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Israeli and US media attack centrist MIFTAH as ‘radical’ group in effort to discredit Omar and Tlaib

Media Analysis
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Israel and its supporters have set their sights on a new target in part of a concerted effort to discredit US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and their planned delegation to Palestine, after the decision to bar them entry to the country sparked nationwide outrage.

The newest focus of the right-wing media is MIFTAH, the Ramallah-based NGO that was sponsoring the planned delegation, as it has done in the past with US congressional delegations that visited the occupied West Bank.

Founded by PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH) is largely regarded as a mainstream, “centrist” group in Palestine.

The group’s activities focus primarily on female empowerment and self-sustainability projects, with a mission that “seeks to promote the principles of democracy and good governance within various components of Palestinian society” and “seeks to engage local and international public opinion and official circles on the Palestinian cause.”

In the wake of the backlash facing Netanyahu and his government for denying the congresswomen, the premiere released a statement alleging that the congresswomen had ulterior motives, referencing MIFTAH as “an avid supporter” of BDS.

Netanyahu also claimed MIFTAH’s members “have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.”

Right wing media outlets in the US have quickly began uncovering the group’s “radical history,” and zeroed in on past remarks made by the organization or people affiliated with it.

Fox news reported that the group “has a long record of anti-Israel rhetoric that includes downplaying attacks on Israelis and even describing suicide bombers as ‘sacrificing their lives for the cause’.”

Fox and other right-wing outlets delved into a 2006 report by MIFTAH on the Second Intifada, in which the group discussed a wave of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian women within the context of resistance, “sacrifice” and “fighting back.”

In Palestine, most actions taken against Israeli soldiers and civilians during times of unrest are largely viewed as acts of resistance against Israel’s brutal 52-year military occupation.

The media has also harped on a 2013 incident in which MIFTAH published an article referencing the “medieval blood libel”, the anti-Semitic trope that Jews use Christian blood to make matzah for the Passover holiday.

MIFTAH reacted swiftly at the time, saying the “misstep” was made by a junior staffer who published the article without review, and the post was quickly taken down.

In the wake of the attacks on their organization, MIFTAH released another statement referencing the 2013 incident, saying that “once MIFTAH’s senior management became aware of the offensive article, they immediately removed it and issued an apology despite the fact that a disclaimer on its website clearly states that articles posted from other sources do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organization.”

“Nonetheless, a widespread smear campaign instigated and obsessively pursued by vicious hate-filled groups continued against MIFTAH and its founders. This hackneyed campaign is now being rehashed in an orchestrated manner with clear malicious intent,” MIFTAH said.

The statement continued:

“MIFTAH is and has always been a respected organization both in Palestine and abroad and is known for its contributions to good governance, the empowerment of women and youth, to maintaining open, inclusive and democratic dialogue and to the exchange of ideas. We will not tolerate any attempts at the misrepresentation and defamation of MIFTAH’s good name.”

Hanan Ashrawi also took to Twitter to defend her name and the reputation of her organization, condemning the “libelous attacks” against MIFTAH.

She also responded to a tweet criticizing the fact that CNN held a panel on the topic of the delegation, during which MIFTAH was brought up, and the network did not ask for comment from anyone from the organization.

During a press conference on Monday, Tlaib and Omar addressed the attacks of MIFTAH, calling the right-wing media campaign against the organization a “distraction.”

Both congresswomen highlighted the fact that five congressional representatives who visited the occupied West Bank in 2016, did so through MIFTAH.

Notably, two of the congressman,  Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Dan Kildee, D-Mich., who took the trip in 2016 under the auspices of MIFTAH voted in favor of the House anti-BDS resolution in July, while a third member of that delegation, Hank Johnson, D-Ga, abstained.

“We were as taken aback as you are that people are now questioning that,” Tlaib told journalists on Monday.

“I think the focus is hiding the truth, hiding that the occupation is happening,” she continued. “Us setting foot there would basically bring attention to something many of us feel is very much against international human rights.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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5 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield on August 22, 2019, 9:04 am

    Terms like radical, extremist, and left/right are all relative to a center, but that center is not fixed or objectively determined: it is itself an object of contestation. The way the game works is that everyone strives to define his/her own position as the central one and relegate opponents to the extremes, the unquestioned assumption being that centrism (also called moderation) is good while extremism is bad.

    Applying this model to the case under discussion, the right-wing Zionists, who in the past, during the ascendancy of Labor Zionism, were condemned as extremists, now demand to be treated as the center, with the result that forces formerly classified as centrist are now redefined as extreme. Especially strict requirements are set for Palestinians formerly labeled as centrist and moderate: basically, while in the past it sufficed for them to accept an accommodation with Zionism solely on pragmatic grounds, they must now support Zionism even in principle. Otherwise they are banished to the outer darkness of radicalism and extremism as ‘de-legitimizers.’

    I think that all those stigmatized as radicals or extremists, instead of playing the game and desperately insisting on being treated as centrists, should reject all these arbitrary labels and expose the game itself and the goals of the people who try to make us play it.

  2. Vera Gottlieb on August 22, 2019, 10:27 am

    Even Moses would be smeared and attacked if he dared express an opinion contrary to Zionism.

  3. Emet on August 22, 2019, 10:49 am

    Hanan Ashrawi, why don’t you tell us how much money you receive from the NIF? Why do so many who receive easy handouts, base their policies such that does not jeopardize next months payment? Follow the money. Yes, in a land where everyone is an extremist, Ashrawi is a centrist.

    • DaBakr on August 22, 2019, 5:58 pm

      Ashwari may be that, but her name is attached to Mifta and that certainly isn’t ‘centrist’. I don’t have strong opinions on Ashwari personally except to say she is part of the same well known corrupt PLO leadership council. She is wealthy. She is an excellent speaker and debater and I assume dedicated to her cause. She is an international traveler well respected by Israeli and world leaders and I do believe she is devoted to empowering Arab women in an entrenched male dominated system.

      That still doesn’t excuse Mifta.

  4. DaBakr on August 22, 2019, 5:39 pm

    Well I got moderated before so I’ll try it like this :

    Anybody who considers Mifta a “centrist” publication is welcome to search it’s long history of not only printing anti -Israel articles (which granted, could be considered centrist by many)but search it’s data base for just the most basic age old slanders and libels about jews in general and not zionist or Israel. There is already the recently cited ‘jews kill Christian babies to make passover matzah ‘. But that isn’t the first time that’s been written about. There are the Rothschilds, the protocols, the octopus, holocaust denegration. The hook nose/thick lip. Yes, there are centrist articles as well. So are there at breitbart.
    I believe MW does not allow comments that denigrate or deny Palestinian displacement from 48-80s. I doubt very much if commenters here would consider a publication that ‘all Arabs want to murder jews ‘ as centrist. (And yeah, trump is hardly a centrist, BTW) I’m just saying Mifta is centrist to only a very select few the way Vesti would be considered ‘centrist’ by the price tag jews (if they could read Russian)in judea.

    One can’t be a centrist part time without being phony or disingenuous

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