The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the Obama Administrations implied acceptance for a new regime in Egypt which could include the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Despite the dictatorial nature of the Mubarak regime and despite the ZOAs long-standing view that U.S. aid to it should be conditioned on its reforming its policies, the ZOA believes that the Obama Administration should not abandon a long-standing ally and should instead work to ensure that it does not entirely collapse. If it fails to do so, it will send a frightening message to other U.S. allies, like Israel and Jordan that they may not depend upon U.S. loyalty.
The ZOA opposes supporting its removal, because this may well result in a new regime that will be dominated by the dangerously extreme, violently anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-jihad Islamist Muslim Brotherhood or other radical groups. While Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is a repressive dictator, he has at least rendered some assistance to fighting terrorism, maintained peace with Israel, albeit a cold one. A radical Islamist take-over is even more frightening because they would take control of a massive Egyptian army, twice the size of Israels, trained by the U.S., possessing ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, hundreds of U.S.-made warplanes, thousands of tanks and dozens of ships, purchased with over $30 billion of U.S. military aid.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which was created in 1928 by Hassan El-Banna, a totalitarian ideologue who admired and corresponded with Hitler, is Sunni Islamist group which has incubated Islamism in the Middle East. It was the precursor of Al-Qaeda and other jihadist movements waging war today on the United States, the West and Israel. The MB violently opposes Israels existence and was responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, who signed the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty in 1979. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza and which calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7), is the Palestinian branch of the MB.
Muhammad Badi the head of the MB since last year, said on October 6, 2010 that, [Today, the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance. Its wealth will not avail it once Allah has had his say, as happened with [powerful] nations in the past. The U.S. is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise. Also, this week, Mohamed Ghanem, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for Egypt to stop selling natural gas to Israel and to prepare the Egyptian army for a war with Israel.
In April 2010, Badi stated in a sermon that Islam, to which you belong, advocates jihad Our revival, majesty, and glory depend on the return to righteousness, which will only be achieved through resistance and the support of [resistance i.e. terrorism] in every way with money, arms, information, and self-sacrifice. In a March 2010 sermon, he said, Jihad must not be likened to terror. Jihad means making sacrifices in order to restore what has been stolen, defend one’s property, expel the occupier, and make Allah’s word supreme, while terror is occupying someone else’s land. In September 2010, Badi also exhorted Muslims to confront global Zionism. [This movement] knows nothing but the language of force by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life It is your obligation to stop the absurd negotiations, whether direct or indirect, and to support all forms of resistance for the sake of liberating every occupied piece of land in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all [other] parts of our Muslim world You must revoke all the agreements of capitulation…. especially the Camp David Accords.
Additionally, the MB has produced a written platform, leaked in August 2007, which enjoins that, in the future, the president and legislative branch will be advised by clerics, that, non-Muslims be barred from the presidency, which is also described as unsuitable for women, and that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty will be re-examined.
In recent days, the following observations have appeared on the MB from eminent authorities:
· Bernard Lewis, renowned historian of Islam: There are certain similarities [between the situation in Iran in 1979] I hope we dont repeat the same mistakes many of our so-called friends in the region are inefficient kleptocracies, but theyre better than the Islamic radicals.
· Leslie Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former editorial page editor of the New York Times, said that the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhoods rise to power in Egypt would be calamitous for U.S. security. they would be uncertain landlords of the Suez Canal would endanger counter-terrorism efforts in the region and worldwide.
· Barry Rubin, director of the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center, says that It is [now] far more likely that Egypt will become a radical, anti-American state.
· Yoni Ben Menachem, Israeli Arab Affairs commentator, observes that at the end, this will lead to the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood.
· Caroline Glick, Deputy-Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post, wrote that It is clear that if this regime falls, the successor regime will not be liberal democracy. Mubaraks military authoritarianism will be replaced by Islamic totalitarianism.
· Washington Times editorial: President Obama is signaling the Egyptian opposition that their time has come. In a terse statement last night, Mr. Obama announced a moment of transformation had arrived in Egypt, the status quo is not sustainable and a new government must begin to form now. An administration official later reiterated, the key part of the statement was now. Today the formerly peaceful protests in Egypt turned violent. It turns out that words do have consequences Egypt is at a crossroads, a time of suspense when change could come gradually and peacefully, or quickly with maximum instability. The White House has chosen to back the latter course, which will play into the hands of the best organized, most radical factions, which in this case is the America-hating Muslim Brotherhood Pushing for immediate regime change in Egypt is not in American or Egyptian interests. Cutting the legs out from an already tottering regime could easily lead to widespread violence. If so, some of Egypts blood will be on Mr. Obamas hands.
