Four years after the launch of an imperialist proxy war on Syria a tiny group within the Syrian-American community calling itself the Syrian-American Council (SAC) organized a fourth anniversary celebration for what it calls the Syrian revolution. SAC is a front group for a minute fraction of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters within the Syrian-American community founded by a handful of wealthy Syrian-American businessmen that either chose to leave or were forced to leave Syria in the early 1980s as one of the previous MB campaigns of wide scale violence was quelled by the Syrian Army. SAC describes itself “as the largest and oldest grassroots organization of Syrian-Americans… devoted to community organizing, awareness-raising, youth empowerment, media outreach, advocacy, and support for Syrians seeking to build a free, democratic, and pluralistic Syria”, a description anyone remotely familiar with the history of the MB in Syria would find laughable. SAC was established not uncoincidentally back in 2005, two years after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and as the US regime was escalating its anti-Syrian rhetoric and bellicosity in the wake of the assassination of the late Lebanese premier and billionaire Rafiq al-Hariri. With a lack of understanding of the inner workings of the US political system and its foreign policy and with an unrealistic belief in their ability to make themselves relevant to both, the opportunistic and ideologically-driven clique behind SAC hoped to leverage US military might against a government they viewed, perhaps justifiably from their perspective, with an irrational hatred.
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Dean Obeidallah, in his own words, has gone through a dramatic evolution in the past decade. As if being “white” before the September 11, 2001 attacks and waking up Arab the very next day wasn’t traumatic enough, there was the issue of religion to negotiate. Religion is evidently a bit confusing for Obeidallah, who became the butt of long-running family joke by proclaiming he was a “Catholic-Muslim.” Several years ago he began professing Islam as his sole religion, eking out a fairly lucrative career by being the token Muslim serving as a US government mouthpiece on overseas “comedy” tours. Obeidallah had lived and identified as an Italian-American and Roman Catholic for the first 40 years of his life. It was only after 9/11, when the US State Department began looking for Arab-Americans and US Muslims willing to participate in propaganda campaigns to help “improve the US image abroad”, that Obeidallah discovered his Arab and Islamic heritage. Since then it has always been embarrassingly obvious that for Obeidallah “Muslim” is merely a convenient label for a government-sponsored “comedian” pursuing a career on the margins of American pop culture in post-9/11 America. The Muslim label has also been useful in securing invitations to participate as a prop at theatrical events where the American regime presents itself as tolerant, welcoming of diversity, and hospitable to Arabs and Muslims while it slaughters Arabs and Muslims abroad. The Muslim label has also been exploited by Obeidallah to claim some sort of native legitimacy as he goes around sharing his expert insight on Islam and Arab world politics. Yet, with the exception of Ray Hanania, another one of the self-described “comedians” (although not backed by the US regime) who once explained the Ramadan fast consists of consuming only bread and water during daylight hours, it’s difficult to find anyone more appallingly ignorant about Islam and the Arab world. Fast forward to February 2015 and Obeidallah finds himself, once again, at the White House, but this time as part of an elite group of 14 “Muslim-American leaders,” invited to address growing concerns about “radicalization” and anti-Muslim sentiment in the West. With his sudden emergence as a “Muslim-American leader” Obeidallah’s evolution appears to now be complete. We’d like to wish Obeidallah much success in his new role and as he assumes the responsibility of a “Muslim leader” hopefully he remembers Muslims actually don’t worship Jesus and Mary.
The ikhras awards committee is pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-Of-The-Month Award for December, 2014 goes to the former Executive Director of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), Ghaith Al-Omari. After eight years with the ATFP Al-Omari is leaving to join the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). As is well-known WINEP was founded by AIPAC donors and employees as the research arm of the pro-Israel lobby in order to provide ostensibly objective research that supports the AIPAC policy positions while masquerading as an objective “think tank.”
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Special Guest Submission: Graphic design and accompanying text by artist “Saada.” “تصميم غرافيك بيد الفنانة “سَعْدَى
ما بين “ماي لاي” و”أبوغريب”
ومن “ناغاساكي” إلى حرب الزنانات
(ومن “غزة” إلى “وُنْدِدْ نِي” (“الركبة الجريحة”
ومن “مُصَدِق” إلى “أليندي”
وما قبل وما بعد
من “البيت الأبيض”
للقليلين جداً حول العالم
In between “My Lai” and “Abu Ghraib”
and from “Nagasaki” to the drone wars
and from “Gaza” to “Wounded Knee”
and from “Mosaddeq” to “Allende”
and before and after
peace and joy
from “The White House”
to very few in the world
The ikhras awards committee is pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-Of-The-Month Award for November, 2014 goes to the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize recipient Tawakkol Karman. Karman, the most widely known “Arab Spring” celebrity activist promoted by Western regimes and media outlets, earned the award based on a disgraceful speech she delivered at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet in Orange County, California on November 8.
