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The Muslim Brotherhood is caught in Trump’s twilight zone

January 20, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Published in:

muslim-brotherhood-mb-office-hq-headquartersHeadquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt [File photo]

Headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt [File photo]

yvonne-ridley-5

Yvonne Ridley

@yvonneridley

 

January 20, 2017 at 12:56 pm

The news today is that the United States of America has a new President in Donald Trump. Beyond that, the world of fact and fantasy has collided to create a fake news landscape in which it is going to become increasingly difficult to separate the truth from lies.

It is a twilight zone in which the very worst dirty tricks are currently being employed. Trump has already blamed gullible US intelligence agencies for falling for a Russian dossier compiled by an ex-British spy, in which lurid allegations were made against him.

Although he dismissed the dossier angrily as fake news, it seems that Trump and his administration are selective when it comes to which fake news to believe and which to condemn out of hand. The new Washington set-up is already, for example, being duped into believing fake news about the Muslim Brotherhood. What else can we conclude when we hear that one of the first things he is preparing to do in the White House is to ban the Muslim Brotherhood in the US by declaring it to be a “terrorist organisation”?

The bill to this effect — the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015-16 — has been drafted by right-wing Republican Senator Ted Cruz. It identifies the Brotherhood and three of its offshoots, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), as “terrorist” groups.

Any reasonable person with even a modicum of understanding of the Muslim world knows that this is poppycock. Nevertheless, there are attempts to lump the Brotherhood in the same category as the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Daesh. Those who can differentiate between the ideologies of the latter three will know that from Kandahar to Raqqa, the Brotherhood is regarded as virtually heretical and hence is reviled by their supporters.

There is no doubt that as far as the pro-Israel lobby is concerned, the Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine — the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) – is the Devil’s spawn. This has to be regarded in context, though, because the Zionist lobbyists despise anyone and everyone who gives active support to the Palestinian cause, from families boycotting Israeli produce on the supermarket shelves to peaceful activists on the front line resisting Israeli teargas and bullets to protect olive trees in the occupied West Bank.

When the good people of Palestine held democratic elections and swept Hamas to power in 2006, the movement’s victory so angered the US administration that it funded, along with Israel, an attempted coup by a faction within Fatah; it failed, but the subsequent Israeli-led siege of Gaza has been in place ever since, with Washington’s full approval. America’s response to the movement’s electoral victory sent a warning shot across the region, for the benefit of the dictators and despots clinging to power, that the rest of the Arab world beyond Palestine might also want a taste of freedom and democracy.

It remains to be seen if Trump recognises the dossiers and briefings on the Muslim Brotherhood as fake, or if he will collude with the same Arab dictators and tyrants who have their own agenda as well as a long-distance relationship with the truth, along with their compliant media organisations.

Earlier this month, the Muslim Brotherhood took the unusual step of issuing an official statement decrying the fake news created to demonise the movement. This came after some sections of the media invented a story saying that the remnants of the Brotherhood in Egypt had announced “the militarisation of its movement against the military coup and that it has decided to resort to violence.”

“The General Office of the Muslim Brotherhood,” the group explained, “and all the departments affiliated with it, would like to stress that the group’s position as announced in February 2014, and which has been endorsed by the new Shura Council that was elected in the middle of this past December, of adhering to the revolutionary path in order to break the coup does not mean ‘militarising the revolution’ or heading toward violence.”

This simply means that the Brotherhood “is endeavouring to possess the tools necessary for achieving victory, in their all-encompassing definitions, based on civil resistance that peoples around the world legitimately resort to and that is supported by all the resolutions of international legitimacy in order to get rid of military dictatorship and win their freedom and dignity. This is a path that free nations cannot afford to do without in their endeavour to protect their gains and inflict defeat on the real terrorism that is being nurtured by the despotism of repressive regimes.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to bringing about change in such a troubled region as the Middle East through non-violent means should be commended and welcomed by any and all reasonable people, including those in Washington. However, it seems that the explicit statement is already being ignored by Trump’s advisors. Somebody needs to tell the new US president that his people are lying to him about the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood, both in America and overseas.

When dictatorships and rogue states that do not encourage freedom of speech, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood it should be obvious that this indicates that the movement stands for the sort of values despised by such regimes and trumpeted — no pun intended — by the US and other Western states.

After the Muslim Brotherhood was swept into power in Egypt and Mohamed Morsi become its first democratically-elected leader it sent shock waves throughout the region. If freedom and democracy could come to Egypt, it was believed, then it could happen anywhere; that is why unelected regional heads of state set about spending billions of petrodollars to destabilise the Arab Spring and undermine the fledgling Morsi government in Cairo.

