January 23, 2008
Barack Obama's Middle East ExpertBy Ed Lasky
Barack Obama's real thinking about Israel and the Middle East continues to be an enigma. The words he chose in an address to AIPAC create a different impression than the composition of his foreign policy advisory team. Several advisors have evidenced a history of suspicion and worse toward Israel. One of his advisors in particular, Robert Malley, clearly warrants attention, as does the reasoning that led him to being chosen by Barack Obama.
A little family history may be in order to understand the genesis of Robert Malley's views. Normally, one should be reluctant in exploring a person's family background -- after all, who would want to be held responsible for the sins of one's father? However, when close relatives share a strong current of ideological affinity, and when a father has a commanding persona, it behooves a researcher to inquire a bit into the role of family in forming views. That said, Robert Malley has a very interesting father.
His father Simon Malley was born to a Syrian family in Cairo and at an early age found his métier in political journalism. He participated in the wave of anti-imperialist and nationalist ideology that was sweeping the Third World. He wrote thousands of words in support of struggle against Western nations. In Paris, he founded the journal Afrique Asie; he and his magazine became advocates for "liberation" struggles throughout the world, particularly for the Palestinians.
Simon Malley loathed Israel and anti-Israel activism became a crusade for him-as an internet search would easily show. He spent countless hours with Yasser Arafat and became a close friend of Arafat. He was, according to Daniel Pipes, a sympathizer of the Palestinian Liberation Organization --- and this was when it was at the height of its terrorism wave against the West . His efforts were so damaging to France that President Valerie d'Estaing expelled him from the country.
Malley has seemingly followed in his father's footsteps: he represents the next generation of anti-Israel activism. Through his writings he has served as a willing propagandist, bending the truth (and more) to serve an agenda that is marked by anti-Israel bias; he heads a group of Middle East policy advisers for a think-tank funded (in part) by anti-Israel billionaire activist George Soros; and now is on the foreign policy staff of a leading Presidential contender. Each step up the ladder seems to be a step closer towards his goal of empowering radicals and weakening the ties between American and our ally Israel.
Robert Malley's writings strike me as being akin to propaganda. One notable example is an op-ed that was published in the New York Times (Fictions About the Failure at Camp David). The column indicted Israel for not being generous enough at Camp David and blamed the failure of the talks on the Israelis.
Malley has repeated this line of attack in numerous op-eds over the years, often co-writing with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Yasser Arafat (see, for example, Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors ). He was also believed to be the chief source for an article by Deborah Sontag that whitewashed Arafat's role in the collapse of the peace process, an article that has been widely criticized as riddled with errors and bias.
Malley is a revisionist and his views are sharply at odds with the views of others who participated at Camp David, including Ambassador Dennis Ross and President Bill Clinton. Malley's myth-making has been peddled in the notably anti-Israel magazine, Counterpunch and by Norman Finkelstein, the failed academic recently denied tenure at DePaul University . Malley's Camp David propaganda has also become fodder for Palestinians, Arab rejectionists, and anti-Israel activists across the world.
His story of the talks is also plain wrong.
Dennis Ross had this to say regarding the failure of Camp David when he laid the blame on Yasser Arafat and Palestinian leadership:
President Clinton echoed these remarks, elsewhere:
At the conclusion of Camp David, Clinton made these points, stressing that Israeli leader Ehud Barak had gone the extra mile to reach peace with the Palestinians:
Was Malley so central to the peace process that he knew something that escaped the attention of our Middle East Envoy and our President? When one reads Dennis Ross's account of his years of trying to bring peace to the region, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, one can question just how central Malley was to the Camp David negotiations.*
Malley has written a range of pieces over the years that reveal an agenda at work that should give pause to those Obama supporters who truly care about peace in the Middle Peace and the fate of our ally Israel.