It is difficult to imagine a more vapid and shallow speech. Delivered mostly in English, one had to be a native speaker of Arabic to decipher the jumbled thoughts and meaningless rambling that went on for over 30 minutes. The speech was written in Arabic with directions and guidance from her hosts at CAIR who apparently asked her to cater the speech to a US audience. It was then poorly translated into English and delivered with all the skill and charisma only a parent of an annoying and nervous child at a school recital would appreciate.
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The Ikhras awards committee is pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-of-the-Month Award for October, 2014 goes to the Arab-American National Museum (AANM). The AANM in Dearborn, Michigan describes itself as “the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture.” Ikhras recently visited the AANM and confirmed the following. At the head of the museum’s main staircase is an interactive map of the Arab World. Across that map where one should see Palestine instead has the outline of “Israel” represented within the “Green Line”, the demarcation lines established by the 1949 armistice agreements between the newly established Zionist entity and the surrounding Arab states. That in and of itself would be enough to earn the AANM the prestigious ikhras “Shoe-Of-The-Month” Award, as the usurping Zionist squatter state has no moral or legal right to exist. However, AANM one-upped itself in a statement from its official Twitter account when ikhras editors called out this glaring offense:
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A Palestinian woman, denied entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, shows her shoe to a Zionist settler as he walks into the compound on October 15, 2014. (Photo: Anadolu Agency – Salih Zeki Fazlıoğlu)
To the Zionists, occupiers, trespassers, squatters and usurpers;
To their enablers, helpers, supporters, financiers and apologists;
To the gas and oil dictatorships, monarchies and royal families;
To the House Arabs, puppets, stooges and opportunists;
To the counter-revolutionaries and their phony “revolutions”;
To the sectarian demagogues, petro-clerics and purveyors of hate, division and discord;
To those who strengthen the hand of the oppressor and break the hand of the oppressed;
Today, we show you our shoe;
Tomorrow … tomorrow comes your reckoning.
Ba’al, A Widely Worshipped God In Ancient Canaan
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell.
After recently publishing the 10 Ikhras talking points on Palestine for Arab-Americans we received an enormous amount of feedback and questions. Talking point #8, in particular, “Religion: A Distractor And An Opportunity”, was a subject of great interest and led to many questions and inquiries. This is not surprising given the currently dominant, but false, religious framing of the conflict in Palestine in public discourse and the continued exploitation of popular religious mythology in Zionist propaganda narratives. In addition, the religious right within the US Muslim (Palestinian, Arab and non-Arabs alike) community and its counterproductive role in Palestine solidarity activism has further reinforced the Zionist claim system by repeating essentially the Jewish Zionist narrative as if historical while overlaying Muslim titles on the characters. It is essential for Palestine solidarity activists to be informed about the ancient history of Palestine, the abuse of religion by advocates of the Zionist colonial project, and the adoption of self-colonizing myths by members of our own community. In order to effectively dispel the religious myths exploited by Zionism, informed activists will be addressing myths common to all three monotheistic religions. This must be done without catering to the religious sensitivities of any faith group, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. To help confront and effectively respond to this abuse of religion in furtherance of the Zionist colonial project, ikhras is publishing this primer on the topic of religion and Palestine for activists. We are also providing a list of books for further reading on various aspects of the ancient and modern history of Palestine. Before Zionism appropriated the land it sought to appropriate its ancient past. The struggle for the liberation of Palestine begins by reclaiming our history and heritage. This contribution comes in response to the many inquiries and questions ikhras has received on the subject. It is our sincere hope that it helps cast aside self-colonizing mythologies, generates real knowledge, and empowers Palestinian, Arab, and all Palestine solidarity activists.
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As George Bush was slaughtering Iraqis CAIR hosted the war criminal at a Mosque
[Ikhras Note: The following post first appeared on The Angry Arab Blog on September 27, 2014 (photo added by ikhras). CAIR is the highest-profile House Muslim organization in the US and a recipient of the ikhras shoe-of-the-month award. To learn more about this corrosive, establishment organization visit ikhras.
