Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Monday, September 26, 2016

American Election Enters Home Stretch

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

The 2016 American presidential election is still Hillary Clinton’s to lose, given the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College.

California and New York between them have 84 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win. These two key states will clearly both be in Clinton’s column.

Of the 50 states, only Maine and Nebraska allocate votes between candidates.

But this election might still end up closer than people think, with a lot depending on turnout.

Two groups that voted in record numbers for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 -- African-Americans and younger people -- are far less enthusiastic about Clinton. In the Democratic primaries, people under 30 years of age, including women, preferred Bernie Sanders to her.

In both cases, particularly in the case of Black males, they see in Clinton a rather tired, old, rich, privileged (and white) woman. They won’t cast a ballot for Trump, of course, but they may stay home on election day.

That’s why President Obama told African-Americans he would consider it a “personal insult” if they did not vote for Clinton.

No other major party candidate in my memory has been called by his opponent a bigot, a racist, a nativist, and a xenophobe; none have been compared by the liberal press to David Duke, Benito Mussolini, Vladimir Putin, George Wallace, and various other assorted neo-Nazis, Klansmen and anti-Semites.

Yet Trump is still within hailing distance. Obviously his supporters don’t believe these charges, or don’t care, or even approve. Clinton has shot her bolt – there’s nothing left to charge Trump with, other than pedophilia or murder!

This means that between now and Nov. 8, there’s no place for him to go but up, whereas Clinton can only lose votes. Trump’s supporters, the “deplorables,” are clearly more enthusiastic about Trump than Clinton’s base is about her.

Trump may lose moderate mainstream Republicans who normally vote for a GOP candidate, but he will also be pulling many “Trump Democrats,” particularly white males without jobs or prospects, into his column.

They represent a huge bloc in three blue states he would need to turn red to have the best chance of winning: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Of late, he’s ahead in the first two.

On the other hand, even if Clinton wins historic margins among well-educated whites and Latinos, they mainly live in states like California, Illinois, and New York, which she would win anyhow.

Hispanics will be more of a factor in Florida and Texas, two states with large Electoral College votes, but some analysts speculate that even if Trump underperforms with that demographic as compared to previous Republicans, he may make up this deficit with more white voters. Recent polls confirm this.

Finally, more partisan Republicans still leery of Trump may come around at the last minute, because they don’t want Clinton appointing the next justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, where there is currently a vacancy.

The Court now has four liberals and four conservatives, so the new judge will be a “tie-breaker” in controversial social issues.

Who in the past could have imagined that in 2016 it would be the Democrat around whom the rich would coalesce, rather than the Republican, whose support is mainly white petty bourgeois and working class people, along with the downwardly mobile?

Here’s the bottom line: The 2008 recession, for which no one was held accountable, has left a legacy of bitterness and anger. Are the plebeians telling the patricians they can’t get away with it?

Saving the Heritage of Timbuktu

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

The Malian city of Timbuktu, in the Saharan Desert, has always been a symbol of an out-of-the-way, almost mythical, place. It became a byword for the far-off and exotic.

In actual fact, it is a city historically steeped in Islamic learning. Timbuktu became a permanent settlement early in the 12th century and flourished from the trade in salt, gold, ivory and slaves.

As such, it became a meeting point between north, south and west Africa and a melting pot of black Africans, Berber, Arab and Tuareg desert nomads.

The city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. Its numerous Islamic scholars and extensive trading network made possible an important book trade.

As many as 700,000 manuscripts were collected in Timbuktu over the course of centuries: some were written in the town itself, while others, including exclusive copies of the Qur’an for wealthy families, imported. These documents formed a detailed record of a humanistic, West African strand of Islam.

Because of its historical importance, Timbuktu was designated as World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1988.

Still, by the 17th century, Timbuktu was in decline and the city’s sacred manuscripts began to fall into disrepair, especially with the French colonization of present-day Mali in the late 1890s.

But safeguarded by their patrons, many of these manuscripts survived.

They were housed in two main libraries funded by American, European and Arab donors, as well as some forty smaller collections in Timbuktu. The UNESCO-funded Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research housed the largest collection.

But Timbuktu’s fragile heritage came under unprecedented pressure with the arrival of Wahhabi fundamentalism from Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.

Disaster struck in April 2012, as Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and their Tuareg allies rolled into town in convoys bristling with black flags and weaponry. The insurgents soon gained the upper hand over Malian defenders.

They banned music, ordered women to cover their faces, and instituted public lashings and amputations for minor crimes.

