This week we talk with the Middle East Forum's lead investigators: E.J. Kimball, director of the Israel Victory Project, Sam Westrop, director of Islamist Watch, and Seth Myers, director of Campus Watch.

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Update: Middle East Forum’s Israel Victory Project (IVP)
An interview with E.J. Kimball, director of the Israel Victory Project

Kimball.jpgA foreign policy and national security consultant with over 10 years' experience working in Washington, D.C., E.J Kimball most recently served as executive director of the Israel Allies Foundation. Previously, he was foreign policy counsel to Rep. Sue Myrick (NC), staff director of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, and director of government relations for Jorge Scientific Corporation. Kimball graduated from Boston University, earned his J.D. from Western New England College, and received an M.A. from the American University School of International Service. Twitter: @IsraelVictory17
In the much-discussed Mideast peace plan yet to be rolled out by the White House, certain basic principles of the agreement will likely include language reconfirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as well as President Trump’s support for a two-state solution. U.S. support for a two-state solution implies that the resolution of the conflict should be left to the parties themselves. 

Constraints on progress include the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority (PA) under its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and his rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. The inability of the Palestinians to accept compromise places Arab countries allied with Israel over the shared Iranian threat with a dilemma between endorsing or rejecting any peace plan the Palestinians refuse to accept.

The Israel Victory Project (IVP) changes the equation by introducing a new paradigm in how the conflict is perceived both by the Israeli government and the U.S. administration. The lack of progress since the Oslo accords were signed 25 years ago reveals that, rather than accept Israel’s right to exist, the Palestinians continued the war against Israel that was launched 70 years ago when the Jewish state was re-established. Historically, wars end when one side accepts that it cannot achieve its objective, and negotiations to establish peace follow. IVP focuses the spotlight of the peace process on PA rejectionism, thereby placing the onus for a lack of progress squarely on PA intransigence. It was this intransigence which led President Trump to cut off U.S funding that had rewarded PA lies and incitement.

The original victory strategy can be found in a 2016 Commentary magazine article by Dr. Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. Among Dr. Pipes’ proposals were two recommendations that have come to fruition under the Trump administration. They include moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and changing the U.S. relationship to UNRWA, the UN relief agency that has corrupted the term “refugee” to perpetuate a sense of perennial victimhood among the Palestinians. To avoid exacerbating the problems UNRWA created, IVP is educating the European countries who have offered to make up the shortfall to UNRWA. By doing so, IVP’s goal is to change the operational framework of the organizations that disburse funds to UNRWA. The process of promoting a peaceful resolution to the conflict begins with privatizing the process of assistance which will enable U.S. aid to go directly to entities that promote American values.

Update: Middle East Forum’s Islamist Watch (IW)
An interview with Sam Westrop, director of Islamist Watch

Westrop.jpgSam Westrop has headed Islamist Watch since March 2017, when MEF absorbed the counter-extremism unit of Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT). Previously, he was research director at APT where he tracked Islamist activity across New England, and ran Stand for Peace, a London-based counter-extremism organization monitoring Islamists in the UK. Mr. Westrop is a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute. His writings have appeared in the National Review, National Post, and The Hill, and he has appeared on dozens of television and radio stations, including BBC, Al Jazeera, and Newsmax.
The goal of Islamist Watch is to delineate the particular strains of Islam, i.e., Islamism, that seek to impose a political theocracy on both Muslims and non-Muslims alike by manipulating and exploiting the language and processes of democracy in the West to further their dangerous agenda. The effective infiltration of Western culture and government is exemplified by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This prominent Islamic movement and its affiliates employ non-violent methods to enter candidates in elections, and attempt to take control of schools, seminaries, and community centers to exert their influence at the local, state, and federal levels.

It is only from the investigation of the dozens of Islamist movements and their lawfully engaged activities in the U.S. that the public will come to understand the insidious nature of the threat and the sheer diversity of the different Islamist groups. An example of lawful Islamism running counter to American principles and interests is the Islamists’ monopolization of private Islamic schools that benefit from taxpayer voucher systems while they inculcate an extreme Islamist ideology. Islamists have also infiltrated chaplaincy programs, targeting prison systems with Islamist imams, Islamic chaplains who have an extremist Salafi Islamist orientation. Vulnerable prisoners, either Muslims or converts to Islam, can be radicalized. While these activities are not illegal per se, they are dangerous.