Playing Into Sharon's Hands: which absolves Arafat of the responsibility to restrain terrorists and blames Israel for terrorism. He defends Arafat and hails him as
Rebuilding a Damaged Palestine: which blames Israel's security operations for weakening Palestinian security forces (absurd on its face: terrorists filled the ranks of so-called Palestinian security forces-which, in any case, never tried to prevent terrorism) and calls for international forces to restrain the Israelis
Making the Best of Hamas's Victory: which called for international aid to be showered upon a Hamas-led government and for international engagement with Hamas (a group that makes clear in its Charter, its schools, and its violence its intent to destroy Israel). Malley also makes an absurd assertion: that Hamas' policies and Israeli policies are mirror images of each other.
Avoiding Failure with Hamas: which again calls for aid to flow to a Hamas-led government and even goes so far as to suggest that failure to extend aid could cause an environmental or health catastrophe-such as a human strain of the avian flu virus!
How to Curb the Tension in Gaza: which criticizes Israel's for its actions to recover Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped and is being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. He and co-writer Gareth Evans call Israel's actions ‘collective punishment" in "violation of international law".
Forget Pelosi: What About Syria?: where Malley calls for outreach to Syria, despite its ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the terrorists committing murder in Iraq; believes it is unreasonable to call for Syria to cut ties with Hezbollah, break with Hamas, or alienate Iran before negotiations; he believes a return of the Golan Heights and engagement with the West will somehow miraculously lead the Syrian regime to take these steps -- after they get all they want.
Containing a Shiite Symbol of Hope: that advocated engagement with the fiercely anti-American Iraqi Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been responsible for the murder of many Americans and Iraqis as the leader of the terrorist group, the Mahdi Army. He also has very close ties to Iran.
Middle East Triangle: (co-written with former Arafat advisor Hussein Agha) calls for Hamas and Fatah to reconcile, join forces, and to frustrate, in their words, Israel's attempts to "perpetuate Palestinian geographic and political division". Then Hamas will grant Abbas power to make a political deal with Israel that will bring peace. Noah Pollack of Commentary Magazine noting, as Malley habitually fails to do, Hamas intends to destroy Israel, eviscerated this op-ed.
The U.S. Must Look to its Own Mideast Interests: (co-written with Aaron David Miller) which advocates a radically different approach towards the Middle East which, in their words, does not "follow Israel's lead" and encompasses engagement with Syria (despite problems with Lebanon and their support for Hezbollah) and Hamas (regardless of its failure to recognize Israel or renounce violence).
A New Middle East: which asserted Hezbollah's attacks on Israel and the kidnapping of Israelis, which sparked the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, were motivated by Hezbollah's desire to retrieve Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails and were a response to pressure being exerted on its allies-Syria and Iran.
Robert Malley also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February, 2004. In that appearance he called for the Road Map to be cast aside because incremental measures intended to build trust were unworkable. He advocated that a comprehensive settlement plan be imposed on the parties with the backing of the international community, including Arab and Moslem states. He anticipated that Israel would object with "cries of unfair treatment" but counseled the plan be put in place regardless of such objections; he also suggested that waiting for a "reliable Palestinian partner' was unnecessary.
This is merely a sample of Malley's views -- which are focused on disengaging from our ally Israel (whose lead America should not "follow") and engaging with and, in some cases financially supporting, the likes of Syria, Moqtada al-Sadr, Hezbollah and Hamas. His ideology is radically at odds with American foreign policy as it has been practiced by two generations of Presidents -- both Democrats and Republicans -- over the years. This is the type of advocacy Robert Malley has been pursuing in the years since the end of the Clinton Administration and from his perch at the International Crisis Group -- an organization that may share his agenda.
The International Crisis Group
Robert Malley is the Director of the Middle East/North Africa Program at the International Crisis Group (ICG). Given the impressive title of the group, one might expect it to have along and impressive pedigree -- say long the lines of the well-regarded Council of Foreign Relations. In fact, the group is rather small and it has a short pedigree. More importantly, it has ties to George Soros. Soros is a man who has supported a wide variety of groups that have shown a propensity to criticize America and Israel; a man who has made clear his goal is to break the close bonds between America and Israel ; supported the views of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer whose work on the issue of the "Israel Lobby" has been widely criticized for factual inaccuracies, shoddy research, and has been called "anti-Semitic" in the Washington Post; a man who has taken steps to counter the supposed political influence of the pro-Israel community in America; a man who has also been a key financial backer of Senator Obama's; and a man who can activate a wide variety of 527 (c) and other activist groups for any politician he supports.
