Monday, October 18, 2010

A Response to the ADL's "Anti-Israel" Tag

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League compiled a list of ten national
organizations whom they consider to be "anti-Israel".
These groups included secular Left activist organizations, Palestinian
rights groups, and two prominent national Muslim organizations, including
the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Muslim American

It's interesting to note that this isn't the first time that the ADL has
struck out against Muslim organizations and groups on the political Left,
essentially because of our stand on the issue of the Israeli occupation of
Palestinian land and the ongoing economic blockade of Gaza. But the fact
that the ADL now openly characterizes us, and others, as "Anti-Israel" does
require both a political analysis of the allegation, and an understanding of
the subtext that underlies the contention.

For the record, it should be noted that the ADL is an important, and
respected, organization that has a long history of principled opposition to
anti-Smites (a global phenomenon), and to an extent, racism in the American
experience. Muslim and progressive organizations should celebrate this
positive work, because racism and anti-Semitism should have no legitimate
place in either the Muslim organizational world or the world of progressive
politics. Those of us who have heard, or witnessed, statement that
excoriate Jews or attack their human rights have been, and should be, moved
to reject these pronouncements. In the case of MAS, Mr. Foxman and the ADL
were informed that individuals who made such statements at our 2009 national
conference did so without the support or authorization of our organization.

But the ADL now characterizes these anti-occupation groups as being
"Anti-Israel", and this allegation requires some unpacking. Does this imply
that MAS,CAIR and others deny the right of the Israel to exist as a nation
state? Or that we deny the human rights of the Jewish people? Or that we are
guilty of hating Jews?

What Mr. Foxman would discover, if he and the ADL are interested in the
truth of the matter, is that none of these positions characterize the
positions of MAS, CAIR, and I truly believe, other groups on this nefarious"
Anti-Israel" list. It is true that there is virulent racism and
anti-Semitism in the world, and these sentiments are vile and morally
indefensible. But anti-Semitism and opposing the racially constructed,
pro-colonialism policies of Israel are not one in the same. And Mr. Foxman
and company know this very well.

Indeed, there are numerous progressive Jews, including Israelis themselves,
that reject the premise that a Jewish state can claim legitimacy while
opposing the most basic rights of the indigenous people who remain
marginalized, dispossessed, and oppressed by the Israeli government.

There is also the allegation that MAS, and others, support " terrorism" But
how does the ADL selectively define this term? Certainly, lobbing rockets
from Gaza that kill Israeli civilians in the city of Ashkelon is something
that no moral person can defend. But there is a clear lack of symmetry in
the absence of any condemnation by the ADL, or other pro-Israel organizations,
of the ongoing destruction of Arab homes and villages, or the systematic
settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied territories. How could any
person claiming to be a supporter of human rights possible ignore, or
rationalize these actions done in the name of the Jewish state?

Arab and Majority-Muslim nation states certainly have their own deep moral
contradictions when it comes to violence and human oppression, and this is
an issue that none of us can afford to be silent about. But Israel(thanks
in part a well-funded and ubiquitous lobby), is largely insulated from the
legitimate moral concerns that confront nearly all other nations guilty of
massive human rights violations. And ignoring this issue will neither make
Israel "secure" nor will it help is shaping a comprehensive and just peace
for the people of Israel, Palestine, and the entire Middle East.

It would be naive to ignore the huge divide between pro-Zionist and Muslim
and politically progressive groups on the issue of the moral legitimacy of
the occupation. But perhaps a good place to start might be the affirmation,
by both the ADL and the organizations it opposes, of the need for
a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East and an end to all forms of militarism and violence in the region.

Indeed, if neither occupation nor retaliatory violence can lead to viable
and just outcomes, such a conversation could be mutually informative, and
even move us all from the "anti-Israel" and "pro-Palestine" paradigm that
benefits no one. MAS and others will continue to support the end of the
Israeli occupation and the injustice of the oppression of the people of
Palestine, because that is the morally right position to take, not only for
Muslims, but for all people who value freedom and justice. But it is a
stand that is taken by more and more Jews as well. And hopefully, the
Anti-Defamation league will one day realize that there is no value in using
the "Anti-Israel" canard to smear and mis-characterize anti-occupation
groups, and that no nation-state, anywhere, should be exempt from legitimate
criticism when it comes to the issue of the violation of basic human right
of either its citizens or those under its domination.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is the Anti-Shar'ia Hysteria Just A Smokescreen for Islamophobia?

Is the Anti-Shar'ia Hysteria Just A Smokescreen for Islamophobia?

Recently, the political Right has been working overtime to convince the American public (again) that Islam presents a mortal threat to the constitutional integrity of the Republic. Political pundits, radio shock-jocks, professional Muslim bashers,
and an assorted menagerie of others are now trumpeting the line that Muslims in the United States are "threatening" the nation by way of some misguided, and nefarious, attempt to impose Islamic law on the 97% of the country that is not Muslim.

