Here’s a riddle for you: How many rocket, mortar, and missile attacks can Hamasniks in Gaza launch without breaking a cease-fire?
You might think the obvious answer is zero–you cannot be firing rockets at civilians while still abiding by a cease-fire. But the world is more complex than that, or so I learned after reading the latest installment of Peter Beinart’s ongoing attempt at rehabilitating the reputations of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas, Beinart writes, “has been basically observing a de-facto cease-fire for two years now.” As of early this week, Hamasniks have launched 43 attacks on Israeli civilians so far in 2011. I assume that Beinart inserted the word “basically” to account for the fact that Hamas has not completely ceased firing, but are making an effort. Yet considering they are averaging one attack per day thus far this year, it is a positively Clintonian abuse of the weasel word.
What’s more likely, however, is that Beinart simply has no idea what’s really going on over there. And we can give the Daily Beast the benefit of the doubt by assuming that when they merged with Newsweek, the Daily Beast acquired Newsweek’s fact-checkers, which explains this type of monumental mistake making it into print.
Speaking of Newsweek: The magazine recently ran an article that echoed Beinart’s opinion that the Muslim Brotherhood is no real threat to Israel or the broader West. Beinart informs us that “The Muslim Brotherhood is not al Qaeda: It abandoned violence decades ago, and declared that it would pursue its Islamist vision through the democratic process.”
Beinart takes the Muslim Brotherhood at its word, just as he takes Hamas’s word for the cease-fire they are respecting by attacking Israel every single day. And the Newsweek reporters tell us that in a democracy, the “mystique” of the Brotherhood will rapidly fade:
“When, finally, Arab governments come to understand that, the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood may well be over.”
But perhaps the Daily Beast/Newsweek idea of keeping the Muslim Brotherhood out of power by putting the Muslim Brotherhood in power isn’t the best idea. Perhaps, that is, they should not be taken at their word.
For evidence to back up our skepticism, we look to… Newsweek? Yes, that same article that tells us to trust the Muslim Brotherhood also includes this gem:
“NEWSWEEK has obtained an extensive dossier, compiled last year by Arab analysts with close ties to Saudi intelligence, that argues that a well-financed global Muslim Brotherhood network uses ‘moderate-seeming politicians to further its extremist agenda’ as far away as Malaysia.”
This would not have been news to Newsweek had they made a regular habit of reading our site. That “moderate-seeming” politician in Malaysia is Anwar Ibrahim, whose connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, anti-Semitism, and all-around bad habits we have documented here, here, here, and here.
And that is just one example. Let’s remember that the Brotherhood operates in 70 countries worldwide. And that brings us to the most significant issue with the constant exhortations not to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. They have a transnational network of terror-supporting Islamist anti-Semites like Anwar Ibrahim and his supporters. What do you suppose the foreign policy of an organization like the Muslim Brotherhood would be if they gained power in Egypt? With whom, do you suppose, would they ally themselves?
When it comes to Malaysia–a country our government considers an important ally in the war on terror–the Brotherhood has Anwar Ibrahim in the opposition. In Israel, the Brotherhood has its affiliate Hamas.
So now that we know the type of groups the Brotherhood associates with, and considering their stated goal remains to bring about Sharia law in each country in which the Brotherhood operates, how should we feel about the Brotherhood affiliates in the West? Britain, Germany, and France all have prominent chapters. The U.S. has many–including beloved CAIR.
These organizations have tremendous influence already, which would only increase were the Muslim Brotherhood to take even a significant slice of the power up for grabs right now in Egypt. As Stephen Coughlin, Vice President of Strategic Communication Initiatives for the Strategic Engagement Group, told me, the best recent example of the Brotherhood’s influence in Western countries would be the French riots of 2006. Though the Brotherhood did not start the riots, he said:
“The Muslim brotherhood stepped into that situation, and knew how to take control of it. And it didn’t end until the French government asked the Muslim Brotherhood-associated imams to tell people to stop. And then of course the Muslim Brother imam did, and it stopped immediately. So what did they get? They got the French to recognize that if you want to work with the Muslims in France you have to go through the Brotherhood.”
The Brotherhood considers itself the gatekeeper, as it were, to the Muslim communities around the world. And it has demonstrated it knows how to take advantage of a populist uprising it did not spur or even join at the outset. That is because the Brotherhood is, as the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano told me, “fanatically well-organized and well-financed.”
The point of Beinart’s essay, by the way, was to propose that Israel ease its restrictions on Hamas, thus giving them more land, more weapons, more resources, and more political power. He is suggesting to Western leaders that they allow for the rise to power of Hamas in the West Bank (instead of just Gaza) and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt simultaneously. Of course, calling for the inclusion of Hamas and pooh-poohing the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood has become mainstream leftist conventional wisdom. That’s why Beinart wrote it.
In the September issue of Commentary, Andrew Ferguson wrote the definitive article on Beinart, famous for his shameless careerism. The following paragraph is talking about Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay on why AIPAC and Orthodox Jews are to blame for the mess in the Mideast, but he just as easily could be–and I think, is–talking about anything Beinart writes:
“Influencing practical outcomes, though, is not the point of a career like Beinart’s. The career is an end in itself, which is why last year’s ideological fashion can be so easily shrugged off for next year’s model. Many American friends of Israel and students of Washington politics found his recent article unnerving, but not for the reasons Beinart might have hoped. Like the neoliberal he once was, he makes no new arguments and presents no new facts. If he wants to position himself as scourge to Israel’s government and scold to America’s Zionists, it is because those views are now squarely in the mainstream of liberal opinion. That alone is unnerving, and the sum of what his essay revealed. This is not a man to take chances.”
And that is the value in Beinart’s Daily Beast column as well. It is an indication of just how popular the concept of welcoming the Muslim Brotherhood into the international arena has become on the left.
We cannot control Egyptian politics, but we should not let our guard down, either. The Muslim Brotherhood is not now, nor will it be, an innocuous actor in democratic governance. The sooner we accept that, the better.