Who’s the moderate? Romney teams up with anti-Muslim speakers, Greater Israel advocates

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Mitt Romney at CPAC 2011 (Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney followed the Israeli right’s line on Palestinians during last week’s Florida debate. To get an idea why Romney’s rhetoric was so extreme, just take a look at the schedule of speakers for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, where Romney is also scheduled to speak.

CPAC, held from February 9-11 in Washington, D.C., will be hosting all the big names in the GOP. And Romney, the front runner and “moderate” Republican, will be lending legitimacy to a conference that includes notorious anti-Muslim speakers, as well as advocates of continued Israeli control of the West Bank. As the success of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy shows, this pro-occupation, anti-Muslim outlook on the Middle East is a core part of the Republican Party.

Below are some of the extreme speakers on Islam and the Middle East whom Romney and CPAC, unsurprisingly, have no problem being associated with. 

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Pamela Geller, speaking on “Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out”:

When there’s a ginned-up controversy over Islam in America, turn to Pamela Geller. The bomb-throwing blogger and anti-Muslim activist has for years denigrated Islam and American Muslims, and she led the fight against the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan, calling it a “victory mosque.” Geller has claimed that Barack Obama is “the secret ‘love child’ of Malcolm X” and has pined for the destruction of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that Geller, “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” has “mingled comfortably with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists, [and] defended Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic.” Geller’s writings also showed up in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the Oslo massacre last year. A recent column lauded Newt Gingrich for defending the “Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria.” And in a New York Times interview, Geller explained her devotion to Israel:

Now do I see everything through the prism of Israel? No, I don’t, but I do think it’s a very good guide. It’s a very good guide because, like I said, in the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man

Pantano
Ilario Pantano/Flickr

Ilario Pantano, speaking on “Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out”:

This Tea Party favorite rose to prominence during the 2010 congressional campaign, which he eventually lost. Pantano is a favorite of the anti-Muslim blogosphere, and made opposition to Park 51 a centerpiece of his campaign in North Carolina. He’s also come under fire for an incident that occurred in Iraq, where Pantano served as a Marine. Here’s the Guardian on Pantano:

The basic facts are undisputed: on 15 April 2004 Ilario Pantano, then a second lieutenant with the US marines, stopped and detained two Iraqi men in a car near Falluja. The Iraqis were unarmed and the car found to be empty of weapons.

Pantano ordered the two men to search the car for a second time and then, with no other US soldiers in view, unloaded a magazine of his M16A4 automatic rifle into them, before reloading and blasting a second magazine at them – some 60 rounds in total.

Over the corpses, he left a placard inscribed with the marine motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.”

This article authored by Pantano gives a good idea on where’s he’s coming from:

If we allow mosques to go up like mushrooms everywhere there is a terrorist bombing or shooting we will create a perverse incentive, not a deterrent. This mosque at Ground Zero will serve as a big trophy and we are welcoming it?…

One thank you note can be struck early for the mosque’s front man: Kuwaiti-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, Rauf is also the CEO of American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). But he’s more than just an apologist for the religion-based sharia law, which many experts see in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution. Rauf is also a key member of the Malaysia-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, reportedly the single biggest donor to the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) and its affiliated activists, which include former Weather Underground founders William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, as well as Jodie Evans, the leader of Code Pink: Women for Peace (see discoverthenetworks.org for information on this web of Leftist relationships).

Robert Spencer
Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer, also speaking on “Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out”:

Geller’s partner in the crusade against Muslims, Spencer authored a book that called Islam “the world’s most intolerant religion.” Here’s how the Center for American Progress described Spencer in its landmark report, Fear, Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America:

A prolific blogger, author, and commentator, Spencer is “the principal leader… in the new academic field of Islam bashing,” according to Robert Crane, a former deputy director of the U.S. National Security Council and former adviser to President Nixon. Spencer is the primary driver in promoting the myth that peace- ful Islam is nonexistent and that violent extremism is inherent within traditional Islam. “Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful,” Spencer said in June this year. “It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”

And of course, Spencer is a big backer of Israel, for much the same reason as Geller is. Here’s a post Spencer published on his JihadWatch.org site:

And the moral of all this? Israel must give up nothing more. It should have permanently annexed in June 1967 everything it took, but who then knew about Islam in the Israeli government? And more importantly, who in the Israeli government knows a sufficient amount now?

Because if the Israeli government understood the permanent nature of the implacable Muslim and Arab hostility, rooted in the immutable texts of Islam, including in those texts the acts and words of Muhammad as recorded in Hadith and Sira and understood by all Muslim jurisconsults, then the nonsense of further surrender of territory critical to Israel’s survival would end. Israel has legal, moral, and historic title to that territory, not least by the preamble and express provisions of the Mandate for Palestine established by the League of Nations.

