Checking for Hamas under the bed
- Checking for Hamas under the bed
By Rolf Ernst
Monday, 07 May 2007
Yeshiva and Tufts University graduate Matthew Levitt is one of a
school of prominent terrorism experts en vogue these days both in the
media and before congress. Levitt shares this standing with other
renowned individuals such as journalist Steven Emerson (author,
resident MSNBC terrorism expert 1 with predictably yearly
congressional testimonies and living in hiding) and Alan Dershowitz (a
regular expert witness for the prosecution in a number of
Palestine-related terrorism trials and author of 'Why terrorism works').
What Levitt has in common with these self-professed experts is that
despite the fact that their work has been widely discredited 2 they
continue to enjoy the unwavering trust of the media, congress and law
Levitt joined the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) in
2001. The Institute, a brainchild of former AIPAC research director
Martin Indyk 3, has been most famous for its mantra to "resist
pressures for a procedural breakthrough" 4and ardent rejection of the
so-called road map. This and previous administrations on the other
hand have unilaterally embraced this concept as the ultimate peace
objective in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Still, Martin Indyk
himself was once recklessly appointed by president Clinton as National
Security Council Middle East adviser, one in the long line of AIPAC
protégées directly involved in shaping U.S. Foreign policy.
Surprisingly so, since AIPAC's heads and staffers (Lawrence Franklin
affair, et al.) have not only been accused of but convicted on charges
of espionage for the state of Israel 5.
It is a bit puzzling that in spite of WINEP's opposition to the road
map, the foreword to Levitt's book was written by none other than
Dennis Ross, one of WINEP's distinguished fellows. What is even more
surprising is that Ross's anti-road-map position made him 'U.S. point
man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill
Clinton administrations' 6. Could this explain at least some of the
failures of the road map?
The Washington Institute's influence is tremendous, partly by
operating as an AIPAC wing 7, lending academic credibility to AIPAC's
otherwise partisan rhetoric. It has gained further power through the
conflation of interest with neo-conservative think-tanks like the the
American Enterprise Institute, the Project for a New American Century,
the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa), and the
Centre for Security Policy (CSP) 8. The shared agenda is possibly best
demonstrated by the fact that a variety of WINEP's scholars such as
Michael Rubin and Joshua Muravchik work(ed) for both, sometimes
The American Enterprise Institute, of course, is Richard Perle's lair
9. The connections between this cabal run too deep to be explored
here. As an example let me mention the 1970 investigation of Richard
Perle on espionage charges for Israel 10. Richard Perle hired neo-con
Douglas Feith after he was fired from the National Security Council
right into the Pentagon. Like Perle, Paul Wolfowitz was investigated
on charges of espionage for Israel in 1978 11. The list goes on and
the loyalty to Israel is obvious. The question begs: 'Who really runs
this country's Middle East policy'?
Levitt's book continues WINEP's tradition of dishing up apocalyptic
views on Islam and its devious plans for the end of civilization. His
300+ page volume 'Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the
Service of Jihad' is heavily footnoted and essentially a reflection of
Israel's paranoid perception of Middle East dynamics.
To successfully dismantle the book's carefully crafted message, spun
atop hundreds of factoids, often removed from their original context
and reconstructed in a way as to reinforce the Levitt-specific
interpretation, would take a book in itself. Instead, it can be better
understood by analyzing its cosmology.
According to Levitt, a 70+ year old Islamist conspiracy has lain in
waiting, clothing the poor and feeding the hungry in Palestine via the
Muslim practice of 'dawa', only to recruit them decades later as
brain-washed suicide bombing zombies. For him, Islamism, the desire to
establish a state based on religion not that much unlike Israel or
even an America imagined by some evangelical Christians, possesses a
sort of supernatural capacity for evil conspicuously absent in the
other two religions.
Levitt obsesses with an almost psychotic search for an ultimate,
profound, omnipotent and omnipresent connection of literally
everything and everyone in Palestine and terrorist masterminds.
Nothing escapes his acute observation and powers of research: Zakat
committees, mosques, morgues, schools (lower and higher education),
associations in the community, of women, the elderly, academics he
presents an endless list of 'infiltrated organization'.
