History has a strange way of judging people. American history honors warriors of the past such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who struggled and fought for America’s freedom and independence. However, the closer one gets to our current age of moral relativism, the more critical we are of those who are thrust into a state of conflict — those who have had to realize that their people’s survival sometimes depends on defeating an enemy.
Walid Phares was born in 1957 to a Maronite Christian family in Beirut. By the time Phares was in his 20s, Lebanon, which has always been more of a mosaic of various religions and communities than a unified nation, had plunged into a bloody civil war. Naturally, Phares supported his own Lebanese Maronite Christian community’s efforts to defend itself in this brutal, existential struggle against Syrian occupation on the one hand and Palestinian and Lebanese Sunni and Shiite terror on the other.
As a young man just graduating from law school, he published a book on pluralism, promoting a federal system in Lebanon as a way to halt the war and protect minorities. Always prolific, he published many books on history and politics, submitted hundreds of articles and was widely interviewed. He also published a weekly magazine promoting Middle East minorities. At last he formed a small political party, the Christian Social Democratic Party, in East Beirut. The young lawyer wasn’t involved in war but rather in campaigns to raise awareness about the suffering in his ancestral land. He traveled around the world to draw international attention to the conflict in Lebanon and to offer solutions.
In 1986, toward the end of the conflict, he represented his small democratic party in the representative political council of the local de facto government known as “Lebanese Forces,” opposing the Syrian occupation, much like the American continental army resisted British colonial occupation. Phares’ intellectual skills ended up landing him with a task of diplomatic relations with the outside world and reaching out to emigres. In 1990, after Hafez Assad’s troops invaded all of Lebanon, he decided to immigrate to the U.S. to pursue his doctoral studies and warn the West about the impending jihadi terror threats.
In the United States, he received his doctorate and has authored 14 books. He taught at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University and has testified before various congressional committees. Phares has continued to be a champion of human rights for persecuted minorities throughout the region. He is a pre-eminent scholar of the Middle East and has an uncanny ability to decipher the various players on the many Byzantine Middle Eastern chessboards and what their ultimate objectives are. He has a piercing intellect and a thorough grasp of the region that makes him a national treasure during these complicated times.
Professor Phares is highly regarded and is a respected American intellectual after 26 years of service to his adopted country. Since 2008, he has been an adviser to Congress and the European Parliament. His book “Future Jihad” (2006) became a best-seller, while his prescient book “The Coming Revolution” (2010) correctly predicted the Arab Spring before it happened. His most recent book, “The Lost Spring” (2014), warned about the rise of Islamic State before it surged, correctly predicted the Iranian expansion and once again called for Western support for civil societies in the Middle East.
In 2011, Phares was appointed as a national security adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and in 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump named him as one of his foreign policy advisers. Phares defended Trump’s platform on foreign affairs and Middle East policies and engaged in diplomatic missions to explain the alternative policies of his candidate amid intense criticism in the press. Among these policies were Trump’s opposition to the Iran deal and his determination to confront radical Islamic terrorism. These two defenses drew the ire of the Iranians and the Muslim Brotherhood against the adviser.
Thus, both lobbies used the classic charge of Islamophobia against Phares, just because he warned against jihadism. But beyond the usual Islamist talking points, his detractors waged a smear campaign based on fallacies and lies. They targeted his early life during the Lebanese civil war, since the public today has little information about that conflict and the U.S. press cannot easily fact-check the Lebanese press (printed in French and Arabic) from that time period.
Because he lived his younger years through the bloody days of the civil war and championed a free area to defend his Christian community, Phares has been tarred and feathered by progressive left-wing publications such as Mother Jones. The false reporting was debunked several times, for example in Family Security Matters and Breitbart News, but the lobbies keep using it nevertheless.
I expect this from Mother Jones, but I was shocked to see that these exact same allegations have been repeated word for word in an article in The Jerusalem Post by Ben Lynfield. The piece alleged statements that Phares did not make and selectively chose parts of analyses developed in academic seminars to draw conclusions he did not make. Senior Israeli academics and former officials who knew what was happening in Lebanon are now responding to this tract and more will do so soon.
Phares is a national treasure, and the incoming U.S. administration could well use his depth of knowledge of the region, his piercing intellect and his infinite sense of compassion and justice for persecuted religious minorities all over the world. Phares has been a strong proponent of a Lebanon free of the suffocating choke-hold of Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces. He understands the clear and present danger that radical Islam poses to the region, and to the world. And he has been on the right side of history.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.
This article was originally published at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=17717
In praise of Professor Walid Phares
By: Yair Ravid
The Jerusalem Post
Ben Lynfield, writing on November 16 in The Jerusalem Post (“Who is Walid Phares, Trump’s Mideast adviser?”), sets out a series of absurd accusations against Dr. Walid Phares, who served as foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump and as national security adviser for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2011-2012.
