Seth Mandel

Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel

A Pyrrhic ‘Victory’ for Anwar Ibrahim?

2011 March 25

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is declaring victory. I’d say: not so fast.

The notorious anti-Semite, longtime Muslim Brotherhood official, and representative of Saudi Wahhabism is celebrating a court decision to disallow DNA evidence against him in his ongoing sodomy trial. The Asia Sentinel reports:

A Kuala Lumpur High Court Tuesday handed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim a major victory in his long-running sodomy trial by throwing out purported DNA evidence supposedly proving he had sex with former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhairy Azlan.

The DNA evidence is basically the only physical link between the 63-year-old Anwar and Saiful, who accused the former deputy prime minister of raping him in June 2008.

“I am grateful for the verdict and this just further supports what I have said, that I am being persecuted unfairly by the authorities in their bid to silence me,” Anwar told reporters.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan was quoted by Agence-France Press as saying the High Court’s decision, which comes after a series of failed legal petitions lodged by Anwar, severely undermines the prosecution’s case.

“From what I’ve seen and heard I think the charge should fall. They should withdraw the proceedings because as it stands now there is nothing to link Anwar to the DNA evidence which has been produced,” Kesavan said.

Anwar has been a darling of the West for quite some time now—a status owed in part to this trial. He’s been on trial in the past as well, and usually becomes a cause célèbre because of his penchant for saying the right things to the right people. As we have explained here in the past in detail, Anwar has reinvented himself as the standard for moderate Islam, playing on the West’s desire to find and promote such moderates to ward off accusations of Islamophobia and McCarthyism.

He speaks about free markets and free elections, a combination that endears him to the West—thinkers like Paul Wolfowitz, politicians like Al Gore, journalists like Joe Klein. And that is understandable; if that were the sum total of Anwar’s ideology, there would be few objections, if any. But that’s not who Anwar is, as we know. Anwar is the co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Muslim Brotherhood think tank in Virginia that has been investigated for funding terrorist groups and supporters and which has called for terrorism against the West, primarily Israel. Our primer on the IIIT is here.

In that primer, we also mention Anwar’s friendship with Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s terror-supporting leading theologian, and his affinity for Sayyid Qutb, a leading light in the development of Islamist ideology.

Last weekend, I had a conversation with someone in which I offered some of these highlights of Anwar’s career. Once I mentioned to her Anwar’s role in the Saudi-funded World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and his prominent work with the Brotherhood, she was aghast that any prominent official in the West would be willing to put their reputation on the line to support Anwar. She wanted to know why his record isn’t enough to make him politically radioactive. I had no answer.

But this recent court ruling may, ironically, help put Anwar in his appropriate place in public opinion. Once he is no longer a “persecuted” opposition figure, his celebrity appeal may nosedive. It already has in his own party. I quoted a writer for the Malaysian Sun with this analysis in November:

“Without holding any significant post in the party, the former Deputy Prime Minister is party adviser and leader of the opposition by virtue of his name only. However one cannot deny that it was his sacking and incarceration that plotted the current renaissance in Malaysian politics. Hence many supporters feel that it is their moral obligation to ensure that Anwar continues to spearhead the march to Putrajaya (the seat of government).”

What this writer is saying is that Anwar’s trial is what gave him the popularity he now enjoys, even though he’s essentially done nothing for his party except put family members in high positions in an attempt to cash in on his fame by co-opting the opposition party. Thanks to him, that party is now in disarray—because Anwar is not an intellectual or a political star, he is simply an opportunist enabled by good public relations.

So let Anwar celebrate this Pyrrhic victory, and then let him stand or fall on his own. He will almost certainly fall.

The Jerusalem Terrorist Attack in Perspective: It’s Not Just the Palestinians Who Need to Recognize Israel

2011 March 23

Actions only speak louder than words when the two conflict. In the Middle East, they work in concert, representing two fronts in the war against Israel.

And so, despite legal proof to the contrary, Israel’s stewardship of Judea and Samaria became an illegal “occupation.” And oh by the way Judea and Samaria had already become the West Bank, a name made up on the fly when Jordan illegally occupied the territory between 1949 and 1967.