Those three speakers are just some of the reactionary speakers CPAC is slated to host. But where does Romney fit in all of this? While Romney is perhaps the least anti-Muslim candidate in the race, that doesn’t say much.

Romney has come under attack from the right for saying that “I believe people of the Islamic faith do not have to subscribe to the idea of radical, violent jihadism.” But he’s also pandered to the fear-mongering over the “threat” of sharia law in the U.S. At a CNN debate in June, Romney said: “Of course, we’re not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law.”

The worst aspect of Romney’s campaign on the Middle East front came when he announced that Walid Phares is serving as a “special adviser” in his “shadow National Security Council.” Again, here’s the Center for American Progress on Phares:

Walid Phares is currently a senior fellow and the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. Phares, age 53, also acts as an “expert” lecturer on “Islamist Jihadism” for the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. Phares is touted as an authentic expert on Muslims and political Islam despite being a former militiaman and foreign affairs spokesman for the mostly Christian Lebanese Front, which was responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Muslims during the September 1982 Lebanese Civil War.

Phares promotes the conspiracy theory of mainstream Muslim organizations posing as radical Islamist cells. He warns that “jihadists within the West pose as civil rights advocates” and patiently recruit until “[a]lmost all mosques, educational centers,and socioeconomic institutions fall into their hands.” He was originally scheduled to testify at Rep. King’s criticized hearings on the alleged radicalization of the Muslim American community but was dropped at the last moment after his sordid history with the Lebanese Forces was uncovered.

When Phares was asked about his connection to the leadership that allowed the atrocities to occur, he simply replied, “Everybody did silly stuff, on both hands… but amazingly enough, the Guardians of the Cedars [a right-wing Christian religious group within the Lebanese Forces] have been the most moral fighters.”
 

With Romney hearing views like that routinely from an adviser, nothing at CPAC should surprise him. And that’s the problem.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Neocons, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

{ 18 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    Romney is no moderate

    Abortion

    Gingrich supports federal ban or constitutional amendment banning abortion
    Romney says the issue should be left to individual states

    Economy

    Gingrich says he would balance the budget within five years with deep spending cuts
    Romney says he would cut corporate tax rates and focus on job growth

    Health care

    Gingrich would starve Obama’s healthcare law of cash so it cannot be implemented
    Romney would issue an order giving back authority for healthcare to states

    Gay rights

    Gingrich against gay marriage, but says same-sex couples should have legal protections
    Romney opposes letting gay people marry, serve in the military or any government recognition of their relationships

    National security

    Gingrich says greatest danger is rise of radical Islam inside the US
    Romney wants increase in US’s already substantial military budget

    Poverty

    Gingrich proposes that children should be put to work to learn the work ethic
    Romney says cash handouts to the poor trap them in poverty

    • Chaos4700 says:

      There is no such thing as “moderate” in the United States, as far as I can tell. The “moderates” here are just as bad as the “moderates” in Israel.

  2. gingershot says:

    Very succinct and cogent video of the Israeli push to foment another war for Israel – by Ray McGovern. Don’t think I’ve heard the whole package summed up so nicely all in one place and in such a concise format …

    It’s the RT video embedded in the article that is the real jewel…
    Divining the Truth About Iran
    link to original.antiwar.com

  3. Scott says:

    There will be dozens of speakers at CPAC, the islamophobes aren’t representative. I think the right may be pretty much in play– under thirty, more Ron Paul supporters than anyone else. The American Conservative folks will be there, passing out copies of the latest issue which include a Ron Paul cover piece; there is a contingent from the Committee for the Republic, rumored to hand out “I like Ike” pins. The only Palestinian-American member of congress is a Republican. So I’m not sure what you’re recommending –that Romney shouldn’t go to CPAC because Islamophobic crazies will be there? That people with reasonable views on the Mid east should stay out Republican politics? For me, I think neocon (and loonier) ideas may be in retreat among young self-identified conservatives, and in any case it’s an important field to play on.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “There will be dozens of speakers at CPAC, the islamophobes aren’t representative. ”

      How would you react if there were only a few approved Nazis speaking at a supposed mainstream political gathering, even though they wouldn’t be “representative”? How about Klansmen? Would that be okay??

      “I’m not sure what you’re recommending –that Romney shouldn’t go to CPAC because Islamophobic crazies will be there?”

      My position would be that if he does attend that he unceasingly attacks creatures like Pam Geller like he would if she were a Nazi or KKK member.