Among the first orders of their occupation was the destruction of several tombs of venerated Timbuktu scholars who were deemed “un-Islamic” along with other “blasphemous” landmarks.

They said the mausoleums were a blasphemous form of idol worship. “Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu -- Allah doesn’t like it,” one Ansar Dine leader told journalists in 2012.

One of the main libraries became a jihadi barracks where fighters tossed some 4,200 texts onto a bonfire. But this turned out to be the only significant loss, because during the Islamist occupation two librarians, Abdel Kader Haidera and Mohammed Touré, secretly evacuated about 340,000 Islamic manuscripts from the archives to the Malian capital Bamako, which remained under government control.

They bought metal and wooden trunks at a rate of between 50 and 80 a day, made more containers out of oil barrels and located safe houses around the city and beyond. They arranged for other volumes to be buried in gardens around Timbuktu. The city’s residents co-operated out of loathing for the jihadists.

In January 2013, French and Malian soldiers reclaimed Timbuktu with little resistance and reinstalled Malian governmental authorities. Since then, though, the manuscripts that were sent to Bamako have mostly remained there.

This past August, one of the Islamists, Ahmad al-Mahdi al-Faqi, was tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He admitted directing the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque door in during the 2012 occupation.

Al-Faqi was a leader in an “Islamic Court” and a “Manners Brigade” that enforced harsh fundamentalist rules on the city and its traditionally moderate Muslim people.

The ICC has been investigating war crimes in Mali since 2013, following a request from the Malian government.

It set a precedent, being the court’s first case to focus on cultural destruction as a war crime.“It brings truth and catharsis. It is crucial for Timbuktu’s victims,” explained Fatou Bensouda, the court’s chief prosecutor.

Monday, September 19, 2016

9/11 Attack: 15 Years Later

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

It’s become de rigueur: every Sept. 11 since 2001, Americans commemorate the most devastating foreign attack on American soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the Second World War. All told, more than 3,000 Americans died that Tuesday.

The eight-acre memorial quadrant, with its 400 trees, at Ground Zero in New York, site of the former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, is now a place made sacred through tragic loss.

But how has this affected the struggle to defeat Islamist attempts to undermine America? It’s a mixed bag.

On the one hand, al-Qaeda, the perpetrator, is much weakened and has been unable to launch another major operation against the U.S. The mastermind behind 9/11, Osama bin Laden, was himself killed in Pakistan in 2011.

But this has come at a tremendous cost. In the last 15 years, over 6,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many more have returned home with physical and mental injuries.

Also, perhaps due to the ensuing destabilization of large parts of the Arab world, other groups have emerged which may prove even more deadly. The Islamic State, which controls huge chunks of territory, is just one of many.

“The threat is actually worse: It has metastasized and spread geographically,” according to Richard Clarke, a former terrorism adviser to three presidents.

“Today there are probably 100,000 people in the various terrorist groups around the world, and that’s much larger than anything we had 15 years ago,” he warned.

Domestically, the fabric of American society was changed utterly, and debates no one could have imagined before 2001, including Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, are now part of the national conversation.

It’s true that the only significant acts of terrorism in the past 15 years have involved so-called “lone wolves” inspired by the Islamic State, as the recent killings in Boston, San Bernardino, California and Orlando, Florida, demonstrated.

They targeted places of limited strategic value such as night clubs and conference centres, which cannot readily be protected.

These perpetrators have in most cases lived under the radar. These attacks can neither be deterred nor reliably detected beforehand, and have been enormously effective in sowing fear and panic.

In fact, so jittery have Americans become that when erroneous reports of gunfire spread like wildfire at Los Angeles International Airport in late August, a veritable stampede ensued as passengers fled outside.

So when politicians, including Barack Obama, insist that terrorists will not change “how we conduct our lives,” that’s just whistling past the graveyard.

America’s involvement in the War on Terror resulted in a dramatic change in attitudes and concerns about safety and vigilance. It ushered in a new generation of policies like the Patriot Act, often at the expense of civil liberties.

The act expanded federal powers to keep tabs on personal information, through a vast, clandestine network of phone and web surveillance.

Today, some 4,000 federal, state, and local organizations take part in domestic counter-terrorism efforts; the National Security Agency alone employs about 30,000 people. Americans have by now spent an estimated $1trillion on enhanced security.

Two months after the attacks, Congress federalized airport security by creating the Transportation Security Administration. Additional security steps tacked on a significant amount of travel time for the average passenger, while infringing on privacy rights.