Phares is a well-respected scholar and analyst in the US whose expertise in Middle East affairs is widely recognized and well received in US defense, intelligence and national security circles as well as in Congress, where he has testified and advised for two decades, as public archives show. A former chair of the subcommittee on intelligence in the US House of Representatives considers Phares one of the best strategic minds in the world on US national security.
As one who actually had the Lebanon file in his hands for many years, particularly in the 1970s and ‘80s, I do not remember anyone among those who have recently attacked Phares walking beside me on the paths of Southern Lebanon and in Beirut alleys in 1976, when I started working on relations with the Christians in South Lebanon and with the Phalangists in Beirut.
We know who did what for 15 years. Unfortunately, none of his recent critics have bothered to search the archives of the Lebanese press or interview those who, like me, were actually there at the time.
Naturally attacks have poured in against Phares from the various foes of the United States and the West, particularly from pro-Iranian and Muslim Brotherhood operatives, and at times far-leftist bloggers. Since 2011, the campaign against Phares has aimed consistently at keeping his advice as far as possible from influencing US policy in a way that could affect the interests of these parties, those who abhor Israel and the moderate Arabs in the region. Most use the same talking points and smear charges used by the pro-Hezbollah and Islamist propagandists in 2011 and 2016.
In general the attacks against Phares originate from a widely discredited hit piece published by far-left blogger and Iran deal supporter Adam Serwer in Mother Jones. The piece’s fabrications about the scholar’s life in Lebanon before he emigrated to the US 26 years ago have been fully discredited by several investigative articles already, but these charges keep circulating, especially the charge that Phares was an “ideologue of Lebanese militiamen during the civil war in the 1980’s.”
The sources of this charge are either Hezbollah- friendly or misquoted. One of the quoted persons, Toni Nissi, has himself slammed the far-left media for lying about him: “Regrettably Mother Jones selected three sentences from an almost four-hour… conversation with Serwer about the Lebanese resistance against Syrian occupation. Serwer maliciously distorted the form and core of what was discussed in a cheap and repulsive attempt to attack Professor Walid Phares and create an absurd and ludicrous connection between Professor Phares’ academic, political and intellectual roles [as a] contribution to educate the high cadres of the Lebanese Christian resistance [is] deplorable and unacceptable.”
A second unsubstantiated claim is that “Phares advocated that Lebanon’s Christians work toward creating a separate, independent Christian enclave.” This of a man who has published books since 1979 while he was at law school, and hundreds of articles, all focusing on a federal solution to the crisis in Lebanon.
Lynfield quoted far-left Mother Jones stating “that he was a close adviser of Samir Geagea, a Lebanese- Christian warlord.” Toufic Hindi, a Lebanese politician today, has already crippled this charge in an interview where he wondered why Phares’ critics insist on this falsehood since Hindi himself was the adviser to Geagea, not Phares. The source for this allegation is a young woman who had a beef with Samir Geagea personally. A reminder of how the Communists attacked Vaclav Havel, not by citing his work, but by referring to an agent accusation against him.
The Post piece goes on to claim that in the 1990s, Phares tried “to lobby the Israeli government to carve out a state for Christians in the security zone Israel maintained in southern Lebanon, despite the fact that Israel had been burned badly when it allied with Lebanese Christians in 1982, that most of zone’s inhabitants were Shi’ite Muslims and that Israel already had its hands full dealing with an insurgency by Hezbollah.”
This is utterly false.
At the time Phares, along with his NGO colleagues, lodged a demand at the United Nations Security Council in New York to issue a resolution to establish international protection for a “free zone” in south Lebanon, to replace the Israeli military. The plan was that Christians, Muslims and Druse together would control their own destinies under a federal system. They wanted to see local police stations and municipalities act as a functioning local government until Syria had withdrawn and Hezbollah had been disarmed.
Phares’ views were prescient as another UN resolution, one he worked on later in 2004 (UNSCR 1559), forced Assad to pull his troops out of Lebanon in 2005.
Lynfield also cites a 1997 article authored by Phares to intimate that he was trying to drag the Israelis into Lebanon again. He quotes conversations where the scholar said: “Despite the 1982 episode, the Christians of Lebanon are the only potential ally against the advance of the northern Arabo-Islamic threat against Israel.”
In fact, many on both sides of the border were watching Hezbollah and the jihadists advancing and taking over in Lebanon. This advance, which was completed in 2000, had in fact, according to his own account, encouraged Osama bin Laden to strike New York and Washington in 2001. By this time, Phares was examining the global terrorist threat, not only an ethnic conflict within his motherland.