And the Jews who lived in this disputed territory became “settlers,” while their Arab neighbors were “residents.” And the part of the Geneva Conventions Israel’s enemies used to attempt to prove the settlements’ illegality was constructed with the express purpose of stopping Nazi population transfer. The Israel=Nazis implication was clear.

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The Frog and the Scorpion: Israelis in the North Anticipate Another War with Hezbollah, but Expect to Win

2011 March 21


Is it more terrifying to know your enemies are there but not be able to see them, or to stare daily into the wild eyes of the men who plan your execution? This is the question I pondered as I stood near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon last week.

The view from Israel’s north looks quite different than it did before the Second Lebanon War in 2006. As bad as the press was for Israel after that war, Hezbollah was so decimated by Israel’s counteroffensive that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted that had he known Israel would strike back as it did, he would probably not have launched the war.

And now, where once Hezbollah commandos strutted around the border in combat fatigues with guns slung over their shoulders, they only go outside in street clothes. And while pre-2006 the Hezbollah military installations stood as concrete expressions of defiance, they are now all under or inside of civilian residential buildings.

But while that may represent a moral victory, does it bring any sense of reassurance to Israelis living in the north?

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David Remnick’s Article Telling Us to Support Haaretz Reveals Why We Don’t Need Haaretz

2011 March 4

New Yorker editor David Remnick has a 10,000-word piece on Haaretz in the magazine’s current issue, echoing the fantasy that the leftist Israeli newspaper is integral to the country’s intellectual and political health.

The first hefty chunk of Remnick’s story gushes over Haaretz’s coverage of the uprising in Egypt. But read beyond that and you get to Remnick’s descriptions of the people who make Haaretz what it is. For example, he starts with publisher/owner Amos Schocken. He quotes Schocken complaining about the Israeli national anthem: “How can an Arab citizen identify with such an anthem?” It’s time to change the anthem, Schocken believes, and Remnick quotes Schocken’s editorial on the subject:

“Hasn’t the time come to recognize that the establishment of Israel is not just the story of the Jewish people, of Zionism, of the heroism of the Israel Defense Forces and of bereavement? That it is also the story of the reflection of Zionism and the heroism of IDF soldiers in the lives of the Arabs: the Nakba—the Palestinian ‘Catastrophe,’ as the Arabs call the events of 1948—the loss, the families that were split up, the disruption of lives, the property that was taken away, the life under military government and other elements of the history shared by Jews and Arabs, which are presented on Independence Day, and now only on that day, in an entirely one-sided way.”

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J Street Crowd Gives Call for Revolution in Israel a Standing Ovation

2011 February 28

Since the moment the Tunisian uprising spread to Egypt, few commentators have been called upon more often than Mona Eltahawy. The New York-based, Egyptian-born, former columnist for the Saudi-funded Asharq al-Awsat is sharp-witted and carrying a monumental chip on her shoulder for all those in the West who helped prop up Hosni Mubarak.

She has been a fixture on CNN (not to mention Twitter, where she has been out-tweeting Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell). So it was no surprise to see her pop up at this week’s J Street conference, which concludes Tuesday.

For those who have somehow not caught Eltahawy’s act, she has been understandably caught up in the revolutionary moment and, therefore, pooh-poohing any suggestion that the revolution could produce an Egyptian government unfriendly to liberal democratic values–as did the elections in Gaza and the revolution in Iran. She is so dismissive of this, in fact, that when she was asked by a friend about Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s concern about such a situation unfolding, this was her response at the conference:

“I said to her, you know it’s quite ironic to hear the Israeli prime minister talk about religious rightwing extremists when his government is very friendly and includes religious rightwing extremists that extremely concern myself and many people in the Arab world. So let’s not throw stones here.”

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Reporting from Turkey: Your Move, Erdogan

2011 February 22

If you’ve been wondering about the lighter posting from me here, it’s because I’m currently in Istanbul on the eve of a conference organized by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the ostensible aim of combating extremism.

It is, of course, fairly ironic coming from Erdogan, who categorically rejected the “moderate Islam” label for his country when it was offered by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

“It is unacceptable for us to agree with such a definition,” Erdogan responded. “Turkey has never been a country to represent such a concept.”