In many ways, thanks to Sept. 11, 2001, Americans now live in a world closer to that of George Orwell’s “1984.”

The "Pay-to-Play" Foundation

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer

Despite news about her health, Hillary Clinton remains determined to become president of the United States.

In fact, though Clinton may have been Barack Obama’s Secretary of State only between 2009 and 2013, that didn’t stop her from running what is in effect a shadow foreign office, under the aegis of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Begun in 1997, the Foundation has amassed roughly $2 billion, including huge amounts from foreign potentates and plutocrats. It has been funded almost entirely by donors, and to the extent anyone in the Clinton family provided money, it was largely through speaking fees for Bill or Hillary Clinton.

The Foundation has accepted tens of millions of dollars from countries criticized for their records on sex discrimination and other human-rights issues.

At least 180 contributors to the Clinton Foundation lobbied the State Department while Hillary Clinton ran it. She met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity.

The countries include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei, and Algeria. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself donated between $10 and $25 million – and Clinton approved a $29 billion sale of fighter jets to the country.

Such requests would often come through Douglas Band, a long-time Bill Clinton aide, who routed them to Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and confidante, Huma Abedin.

In addition to being on Hillary Clinton’s personal payroll, Abedin received money from the Clinton Foundation and Teneo, a consulting firm founded in part by Band.

For example, in 2009 Band asked Abedin if Clinton could meet with “our good friend” Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin al-Khalifa of Bahrain. Salman, who had given the foundation $32 million, met with Clinton, who later approved a $630 million arms sale to Bahrain.

That same year Band also sought to arrange a meeting for Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian real estate developer with vast business interests who donated between $1 million and $5 million.

Chagoury was once a senior adviser to Nigeria’s longtime dictator Sani Abacha and in 2001 admitted assisting the family of the deceased despot in transferring $300 million into foreign bank accounts.

This and numerous other exchanges “illustrate the way the Clintons’ international network of friends and donors was able to get access to Hillary Clinton and her inner circle during her tenure running the State Department,” stated an Aug. 22 Washington Post article by Spencer Hsu and Tom Hamburger.

Between September 2011 and November 2012, Douglas E. Schoen, a former political consultant for Mr. Clinton, arranged about a dozen meetings with State Department officials with or on behalf of Victor Pinchuk, a steel magnate whose father-in-law, Leonid Kuchma, was president of Ukraine from 1994 to 2005. Kuchma’s government had been widely criticized for corruption and the murder of journalists.

Pinchuk, who has directed between $10 million and $25 million to the Foundation, has been invited to dinner at the Clintons’ home, lent his private plane to the Clintons, and traveled to Los Angeles in 2011 to attend Mr. Clinton’s 65th birthday celebration.

In 2012 daughter Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, visited Kyiv at Pinchick’s invitation.

A year later, the Commerce Department began investigating complaints that Pinchuk’s company, Interpipe, was part of a consortium of firms that had illegally dumped a type of steel tube on the American market at artificially low prices.

The Clintons have been pals with the wealthy and powerful almost from the time Bill Clinton left office in 2001.

Frank Giustra, a billionaire mining magnate from Vancouver, met Bill Clinton in 2005 aboard his private jet, which he had lent the former president for a trip to South America. Before long, Giustra had pledged $100 million.

In Colombia, where his investments included oil, timber, and coal mines, Giustra dined one evening in 2010 with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who both met with Colombia’s president, Alvaro Uribe, the next day.

Soon after, one company in which Giustra held a stake acquired the right to cut timber in a biologically diverse forest, and another was granted valuable oil drilling rights.

A similar situation unfolded in Kazakhstan that year, when Giustra and Clinton dined with the country’s authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Days later, Giustra’s mining company signed an agreement giving it stakes in three state-run uranium mines.

Connect the dots.

Monday, September 12, 2016

In Gabon, A Disputed Election is Nothing New

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
In 1990, while I was teaching political science at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, a friend at the school was granted a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year at Université Omar Bongo in Libreville, in the West African country of Gabon.

He was shocked at what he found: a state in the hands of a kleptocratic coterie of wealthy supporters of then President Omar Bongo Ondimba, and soldiers with automatic weapons patrolling the university that bore his name.

A quarter century later, the same family rules Gabon and things have become, if anything, even worse.

Omar Bongo, as head of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), assumed the presidency in 1967, seven years after independence from France. He would rule until his death in 2009, winning six often disputed elections.