The result is that Egypt’s only democratically-elected president is now languishing in a Cairo hell-hole of a prison under sentence of death. Over the past three and a half years he has been joined by thousands of other political prisoners from the now banned Brotherhood. The Egyptian economy is in a mess and the government of coup leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is propped up by foreign aid.

Ted Cruz’s bill requiring the US State Department to declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a “foreign terrorist organisation” looks very likely to become law just months after outgoing US President Barak Obama hosted a meeting with some senior members of the movement in Washington. A press release from the Texas senator claims that the Brotherhood “espouses a violent Islamist ideology with a mission of destroying the West”, which is contradicted completely by the group’s own statement.

If Trump hates fake news so much he should practice what he preaches; if he’s going to ban anything at all, it should be political statements by Republican ideologues like Cruz which spread false information. He has had a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of lies when confronted with the dodgy intelligence dossier on his activities in a Moscow hotel. In truth, though, while most of us had a snigger at Trump’s expense, the reality is that no one died.

The deployment of misinformation about the Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, has been exploited eagerly by dictatorships with vicious crackdowns on their own citizens, at great cost to liberty and life. The stakes in this issue are high; fake news can be fatal. Now’s the time to put an end to such devious shenanigans. Trump should outlaw them today, and ignore the scaremongering about the Muslim Brotherhood by Ted Cruz or anybody else.

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Defense Confirms: Rasmea Odeh Targeted for Palestine Activism

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Photo by Bill Chambers

By Bill Chambers

The defense team for Chicago Palestinian community leader, Rasmea Odeh, have uncovered new evidence that confirms her alleged immigration fraud case is based on her being targeted for Palestine activism. Yesterday, they filled a motion to dismiss the indictment against her.

Rasmea Odeh was arrested on October 22, 2013 by agents of the Department of Homeland Security and charged with immigration fraud. Allegedly, in her application for citizenship made 20 years ago, she didn’t mention that she was arrested in Palestine 45 years ago by an Israeli military court that had tortured her to confess to bombings in Jerusalem. (For additional background on Odeh’s case, see Rasmea Odeh: Repression of a Palestinian Community Leader.)

In the Chicago courtroom on the day of her arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas was seen conferring with the prosecutors. At the time, that was the first clue Odeh’s indictment was related to the case of the well-known Palestinian and anti-war Midwest activists whose homes were raided by the FBI when the U.S. attorney alleged that they had provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations in Palestine.  Eventually a total of 23 activists were subpoenaed, but all refused to testify and were never charged assuming because of a lack of evidence.  Members of multiple organizations were also targeted including the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Arab American Action Network (AAAN), Palestine Solidarity Group – Chicago, and others. Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas continues to lead this ongoing investigation. Odeh’s supporters could easily presume that Odeh and the case of the 23 were related. Hatem Abudayyeh, Executive Director of the AAAN and one of the activists whose home was raided by the FBI, is also a colleague of Odeh, Assistant Director of the AAAN.

It’s important to note that this ongoing investigation involves activists from multiple struggles including the anti-war movement, Colombia, Cuba, and immigration rights, but it’s primary focus is support for Palestine. Echoing what’s happening to Odeh now, Carlos Montez, a veteran Chicano, anti-war, and immigrant rights activist, whose name appeared on a search warrant of the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis, was indicted in May of 2011 on unrelated charges related to a protest 45 years ago. The charges were eventually thrown out of court. This multi-year investigation that involves targeting social justice movements, in this case Palestine activism, by criminalizing their activity and suppressing any coalition building among different groups has been a trend throughout U.S. Justice Department and FBI history. More on this trend later.

On Wednesday, the Rasmea Odeh defense team confirmed a direct relationship between the investigation targeting Palestine activists in 2010 and the records that led to the indictment of Odeh in 2013. The press release states “Attorneys representing Chicago’s long-time Palestinian community leader, Rasmea Odeh, have filed a motion and brief in Detroit’s U.S. District Court to dismiss the indictment against her. They are doing so on the grounds that the charges are the product of an illegal investigation targeting both Palestine solidarity efforts and organizing in the Palestinian community.”