Soros is a funder of the ICG through his Open Society Institute ; he serves on its Board and on its Executive Committee. Other members of the Board include Zbigniew Brzezinski (whose anti-Israel credentials are impeccable) and Wesley Clark (who called US support for Israel during the Hezbollah War a "serious mistake"; who has flirted with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; and who has been the direct beneficiary of donations made by Soros ; Wesley Clark has defended the actions of George Soros.
But let's return to George Soros.
While it is true that the ICG receives funding from other sources, none of these donors are on the board; and a billionaire on the Executive Committee of the Board can wield a great deal of influence. Soros is a man who is legendary for his investment prowess. In this case, he again seems to have invested well -- as he is proud to trumpet. When the ICG gave him a Founders Award, he spoke of how pleased he was with the work the group does ("my money is very well spent"), and he took particular pride in the work done "on the Palestinian question".
As he should be, given his goals. Malley, as the Director of the Middle East/ North African program at the ICG, has assembled a group of "analysts" who reflect his (and Soros's) views and who share their goals: a radical reshaping of decades of American foreign policy and a shredding of the role of morality in the formulation of American policy. These policies would strengthen our enemies, empower dictatorships, and harm our allies.
This small cast of characters at the ICG:
Issandr el Amrani has accused the Bush Administration of fanning the flames of sectarian strife by rallying support against Iran. He absurdly claims that the goal of this alliance is to create,
Peter Harling: who has co-written numerous op-eds with Malley that advocate outreach toward Iraqi extremist leader Moqtada al-Sadr; talks with Iran and Syria ; and numerous op-eds critical of American actions in Iraq.
Nicholas Pelham who advocates outreach toward Hamas.
Other analysts and their opinions can be found here.
They are uniformly passive on dealing with terrorism and terrorists; critical of US efforts in Iraq and American-led efforts to constrain Iran; advocate aid be given to Hamas despite its record of terrorism; endorse engagement with Syria despite its links with Hezbollah, its role in oppressing Lebanon and its involvement in the assassinations that have helped to destroy Lebanon. They also seemingly have no qualms about advocating outreach to Iran, regardless of its role in the killing of American and Iraqis in Iraq and its proclaimed goal of destroying Israel.
No wonder Soros is happy with his investment in the International Crisis Group and in Robert Malley.
Why would Barack Obama have on his foreign policy staff a man who has been widely criticized for a revisionist history of the Middle East peace process sharply at odds with all other accounts of the proceedings?
Why would Barack Obama give credibility to a man who seems to have an agenda that includes empowering our enemies and weakening our friends and allies?
How did Robert Malley, with a record of writing that reveals a willingness to twist facts to serve a political agenda, come to be appointed by Obama to his foreign staff?
Was it a recommendation of Zbigniew Brzezinski to bring on board another anti-Israel foreign policy expert?
What role did the left-wing anti-Israel activist George Soros play in placing Robert Malley (or for that matter, Brzezinski himself) in a position to influence the future foreign policy of America?
What does it say about Senator Obama's judgment that he appointed a man like Malley to be a top foreign policy advisor?
Or does it speak more to his true beliefs?
*A digression, if I may, regarding Malley and impressive sounding titles. A Washington Post article on Senator Obama's foreign policy advisors described him as having been President Clinton's Middle East envoy. Now this would come as a surprise to Ambassador Dennis Ross who actually was Clinton's Middle East envoy. Indeed, there is a paucity of mentions of Malley in Ross's exhaustive history of the Middle East peace process during the Clinton years, The Missing Peace, where more often than not he is described as a note-taker-once serving as Yasser Arafat's stenographer.
Related article: Barack Obama and Israel.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.