Tawfik Hamid's warning

Clearly this speaker was not unfamiliar with the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

tawfik hamid 88 224 (photo credit: David Horovitz)
tawfik hamid 88 224
(photo credit: David Horovitz)
One evening during President Bush's recent regional tour, I was giving a talk to a group of moderate American Muslim leaders brought here on a first visit to Israel. At the Q & A stage, one of the participants asked me whether Israel would agree to financial compensation being paid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants if they were not to be allowed to "return" to homes in what is today Israel. I began to explain that at the president Clinton-hosted Camp David talks in 2000, it was reportedly made plain to the Palestinian leadership that considerable funds would indeed be made available for such payments, and that Israel would presumably be supportive of such a process, when another of the participants raised his hand to make a point. Remember, he said, that Israel absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced out of Arab lands, and that compensation is a two-way street. Israel, too, he said, had the right to demand compensation for its absorption of Jewish refugees, which, in stark contrast to the Palestinians, it undertook with alacrity and enthusiasm in the development of a vibrant Jewish state. Clearly this speaker, though visiting for the first time, was not unfamiliar with the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clearly, too, he was not unsympathetic to Israel's case. When I spoke briefly with him after the lecture, it turned out that he had grown up in Egypt, been heavily influenced by Islamic extremism (and notably by a fellow medical student, now Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri), and then shrunk back. Now he was advocating a humane approach to Islam, arguing that some of the key quotations from the Koran, utilized by violent, fundamentalist ideologues like al-Zawahiri, to encourage personal jihad against Islam's enemies, are being skewed and are open to more moderate interpretation. Crucially, he stressed, unless Muslims were persuaded that their faith allowed for such moderation, and that there was a credible path under which one could be both a good Muslim and oppose violent hostility to Jews and Christians, the extremists would be near-impossible to stop. His name is Tawfik Hamid, and in researching his background ahead of an interview with him that I wrote recently in The Jerusalem Post, I came across an extraordinary autobiographical article, charting his descent into extremism and his extrication. We publish it here, with the permission of the Hudson Institute for whom it was first written, because it so effectively details how routine was Hamid's indoctrination - and how widespread is the educational process by which this indoctrination was achieved. Written by a man who saw the warning signs just in time to change the course of his own life, it stands as a chilling reminder of how many others are being wooed along the bleak path of extremism, without turning back, across the Middle East and beyond.