He continued:

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Constant War and a Weak Israel Are Bad for Mideast Peace: A Response to Patrick Seale

2011 February 18

The Web site of Foreign Policy magazine is one of the more outstanding clearinghouses for all things foreign affairs. But their attraction to counterintuitive articles and dedication to offering a fresh perspective on issues occasionally results in the publication of an outlandish piece of journalism.

It’s not subversive to be subversive for the sake of being subversive.

Patrick Seale, the British writer, takes to to offer the loony theory that the Egypt-Israel peace treaty is responsible for the lack of peace, and what’s needed is more Arab war against Israel.

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Allegiance to Jihad Is Not ‘Moderate’–Here, in Egypt, or in Malaysia

2011 February 16

Opponents of the spread of Islamist influence often point to the ideology’s belief that there are two choices when it comes to Islam: submission or war. It is with this in mind that Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim has so often been hailed as a moderate–proof that there was something in between submission and war.

Of course, he is far from moderate, but rather is both a Muslim Brotherhood operative and a vocal anti-Semite. His recent comments, however–which went completely unnoticed–in Washington, D.C. should put an end to such foolishness. In Anwar’s remarks to the New America Foundation on the subject of the Egyptian uprising, Anwar forcefully defended engaging with the Muslim Brotherhood. Why? “The only [other] option is to wage war against them.”

There were thousands of protesters in the streets of Cairo for the last couple weeks. They were not dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and they were largely nonviolent (though there was at least one horrifying case of sexual assault among the crowds). But the moment we talk about the Brotherhood, we are given a choice: engagement or war. And this is from the Brotherhood’s supporters and advocates, not Western pundits or officials.

It is a form of thuggish blackmail that Eldad wrote about on this site when he described the Arab attitude toward the Jews of Israel. And it is quite similar here. The “moderate” Muslim opposition leader in Malaysia gives the game away when he tells us there is only war and submission. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the same from “moderates” in the U.S. as well. Take, for example, Suhail Khan.

Khan is the son of Mahboob Khan, the influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, who founded the Muslim Students Association and helped create the Islamic Society of North America, two of the most prominent American front groups for the Brotherhood. Mahboob Khan’s widow sits on the board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), another front group.

But Suhail Khan also sits on the board of the American Conservative Union. Though Khan tries to say the right things to be perceived as a moderate, a video from an ISNA conference in 1999 shows him decrying the suffering of his “brothers” in Palestine, Kosovo, Iraq, and other places. But more troubling were his comments about jihad:

“The earliest defenders of Islam would defend their more numerous and better equipped oppressors because the early Muslims loved death–dying for the sake of almighty Allah–more than the oppressors of Muslims loved life. This must be the case when we are fighting life’s other battles… we’re prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam.”

Anwar, too, has his patrons in the elites. Among them is Paul Wolfowitz, who took the occasion of an interview on Fox News when Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down to throw in a rehearsed pitch for Anwar. (I say rehearsed because Wolfowitz used a story that Anwar had recited less than an hour before.)

“[H]e reminds me, ya know, [of] Anwar Ibrahim, who is a very courageous Muslim democrat, who’s had enormous difficulty in Malaysia who was imprisoned on trumped up charges ten years ago. He got a letter from Vaclav Havel, who said the people who are really in prison are the people who put you there. They are sheltered, they don’t know about reality they don’t know what’s going on. You have the feeling that Mubarak doesn’t really know what’s going on.”

This is quite obviously a gratuitous mention of Anwar since, well, no one brought him up and the story was actually about Vaclav Havel. Even if you hadn’t seen Anwar tell the same story an hour earlier it looks suspicious. But let’s take this opportunity to talk a bit about this “courageous Muslim democrat,” because he is relevant to the discussion of Suhail Khan.

Anwar’s claim to fame in the U.S.–before he became a hero to people like Wolfowitz–was as co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Brotherhood think tank that has advocated for terrorism against Israel and has ties to known terrorist organizations. When Anwar was arrested in the late 1990s, Wolfowitz became one of his most vocal supporters in the U.S. and soon Anwar had friends in high places.

