Allegations of the Israeli Rabbi Michael Melchior about having secret contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, is it true or only expressing his wishes?
The idea of investigating ties connecting the Israeli occupation to the Muslim Brotherhood group emerged two years ago, when some Israeli leaders sowed rumours about opening secretive communication channels between them and some leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood group!
During the process of liberating the Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit, a conference was held in Stockholm. One of the key speakers at the conference was the Iraqi Israeli Gershon Baskin, who mentioned his meetings with the Hamas leaders to reach an agreement to liberate Shalit. He was able to strike a deal with them to exchange prisoners for Shalit, which was a success according to him.
During this seminar, I was introduced to Mr. Baskin through a common friend and Baskin started the conversation by asking me which part of Palestine I was from and after I had answered him, he added “Do you think Shalit is still alive? Because after the attack on Gaza, Israelis think he is dead.” I replied, “I have no idea, I don’t have contacts with Hamas. Plus, you are asking me about an Israeli soldier, who was on a military mission against my people. Why don’t you ask me about the hundreds of martyrs who died during your government’s attack on Gaza?”
Baskin assured me then that he is in contact with Mr. Osama Hamdan. Hamdan is the top representative of Hamas in Lebanon handling the international relation issues. However, during one of my visits to Lebanon I met with Mr. Hamdan, who denied any connections or communications with the Israelis, but he didn’t deny that he gets many letters and emails from Israelis, but he also assured me that he doesn’t reply back, also he can’t stop them from sending these emails.
Another incident happened during the visit of Dr Essam Al Arian, one of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt. He was invited to visit Sweden after Mubarak’s resignation, and I was assigned to escort him during this visit. Throughout his speeches and lectures he assured the audience that there are no connections between the Muslim Brotherhood and Israeli officials and that there will not be any in the near or distant future.
During Dr Al Arian’s visit we went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the visit program. When we were ready to leave, Rabbi Michael Melchior approached Dr Al Arian and greeted him but Dr Al Arian refused to hold a conversation with the Rabbi. When Rabbi Melchior tried to convince him that there are many common grounds between Islam and Judaism, Dr Al Arian assured him that he agrees, but there is an occupation and attacks are being launched on the Palestinian people by Israel. At this point Dr. Al Arian refused to continue talking to the rabbi and started to leave, the rabbi was surprised by Dr. Al Arian’s reaction and left the scene.
Last week, a seminar was held in the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and diplomats from the Palestinian, Moroccan and the Saudi embassies were in attendance, along with a Jewish American group, Swedish politicians, and the Rabbi Michael Melchior.
Rabbi Melchior assured attendees that they have opened secretive communication channels between Israeli rabbis and some Muslim scholars who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia especially after the Arabic spring. He also said that these channels were opened to find a peaceful solution between Israel and the Arabs, after the failure of the two states solution which mainly failed because the cause of this conflict was the discord between Judaism and Islam; completely ignoring the fact that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the core issue of this conflict and not religious differences as he claimed.
After his speech the rabbi requested that attendees support this step and he assured them that positive outcomes are beginning to be reaped after the visits of some Muslim scholars to occupied Jerusalem. He also stressed that peace is one of the most important foundations of Islam, as well as good neighbourliness and good manners – focusing on these principles is far better than focusing on terrorism and extremism, whether it comes from the Jewish side or the Muslim side.
The Rabbi succeeded in convincing many participants with his theory, but he failed to answer a question from Arab Neyheter, about the Islamic political movements who consider jihad against Israelis as one of the Islamic principles also. He answered the question in a diplomatic way, saying he couldn’t answer them. He also tried to change the subject when he was asked about the occupation resistance, regarding people being part of any ethnic group or culture, whether they were Muslims, Christians, or Buddhists; the best example is when Israel target Christian Palestinians as well as Muslim Palestinians who form part of the resistance movement in Palestine. The Rabbi also stated that he has held meetings with Palestinian Islamic figures in Ramallah, and some Jordanian Islamic figures in Amman; saying that a long-term strategy is being put in place to attain a direct communication with the Islamic political movements to achieve peace between the two parties.