You know the story: all Muslim and Arab American organizations in DC have fallen under the direct influence of Gulf regimes, as have most Arabs journalists in the capital. This happened right after 1990 when the Saudi regime sent various princes to close the deal to control all Arab media and organizations in the West (as many were under the influence of Saddam or Qadhdhafi). Saudi Arabia did not want dissent from Arabs in the West lest they disturb their lobbying and propaganda efforts in the West. I read that CAIR and other Muslim American organizations held a press conference to issue statements against ISIS: as if any Muslims in the US or elsewhere listen to them and adhere to their standards. And why is it their business to issue exclusive denunciations? Were Jewish organizations expected during the savage war on Gaza to issue statements of denunciations against Israeli terrorism? And don’t they with their theatrics not reinforce the association between Islam and the terrorism and kooky ideology of ISIS (shared by the same patrons of Arab and Muslim organizations in DC)? They should if they want condemn terrorism in all its form and not focus on “Islamic terrorism” and they should even categorically reject the notion that there is a religious label to terrorism. But then again: it is a job and they have to do it and those are willing to abandon two of the five pillars of Islam in return for a photo op at the White House. Instead, they should say that ISIS should be blamed on the foreign policies of the US and its allies who have in the last several decades produced the monsters of Al-Qa`idah and ISIS, among other terrorists roaming the Middle East region.
The Ikhras awards committee is pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-of-the-Month Award for August, 2014 goes to the Washington bureau chief of Al Arabiya News Channel Hisham Melhem. Melhem earned the award for an article he wrote for the Al-Arabiya website on the rise of ISIS. Blaming the rise of ISIS on Arab societal ills and political culture has become very fashionable among those working in the Arab oil and gas media and catering almost exclusively to a western audience, but rather than offering any insight into the rise of ISIS they are easily recognized as transparent attempts to leverage the recent attention garnered by the dramatic rise of the ruthless terrorist group to advance a political agenda.
We can all agree that self-criticism is healthy and necessary, but we need to also be mindful of the difference between constructive self-criticism and unhealthy self-flagellation which serves no purpose other than revealing the personal or political pathology of the person engaging in it. We must also draw a clear distinction between self-criticism intended to address the political or social ills of any given society and racist clichés and bigoted narratives of individuals trying to ingratiate themselves with an elite group from a different society perceived to be superior by the individual ostensibly engaging in the constructive and healthy form of self-criticism.
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[Ikhras Editors Note: The 10 talking points on Palestine for Arab-Americans were first published on August 25, 2014 just two days before Israel’s latest massacre in Gaza was coming to an end with the announcement of an open-ended-cease-fire between the Zionist occupation regime and the Palestinian resistance forces. The ikhras talking points were received with great approval. In addition to the positive feedback we also received constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. As a result the following talking points were updated and republished September 4, 2014.
California State University Political Science Professor As’ad Abukhalil recently shared (originally in Arabic on Facebook but subsequently translated and published on his Angry Arab blog in English) his “Tips for Arabs About Speaking (about Palestine) to Western audiences.” We highly recommend Arab-Americans study it. We at ikhras have formulated a comprehensive set of ten talking points on Palestine that Arab-Americans will also find helpful. They would be most effective when used in conjunction with Professor Abukhalil’s recommended preparation and presentation style and methods. Undoubtedly there will be those who will not use these talking points because they offend the sensibilities of the US political class and fall outside the strictly defined parameters of acceptable public discourse on Palestine. To those people unwilling to challenge the dominant and rigid narrative that prevails in the US and are more concerned with garnering mainstream acceptance than speaking truthfully and forcefully, you have already rendered yourself useless before uttering a single word. You cannot be an effective advocate on behalf of the Palestine cause unless you’re willing to challenge the false assumptions and lies about the Zionist settler-colonial entity and the supposedly virtuous US imperial project that undergirds it. If you’re unwilling to do so it’s preferable to just ikhras rather than join the mealy-mouthed blathering which serves only to reinforce false narratives and assumptions. Remember, you don’t have to talk about Palestine, but should you choose to do so, these talking points will help you do it properly.
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Hussein Ibish, the Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), which functions as the two-man wing of the pro-Israel lobby, has a habit of lecturing Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Muslims. He’s given us lectures on everything from crackpot realism to political strategy, morality and proper social etiquette. It’s not unusual for establishment Arabs like Ibish to adopt and internalize the racist, condescending, and paternalistic behavior and attitude of the US political class. In his latest exploration of the Arab mind Ibish returns to an old orientalist cliché about the crazy Arabs and their crazy conspiracy theories.
