August 20, 2014

Note to President Obama: Don’t Back America’s and Israel’s Enemies


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President Obama: I’m sure that in the next few hours, as you visit Israel, you will say many nice things, that you will receive a warm welcome, and that everyone you meet will speak of you as a wonderful president and a great friend. That’s fine.

But here’s what you need to know, what’s of the greatest importance that nobody is going to say to your face….

One Middle Eastern saying that has become widely known in the West is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the Obama era, this has been transmuted into: The enemy of my friend is my friend. No, wait! U.S. policy has gone even further than that to: The enemy of myself is my friend!

Here’s a perfect example for understanding that point.

“An Egyptian woman, her name’s Samira Ibrahim and she’s done a lot of courageous things. She’s also been criticized for sending tweets that are antisemitic, anti-American. Does the U.S. need to accept that when we want to make change you have to support people who do those things, financially and in terms of awards…because it pays off in the end, because it’s a trade-off we have to make?”

This is what Erin Burnett of CNN asked former First Lady Barbara Bush in a recent interview.

This Samira Ibrahim case became controversial after it was discovered that she had tweeted joy about successful terrorist killings of Americans and Israelis plus even quoting Adolf Hitler on evil Jewish conspiracies. So should she get an award from the U.S. State Department? Should the U.S. government give money and First Lady Michelle Obama personally honor someone who quotes Hitler on the Jews, supports terrorist attacks on civilians, and endorses the September 11 attack? Wow.

And yet in her question, Burnett was perfectly summarizing Obama Administration Middle East policy.

Current U.S. strategy is to support anti-American, antisemitic radicals, even with arms and money, believing that “it pays off in the end.”

The nonsense here should be obvious: Why help put into power and then favor people who hate you, lie about you, and want to destroy you? What is the pay-off? That if you help your ideologically motivated enemies become the rulers they will then like you? That being in power will make them moderates, an idea that notably failed in the Israel-Palestinian “peace process” and on many other occasions?

More accurately the equation can be expressed in this manner:

Today you give them guns; tomorrow they use those weapons to murder the U.S. ambassador when he tries to get them back.

But Burnett accurately reflects U.S. policy: you must put people who hate you into power and even flatter them and give them money. Burnett’s phrasing even implies that the United States is the one doing the overthrowing, “When we want to make a change….”

In February 2011, the New York Times described a secret White House study of the previous year planning for how “the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States….”

The goal, as the Washington Post described it about the same time, was to create “an alternative to `the Al- Qaeda narrative’ of Western interference.” And how would that be done? By helping Islamists into power, thus showing the United States was not anti-Islamist or, by questionable extension of that concept, not anti-Muslim!

No, you don’t have to do that. Change at any cost is not a necessity and what needs to be done is to help your friends, not your enemies. Is that clear?

Here is Israel’s true problem with the Obama Administration and the president personally. It is not so much about the long-dead “peace process” which the White House won’t acknowledge—even to itself—was killed by Palestinian intransigence or about bilateral U.S.-Israel relations. No, it is mainly about a U.S. policy of helping radical Islamists who are antisemites and openly call for wiping Israel off the map to get into power.

Consider how bizarre this is. The U.S. government help install—or at least not try to stop—the takeover of key strategic countries by its own enemies and those eager to attack its ally, Israel. The likely outcome is to condemn the region to far more terrorism, oppression, ethnic massacres, war, and dictatorship. It is like backing “moderate” Communists during the Cold War.

Having Islamists ruling Egypt, soon Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and (Obama’s role model) Turkey is a major threat to Israeli security. Aside from what such governments do directly, they either help—or turn a blind eye—to even more violent Salafist groups. For example, this has brought cross-border attacks from Egyptian territory, rocket firings from Gaza, and the violent aspects of the Gaza flotilla engineered by Turkey’s government through the IHH group.

Is empowering those who want to commit genocide on the Jews and destroy Israel, in Burnett’s words, “a trade-off we have to make” because “”it pays off in the end”?  There’s a precedent. In 1939, British Colonial Department secretary Malcolm MacDonald explained appeasement in these words: “There are times when the most ethical consideration must give way to…necessity.”

Yet for the Obama Administration this is a policy of choice, not necessity, and it does not benefit U.S. interests.

As for claims that “moderate Islamists”—like Hamas and the Brotherhood–restrain extremists, this is an old disastrous idea. Consider, for example, the August 8, 1932, Glasgow Herald:

“Murder, arson, and outrage continue to shatter the internal peace of Germany….Herr Hitler and his more moderate colleagues…are said to deplore the terrorist tactics of some sections of their followers.”

The September 17, 1935, New York Times, while acknowledging that hatred of Jews was central to Hitler’s ideology, suggested antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany were a sop thrown to “the Radical wing of the [Nazi] party.”

That’s how the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists work together playing radical and moderate Islamists or–with Hamas and Hizballah–”political wing” and “military wing.” True, the latter are more eager to use violence and have less patience with political process, putting ideological mouthing-off over clever maneuvering. But both groups have the same goals and often cooperate in achieving them. In Egypt, they came together to attack the U.S. embassy, to strike against Christian churches, and to install a militant version of Sharia law.

Certainly, the United States does not control everything that happens in these countries. Yet inasmuch as it does have money and influence, that power has been used to help the Islamists and not the moderates. For example, the Obama Administration has backed Brotherhood leadership of the Syrian opposition and supports giving weapons to both the Brotherhood and Salafists, with no preference given to non-Islamists at all.

Real moderates in Iran, Turkey, and the Arabic-speaking world firmly believe U.S. policy is backing their enemies. Indeed, it was real moderates in Egypt who exposed the fact that Samira Ibrahim is an extremist!

Empowering anti-American and antisemitic Islamism in the guise of “moderate Islamism” is the most dangerous thing U.S. policy could do in the Middle East or in the world generally. The price in blood will be paid for decades to come. I’d end this article by asking Obama to stop doing this but why bother because we all know that he won’t do so. 

 

This article is published on PJMedia

About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)