JERUSALEM – A conflict has erupted between conservative pundit William Kristol and Fox News host Glenn Beck over the chaos in Egypt, with a number of right-leaning authors taking sides, and a few even hurling insults. In my job as a Mideast-based, boots-on-the-ground reporter who has lived and breathed these issues for the past six years, in constant communication with all sides of the Mideast conflict – including near-daily interviews with Arab officials, jihadist leaders (such as those from the Muslim Brotherhood), as well as average citizens – I feel compelled to join Glenn Beck’s side.
Chastising Beck from his position as editor of the influential Weekly Standard, Kristol criticizes the talk-show host for his “rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and [he] lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left.” Kristol then evinces a highly optimistic view of the upheaval now roiling Egypt and hails the protests there as a precursor for democracy, while urging the United States to support “the Egyptian awakening.”
Besides excoriating Beck, Kristol takes issue with Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who warns the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood may come to power as result of the revolution, but quotes approvingly of Krauthammer’s view that the “Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support.” Krauthammer also asserts that “our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time.” And to top it off, Kristol compares the Egyptian revolution to America’s own founding. “The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them,” he writes. Unfortunately, the Egypt Kristol wishes for does not reflect reality on the ground. Glenn Beck’s vision of an emerging Islamic caliphate – with the radical American left aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood – is far closer to the truth and supported by abundant evidence. (Beck is not the only nationally syndicated commentator to make this argument. Popular talker Michael Savage devoted an entire broadcast last Friday to showing that leftist American figures had their hands in the Egyptian revolt, which, he said, will favor Islamists.)
Muslim Brotherhood to gain
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized and popular opposition party in Egypt – and in much of the greater Middle East – and is poised to gain the most from any drive for democratic elections in the region. Some commentators have wrongly stated the Brotherhood has a popularity rating of “only” about 20 percent in Egypt. This figure is based on 2005 “elections” in which Brotherhood allies took about that percentage of the parliament. The Brotherhood then lost some of those seats in parliamentary “elections” held again last year. But both those elections were held amid widespread allegations of vote rigging and opposition intimidation in favor of President Hosni Mubarak, whose tightly controlled security forces reportedly rounded up and arrested Brotherhood leaders and key sympathizers in the run up to the ballots. It is simply unknown how well the Brotherhood would have scored if free and fair elections had been held.
Like its Hamas offshoot in the Palestinian territories, the Muslim Brotherhood has been endearing itself to the Egyptian population over the past several decades by building a civilian infrastructure of social services to make up for what Mubarak’s regime is lacking. Even a pedestrian reading of the situation in Egypt sees that the Brotherhood stands to gain the most from a truly democratic vote. Indeed, the Brotherhood has already scored a major victory by being invited to consult with Mubarak’s regime over reforms that will allow it more representation in any future government. Even if the Brotherhood did represent less than a quarter of the Egyptian population, in my Mideast neighborhood we have already seen that this kind of base may be enough to hijack an entire government. In Lebanon, Hezbollah – also a minority party – received veto power in the parliament last year. This year, the Iranian-backed extremist group just toppled the Lebanese government and seems poised to form a new one with a Hezbollah-allied prime minister.
Similarly, the Brotherhood in Egypt, which specializes in seizing power by stealthy, nonviolent means, understands any first real elections would be just one step toward its ultimate goal of a complete takeover.
For this it is willing to wait, just as Iranian Revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was patient when he was first backed by Carter.
In 1979, Carter felt the U.S. could work with the weak Iranian politician Mehdi Bazargan, who Khomeini wanted as prime minister, instead of Shaphur Bakhtiar whom the Western-oriented shah appointed to take over.
Within eight months, however, Khomeini deposed of Bazargan and appointed a new prime minister who followed in the tradition of the Islamic revolution.