· Former Under-Secretary of Defense Richard Perle said that the fall of Mubaraks regime would be a profound game-changer If the Egyptian army felt they were facing an arms embargo, it might make them less willing to allow the Brotherhood to take over.
Yet, in a press conference yesterday, when asked if a push for democracy and elections in Egypt might result in Islamist gaining power, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did not oppose the Muslim Brotherhood being part of a future Egyptian government. Instead, he said, I think it is clear that increase in democratic representation has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors that give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be the stable and reliable partner that the world sees in the Middle East (Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, January 31, 2011). Perhaps we should not be surprised, as President Obama invited the MB leadership to attend his June 2009 Cairo speech.
Muhamad ElBaradei moderate Egyptian leader?
One of those contending for power in Egypt is Muhammad ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In the words of international law and U.N. expert, Professor Anne Bayefsky, as head of the IAEA, ElBaradeis primary legacy was running interference for Iran and ensuring that Iran is now on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons (Egypt Protests: Will the Real Mohammed ElBaradei Please Stand Up?, Hudson Institute, February 1, 2011). ElBaradei actively lobbied last year against the imposition of U.N. sanctions Iran, while continuing to fixate on Israel, even though Israel, unlike Iran, is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has not sponsored terrorists or passed weapons to them, nor called for the destruction of a neighboring state.
While still heading the IAEA, ElBaradei said that Israel is the number one threat to the Middle East given the nuclear arms it possesses (ElBaradei says nuclear Israel number one threat to Mideast: report, Xinhua, October 4, 2009). Last April, ElBaradei justified Palestinian resistance standard regional code for terrorism against Israelis on the basis that the Israeli occupation only understands the language of violence (Roee Nahmias, ElBaradei: Israeli occupation only understands force, Yediot Ahronot, April 13, 2010).
ElBaradei is largely dependent for his presidential aspirations on the support of the MB and is hoping to use the power and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood to lead a future government. To that end, he is publicly sanitizing the Muslim Brotherhood by knowingly and falsely describing it as a peaceable, respectable religious organization, rather than a violent Islamist one, saying, You know, the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism, as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places They are in favor of a federalist state. They are in favor of a wording on the base of constitution that has red lines that every Egyptian has the same rights, same obligation, that the state in no way will be a state based on religion. And I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are part of the Egyptian society, as much as the Marxist party here. I think this myth that has been perpetuated and sold by the regime has no has no iota of reality (Fareed Zakaria interviews Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, CNN, January 30, 2011).
In reality, the Muslim Brotherhood has promoted extremism and terrorism; dissolved its terrorist wing only under repressive measures by the Mubarak government; applauded the assassination of secular reformers, including a 1994 attempt on the life of Egypts leading novelist, the late Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mafouz; and supported jihadist movements murdering Americans and Israelis in many parts of the world. One of its leading clerics, Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, has a global Muslim audience thanks to his Sharia and Life program on Al-Jazeera, and has specifically ruled that Americans in Iraq and Israelis everywhere should be targeted by suicide bombers. Qaradawi is one of the top 10 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhoods international ruling councils (Steven Stalinsky, Al Jazeeras Dirty Little Secret, New York Sun, March 14, 2007). Nor, as Middle East scholar Barry Rubin points out, does the Muslim Brotherhood support a fairer, secular constitution: According to its platform, the Brotherhood favors greater rights for Muslims; fewer rights for women, and a strong unitary state based on religion. ElBaradei knows he is concealing the groups true nature (If ElBaradei Can’t Tell the Truth About the Muslim Brotherhood, He Can’t Master It, Rubin Report, February 1, 2011).
ElBaradei has already stated that he would recognize Hamas and end sanctions upon Hamas-controlled Gaza, which would facilitate Hamas efforts to bring in further offensive weaponry to be used against Israel.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, It is a substantial and frightening danger for the United States, Israel and the West if the Obama Administration completely abandons the Egyptian regime. Middle Easterners have already seen the Obama Administration push around an American ally, Israel. They have seen it abandon the pro-independence forces in Lebanon and allow that country to come under the grip of Iran/Syria/Hizballah. If the U.S. helps force the Egyptian regime to collapse, what trust and credibility will the U.S. retain in the region? America allies in the region are now concerned about whether being a U.S. ally is something they can count on.
We are also perplexed at the fact that, in 2009, President Obama remained silent for weeks as the anti-Islamist Iranian public demonstrated against an oppressive anti-American regime. Obama claimed the reason for his weak and slow response was that he believes America should not interfere in any countrys internal affairs and was wrong to have previously interfered in Iran. In Egypt where a largely pro-Islamist public demonstrates against an American ally, President Obama intervenes immediately and powerfully by publicly calling for Egypts pro-Western leader to step down now. He never called for Irans Islamist, anti-American leader Ahmadinejad to stand down. Could President Obama please explain this astonishing discrepancy?