In 2003 the constitution was amended to repeal term limits. At the time of his death, he was Africa’s longest-serving head of state.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, his son, has been president since, winning power in 2009 in a violence-marred election. During his father’s rule, he had been minister of foreign affairs from 1989 to 1991, and minister of defence from 1999 to 2009.

The most recent presidential election was held on Aug. 27, and Bongo was declared the winner, with 49.8 per cent of the vote. His rival Jean Ping, a former chairman of the African Union who won the endorsement of the main opposition Front for Political Change coalition, came second with 48.2 per cent.

Ping disputed the result after the official announcement that Bongo had won by fewer than 6,000 votes. Ping came first in six out of nine provinces but the result in Bongo’s home province of Haut-Ogooue, where turnout was 99.9 per cent and 95 per cent of the votes were for the president, was clearly fraudulent.

Turnout in the other provinces was between 45 and 71 per cent, with a nationwide turnout of 59.4 percent.

“The Gabonese people and the world can clearly see the fraud, lies and manipulation,” declared Ping. He added that contesting the results through Gabon’s constitutional court, the official channel for complaints, was pointless.

Ping had once been one of Omar Bongo’s closest allies and was considered one of the most powerful figures in Gabon; he had served as Bongo’s foreign minister from 1999 to 2008. But he resigned from the PDG two years ago, becoming Ali Bongo’s main rival.

Ping said that the presidential guard attacked his party’s headquarters. Police also arrested more than 1,100 people after nights of riots and looting by protestors in Libreville.

Abundant petroleum and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. But inequality in income distribution leaves a third of its 1.5 million people mired in poverty.

Ali Bongo’s presidency has been overshadowed by a long-running French investigation into the Bongo family’s assets. Omar Bongo amassed a vast fortune during his time in office, and was accused of embezzling oil revenues and bribery.

The family owns some 40 sumptuous properties in Paris and elsewhere in France. There were revelations in 2015 of secret Monaco bank accounts of more than 30 million euros.
Critics had long accused the former president of running the country as his private property.
This unfortunately seems par for the course in many African states.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The History of Israeli-African Relations

Henry Srebrnik, [Calgary] Jewish Free Press

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu’s successful visit to four east African countries – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia -- earlier this summer, we might recall the ups and downs of the Jewish state’s seven decades long relationship with the continent it borders to its southwest.

In the first two decades of Israel’s independence, the nation worked assiduously at establishing a presence in newly sovereign African countries. After all, the Jewish state had itself emerged from colonial control in 1948.

Israel was involved in multiple foreign-aid projects in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s as part of its quest to gain political allies and determine its place in the decolonized world.

Israel dispatched diplomats across the continent, opening two dozen embassies. The first was opened in Accra, Ghana, when that country attained independence. Soon Israeli ambassadors operated in 33 countries and the country was, for a period, a major aid donor. Israel had at times the second-largest diplomatic presence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Not long afterwards, then foreign minister Golda Meir made a five-week trip to Africa and had the first high-level discussions with African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, William Tubman, and Felix Houphouet-Boigny.z

She believed that Israel had experience in nation-building that could be a model for the Africans.

“Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together, and how to defend ourselves,” she wrote in her autobiography My Life.

Israel could be a role model because it “had been forced to find solutions to the kinds of problems that large, wealthy, powerful states had never encountered.” She added that “we had something we wanted to pass on to nations that were even younger and less experienced than ourselves.”

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the Knesset in 1960 that “Our aid to the new countries” is not a matter of philanthropy. “We are no less in need of the fraternity of friendship of the new nations than they are of our assistance.”

In the late 1950s and 1960s, Israel sent experts in agriculture and development and helped establish agricultural cooperatives, youth training programs, medical infrastructure and joint industrial enterprises in a number of sub-Saharan countries.

Given the number of eye diseases on the continent, ophthalmology became Israel’s largest and longest-lasting medical aid program.

In 1962, Newsweek magazine called the Israeli program “one of the strangest unofficial alliances in the world.” But all that began to change as the Israeli-Arab conflict drove a wedge between African countries and the Jewish state.

Pressure from Arab nations, promising aid, and accentuated by the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and its neighbors, led most African states to cut their relations with Jerusalem.

Between June 12, 1967, and November 13, 1973, 29 African states broke relations with Israel; many also gave the Palestine Liberation Organization diplomatic status. After the Yom Kippur War, only Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland maintained full diplomatic relations with Israel.