      • I haven’t seen so many characters from the “Moral Majority,” Reed’s evangelical groupies, and assorted right wing christian groups all together since Jerry Falwell’s funeral.

        which is perhaps why the first thought that came to mind as I looked at the photos/names was, “How long did it take to get all the exhumation orders?”

        • Scott says:

          It’s worse than previous years. Think I read somewhere that David Keene’s move from head of the sponsoring group to head the NRA has changed the dynamic. On foreign policy, Keene is a rational person.

  4. Dan Crowther says:

    “As the success of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy shows, this pro-occupation, anti-Muslim outlook on the Middle East is a core part of the Republican Party.”
    ———————
    The same could be said about the Democratic Party – the fact that it isn’t said here more often is frustrating. Republicans might be more vulgar, but there is little to no daylight between the parties on these issues……

    • absolutely. Democrats are worse, they’ve been at it longer.

      I learned about Michael Broyde, mentioned in the comment below, from an article on DKos in 2007. That article resulted in its author being banned.

      ___

      the dynamic we may see this election might be an even fiercer hate-fest: Republicans are intruding on donor territory that used to be majority Democrat. Shall we expect Democrats to fight to reclaim that donor base, or will Dems shift to center-left, seek their own field, something like an ‘opposition party,’ broader base of support?

      Dream world: Democrats will reach out to independents, white Catholics, white Mainstream Protestants, who are swing votes, and Latinos, Blacks AND MUSLIMS who control a great amount of wealth for their small numbers. Wise up, Dems. Reaching out to Muslims & Iranians would be a very smart move.

      • Dan Crowther says:

        Along those same lines Teta – many of us here (including me) call out the “liberal zionists” and the “Israeli left” for the frauds that (many) of them are – but when it comes to the “hometeam” we are not nearly as critical.

        Where we look through “liberal” Jewish Israeli calls for justice, equality etc. and seemingly disregard them as either cathartic or distracting, a lot of us here are all too willing to “believe” the represented left in the US, project onto them our own ideas and values, and “hope” and “think” that they want to act on our behalf, but are unable to, usually due to some “enemy” whether it be the Republicans, “The Lobby” or those damned “low information voters.” In this way, “we” are no different than those we claim to despise.

        • Dan Crowther, from time to time I browse the National Catholic Reporter website. NCR represents liberal Catholicism, imo. Sr. Joan Chitister used to be reliable, and there’s a peace-activist priest who does some pretty good writing, and there’s always a column by Bp Gumbleton, whom most of the rest of the hierarchy disagree with.

          The comments are disheartening. They range from, Hell yes, Santorum is right, kill more Iranians, to jesus-loving-navel-gazing saccharine piety, to totally cluelessness. I have not read a single article or comment that indicates that anyone at NCR is aware of what MW describes about Israel every day. (if you read such a comment at NCR, it’s probably mine).

          The Catholic church has global reach. But their people are parochial in mind and vision and stuck on genitalia detailia and internal power and authority disputes. In short, the Church that should and could be large enough and strong enough to counterbalance the Christozionists has, instead, either abdicated or joined them in warmongering and Islamophobia.

    • seafoid says:

      Newt ran out of money in December. It’s high octane bullshit and it’s very expensive.
      Adelson had to bail him out.

      The pro occ anti Muslim thing is ultimately down to campaign finance and who pays for the ads. Why do politicians have ads anyway ?
      The only ones with pockets deep enough to fund the politicians are the sociopaths such as Zionists like Adelson.

      link to nybooks.com

      “Beneath the turbulent political spectacle that has captured so much of the nation’s attention lies a more important question than who will get the Republican nomination, or even who will win in November: Will we have a democratic election this year? Will the presidential election reflect the will of the people? Will it be seen as doing so—and if not, what happens? The combination of broadscale, coordinated efforts underway to manipulate the election and the previously banned unlimited amounts of unaccountable money from private or corporate interests involved in those efforts threatens the democratic process for picking a president. The assumptions underlying that process—that there is a right to vote, that the system for nominating and electing a president is essentially fair—are at serious risk. “

  5. Spencer– “who then knew about Islam in the Israeli government? And more importantly, who in the Israeli government knows a sufficient amount now?”

    astonishing ignorance. I guess Jews in the lobby let Spencer get away with this because it suits their political agenda.