We say this, fully aware of the fact that the Mubarak regime is a dictatorial, repressive, corrupt regime that, among many other terrible things, enables some of the worst anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda in the Arab and Muslim worlds. We have frequently criticized its enabling of incitement against Jews and Israel, its promotion of anti-American sentiment, its blind eye towards weapons smuggling into Gaza and much else. But we are also aware that the choice is between bad and worse and that those who may seize power are much, much worse than the current regime. As we have argued previously, American should use its leverage to pressure the regime to carry out specific reforms but we should not be enabling anti-American, anti-Israel, Islamist forces to mount an eventual take-over.
We should have little doubt that such a takeover is highly likely if the current regime disappears. A recent Pew poll finds the Egyptian public extremely radical, explicitly favoring Islamists over modernizers by 59% to 27%. One-fifth of Egyptians say they approve of Al-Qaeda, 30% approve of Hizballah and nearly half 49% approve of Hamas. 82% of Egyptian want adulterers stoned. 77% want thieves to be whipped and have their hands amputated; 84% favor the death penalty for any Muslim who changes his religion.
Also, a 2007 University of Maryland/World Public Opinion survey found that two thirds 67% of Egyptians favored the re-establishment of a single, Islamic state, or Caliphate while 74% favored strict application of Sharia law in every Islamic country. This is not a population that is in favor of human rights, democracy, peace and friendship with either the U.S. or Israel. Just as the 2006 legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority (PA) brought us Hamas, elections in Egypt could produce a similar result.
Moreover, look what has already occurred: photographs from recent demonstrations in Cairo show posters of Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead. Museums, stores and private homes have been looted, jails forced open, allowing thousands of extremists back onto the streets. What have these anti-Semitic, violent and lawless acts to do with democracy, human rights or freedom?
In this situation, who can seriously believe that elections now will produce a result that is good for human rights or democracy? It will most likely prove a victory, immediate or eventual, for the Islamists.
It is a mistake to promote democracy and human rights by calling for immediate elections in societies that have little or no experience of and preparation for democracy and human rights. We saw this mistake made in Iraq post-Saddam, where Islamist, pro-Iranian anti-American parties were strengthened; in the Palestinian Authority in 2006, where legislative elections gave a victory to Hamas; and in Lebanon, where the government is now dominated by Hizballah.
It is hardly enough to say, as the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did, that all parties pledge non-violence. Yasser Arafat pledged non-violence in signing the Oslo accords, but 2000 Israelis have been murdered and thousands more maimed since by terrorists operating under the regime he formed. Those who murder can surely lie. A pledge of non-violence from career terrorists and extremists is meaningless.
In Egypt, as elsewhere in the Middle East, what is needed are gradual reforms, political and religious pluralism and the incremental building up of civil society.
Neither morally nor politically would we be justified in facilitating such an outcome. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is old and ill. His days are numbered. He has already announced he will not run again. But that is no reason to ensure that the Egyptian regime as a whole collapses. Americas interest and duty is see that it doesnt, while pressuring it to make the gradual, important changes that may one day produce a less extreme, more peace-loving Egyptian society.
We should not think that we have strong, secular democrats to support when dont. We should not make the mistake that was made about Iran in 1979, when many thought that the secular elements in the revolutionary take-over would be the leaders of the country. The Shia Islamists under Ayatollah Khomeini also spoke at first the language of freedom and human rights and many believed them. But in a short time, their powerful, disciplined forces took over, killing and exiling secular, pro-democratic politicians, intellectuals and military leaders. If there is even a small chance of this occurring in Egypt, we should be working to prevent this.
If the Muslim Brotherhood becomes part of the next Egyptian government, one day it almost certainly will be the government. Muhammad ElBaradei is dependent on the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the Muslim Brotherhood, not Muhammad ElBaradei, who will call the tune in a new government. The ZOA urges the Obama Administration to work to ensure that the existing Egyptian regime, while very bad, is not replaced by one that will undoubtedly be worse.
In all this ferment, another fact becomes clear. Israel should be seriously concerned about the danger of making further concessions to Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA) that would weaken it and reduce its territorial and strategic buffer, even if it could trust Abbas and the PA, as the shakiness of the Egyptian regime only underscores how Arab interlocutors are in danger of being swept away and replaced by others with even more hostile ideas. In fact, today, Rashad Al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of the MB, said, After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.
We urge President Obama to make it clear to the Egyptian people and army, which enjoys great public respect in Egypt, that the U.S. will not accept any radical Islamist group like the MB coming to power in Cairo and that, if this occurs, that it will immediately cut off the annual $2 billion in U.S. aid, remove all U.S. military advisers and sever relations.