Tunisia: Don't Be Fooled, Returning Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi Is Not a Moderate
The above quotation is not from Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, or Hassan Nasrallah. It is penned from the works of Rachid Ghannouchi, the world's favorite "moderate" Islamist Tunisian leader who has recently announced his intention to return home following a two-decade exile in London. The interim post-Ben Ali Tunisian government has annulled his life sentences, promised to release all political prisoners, and has legalized the formerly banned and repressed Islamist party, Al-Nahda, which Ghannouchi heads. Ghannouchi, once-called a "democrat" by Harvard Law Professor and Islamic studies expert Noah Feldman, a "progressive" by the New York Times, and a moderate by countless other analysts, has vowed to reenter the Tunisian scene in force and will be the greatest wild card in the political scene for the months to come. By pledging to participate in the political process and pontificating on his democratic bona fides, Ghannouchi has encouraged the West's view of him as a repressed democrat. However, he is far from the liberal pluralist others claim he is. Don't believe my words on the subject, just read his.
Ghannouchi's writings, which are widely available in English and Arabic, quite clearly demonstrate that there is little difference between his global outlook and that of his fundamentalist Islamist brethren. He has advocated the annihilation of the State of Israel, accused Jews of controlling Western media and manipulating Western governments, and written screeds against what he perceives as the "Crusader" assault on Islam. The "Zionist media and diplomacy," he once wrote, "have been banging the drums of war against Islam, and have been mobilizing powers and offering expertise to fight against it." His political worldview is indistinguishable from Bin Laden's and should be exposed for what it is: anti-Semitic.
Ghannouchi has long been a supporter of anti-American causes. He supported Saddam Hussein during the tyrant's invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990. In private, he has been quoted sermonizing about "driving out the American invaders and their allies" to save "the Holy Kaaba and the Tomb of the Noble Prophet from the plots of the enemies of the Arabs and Islam". While he condemned the September 11th terrorist attacks as a crime, he conditioned his denunciation by asking for Western understanding in "our anger towards America as the greatest supporter of dictatorships in the Arab and Muslims world and elsewhere." He has gone on to accuse the United States of exploiting the attacks in order to arouse anti-Muslim forces in India, Russia, China, and Israel. And he has even gone so far as to describe Bush Administration Pentagon officials as "a mixture of Zionists and Zionized evangelists, weapon traders, oil companies, and others." He charges the West as those who "destroyed the Islamic caliphate, colonized our countries, and imposed secularism and partition on us." It was the West "who implanted in the heart of our Ummah an alien and hostile entity, Israel, so as to sustain division and fragmentation. They are the ones who provide unconditional support to this entity and watch in acquiescence the daily crimes committed by its troops." Ghannouchi's hatred for Western civilization is neither new nor satiable.
He reserves his greatest venom by far for Jews, Zionism, and the State of Israel; championing war as the only means of dismantling the alien entity within the Islamic lands. Zionism, he writes, is "a continuation of colonialism," denying the historic presence of Jews in the land of Israel. It "is mobilizing the West against us" in a "Zionist design which wants to destroy humanist principles that are the basis of civilization." The Jews want to bring the Muslim Ummah and the West under its control.
Having already shifted "the center of civilization from London to Washington, it wants to move it to Orshalim (Jerusalem) and destroy all other civilizational and religious projects we have today." He calls on Muslims to "liberate" Palestine from the Zionists, "for to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the center of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation."
Israel, he believes, is merely a front for Western civilization, "set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World, the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there."
He has praised the Palestinian Intifadas for "restoring the vigor of the Palestinian movement" for its long quest to defeat the "Zionist assault on humanity" and "their neo-Crusader allies," which "represents an intensified form of a global undertaking which today spreads octopus-like over the whole planet."
Ghannouchi is, moreover, absolutely opposed to any negotiated solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, swearing to wait out Israel's destruction. "Our Ummah," he wrote, "will tear every document signed in a state of capitulation and incapacity and will disregard every treaty that in a moment of weakness is forged to strip it of its right to struggle for the restoration of what has been usurped. The crusaders' occupation of Jerusalem lasted for about a century" and yet the Islamic claim to it was neither abandoned nor relinquished.
Following the end of the Gaza War in January 2009, Ghannouchi praised Allah who "routed the Zionist Jews," and labeled the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as "the first step in the complete victory of all of Palestine and the holy places of the Muslims."
He branded the Palestinian Authority as illegitimate because it "has given up the choice of jihad in the way of Allah Almighty as an effective means of defeating the occupation and the liberation of the Islamic holy places," and called for the recognition and support of the Hamas government because it was "maintaining the Resistance against the Jewish Zionist occupation."
Ghannouchi rejects and derides the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a "proven betrayal of the Islamic Nation and the Palestinian cause." Lastly, he tasks Muslims to "regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity." In short, Ghannouchi has declared war against not only Israel and the United States, but also the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, the United Nations, and all other states that recognize the State of Israel.
Sadly, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi (no relation) has already met with Ghannouchi's deputy and has cleared the legal obstacles to herald the exiled Islamist's return to Tunisia. Although all signs point to the Tunisian people's rejection of Ghannouchi's illiberal and anti-Western agenda, his return, charisma, and long struggle against the Ben Ali regime make him a powerful player in the future political development of the country. Foreign governments and media should be wary of embracing Ghannouchi as a figure that can play a constructive role in the New Tunisia. His writings make that all too clear.
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