The book is hardly meant to be fully read by a casual American
audience: For that it is much too detailed. Instead, it is written to
impress with a stream of hundreds if not thousands of references,
litanies of facts with a precision that can only leave the reader with
the conclusion that the academic attire of this work authenticates its
authority. It elaborates in painstaking detail on large sums of money
down to the dollar, distribution percentages down to the fraction of a
percent and thousands of aid recipients to the individual. Albeit
overwhelming, here is also where the author stumbles: While Levitt
manages to name 9 supposedly Hamas-related recipients of aid of a U.S.
based 'Hamas front', he apparently overlooks that these constitute
less than half a percent of the total recipients (a figure he leaves
up to the reader to calculate).
His prerogative of 'guilty unless proven innocent' may cost his
publisher, Yale University Press, as KinderUSA, one of the smaller
Muslim charities left in the U.S. and accused by Levitt of wrongdoing
(what exactly this wrongdoing is he leaves up to the imagination of
the reader), just filed a libel suit against the Press.
This book is not about Hamas or terrorism: It is guided by an almost
religious zeal to paint the picture of a war between good and evil in
which Israel can do no wrong and Islam represents an occult threat
that only complete eradication can defuse.
The underlying racism is always palpable. Be it aid to Palestine's
needy or legitimate resistance against Israel's brutal military
oppression - Levitt knows no distinctions. In his pathological
world-view the nations of the world, including the United Nations,
particularly UNWRA 12, have seemingly banded together to unleash
unspeakable terror 13 (even if the only evidence is the demonstrable
use of a vehicle).
At times this unawareness of Israel's own capacity for terror is
almost comical: When chronicling Al-Rantissi's life (a Hamas leader
extrajudicially assassinated by Israel), he refers to 'Rantissi's
family move 14 from Jaffa to a refugee camp in Gaza after the
establishment of Israel'. (Hint: The Rantissis fled Israel's Junta as
a consequence of its expulsion doctrine). These euphemisms are only
eclipsed by his demonic characterizations of apparently trivialities:
He 'exposes' that 'Abu Ahmad taught Tawil how to use e-mail for
publicity and communication purposes but also to maintain contact with
Khaled Mishal and other senior Hamas political officials in Lebanon
and Syria' 15. (Hint: He showed Tawil email, not quite as sinister
sounding as Levitt would like for it to come across).
Levitt's book draws heavily on reports of interrogations of purported
Hamas members by the Israeli security apparatus. This is the same
Gestapo that brought the world the famous technique of the
'Palestinian hanging', causing extreme pain, dislocation of the joints
and occasionally death of the victim 16. (Israel's security forces
continue the practice of torture today in spite of an adverse Supreme
Levitt carelessly mixes information extracted via torture with
official records or public statements. His greatest sin is possibly
the lack of distinction between serious research, anecdotes and often
sensationalist propaganda. It is not that Levitt does not know his
subject matter extremely well. What bothers me is the nonchalance with
which he perpetuates his half-truths.
Levitt apparently sees no connection between Israel's state-sponsored
18 terrorism, brutal occupation and the resulting reaction. He lapses
and alludes to this circumstance in a single paragraph, though
comfortingly assuring his readers that the Palestinians find
themselves only in an 'unfortunate' situation. Wagging the finger he
tells us that this lack of fortune isn't reason enough to sufficiently
radicalize Palestinian society on its own. (I failed to find a degree
of psychology in his pedigree, though).
To an extent, the book reads like 'The Illuminati in Palestine' but
one should not overlook its political implications or ignore this
work. His contention that practically all aid to Palestinians funds
terror plays directly into the hands of Israel's right-wing Likud
party and its American branch office AIPAC 19.
As Israel's human-rights violations eventually did not escape the
American eye during the Lebanon war in spite of all mainstream media
efforts, rationalizing the terror Israel inflicts on the Palestinian
people employs pseudo-academic science eerily reminiscent of eugenics.
The book's purpose would not be fully served if it failed to address
U.S. private aid to Palestine in detail. After all, when Israel as
occupying power fails to meet its international obligations to protect
the civilian population 20, when the civilian population is then
literally starved through AIPAC lobbied legislation, 21 private
charities and NGOs represent a final, thin lifeline 22. Levitt is
doing his part to set the stage for cutting it.
His book shows disturbing similarities with Steven Emerson's material.