Writing about the Arab public’s response to the declaration of a “Caliphate” by the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS), now renamed simply the Islamic State (IS), Ibish begins by saying:
“One of the most alarming features of Arab responses to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq is a persistent pattern of neurotic denial in the form of conspiracy theories and other escapist fantasies.”
Ibish does not speak Arabic, and has no understanding of Arab politics or culture. His almost daily Neocon bile masquerading as informed opinion pieces reveal that while he’s well-versed in the US State Department’s discourse on the Middle East he has no knowledge or training. The primary Arab response to the declaration of the “Caliphate” has been mockery and ridicule seeing it as a publicity stunt by a crazed, murderous gang of lunatics. And while the Arab world has its share of kooky conspiracy theorists, they do not represent a higher percentage of Arab society than kooky conspiracy theorists here in the US or in any other country or region. Ibish goes on to write:
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The Ikhras editors are pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-of-the-Month Award for July, 2014 goes to Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). Rep. Keith Ellison earned this award for his July 29 Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Rep. Ellison’s disgraceful Op-Ed came just a few days after the “White House Iftar” which he attended and was joined by other guests including the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer. That evening as the Congressman dined with Dermer, he listened politely to a short speech by the US President in which he justified Israel’s massacre in Gaza and made sure to remind the ostensible leaders of the US Muslim community that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Instead of walking out immediately and issuing a condemnation of the outrageous remarks, Rep. Ellison waited until the end and applauded.
Looking back now, Ellison’s timid and short-sighted article was foreshadowed by his rejection of community calls to boycott the annual event in which establishment Muslims are invited to serve as props in a government propaganda spectacle. Instead, Rep. Ellison defended his decision to attend by employing vapid and worn out clichés about a having a “seat at the table” and engaging in the “conversation.” It was reported that Barak Obama left immediately after the speech so it’s unlikely Rep. Ellison had much of an opportunity to engage in a “conversation” with the President about his supposed opposition to the US-backed, Israeli pogrom.
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In our previous post we pointed out that Ghaith Al-Omari, one of the three stooges at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), appears to be the ATFP’s main liaison to the pro-Israel lobby. The ATFP, of course, has a very strong working relationship with AIPAC and other racist Zionist groups like The Israel Project. Part of AIPAC’s work includes an ongoing series euphemistically referred to as “Educational Seminars on the Hill.” AIPAC describes these events as “unique opportunities to hear from leading policy experts on the key issues facing the U.S.-Israel relationship.” The picture above is an invitation to one of these “unique opportunities.” It says “for more than thirty years AIPAC has hosted this series to provide interns and young professionals the opportunity to learn more about the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel and to consider its impact on American interests in the Middle East.” It goes on to indicate the next events in this series will be held July 9th and 22nd. The first picture from the right is none other than Ghaith Al-Omari. It’s safe to assume that AIPAC would not be promoting anyone unless it believed he/she served its interests and the interests of Israel, which is the sole stated mission of this group. In its newly created and extensive list of FAQs the ATFP proclaimed it’s now ready to place “more emphasis on outreach” to the Palestinian-American community. It’s probably too late for that, but if they really want to try they can begin by answering and adding the following three questions to their FAQ’s.
If the ATFP is not part of the pro-Israel lobby, why does it collaborate exclusively with the pro-Israel lobby?
Why is AIPAC promoting the ATFP?
Why would AIPAC choose Ghaith Al-Omari to address a Congressional staff briefing on its behalf?
Unlike most Arab-American Zionists which collaborate with the “liberal” and “moderate” wing of Zionism, The American Task Force On Palestine (ATFP) is closely aligned with the most extreme right-wing Zionists like AIPAC and The Israel Project. Here Ghaith Al-Omari, one of the three ATFP stooges is seen with Noam Gilboord, the “Director of Community Strategy” at the Israel Action Network (IAN). Gilboord’s responsibilities include:
“strengthening the capacity of local community professionals in combating the assault on Israel’s legitimacy. In this role, he coordinates the activities of the field of Israel advocates throughout North America.”
Al-Omari, who spends more time at WINEP, AIPAC’s “think-tank”, than at the ATFP offices is not as well known as Hussein Ibish and Ziad Asali, but he appears to be the ATFP’s main liaison to the pro-Israel lobby. All three often lash out against Arab-Americans, dismissing their criticism of the ATFP as the Arab-wing of the pro-Israel lobby, but pro-Israel advocacy groups like IAN continue to view the ATFP as a reliable partner that’s making a valuable contribution to their common cause.