Most recently, Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Nevada, gave specificity to the "threat" by claiming that two American municipalities-Dearborn, Michigan and Frankfort, Texas-were in danger of coming under the control of Islamic law. But the only trouble with these accusations is that they are utterly, and scandalously, untrue.

Non-Muslims should be aware that Sharia is simply a legal code, binding on Muslims, that governs the conduct of individuals as well as the broader community, The sources of Sharia and the Holy Qur'an ( which Muslims believe is the word of God as transmitted to Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Jibril), and the Hadith, or Prophetic example of Muhammad as transmitted by the Companions of the Prophet and reliable and trusted scholars who came after them). The Sharia is intended to regulate the norms and conduct of Muslims in the areas of marriage and divorce, family life, the rights and duties of men and women, inheritance laws, busness transactions, and other things that normalize conduct in religious communities.

Shar'ia is not intended to replace, supplant, or superimpose itself on the United States Constitution, or any local or state statutes that citizens or residents of the United States are bound to honor. Muslim-bashers are aware of this, as they are no doubt aware that there is no serious attempt by any reputable Muslim organizations to contemplate any foolish attempt to force Islamic law on people who are not Muslim.

The current Mayor of Dearborn, Jack O'Reilly, said as much when he responded to Ms. Angle's claim by saying that she "doesn't know what she's talking about" when she claims that Dearborn is Shar'ia bound. Moreover, national Muslim organizations, including MAS, have all declared that they seek to advance Islam in America totally within the boundaries of the law of the society.

Although Ms, Angle and other opponents of the Muslim American community are unwilling to let facts get in the way of their hostile opinions, the reality is simply that Muslims in the United States are neither capable of, or willing to, impose religious law on a secular society. Shar'ia is not a threat to anyone, and the continued use of that false argument only serves to potentially undermine the legitimate rights and religious liberties of law-abiding American Muslims who have no subversive designs on the law of the land.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Complexity, and Duplicity of War Make "Victory" for the U.S. in Afghanistan More Elusive than Ever

I am old enough to remember the conflict in Vietnam, which is still regarded by many as the first clear military defeat
of the U.S in history. There were multiple reasons for this demise, including the fact that national liberation struggles (remember, America also began one in 1776) are far different in character for conventional armies just throwing down on the field of battle.

But another factor in the U.S. demise in Vietnam is the fact that the Vietnamese resistance ( that is, the "enemy') was like a Chimera-elusive, ghost-like, and taking on multiple disguises-including the uniforms of those who presented themselves as U.S. 'allies" against the North Vietnamese and the indigenous anti-imperialist forces in South Vietnam better known as the Viet Cong.

Something similar seems to be going on in Afghanistan now. It would be a dis-analogy to say that the Taliban are the equivalent of the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army under the command of Hanoi, but the situations do have some commonality. The Taliban have infiltrated the "regular" Afghan Army and conduct some of their operations in both Afghan army uniforms and-lately-U.S. Army uniforms as well. Add to the mix the release last month of the Wikileaks classified internal Pentagon documents that specified the suspected collaboration of Pakistan intelligence operatives with the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan.

And now, this week, we have witnessed the successful Taliban attacks on 25 NATO gasoline tankers headed to Afghanistan from Pakistan. It seems to me like somebody with ties to the United States might, in fact, be "dropping a dime" on American military war plans from the inside.

War, of course, is about stealth, intelligence and counter-intelligence, and keeping one's adversary guessing about troop movements, supply movements, tactical and strategic plans, and the like. Commanders on both ( or should I say, all) sides of the war in Afghanistan, clearly understand this. But war, as Clausewitz so profoundly said in the 19th Century, is simply the continuation of politics by other means. And the convoluted politics of Afghan political corruption, double-dealing, and obscure objectives, may prove impossible for even the massive firepower of the U.S. to overcome.

Now, we have reports that the weak and failed government of Hamid Karzai is in negotiations with the Taliban. The objectives and prospects of these "preliminary" talks are not clear. But if a cease-fire comes between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it will be very hard to explain to the families of American troops killed in the conflict the reason for their sacrifice, or why some of their "allies" were working both sides of the war.

The Taliban are not "liberators", or progressives, either in the context of Islamic practice or the positive evolution of Afghan civil society. But the Taliban are also neither unified nor ideologically monolithic. And it just may be remotely possible for some agreement to be reached with some elements of the insurgency that could end, or at least radically reduce, the tragedy of killing and destruction in Afghanistan.

If this is the case, then war will truly not have been the answer, and the American government will be hard pressed to justify their enormous, and likely failed, investment in a military solution to the internal Afghanistan "problem".