Both Emerson and Levitt 'consult' with the FBI's counterterrorism
investigations. Dale Watson's (yes, the FBI's Executive Assistant
Director of Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence who apparently
was not required to have experience 23) seems to have had his
underlings craft a replica of Emerson's phantasmagoria into the famed
'Watson memorandum' 24 leading to the dismantling of several Muslim
charities. The same memorandum then found its way directly into the
indictment papers of the Holyland Foundation for Relief and
Development (HLFRD) 25, the most significant U.S. charity providing
aid for Palestine.
Emerson's same accusations (he also alleged the Oklahoma bombing was
the work of Islamist terrorists in 1995 26) find their way into
Matthew Epstein's testimony before congress 27. Matthew Epstein is the
assistant director of the 'Investigative Project', founded by none
other than Steve Emerson himself. Emerson, of course, a tireless
speaker at AIPAC conventions.
Matthew Levitt picks up where Emerson's latest yarn ends (and not
surprisingly we find Levitt right after finishing the book promoted 28
to deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the
U.S. Department of the Treasury. Accomplishment or AIPAC?
This book is agit-prop at its best. For an America whose thirst for
terror-conspiracies is unquenchable, where bin Laden is a household
name and lurks in every corner, the doctor is in. At a time where
Israel's propaganda powers are waning in light of the picture of
corpses in Qana, Levitt finds new ways to solicit support for the
Likud agenda, all in the name of security and the ghost of terror.
The infiltration of law enforcement and policy-making by a pro-Israel
lobby that keeps re-inventing itself in new and remarkable, seemingly
authoritative, ways, undermining the American justice system and peace
in the Middle East is disconcerting, to say the least.
Levitt's book is a small step for AIPAC but spells even greater
suffering for Palestine.
1 2005: Looking back at the year in terror
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10651609/ or better
MediaMatters analysis http://mediamatters.org/items/200408050003
2 Steve Emerson, Profile, http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/3770,
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Steven Emerson's Crusade, Fairness in Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR),
"The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian" Salon.com, By Eric
'Beyond Chutzpah", Norm Finkelstein, University of California Press;
(August 28, 2005)
3 Source Watch,
4 MERIP, Pro-Israel Hawks and the Second Gulf War, April 6, 2006
5 USA v. Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman ("The AIPAC Case"): Selected
Case Files, Project on Government Secrecy,
http://www.fas.org/sgp/jud/aipac/index.html. Franklin was sentenced in
2006 to thirteen years in prison.
The Scandal is Bigger Than AIPAC, Alternet, August 12, 2005,
6 Washington Institute for Near East Policy, expert bio,
7 "Informed Comment", Juan Cole, president Global Americana
Institute, August 28, 2004
8 The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer, Stephen
Walt, Chicago University, p 21.
9 American Enterprise Institute,
10 Washington Post, Wednesday, August 24, 2005; Page A15
11 Ibid., quote from Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,
12 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in
the Near East
13 Pp 95,ff, The logistics of terror
14 P 37, Terror and the Hamas Political Leadership
15 P 47, Terror and the Hamas Political Leadership
16 See literally every Amnesty International yearly report on Israel
since 1985. See various reports of the United Nations Special
Rapporteur on Torture.
17 B'Tselem May 2007, Joint report with Hamoked, The Torture and
Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees
18P 107, the goal of radicalization.
19 For Likud connection see Washington Report on Middle East
Affairs, April 1994, p. 31.
20 Middle East Report 217, International Law and the al-Aqsa Intifada
21 Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, H.R. 4681 details at
22 The Palestinian NGO Sector: Development Perspectives, Vol. 12, Nr.
23 FBI Admits Terror Experience Not Required for Top Jobs, AOL News,
June 20, 2005,
24 Holyland Foundation for Relief and Development, To Richard
Newcomb, Director Office of Foreign Assets Control, from Dale Watson,
Assistant Director, Counterterrorism Division, November 5,2001 here
25 United States of America vs. Holyland Foundation for Relief and
26 Steven Emerson's Crusade, Fairness in Accuracy in Reporting
(FAIR), January 1999
27 Matthew Epstein Before the United States Senate Judiciary
Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security
"Saudi Support for Islamic Extremism in the United States", September
28 Washington Institute for Near East Policy, expert biography,
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