    Jews know nothing about Islam? think again –Jewish Rabbi leads FORUSA Peace Delegation to Iran

    and

    Dialogue in Qom, by Rabbi Brent Rosen you MUST open this link. you will be disgusted out of your mind at the racism and hatred on display.

    and again

    Michael Broyde, Emory University professor of law and academic director of the Law and Religion Program Michael Broyde was invited to present a paper at Third International Conference on Human Rights, which took place May 14–15, 2005 at Mofid University in Qom, Iran. Themed “Identity, Difference and Human Rights,” the conference was co-sponsored by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

    Broyde earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Yeshiva University in New York and was later ordained as a rabbi by that same institution, simultaneously earning his law degree at New York University. He long has wanted to keep one foot in law and the other in religion, which is what led him to Emory in 1991 and its Law and Religion Program (soon to merge with the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion) and his research areas of Jewish law and ethics, family law, and comparative religious law. He has served as rabbi for the Young Israel of Toco Hills synagogue since its founding in 1994.

    Broyde made these observations about his experience at Qom, the ancient religious center of Iran, and noted these points of commonality between Jewish religious law and practice, and Islam in Iran:

    “There is a great deal of curiosity about Jewish law and Jewish ethics,” said Broyde, discussing some of the conversations that followed his presentation. The majority of the conference presenters were Western, but the vast majority of the attendees were Iranian. Those who weren’t students were imams, and all were understandably interested in Broyde’s subject matter.

    “I sat with many Islamic scholars talking about Jewish law and how it compares with Islamic law,” Broyde said. “Islamic law has many features that are related to or even derived from Jewish law. We could point to a mother/daughter relationship between the two, in the sense that Islamic law starts developing from Jewish law around the year 1000. There is a clear interrelationship.”

    Academics on both sides agree on this relationship—both Islamic and Jewish law are committed to being full religious systems, regulating not only religious practice but commercial and family relations, for instance.

    But like every mother/daughter relationship, to use Broyde’s description, the two don’t always agree. To take Broyde’s paper topic as an example, Jewish law’s views on excommunication differ from those of Islamic law. In the latter, excommunication is a form of punishment. Jewish law views excommunication as a form of social regulation. This distinction spurred a great deal of discussion both during the conference and in its downtime.

    Broyde didn’t speak much with Mofid University students. There were language barriers and he characterized the students as reserved. He did have very robust conversations with imams who, contrary to some media images in this country and elsewhere in the West, were hardly fanatic. They did have strong opinions, though, which made for spirited and probing discussion.

    “There is a difference between how one views faith as an academic and how one views it as an insider,” said Broyde, adding that he came away with a much more detailed view of Islamic law.

    and yet some more –

    then there’s that whole 500 years of Jewish-Muslim Golden Age in Andalusia, which is, incidentally, the area of expertise of Ben Zion Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu’s father.

  6. Alex, Phil, Adam –
    I think you may have posted material by or about Rabbi Brent Rosen on MW. If you haven’t, you should; he’s a keeper.

    I browsed a bit on his blog after linking to it in an earlier comment. I got hooked when I read a comment on Rosen’s blog that said, “So, Brent, what do you think about Dennis Ross’s statements about Iran in the Newsweek article . . .” (signed) Mom Rosen.

    wonder if she bakes apple pie.

    link to rabbibrant.com

    In the front page article on Rosen’s blog today, he navigates smartly between Jeremy Ben-Ami’s claims that J Street supports 2-state, and reality.

  7. The corporate media should do its damn job properly and frame the Republican decisions as a battle between Romney and Paul, and focus on their different policies and ideas.

    Santorum is a clown and Gingrich is only still the race because of Adelsons naziesque money.

  8. Charon says:

    As an American citizen, I am scared to death of this Islamic law taking control of our constitution and forcing our women to cover up. I live within a few miles of Dearborn, MI. I have been there on several occasions to experience art fairs or for dinner. Every single time I was there, everybody was friendly with me. This is a problem. I was shocked at the courtesy of the residents. I was shocked that the food tasted good. I knew a trick was being played on me… all those billboards written in Arabic. I’m sure it was some kind of code stating an anti-American message which I couldn’t read. I am sure they are laughing at me once I leave.

    PS, I’m kidding. Just in case the sarcasm detector isn’t working. Seriously though, Dearborn is a pretty normal place. I hate how it gets ‘outed’ with all the Sharia fearmongering. It’s a million times safer than neighboring Detroit, that’s for sure. And I’d rather be there than down river.

  9. Citizen says:

    Here’s a toe dip in the water of Romney’s religion as to how it views the Jewish way: link to prawfsblawg.blogs.com

    I’d say he has no problem rubber-stamping whatever AIPAC wants.

  10. Interesting that the scuttlebutt around the web is that Ron Paul was actively excluded, and that during the last election cycle something or other about Huckabee refusing to go if Paul were invited, too. No idea if any of these things are true, but did check the cpac 2012 site link to cpac2012.conservative.org and Paul is not listed as a speaker (Santorum, Gingrich and Romney – check) although, in one list his son, Rand, is included, and in an almost identical speakers list, he isn’t.