In November 1975, the nadir in Israeli-African relations came when 19 African countries voted in favor of the infamous United Nations General Assembly resolution identifying Zionism with racism, although five African countries -- Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Malawi, Swaziland, and the Central African Republic -- voted against the draft and sixteen other African countries abstained.

But since the 1980s, diplomatic relations with Sub-Saharan countries have been gradually renewed. By the late 1990s, official ties had been re-established with forty countries south of the Sahara, including a number of Muslim-majority states.

In June 2004, Israel and Ethiopia signed an agreement for cultural, educational and scientific cooperation, as well as a convention eliminating double taxation.

In April 2008, a trade agreement signalled a significant upgrading of Israeli aid to Africa. The joint declaration on trade and economic cooperation was signed in Jerusalem by government ministers from the African nations of Rwanda, Burundi, Benin and Liberia and Israel’s Minister of Trade and Industry Eli Yishai.

It included an Israeli commitment to help the African countries build infrastructure and technology, while also seeking to open new export markets for Israeli industries.

Since its establishment in 2008, Innovation Africa, an Israeli organization dedicated to improving the lives of rural villagers in Africa, has provided the people they serve with access to many Israeli technologies. Solar panels and drip irrigation systems have been installed in Malawan, Ugandan, Tanzanian, and South African villages.

In 2011, Israel formalized diplomatic relations with the newly established country of South Sudan. Additionally, it renewed its ties with Ghana after nearly four decades. In November 2012, Israel provided the University of Ghana with a $217 million loan to construct a 600-bed teaching hospital at Legon.

In May 2014, the Africa-Israel Initiative was launched in Ghana, with the expressed goal of lobbying and advocating for Israel’s strength and survival.

The Israeli Embassy in Senegal inaugurated a drip-irrigation farm project in the Senegalese city of Fatick in December 2014. Israeli firm Gigawatt Global began a project to increase solar energy capacity in Rwanda during February 2014.

On July 20 of this year, Israel resumed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Guinea, the small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in West Africa that had also cut ties with the Jewish state in 1967.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold also met President Idriss Déby of Chad on July 14 at his presidential palace in the city of Fada, in the heart of the Saharan desert. The country had severed diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in the 1970s.

 “Israel is calling on the countries that still haven’t renewed diplomatic relations to follow in Guinea’s footsteps so that we can work together to the benefit of all peoples in the region,” remarked Gold.

And during his African trip Netanyahu announced the intention of Tanzania to open its first-ever embassy in Tel Aviv. He also said the leaders of his host countries vowed publicly to push for Israel to regain observer status at the African Union. Chad this year holds the rotating chairmanship of the African Union.

All of this is good news.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Is Trump Part of "Alt-Right" Movement?

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
Ever since he entered the race to become the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump has been accused of being a bigot, a racist, an anti-Semite, a xenophobe, a nativist, a right-wing populist, and a fascist.

He has been compared to, among others, Benito Mussolini, Juan Peron, Vladimir Putin, even Hitler, as well as notorious Americans of the past such as Huey Long, Father Coughlin and George Wallace.

David Duke, the Louisiana neo-Nazi and one-time Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, expresses approval of Trump’s positions. He told National Public Radio that “nobody will be more supportive of his legislative agenda, his supreme court agenda, than I will.”

The leader of the American Nazi Party, Rocky Suhayda, has asserted that the election of Trump as president would present “a real opportunity for people like white nationalists” to start “acting intelligently.”

This is not good news for Trump, because Hillary Clinton is doing her best to associate him with the so-called “alt-right” movement.

On Aug. 25, in an address in Reno, NV, Clinton accused Trump of submitting to an “emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right.”

“Alt-right” is short for “alternative right,” to distinguish the movement from mainstream conservatism. The movement is largely a rebranding of various white supremacist groups whose essential character is one of strident ethno-nationalism.

It rejects “political correctness,” multiculturalism, diversity, and a globalist philosophy it considers elitist and anti-Western, and it is often associated with efforts to preserve “white identity.” It also opposes feminism, gay rights, and gun control.

It began with a speech the “paleo-conservative” writer Paul Gottfried gave in 2008, following the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.

Gottfried, a retired professor of humanities at Elizabeth College in Elizabethtown, PA., called for an “alternative right” that could defeat “the neoconservative-controlled conservative establishment.”

That idea was soon adopted by the “identitarian” nationalist Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, and its Radix Journal, founded  in 2012.

Spencer, who went to the Universities of Chicago and Virginia, maintains that white Americans need to “resist our dispossession.” In an interview with the Associated Press at the Republican National Convention last July, he advocated removing Blacks, Hispanics and Jews from the country.

