When I originally wrote about an essay at ‘Comment is Free’ by Wajahat Ali titled, “Fighting the defamation of Muslim Americans“, in August, I wasn’t as aware with the left-wing think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), which published the report on Islamophobia that Ali co-authored and introduced in his post.
I did note suspicion about the the CAP report, as it included in their list of those guilty of disseminating anti-Muslim bigotry – titled “Fear, Inc. Exposing the Islamophobia Network in America” – a vast network of institutions which included Fox News, The National Review, and the Washington Times, Middle East Scholar Daniel Pipes, and Terrorism expert Steve Emerson.
But the recent scandal, involving bloggers associated with CAP engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, places Ali’s report, and his contribution to CiF, in a different light.
Briefly, for those unaware, CAP is a Washington-based policy organization that serves as a source of ideas for the Democratic party, and is very influential among policy makers in the Obama White House. The controversy arose when it was discovered that Zaid Jilani, who blogged for CAP’s ThinkProgress website, used Twitter to call US supporters of the Jewish state “Israel Firsters” – evoking the classic (typically far right) antisemitic narrative that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country.
Maryland historian Jeffrey Herf, who has authored books on anti-Semitism, expressed concern that such dual-loyalty conspiracy theories, which typically existed mainly on “the far Left and far Right of American politics” may be seeping into the center of American politics.
Further, Matt Duss, CAP’s Middle East Progress director, wrote on ThinkProgress that “the entire Israeli occupation” of the Gaza Strip is “a moral abomination” comparable to the former Jim Crow South in the US.
The Jerusalem Post obtained an e-mail in January in which Faiz Shakir, editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress, acknowledged that Jilani’s words charging supporters of Israel with dual-loyalty was “terrible anti-Semitic language.”
The think tank has been engulfed in the affair since December, resulting in strong condemnations from civil rights organizations, and resulted in a White House Jewish affairs official terming the situation at CAP to be “troubling.”
But, perhaps more concerning than antisemitic terms being employed by commentators association with CAP, is the background of the activist, Wajahat Ali, they chose to ally themselves with in the 40 page report on anti-Muslim racism.
As I observed previously, Ali has demonstrated a tendency to engage in accusations of “Islamophobia” quite liberally.
For instance, he leveled the charge of Islamophobia against the U.S. government in the context of the FBI prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for the “charity” group’s ties to terrorism – a prosecution which resulted in five convictions, including “conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, providing material support to a foreign terrorist, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.”
Further, a little more research into the background of Wajahat Ali reveals that the author holds some decidedly illiberal views about another historically oppressed minority.
Ali is a contributor to the radical anti-Zionist site, Counterpunch, where, in one essay, he likened Israel to Apartheid in S. African, and characterized the Gaza war as an “Israeli blitzkrieg that repeatedly bombards a beleaguered Palestinian refugee population.” Ali also published, in Counterpunch, an extremely sympathetic interview with Norman Finkelstein, about “The Holocaust Industry” – a book which characterizes Israelis as “basically Nazis with beards and black hats”.
Essays at Ali’s own blog, Goatmilk: An intellectual playground, are often cross posted at the English Website of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and, additionally, he was a board member of the Muslim Students Association, an organization established by members of the MB.
Further, Ali clearly demonstrates a propensity to use his “intellectual playground” to promote voices hostile to Jews and opposed to Israel’ existence.
On June of 2010, he included in his blog, as the “Essay of the week”, a cross-post of a piece by Ilan Pappe, the universally discredited radical Israeli “historian” who advocates the end of the Jewish state. Pappe, in the essay, commenting broadly about Israel in the aftermath of the May, 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, accused the state of practicing ethnic cleansing, and opined that “only sustained pressure by Western governments [similar to the pressure placed on S. Africa] will drive the message home that the strategy of force [and] oppression are not accepted morally or politically by the world to which Israel wants to belong.”
In April of 2009, Ali posted a piece by Sasha Rabkin titled, “A Jewish American man’s defense of self-hatred” which characterized Zionism as an “identity centered on racism, military might, ["fascism"] and occupation,” and later characterized Jewish Zionist identity as a “Judaism devoid of soul and love and oppressing the most occupied people in the world”. He also characterized Israel’s War of Independence as an act of “genocide” against Arabs.
Rabkin’s defense of Jewish self-hatred, which Ali evidently endorses, concludes with this passage:
“the two main forces of the 20th century who sought to separate Jews were the Nazis and the Zionists. This is not to fully equate the two. There are obvious differences. But, both sought to single out the Jews, to show them as special and in need of segregation. They both contributed to the death of Jews. Most importantly, they both have sequestered Jewish identity in a militarized, confrontational and racist corner.Finally, Ali’s thoughts on the CAP “Israel Firsters” row, can possibly be explained by his retweet of a Max Blumenthal Tweet.
The link leads to a Glenn Greenwald post, “The ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign against CAP and Media Matters rolls on“.
Greenwald, who himself trades in antisemitic tropes about dual loyalty with abandon, summed up the CAP controversy thusly.
This is a truly disgusting spectacle: these [CAP] commentators…are being publicly smeared early in their careers as anti-Semites as part of a coordinated, ongoing campaign planned by Josh Block and carried out by numerous journalists with large media platforms, and aided and abetted by Jewish groups trading on their credibility to suppress debate….about crucial policy matters in the U.S.,And, I simply can’t imagine why anyone would find such tropes about the injurious effects of Jewish power, and the disloyalty of “Israel-Firsters”, by CAP bloggers, authors, and their supporters to be antisemitic!?
- Censored at ‘Comment is Free’: Information about pro-Islamist sympathies of CiF contributors (cifwatch.com)
- What the Guardian won’t report: FBI Hate Crime Stats again disprove claims of rising Islamophobia (cifwatch.com)
- U.S. Ambassador blames Israel for European Muslim antisemitism: Teachable moment for the Left? (cifwatch.com)
- CiF contributor characterizes Israel’s relationship with India as an alliance based on Islamophobia (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s Jonathan Steele accuses Tunisian Muslims who oppose radical Islam of Islamophobia (cifwatch.com)