IW focuses on targeting Islamist groups in the West, rather than painting all of Islam with a broad brush, by stressing the need to assert the American principles of free speech rights and the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. This approach addresses the problem of Islamism in a democratic and free way. The Islamist ideology can be defeated with a mix of education and activism and without resorting to illiberal methods like censorship, as is the case in Europe, where the problem of Islamism is more pronounced. This mix includes strengthening moderate Muslims who have been silenced by Islamists and educating the media and our politicians about the nature of the Islamist threat. These steps are essential in preventing Islamist individuals’ and groups’ access to public monies and putting an end to their invitations to the White House, state legislatures and state houses across the country.

A recent expose published by IW in collaboration with the Investigative Project on Terrorism sheds light on the South Asian Islamist group, Jamaah Islamiya, that is very active in the U.S. and influential in the Bangladeshi American community. The group has convinced U.S. politicians that they speak for American Muslims, but in fact it is a genocidal organization that took part in the murder of millions of Bangladeshis in the 1970s. IW has so informed legislators, the State Department, the National Security Council, and administration officials.

Another example of a deceptive Islamist group is the Charity and Security Network, a legal rights group that purports to speak on behalf of Muslim charities unfairly burdened by counterterror regulation. Instead of speaking on behalf of innocent Muslim charities caught up in government bureaucracy, they advocate on behalf of charities that have a long history of involvement in terror financing and extremism.

By carefully exposing the toxic Islamists and empowering moderate Muslims, IW educates the public and legislators on best practices to tackle Islamism.


Update: Middle East Forum’s Campus Watch (CW)
An interview with Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch

Myers.jpgWinfield Myers is director of the Middle East Forum's Campus Watch, which reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North American universities. He has taught world history and other topics at the University of Michigan, the University of Georgia, Tulane, and Xavier University of Louisiana. Mr. Myers was previously managing editor of the American Enterprise magazine and CEO of Democracy Project, Inc., which he co-founded. The principal author and editor of a college guide, Choosing the Right College (1998, 2001), Mr. Myers has served as senior editor and communications director at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Twitter: @CampusWatchMEF
The disturbing climate on college campuses today, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, should concern the public. Conditions at the Middle East studies departments are egregious because, as CW has found, an increasing number of faculty members and research appointments at major universities are either apologists for Islamism or are Islamists themselves who proselytize for the radical version of Islam.

In the heart of Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University is the Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, named for the Saudi prince who founded it with a $25 million gift. Several of its faculty appointments expose it as a propaganda arm for Wahhabi Islam, the fundamentalist version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. A senior fellow at the center, Ibrahim Kaylin, is Turkish president Erdogan’s chief spokesman and chief advisor. Although an American-educated Turk with a Ph.D. from George Washington University in Islamic Studies, Kaylin is aligned with the authoritarian Erdogan, an overt Islamist who is re-Islamizing Turkey and eliminating reforms instituted by Ataturk. Last week, Erdogan threatened to kidnap opponents of the Turkish regime, regardless of where they are. Georgetown’s al-Waleed Center reprehensibly provides an academic slot to an Islamist who works with a regime that has jailed thousands of professors, educators, civil servants, police, and soldiers in an attempt to legitimize its brand of Islamism.

Arsalon Iftikar, a fellow at the Al-Waleed Center’s Bridge Initiative, is another appointment at the Center. He is the former national director of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood Islamist organization that deceptively bills itself as a civil rights organization. The Bridge Initiative promotes the myth that “Islamophobia” is rampant in the U.S., propaganda meant to perpetuate Muslim victimhood. The term “Islamophobia” is used as an epithet by Islamists to silence critics of Islamism and shut down debate.

Finally, consider the recent case of the Islamist professor who denied a recommendation letter to a student seeking to study in Israel but was willing to recommend her for a program in another country. CW’s website serves as a resource for parents and students alike who want to access a list of professors who are recommended for their honesty in their scholarship. The website also serves to identify propagandistic professors who indoctrinate rather than educate.

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