudanese, World Vision, a large Christian evangelical charity sympathetic to Islamists.  World Vision, while legitimately supporting people in need, turned a blind eye to the fact that it was also funding al Qaeda affiliates.  World Vision’s sins extended to Gaza, where its director stands accused of funding Hamas terror.  Nothing will change until more evangelical Christians hold World Vision accountable by exposing its corruption, thereby threatening its funding stream.

Educating a receptive Congress, administration, and relevant investigatory committees as to the threat of Islamist ideology has prompted key USAID and State Department members to express regret and commit to correcting the problem.  Civil servants responsible for disbursing funds need to be held accountable to avoid future funding of terror groups.  Under the current administration, these government officials exhibit a greater willingness to discuss radical Islamism by name, thereby exposing the potent minority within Islam who eschew moderation.  This exposure is critical for the benefit of not only non-Muslims, but also for the benefit of moderate Muslims in the U.S. and across the world.

Sizing Up American-Muslim Political Candidates
An interview with Oren Litwin - Exposing Islamist funding of US political candidates

litwin.jpg Oren Litwin is a senior research fellow for MEF’s Islamist Watch and does extensive research for the Forum’s Islamist Money in Politics project. He is also an associate fellow for the R Street Institute and has previously served as the political risk fellow for the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and as an adjunct professor of political science at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.
By some estimates, over 100 Arab or Muslim candidates, energized by the perception that the Trump administration is anti-Muslim and anti-minority, have been running for office in local and state races. The struggle within the Democratic party between centrists and progressives could well jeopardize these candidates’ chances for success, while Republicans are uncertain whether President Trump will help or harm their own candidates’ chances for success. 

Among the factions in the Democratic party is the self-branded “Democratic Socialist” branch which has made common cause with some Muslim candidates having Islamist connections. Abdul al-Sayed ran for governor of Michigan as a strong defender of the separation of religion and state, but he has significant connections with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and was a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Both entities are Muslim Brotherhood organizations.  Muslim Americans who remain unaware of the Islamist affiliations of these candidates are at risk of aligning themselves with an Islamist project’s hidden agenda.

Many Muslims enter the political arena by running for office in Michigan. The biggest indicator of these candidates’ ties to Islamists is the source of the financial support they receive, much of it from outside of the state.  Al-Sayed received $50,000 from Islamist sources, the most in political donations in this election cycle. Financial endorsements from major American Islamist figures should invite closer scrutiny of certain Muslim candidates and their platforms since these donors believe the candidates can further the Islamists’ political agenda.  Al-Sayed, though unsuccessful in his gubernatorial bid, received 30 percent of the vote in the Michigan primary, thereby establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in that state’s politics.

Rashida Tlaib, another Muslim candidate, received $30,000 from Islamist sources and was a keynote speaker at Detroit’s largest BDS rally in 2014. Although Tlaib indulges in traditional progressive rhetoric while de-emphasizing her Islamist connections, she shared a stage with the Michigan CAIR chapter head who chanted anti-Jewish pronouncements. She also benefited from nationwide fundraising efforts by both CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood affiliated group.

A third Muslim candidate running in September’s upcoming Massachusetts primary, Tahirah Amatul Wadud, is the most unambiguous case of a political candidate’s direct connection to an overt extremist group, Jamaat al Fuqra.  The North American Muslim sect includes members who have a history of violence.

End of Conflict: Rejecting Palestinian Rejectionism
An interview with Oded Forer - Resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict

 forer.jpg Oded Forer is an Israeli politician, currently serving as a member of the Knesset for Yisrael Beiteinu and chairman of the Israel Victory Caucus (IVC). Prior to his time in the Knesset, MK Forer was a naval officer, serving in a variety of command positions. In the 20th Knesset, Oded Forer is a member of the Finance Committee; the Education, and the Culture and Sports Committee, among others. Forer chairs the Lobby for the Promotion of Trade in Israel and Overseas, and is a member of the Lobby for Relations between Israel and African Countries and the Lobby for the Promotion of Druze and Circassian Rights.
A professional who followed his naval career with a long life in public service, Forer assessed the Israeli public’s attitude towards the recent wave of attacks from Gaza by explaining that Israel is not the problem, given that Gaza is run by Hamas, a terror organization that holds the people of Gaza hostage.  With every fire balloon and rocket attack against Israel, Gazans need to realize that Hamas only deepens their misery.  To Israel’s credit, when responding to attacks against its citizens, the military gains the advantage with strategically targeted responses that limit collateral damage. Gazans seeking a better life and improved economy must realize that they will only achieve their goals if there is quiet.

The international community can play a crucial role in promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but only by taking a different approach than that of the failed Oslo accords which promoted violence instead of peace and placed no demands on the Palestinian leadership.  Hamas’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state will perpetuate the fighting.  Only with Hamas’s surrender will peace have a chance to take root. Until then, Israel’s enemies in Gaza and Iran will be met by an iron wall they cannot destroy.

The IVC brought its message to the U.S. Congress and America’s political leaders.  The Caucus is heartened by its bipartisan support from congressmen who realize that recognition of Israel as a Jewish democratic state goes hand in hand with the values of democracy and human rights.  Understanding that approach is a condition for engaging in any meaningful dialogue.

Mohammed Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, gives lip service in support of a two-state solution, but his actions have shown that his true goal is two Palestinian states.  With the support of Congress, President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the transfer of the American embassy to that city show the Palestinians that there is nothing to be gained from violence.  The Palestinian people claim they want a better life, but they cannot achieve it without a change in leadership.  If there is one that recognizes Israel and foreswears violence, their position will improve, and all sides will move towards peace.  The responsibility is theirs.

Summary accounts by Marilyn Stern, Communications Coordinator for the Middle East Forum