Kevin MacDonald, a former psychology professor at California State University in Long Beach, CA, and an alt-right theorist, remarked that “white people in America are becoming a minority that is increasingly being victimized, and there’s a cost to multiculturalism and immigration.”

Another alt-right supporter, Jared Taylor, holds degrees from Yale and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and is the founder of the American Renaissance online magazine, which he started in 1990 as part of his New Century Foundation.

He asks, rhetorically, “Do you really believe that a future Afro-Hispanic-Caribbean-Asiatic America will be anything like the America your ancestors built?”

The website Breitbart News Network has become a popular outlet for alt-right views. Stephen Bannon, who has been serving as its executive chairman, was named the Trump campaign’s chief executive on Aug. 17.

It is true that Trump’s “America First” campaign slogan has attracted many on the alt-right, drawn in particular to his pledges to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally and to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from the U.S.

But Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks has responded to charges that Trump has encouraged the movement by stating that he has “never used or condoned that term and continues to disavow any groups or individuals associated with a message of hate.”

Fethullah Gulen on Israel and Jews

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
The reclusive Turkish cleric who heads Turkey’s influential Hizmet (Service) movement has become front-page news since the abortive coup in Turkey.

Fethullah Gulen, who lives in semi-seclusion in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, has been accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of masterminding the July 15 attempt to overthrow him.

Gulen has denied any involvement. “My message to the Turkish people is never to view any military intervention positively,” he stated, “because through military intervention, democracy cannot be achieved.”

The 75-year-old imam began preaching in the Aegean city of Izmir in the 1970s, and soon began urging his followers to “move in the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers.”

In 2000 Turkey’s authorities, under the secular government of Bulent Ecevit, charged him with plotting to overthrow the government but he had moved to United States two years earlier. A Turkish court acquitted the preacher of the charges in 2003, but he remained in the U.S.

As a fellow moderate Islamist, Gulen at first backed Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party, helping it to its electoral victories after 2002.

But in 2013 the alliance began to come apart, as police investigations into government corruption were blamed by Erdogan on Gulan.

Erdogan has compared Gulen and his supporters to a virus and a medieval cult of assassins. An official from Erdogan’s ruling AKP called the Gulen movement a fifth column.

Gulen and Erdogan had an earlier confrontation in 2010 over the Israeli commando raid that May on the Mavi Marmara, one of six civilian ships of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” organized by the Free Gaza Movement, a coalition which included the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH).

They were trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed, and Turkish-Israeli relations have only recently recovered, paving the way for the restoration of full diplomatic ties.

While Erdogan angrily denounced the Israeli action, Gulen criticized the organizers’ failure to reach an accommodation with Israel.

“What I saw was not pretty, it was ugly,” he told the Wall Street Journal on June 4, 2010. Gulen described their conduct as “a sign of defying authority and will not lead to fruitful matters.”

American Jewish organizations have been somewhat wary of Gulen, particularly because of past sermons and writings that Joshua Hendrick, a sociologist at Baltimore’s Loyola University, described as highlighting Jews as a crafty, wily group of people.

“This intelligent tribe has put forth many things throughout history in the name of science and thought,” Gulen wrote in a 1995 book. “But these have always been offered in the form of poisoned honey and have been presented to the world as such.” He added that they had an “incurable enmity to Islam and Muslims.”

His supporters today, however, describe Gulen as a moderate Muslim cleric who champions interfaith tolerance and dialogue.

Gulen does seem to have moderated his views towards Jews and Christians, and now condemns anti-Semitism. In the late 1990s, he met at least twice with senior delegations from the Anti-Defamation League.

“Gulen talked about his moderation regarding Islam, the Jews, Israel, and expressed reasonable and non-extremist views,” Kenneth Jacobson, who currently serves as the ADL’s deputy national director, recalled in 2005 about his first encounter with Gulen.

In 1998, Gulen met with Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron in Istanbul, a visit that came about at the initiative of the cultural attaché in the Israeli consulate. This was the first time that a chief rabbi came on an official visit from Israel to Turkey.

In an interview with the Atlantic magazine in August 2013, Gulen stated that “I had a chance to get to know practitioners of non-Muslim faiths better, and I felt a need to revise my expressions from earlier periods.

“I realized and then stated that the critiques and condemnations that are found in the Quran or prophetic tradition are not targeted against people who belong to a religious group,” but “can be found in any person.”