And such is the case with Khan. Thanks to Grover Norquist, Khan followed up his call for jihad with a stint at the Bush administration’s Office of Public Liaison, which eventually led to a job in the Department of Transportation. In 2001, Khan received an award from a man since convicted of terrorism, Abdurahman Alamoudi who, Khan said, “has been very supportive of me. . . . I hope, inshallah, we can keep working together.”

Khan’s influence, like Anwar’s, continues to grow. The ascendance of both men is frankly baffling. But what can no longer be denied is that these men support jihad against the West and that they love death in the service of jihad more than their opponents love life.

“What are our oppressors going to do with people like us?” Suhail Khan said at that ISNA dinner. We should start by rejecting the belief held by people like Khan and Anwar that there are two choices: submission or war. And those who represent organizations that are compatible with the values of a pluralistic free country like the United States should offer them a choice of their own: you can work with the terrorists, or you can work with us.

The Left Discovers the Muslim Brotherhood’s Transnational Network of Extremists–and Supports Them Anyway

2011 February 10

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.

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The Forward Defends Rutgers Anti-Zionist Event, Denigrates Holocaust Victims and Slanders Israeli Troops

2011 February 8

There is an article in this week’s edition of the Forward that should leave the pro-Israel students and supporters at Rutgers University feeling encouraged about their recent protest of a pro-Palestinian event that was designed to denigrate the Holocaust.

But the Rutgers students should also reserve some energy for a tinge of outrage.

They should be encouraged because the article is–and I’ll get to the specific examples in a bit–a compilation of innuendo, editorializing, and quote-stacking so egregious as to qualify as a parody of journalism. And as those Rutgers students surely know, if your opponent must stack the deck, he cannot beat you in a fair fight. On behalf of the group Never Again for Anyone, the Forward has raised the white flag.

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The Atlantic: Arab Revolt Caused by Anger at–Wait for It–Israeli Settlements

2011 February 1

It was only a matter of time before someone in the mainstream media–watching helplessly as their hero president was caught unprepared and unready for the uprising in Egypt (to the point where he reportedly invited former Bush administration officials to the White House to explain it to him)–attempted to let President Obama off the hook by blaming Israel.

Leave it to the ridiculous Chuck Spinney and his platform over at The Atlantic. James Fallows’ introduction of Spinney made it clear we were in for trouble: “In the thirty-plus years that I’ve known him, I’ve never heard a partisan statement out of Chuck… This is for context about one of the most detached and relentlessly logical observers I have known.”

When you have to badger the reader with pleas and assurances that the writer is Mr. Nonpartisan, it pretty much tells you you’re about to hear some wacky stuff. And Spinney doesn’t disappoint. His meandering argument (such as it is) takes the position that Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 inspired Muslims in the Middle East to desire and demand Change They Could Believe In. When Obama failed to get the Jews kicked out of their homes (what Spinney calls “his spectacular failure to rein in the illegal Israeli settlements” and when “Israel just humiliated President Obama by scuppering his belated attempts to revive the peace process”), the Arabs exploded. So Obama gets credit for inspiring his audience but is thwarted by the nefarious Israelis from making good on his promise.

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A Primer on the International Institute of Islamic Thought: The Terror-Supporting Intellectual Façade of the Muslim Brotherhood

2011 January 28

Anwar Ibrahim embraces radical Islamist leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi

In March 2007, the State Department funded an exchange program with the Virginia-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). The following month, the State Department sponsored an IIIT delegation of Islamic scholars from Southeast Asia. Three months after that, it came to light that government agencies had known the whole time what should have made the IIIT toxic to any government cooperation: They were an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

What’s more, as Patrick Poole reported, “The State Department has sponsored these IIIT activities at the very same time that a federal grand jury continues to look into IIIT’s multiple ties to terrorism as part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing Operation Green Quest investigation.”

This sort of thing is maddening, but it only scratches the surface of the issue. We’ve mentioned the IIIT before in passing on this site, in the context of talking about one of its founders, Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar is one of the most popular and widely accepted anti-Semites in the world. His level of access and legitimacy in the public sphere is startling when you consider who he is. Since the Wall Street Journal gave him a platform yet again this week, it’s worth reviewing what the IIIT has wrought since Anwar founded it almost thirty years ago.

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