Europe presents an important region for luring Islamists into entering meetings with Jews, through NGO’s that are financed from Israeli foundations. Islamists usually participate in these meetings indirectly due to their lack of political experience. Most of these Muslims, who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, are not familiar with the principle of obedience to the movement, and they have joined the movement after their arrival in Europe. Best evidence of this is the Ibn Roshd Foundation, (an NGO that supports Muslim Brotherhood in principle and operates under them), which took part in a conference that was held in a Jewish synagogue a couple of months ago and was sponsored by a Swedish organization called Expo! During this conference they discussed one of today’s most difficult and important questions – How much intolerance can Freedom of Speech tolerate?
To follow-up on the matter, we have sent a letter to the Ibn Roshd foundation and also initiated contact with several leaders within the Muslim Brotherhood movement, including the Jordanian leader Zaki Bani Irsheid, who said to Arab Nyheter: “The Israeli allegations about having contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood are not correct and the movement will neither support these efforts nor encourage them.” Zaki Bani Irsheid didn’t deny that there are frequent attempts from the Israelis to make Muslim Brotherhood adapt to the idea of having peace with them in the same way they were able to tame the PLO. Bani Irsheid considered Israelis infiltrating the Brotherhood and recruiting them is a far off matter that’ll never happen!
The leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, Dr. Salah Bardawil said: “There has been no contact between us and the Israelis or rabbis,” and he confirmed that it will not happen in the future, because this issue is related to the foundation principles and strategies of Hamas. Bardawil added “Israel has forcibly taken the land of Palestine and there is no room to talk to them unless they are willing to end the occupation of Palestine.”
As far as Hamas’ long-term strategy with regard to this matter he says: “Hamas has a constant strategy, no dialogue with the Israeli occupying forces, we’ll never negotiate dividing Palestine and the Palestinian people, and those who have seized the land by force will only leave by force.”
He also commented on the visits of the Muslim scholars to Jerusalem accompanied by the Israeli intelligence services, saying it’s a sign of how weak the Arab governments have been, and that the Palestinian resistance movements will not jeopardize their future and tie it to this reality, adding that these visits came as a result of a wrongful judgement from these scholars.
Bardawil also noted that Hamas does not have any knowledge of it if there were any communication between the rabbis and any Muslim scholars. He also stressed the fact that these visits during this time will only serve the Israelis, especially since Jerusalem is being Judaized and in fact all of Palestine is undergoing Judaization, considered to be a humiliation for the Muslims. He stated that it shouldn’t be accepted, advising scholars to read the history of Arab and Islamic nation during the Crusades. He also assured the audience that Islam and Muslims have no problem with other religions, as they have lived their best periods and have flourished amongst Muslims, and the problem should be confined only with the occupation of the land, and the killing and displacement of the Palestinian people.
Professor Abdul Sattar Qassem said the Muslim Brotherhood would not mind meeting Jews, whether they are religious or non-religious, (rabbis or not) as long as they are not pro normalization with Israel. They realize that any meetings with pro-Israeli fall under the term “normalization” and Muslim Brotherhood are fully aware of the size of their loss if they decided to meet Israelis or encouraged Normalization with them.
According to Qassem, Jordan and the Palestinian authorities are allies of Israel, but at the moment they are unable to convince the Muslim Brotherhood to meet with the Israelis. The Muslim Brotherhood whilst not looking to clash with the authorities and who have never used force to change regimes, have indicated that they might call a truce with Israel but they’ll never have a peace treaty with them: Similar to when Hamas offered Israel a ceasefire several times for almost ten years and were willing to extend it, but Hamas will never recognize Israel as a state, because the recognition of the state is religiously impermissible and recognition might be fatal to their movement.
As for the religious leaders who have rushed to visit Al Aqsa while it’s under the Israeli occupation he said: “Clerics of the sultans always betrayed the nation and they are the reason for the Arab world breakage, they never objected to normalization with Israel before. Some of them also think that a prayer in Jerusalem is the equivalent of 500 Normal prayers outside Al Aqsa, and by visiting Al Aqsa they are getting closer to heaven.”