Now some are pointing to the “moderate,” Muslim Brotherhood-acceptable candidate Mohamed El Baradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief. El Baradei wears a suit and tie and knows how to talk the right talk (see his recent declaration that Egypt would continue upholding its treaty with Israel) to ensure an uninterrupted flow of U.S. aid.
Of course, as chief of the IAEA, El Baradei did his best to obfuscate Iran’s nuclear program. He claimed he didn’t know about Syria’s construction of a nascent nuclear reactor Israel was forced to bomb in 2007.
Like Khomeini’s Bazargan, El Baradei doesn’t have much standing within Egypt and can be deposed at the right time.
Democratic Islamic takeover
Let’s look at other places where Kristol has championed democracy. Hamas swept to power in Palestinian Authority elections; Islamists are making gains in Iraq, where the current government is mostly paralyzed; Iran is ruled by Shiite fundamentalists who are the largest state sponsors of terrorism in the world; and Turkey has been democratically overtaken by Islamists who support Hamas and are in partnership with Iran. As we have seen, democratic elections do not necessarily lead to democratic societies, or to ones not profoundly hostile to Western values and interests.
In the Middle East, the type of elections Kristol champions are almost always used by Muslim Brotherhood allies to rise to power (democratically) and then to clamp down on press freedoms, human rights and the physical safety of woman and minorities. In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a small Christian minority is routinely persecuted amidst a hardline Islamist regime that now imposes its way of life on all Gazan citizens, including moderate Muslims. In Egypt, Coptic Christian churches were already – before the recent upheaval – being torched and bombed by Muslim extremists. Likewise the arson attack on the ancient synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia – a country until now renowned for its tolerant, French orientation – in the immediate aftermath of last month’s uprising against President-for-life Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
As Beck rightly stated, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to create an Islamic caliphate in Egypt with ambitions to spread Islam across the Middle East, Africa and throughout the world. This is laid out in the Muslim Brotherhood’s secretive charter. Just yesterday, excerpts of a book by Mustafa Mashhur, who headed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from 1996-2002, were published in English, making clear the Brotherhood’s objectives. The book reportedly details the Brotherhood’s goals of advancing the global conquest of Islam and re-establishing the Islamic Caliphate. This week, I obtained an Arabic copy of the revised Brotherhood charter from 2007. Among other things, it calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt in which non-Muslims cannot hold government positions and must pay thejizya, or special “protection” tax, for living in a Muslim country.
Yet many prominent U.S. commentators claim the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization, denying any Islamist plan to seize power. But just listen to Brotherhood leaders. The chief of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hammam Saeed, warned two weeks ago that the unrest in Egypt will spread across the Mideast until Arabs succeed at toppling leaders allied with the United States. On the Internet – as reported by the invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute – prominent Salafi cleric Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti issued afatwaover the website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal Jihad, encouraging the protests in Egypt and claiming that Islamist jihadis are now on the verge of a historic moment in the history of the Islamic nation, an “earthquake” he likened to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Incidentally, in November the Brotherhood’s new supreme guide, Muhammad Badi, delivered a sermon entitled, “How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny,” in which he declared, “Resistance is the only solution.” Like Beck, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the revolution in Egypt may result in an Islamist takeover in the spirit of Iran.
“First, Egyptians may choose to embrace the model of a secular reformist state with a prominent role for the military,” Netanyahu said this week. “There is a second possibility, that the Islamists exploit their influence to gradually take the country into a reverse direction.”
Does Kristol similarly believe Netanyahu is engaging in conspiracy mongering?
