The Problem With Miftah

Praising suicide bombers and pushing blood libel is not “criticizing Israeli policy.”
August 19, 2019
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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (R) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MN). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It’s difficult and unfashionable to hold two conflicting ideas at the same time, but let’s try anyway.

It is possible to (1) believe that Israel’s decision to knuckle under to Trump and ban Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib was an ill-advised blunder and (2) also hold Omar and Tlaib accountable for partnering with vicious anti-Semites.

As Bari Weiss notes, their aborted trip was planned by Miftah, “an organization that has proudly praised female suicide bombers and pushed the medieval blood libel.”

So far, though, reactions like this are vanishingly rare:

Despite attempts to portray Miftah as mainstreamish, the reality, as David French notes, is unambiguously ugly.  A few years back, Miftah published a bizarre article accusing “the Jews [of using] the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover,” the classic blood libel. The group apologized, but, as French notes, “we’ve barely gotten started with this vile group.”

It’s also published an American neo-Nazi treatise called “Who Rules America: The Alien Grip on Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken” (archived here).

As Vox’s Jane Coaston explained, “the original source was National Vanguard, a neo-Nazi group founded in 2005 in Charlottesville by members of the National Alliance.” The National Alliance “was for a time the best financed and best organized white nationalist group in America.”

It actually gets worse. A lot worse, actually.

The group celebrates terrorists, including an evil woman who helped murder 13 Israeli children. In an article titled “Let Us Honor Our Own,” a Miftah contributor describes Dalal Al Mughrabi as “a Palestinian fighter who was killed during a military operation against Israel in 1978” and as one of the Palestinian people’s “national heroes.”

The so-called “military operation” is more widely known as the “Coastal Road Massacre,” a bus hijacking that resulted in the deaths of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children.

Al Mughrabi is hardly the only terrorist Miftah celebrates. It described female suicide bomber Wafa Idrees as the “the beginning of a string of Palestinian women dedicated to sacrificing their lives for the cause.” It singles out for recognition Hanadi Jaradat, a woman who blew herself up in a restaurant, killing 21 people (including four children).

The founder of Miftah herself, Ms. Ashrawi, excused jihadist violence by telling an interviewer that “you cannot somehow adopt the language of either the international community or the occupier by describing anybody who resists as terrorist.”

As it turns out, other members of Congress have dallied with Miftah. Politico’s Playbook reported:

IN 2016, Reps. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-Pa.), DAN KILDEE (D-Mich.), MARK POCAN (D-Wis.), LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-Ill.) and HANK JOHNSON (D-Ga.) all went on a five-day trip to Israel and the West Bank sponsored by the group.

— THE TRIP, which was between May 26 and June 1, 2016, was sponsored by the American Global Institute in addition to Miftah.

— AND ON THAT TRIP, the members of Congress listed their destination as “Palestine – Jerusalem – Ramallah” — not Israel.

Despite all of this, media coverage has been muted, which is to say, not even a fraction of what it would be if a group of Republican congressmen had been found to be associating with a hate group of any kind. Had Steve King, for example, been found traveling with an organization with Miftah’s pedigree, we would likely see not merely a media firestorm, but also efforts to expel him from the GOP conference, if not altogether from the House. And the reaction would be completely justified.

So why the relative silence about Omar and Tlaib? Media bias only explains part of it. The larger problem is our binary politics, which frames every controversy (especially those involving Trump) as a Manichean struggle between light and dark. Any attempt at nuance is smacked down as “both sides-ism,” which has somehow emerged as a cardinal heresy among the ideologically woke.

But in this story, both sides are behaving badly and it seems important to say so.

Charles Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.