Podcast Ep 25: The Muslim Zionists

On Episode 25 of The Electronic Intifada Podcast, we speak with writer and author Steven Salaita and EI’s Ali Abunimah about the phenomenon of what Salaita calls Muslim Zionists.

These are organizations and their leaderships that purport to represent Muslim Americans but work closely with Israel lobby groups to undermine and silence Palestinian rights advocates.

We also talk about the professionals who defend these organizations as they advance their careers in corporate media, especially alums of the Muslim Leadership Initiative – faithwashing junkets to Israel operated by the Shalom Hartman Institute, an organization with close ties to the Israeli military.

Abunimah draws from his recent reporting on the Muslim American group Emgage, which aims to position itself as “the main civic organization for Muslim American communities.”

Emgage leaders also have overt ties to major Israel lobby groups, including AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

“What we’ve seen over the past few weeks, over the past month, is that a lot of this that was under the surface is coming into the open,” he tells the Podcast.

“I think we’ve seen a lot more of the kinds of attacks on Palestinians that have always come from some of these groups,” Abunimah adds.

“Palestinians are seen as spoilers, or they’re seen as purists – Palestine is just an inconvenience for these people who – ultimately their goal is to be invited to a White House iftar if there ever is one again.”

In 2014, Salaita was fired from his position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over his criticism of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip – a flagrant violation of his rights and academic freedom.

He explains how media elites who purport to align with the Palestinian struggle choose to abandon Palestinian rights and falsely accuse Palestinians of anti-Semitism in order to advance their careers – whether in Washington, DC, or in corporate media.

“These false accusations of anti-Semitism are part and parcel of a broader Zionist project of delegitimizing our voices, of taking our pain, of taking our opposition to Zionist ethnic cleansing, of taking, really, our expressions of humanity and transforming them into something inhuman,” Salaita says.

He adds that giving away the idea of complete freedom is what the Zionists have always wanted.

“You’re going to need people, not me, all of us, to keep the idea alive,” Salaita says.

“You can’t concede your entire vision for liberation before you’ve even won anything. Philosophically, fine. Morally, fine. I’m talking strategically,” he says.

“What’s going to be there to survive in the end? It’s the idea, it’s the dream we have of what Palestine is capable of looking like.”

Articles we discussed

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

Image: Steven Salaita (Haymarket Books)

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True many muslims are becoming zionists sympathiser. I am a practicing muslim female who endured the second intifada and was about to lose my life while living in refugee camp when sharon attacked Nablus, and also when i was going between Nablus and ramallah to work on health sector during conflic times,,, after this horrible times I lived in North America (USA and Canada), I noticed what you are describing,, but there is another point many Palestinian activists are riding on islamophobia to establish careers and make profit out of their activism, I do not like to choose between islam and Palestine,, but islam is very important to me and this is why I left North America,, because it is not easy to be Palestinian who is practicing. Although I am a veteran because I survived war and had uncle who is maryter i was shocked from how how much some Palestinian activists are I anti-islam,, they think denouncing islam is a privilege and harassing head-covered women is okay.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).