Radical left fingerprints on Egypt chaos
Now, Kristol’s other criticism of Beck – the Fox host’s assertion of a leftist alliance with Mideast Islamists – warrants serious attention. Just yesterday, I reported at WND that the International Crisis XX Group, led by billionaire activist George Soros, has long petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. The ICG also produced a report urging the Egyptian regime to allow the Brotherhood to establish an Islamist political party. Included on the ICG board is none other than Egyptian opposition leader El Baradei, as well as other personalities who champion dialogue with Hamas. U.S. board members include Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to Jimmy Carter; Samuel Berger, who was Bill Clinton’s national security adviser; and retired U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, who made headlines in 2009 after meeting with Hamas leaders and calling for the U.S. to open ties to the Islamist group. Another ICG member is Robert Malley, a former adviser to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. He resigned after it was exposed he had coros also has other ties to opposition groups in the Middle East. His Open Society Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Initiative has provided numerous grants to a wide range of projects that promote so-called democratic issues across the region, including in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has much to gain from any future election. Soros’ Open Society also funded the main opposition voice in Tunisia, Radio Kalima, which championed the riots there that led to the ouster of Ben Ali. In September, Soros’ group was looking to expand its operations in Egypt by hiring a new project manager for its Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which is run in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative. The group is seeking to develop a national network of legal empowerment actors for referral of public-interest law cases. Such organizations in the past have helped represent Muslim Brotherhood leaders seeking election or other kinds of authority in the country.
Soros himself on Friday made public statements in support of the protests in Egypt, which the Mubarak government has warned will result in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country. In a Washington Post editorial entitled, “Why Obama Has to Get Egypt Right,” Soros recognized that if free elections were held in Egypt, “the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority.” He stated the U.S. has “much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy” in Egypt. It is surprising that Kristol so easily dismissed Beck’s claims of a leftist drive to aid the Islamists’ ascent to power. History is full of American leftists siding with our enemies (in Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, USSR, China), whom they hope will diminish our country’s capitalist powerhouse status. Kristol certainly should be well aware of American leftists, many with ties to Obama, who have been arguing for the U.S. to open dialogue with Hamas.
Obama pals in Egypt
Aside from those mentioned above, it is noteworthy that months before the protests erupted throughout Egypt aimed at toppling Mubarak’s regime, President Obama’s own associates provoked anti-regime, pro-Hamas chaos on the streets of that now-embattled country and longtime U.S. ally.
Similar scenes unfolded in January 2010, when Obama associates provoked chaos in Egypt in an attempt to enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to join in solidarity with the territory’s population and leadership. WND reported at the time those protests were led by former Weather Underground terrorists William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn – close Obama associates for years. Another protest leader was Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink, a far-left activist organization formed in 2002 to protest America’s war in Iraq. The group previously met with Hamas and with leaders of the Taliban. Evans was a significant fundraiser and financial bundler for Obama’s presidential campaign.
Also protesting in Egypt was Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada website.WND previously reported that Obama spoke at pro-Palestinian events in the 1990s alongside Abunimah. At one such event, a 1999 fundraiser for Palestinian “refugees,” Abunimah recalls introducing Obama on stage.
The Gaza saga began when the radicals arrived Dec. 31, 2009. Evans appealed to Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egypt’s president, to allow some 1,400 activists to cross from Egypt into neighboring Gaza to march there, deliver humanitarian aid and stage a protest at an Israeli border crossing with thousands of Palestinian Gazans. Egypt’s Interior Ministry had said the march was illegal and a threat to national security. So Mubarak reportedly offered to allow only 100 activists to cross into Gaza. The decision was at first reportedly accepted by Evans but was later rejected, leading to protests throughout Cairo all week under a heavy police presence. The rioters claimed some of the protests were violent; they accused Egyptian police of using brutality in trying to quell their riots.
Eventually, these Obama associates accepted the Egyptian offer of allowing about 100 marchers into Gaza. The marchers indeed entered Gaza and were reportedly met on the Gaza side by Hamas’ former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. I am not arguing here that this proves a global conspiracy between Islamists and U.S. leftists, but that these proven ties, particularly those of Soros and other radical left groups, warrant further investigation and should not be dismissed. And I sympathize with Kristol’s perspective; I too wish for a real democracy in Egypt and in the greater Middle East. But even the well-meaning should be willing to admit that this experiment has failed time and again. Indeed, it has aided the modern Islamist expansion now threatening the entire Middle East and beyond..