Middle East Forum

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Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Middle East Forum (MEF), founded by Daniel Pipes, has a core think tank, and several subordinate organizations to define and promote American interests in the Middle East. Under it are the journal Middle East Quarterly, Campus Watch to critique Middle East studies in North America, Islamist Watch aimed on the lawful promotion of radical Islam, with The Legal Project protects public freedom of speech in this subject area.[1] It defines American interests as:

...In the Middle East include fighting radical Islam; working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel; robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; and developing strategies to deal with Iraq and contain Iran.

Domestically, the Forum combats lawful Islamism; protects the freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, activists, and publishers; and works to improve Middle East studies in North America.[2]

There has been considerable overlap with the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon. Indeed, until 2004, the two groups jointly issued the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin.

Positions and analyses

Obama Administration

Daniel Pipes commented on a presentation by White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan,[3] describing his August 6 speech, entitled "A New Approach for Safeguarding Americans"[4]as summarizing the "administration's present and future policy mistakes...It's a deeply deceptive interpretation intended to confuse non-Muslims and win time for Islamists." Pipes observes that it does not make a hard link between "violent extremism" and Islam; Brennan explained that jihad has multiple interpretations, not all violent. Pipes said this is a disinformation strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood, described in a paper by LTC Joseph C. Myers, U.S. Army, at the Air Command and Staff College. [5] While Pipes agrees with nuclear weapons in terrorist hands as the greatest step, he describes, policy response to "of three feeble and nearly irrelevant steps: 'leading the effort for a stronger global nonproliferation regime, launching an international effort to secure the world's vulnerable nuclear material …, and hosting a global nuclear summit.'"

Settlement freeze

There is a recent summary of the gaps between U.S. and Israeli positions, at the senior staff level before the near-term meeting between Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, with a possible Obama-Netanyahu summit:[6]

  1. Jerusalem is the critical issue. "Israel will not accept the principle that any part of Jerusalem inside the juridical boundaries of the city that were recorded in the "Basic Law--Jerusalem" in 1980 be treated as merely "administered territory" like the West Bank." The United States, however, has never recognized this basic law, and voted for UNSC Resolution 478, which called it a violation of international law.
  2. Projects already under construction: "Netanyahu is willing to suspend new approvals for a period of time, but he has no remaining authority over many of the projects already under construction."
  3. Duration: Israel is willing to agree to a 6 month freeze, but the U.S. wants a longer one. Regardless of its duration, when it expires, "who will decide whether sufficient progress is being achieved in political talks to justify an extension, and on what terms? Under what circumstances will the U.S. accept that the freeze has expired and construction may resume? In what sense is a temporary freeze temporary?"
  4. Bush/Sharon understandings: "Israel is quite unhappy that the Obama Administration refuses to recognize the validity of understandings about limitations on settlements that were agreed between past governments of the two countries." Israel will also require all new agreements to be in writing.

Academia and Campus Watch

Campus Watch has been criticized as violating academic freedom. [7] "It’s that whole mode of terror by association, with the Cold War language of ‘dossiers,’ and we’re watching you,” Ammiel Alcalay, a Hebrew professor at Queens College in New York, told the New York Times. “It makes graduate students and untenured professors very nervous, and makes it even harder to talk about Israel.”

Lisa Anderson, dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, told the Times, “Last year, Martin Kramer wrote a book arguing against federal funding for Middle Eastern studies in universities, and that scared people...Meanwhile, there’s concern that the rhetoric around the Arab-Israel conflict is becoming increasingly associated with anti-Semitic sentiments, and that’s scaring people too,” added Anderson, who will soon become head of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA)."

Campus Watch responded to the criticism of Kramer, with an article in Azure: Ideas for the Jewish Nation, a quarterly published in Jerusalem by the Shalem Center. "Anderson is right to put her finger on the question of accountability. Yet on this point, it is she and her MESA colleagues who are found wanting. While mainstream scholars at American universities refuse to look the most serious problems of the Middle East squarely in the eye, it is the independent scholars who have picked up the slack." [8]

While not addressing Campus Watch as an organization, Pipes spoke frankly to a Yale University audience, defending MEF policy and his attitudes to faculty he regarded as anti-American.[9] One of his basic messages is that diplomacy has failed, but put in the context that people, as well as governments, had to be part of agreements. Pipes said "Diplomacy focuses exclusively on government to government relations...Were the governments to come to an agreement, it's not necessarily the case that the population would follow. In fact, once an agreement was shared, the [Palestinian] population became more anti-Zionist than less." Apropos of people, he responded to a question as to why he had called 10 to 15 percent of all Muslims are potential killers; he confirmed with the response "[Militant Islam] is the body of ideas that causes a lot of murders...Ten to 15 percent of Muslims support Militant Islam and wish to be in a country where there is a Militant government."

Diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill disagreed with Pipes' approach, saying "I'm much more positive. I think diplomacy has brought tremendous successes. The key to this is the suppression of terrorism. When you get close to peace, terrorists will literally blow up any chance of peace."

Referring to November 2002 issue of the New York Post, which he wrote an article, "Profs Who Hate America," which named Director of Cytogenetics Services at the Yale School of Medicine Mazin Qumsiyeh and Yale Professor Glenda Gilmore "as two professors who fit this description."

Qumsiyeh said during the talk that both he and Gilmore received hate mail as a result of the column. "We don't hate America, we just don't like American policy in the Middle East." Pipes asked Qumsiyeh to forward all hate mail, and then cited a third professor, who claimed to have left the U.S. due to hate mail but actually to take a better job, as "show[ing] what liars you all are."