In the motion to dismiss, Odeh’s attorneys describe the indictment as “the product of an illegal investigation into the First Amendment activities of the Arab-American Action Network (AAAN) and intended to suppress the work of the defendant in support of the Arab community of Chicago.” The motion goes on to describe how in January of 2010 the Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox “initiated a request through the office of International Affairs Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from the State of Israel for records of the defendant.” In July 2011, the Israelis sent a set of documents to Assistant U.S. Attorney Fox, supporting the claim that Odeh “had been arrested, convicted and imprisoned by the military legal system imposed by Israeli in the West Bank…Over two years later, with nothing to show for its raids in 2010, Ms. Odeh was indicted for falsely answering questions in 2004 in her naturalization application.”  The defense attorneys also speculate, not without reason, that “the United States Attorney in Illinois, which was the office that initiated the request for the Israeli documents and was carrying out the investigation, apparently passed the case to the office in Michigan, to divert attention from its failed efforts to criminaliize the work of the AAAN in Chicago.”

These are dots that are not difficult to connect. The initial investigation in 2010 broadly targeted activists throughout the Midwest, but primarily focused on Palestinians and Palestine activists in Chicago. During the last four years, the Palestine solidarity movement has grown in numbers and impact particularly through the growth of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement directed at Israel and the proliferation of Students for Justice in Palestine groups on college campuses. With the growth of the movement came the attention of the FBI.

As mentioned above, the FBI has a history of targeting growing social justice movements in the U.S., criminalizing those movements, and preventing coalitions they might form with other communities or organizations. Examples from Church Senate Committee Report on FBI Counterintelligence (COINTELPRO) Programs and other studies of  FBI history include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) accused of being communists and the undermining of attempted coalition building with unions and anti-Vietnam war groups; the Black Panther Party prevented from building coalitions with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and politicized gangs like the Blackstone Rangers in Chicago; and the targeting of the Sanctuary Movement that supported Central American refugees in the 1980s accusing activists of supporting terrorists as a way of undermining the movement’s broad support of faith-based, human rights, and socialist groups.

Several hundred statements of support from unions, human rights, civil rights, and faith-based groups and thousands of supporters from across the country  for the 23 anti-war and Palestine activists seem to have prevented indictments in that case so far. It is not hard to imagine the prosecutors reviewing the evidence they had collected that had failed to convince a grand jury for an indictment, finding Odeh’s file from the Israelis, and deciding to build a case for indicting another leader of Chicago’s Palestinian community. There are few other reasonable explanations for why Odeh would be charged for an alleged offense that occurred 20 years ago on the basis of a prison term resulting from a confession obtained through torture 45 years ago.

“Rasmea is facing up to ten years in jail and deportation. She is a Palestinian who has stood up for the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim community in Chicago, and to end the occupation of Palestine as well. Rasmea suffered vicious torture and sexual abuse in Israeli prisons, and the U.S. government is trying to victimize her again,” states Hatem Abudayyeh of the national Rasmea Defense Committee.

Odeh’s defense team will be discussing this motion to dismiss at her next court hearing on September 2 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, at 231 W Lafayette Boulevard, in Detroit, Michigan. The Rasmea Defense Committee and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) – CAIR-Chicago is a member of both coalitions – are organizing a picket line outside the court building at 2:00 p.m. and filling the courtroom for the hearing beginning at 3:00 p.m.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.

2 Responses to Defense Confirms: Rasmea Odeh Targeted for Palestine Activism

  1. sudhama says:

    This article reminds me of something. Jewish American scholar, Norman Finkelstein, made a comment during the recent conflict. He said, “As to how we got to where we are, the general context is perfectly obvious for anyone who wants to see it. A unity government was formed between the PA and Hamas. Netanyahu was enraged at this unity government. (Israel) called on the (U.S. And the EU), to break relations with the Palestinian Authority. Surprisingly, the United States said, ‘No, we’re going to give this unity government time. We’ll see whether it works or not.’ Then the EU came in and said it will also give the unity government time. […]
    At this point, Netanyahu virtually went berserk, and he was determined to break up the unity government. When there was the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers, he found his pretext. […] This is what Israel always does. Anybody who knows the history, it’s what the Israeli political scientist, […] Avner Yaniv (said,) it’s these Palestinian ‘peace offensives.’ Whenever the Palestinians seem like they are trying to reach a settlement of the conflict, […] Israel does everything it can to provoke a violent reaction […] break up the unity government, and Israel has its pretext. ‘We can’t negotiate with the Palestinian Authority because they only represent some of the Palestinian people; they don’t represent all of the Palestinian people.’ And so Netanyahu does what […] Israeli governments always do: You keep pounding the Palestinians, […] trying to evoke a reaction, and when the reaction comes[…] he said, ‘We can’t deal with these people. They’re terrorists.’”
    You’re not anti-Semitic, racist or a self-hating Jew for disagreeing with Israel, just a person of conscience, morals and a good heart.

  2. Jan Boudart says:

    Bill, thank you so much for working on this story, following it and especially for educating all interested people. This is valuable and I hope you feel appreciated. Jan Boudart

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