Nevertheless, former Mossad director Efraim Halevy opines on Phares’ mischaracterized position: “To think in 1997 of creating a Christian enclave in the South, an area of preponderant Shi’ite presence, is esoteric bordering on the ridiculous.”
Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies (now the Institute for National Security Studies), wrote: “Even in Israeli terms, he represents an attempt to subvert our good intentions and exploit us militarily so that we spill our blood for the Maronites. This ended very badly and he is a reminder of this.”
None of that was found in Phares’ arguments at the time. Precisely the opposite: the Lebanese-American scholar argued that Israeli forces should withdraw but surrender the area not to Hezbollah and Assad, but to local municipalities’ forces protected by the UN. In fact his plans then are the same as what is being discussed today for areas in Iraq and Syria.
Alpher continues: “His association with the Lebanese Forces is very problematic… He was a prominent ideologue indoctrinating people who went out and murdered people and he has never accounted for that.”
Alpher’s ignorance is abysmal. Walid Phares was never a combatant and never headed a Lebanese Forces military command.
He wrote books and articles and offered lectures. Sadly, Hezbollah propaganda has now been able to manipulate Israeli expertise.
Neither the young Phares nor any other Lebanese person at the time was responsible for Israel’s entanglement in Lebanon. Rather, the megalomania of some in the Israeli defense establishment, who thought they could establish a new order in Lebanon, were responsible for that imbroglio – members of the political wing of the Mossad, who did not recognize the Lebanese arena and acted unprofessionally.
The critical article also quotes anti-Israel Abed Ayoub, the national legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, libeling Phares: “If you look at his history, he was a warmonger and he shouldn’t be near the White House.
He was part of a militia that committed war crimes and, if anything, he should be tried for war crimes.”
Ayoub and his group are the ones who should answer for backing the murdering jihadists who really do commit war crimes, not an author of 14 books on pluralism and democracy.
There is an assertion that “Phares appeared to flirt with the idea that Israel could use nuclear weapons to deal with its threat from the North, but then ruled this out as a possibility.”
It quotes Phares as saying, “The only military strategic option remaining to the Jewish state in the medium and long term, if it is to maintain its balance of power with the northern threat, is obviously the nuclear deterrent. But Lebanese and Israelis alike know all too well the consequences of a blast anywhere in Lebanon….”
These were parts of conversations that anyone in the field of defense and military studies has had, but to use a discussion about Iran’s military advance in the region, select half a sentence and paint Phares as developing a nuclear doctrine is not just silly, but low.
No one knows the Arab world and Lebanon better than Phares. When he and others were part of conversations about establishing a so-called mini-entity alongside Israel, like the Kurds actually did in northern Iraq and in Syria, they wanted to express their belief at the time that minorities in the region could count on each other.
After he ended his patriotic efforts for his motherland and emigrated, these were ideas he advanced to resolve the conflict, not to create more tensions. He was proven right in every single prediction he made for America in his book Future Jihad and for the free world in his other books. His peak prescience came with his book The Coming Revolution where he predicted, in 2010, the forthcoming Arab Spring of 2011. Walid Phares, as American Jewish leader Sarah Stern wrote, has become a US “national treasure” and has been working hard for more than a quarter of a century to defend his adoptive homeland, the United States.
He was faithful to his ancestral home Lebanon, and he has been a loyal citizen to his adoptive land since he emigrated.
What concerns me in The Jerusalem Post piece is historical veracity. We cannot as Israelis rewrite the history of our northern neighbor to please the terrorist network that dominates it at this point in time. Phares is a public figure in the US with most of his adult life dedicated to public service. His work during his 20s in his ancestral homeland is to be praised, not condemned, and above all described accurately. For demonizing is a prelude to ostracizing and we in this country know exactly what that means.
It is unfortunate that a segment of our own academic and media elite has fallen for the games of Iranian and Islamist propagandists.
Most of those who were associated with smearing Phares have no real understanding of Lebanon’s history and politics, certainly not of the complexity of the issues. In my book Window to the Backyard, which was published in English in May 2016, I describe the establishment of relations between the State of Israel and the Christians in Southern Lebanon and the Phalangists and other groups in Beirut, and later the partnership between Israel and the South Lebanon Army.
I do so as the person that was in charge of the ties between our country and these communities.
What we know and what we saw are very different from the vapid and erroneous writing of critics and the comments they quoted. When it comes to history let’s be serious and not reproduce chimeric tales concocted by Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to meddle in US politics.
The author is a veteran Israeli intelligence officer and served as head of the Mossad’s operational branch in Beirut. He is the author of Window to the Backyard: The History of Israel-Lebanon Relations – Facts & Illusions.
Article originally published at: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/In-praise-of-Professor-Walid-Phares-473912