Rays of Light in the Darkness Dinner

Courageous voices from behind the Islamist Curtain coming to Washington D.C. on June 21, 2012.

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Sarah Stern, Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth or EMET, a think tank and policy shop in Washington. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West's Fatal Embrace, which will be coming out in paperback in June, and her think tank will be holding its annual dinner on June 21st.

[Editor's note: The picture above is of Cynthia Farahat, who will be one of the honorees at the annual dinner. Below is a picture of Sarah Stern.]

FP: Sarah Stern, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Let’s begin with you sharing with us why you felt it necessary to launch another think tank in Washington. Tell us its purpose and what it does.

Stern: I founded EMET when I had been the Director of Governmental Relations with the American Jewish Congress, and the AJC leadership asked me to lobby for the Gaza withdrawal in 2005.  I knew in the pit of my stomach, that this withdrawal was not going to work, and that Gaza was eventually going to become a base on which the Palestinians would launch missiles onto southern Israel. I wish I had been proven wrong, but I knew I was not going to let myself become a party to enabling that to happen.

I became involved in this sort of business, approximately twelve years earlier, shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords. That is when three members of the Israeli embassy, under the reign of Yitzhak Shamir, had called me and told me that they had a sinking suspicion that Arafat was not going to live up to one iota of the Accords he has just signed, and that they were no longer in Washington, and needed someone here, to disseminate the truth about what he would be saying to his own people in his own language, and how it would differ from what he would be saying to the Western world in English. I told them it would be an honor and a privilege, and I did that pro bono for several years.

I then became the National Policy Coordinator or the ZOA, and then the Director of Governmental Affairs of the American Jewish Congress. It was the request from the AJC  for me to lobby for the Gaza withdrawal, as well as a pivotal event in a major think tank in Washington, that people have grown to know of as, the “Jewish” think tank that were turning points in my career, and pushed me over the edge to establish my own shop in Washington.

It was then that this other thank tank  brought in some “Tanzem” terrorists from the disputed territories,  in the fall of 2005, and introduced them as the “pragmatic alternative to Arafat, the young, more practical generation. It was at that time that I publicly challenged these guests from Tanzem with) two questions. Their answers immediately exposed them for who they were, and all the pens in the room dropped. (The person who brought them in was a friend of mine, and he was furious at me for asking those questions).

I knew, at that moment, that no-one was getting out our people’s proud narrative in Washington, without it being obfuscated by moral relativism and political correctness.  I  decided that day that  I had to open up a  think tank and policy shop  that clearly articulates the truth of our people’s proud narrative about our struggle to survive in the Middle East, and I knew immediately that I wanted to I call it “EMET”,  an acronym for the Endowment for Middle East Truth. “EMET” means “truth” in Hebrew.

FP: Do you have a specific mission?

Stern: Yes Jamie, we see it as our mission to simply tell the un-doctored truth about Israel’s proud struggle to survive, and the radical Islamist’s war against Israel and the West. We find the courage to say the words that few in Washington manage to say, because they are so hindered by “political correctness” and moral ambiguity about the rightness of our cause. We write and publish articles and books, and speak on the radio and on television.  We are constantly on Capitol Hill, in one-to-one meetings with members of Congress or their staffers, and we arrange for seminars, at least once a month, sometimes twice, when we bring in our “brain trust” of the brightest and the best experts from Israel and all around the world to share what the Jewish state is up against and how the United States, if possible, may be able to profit from its hard-earned wisdom.

We always place everything within the framework of what is actually good for American security interests, emphasizing how, in the minds of the radical Islamists, Israel is simply “The Minor Satan” and America is “The Great Satan,” and how anything that emboldens the radical Islamist against Israel also emboldens them against the United States. In that way, we can avoid the canard of bring more Catholic than the Pope, or more right wing then the democratically elected government of the state of Israel. We think outside of the box, and we examine if the premises of our foreign policy need to be re-evaluated. For example, goal post for the “land for peace” paradigm is “peace,” we examine whether or not since the signing of the Oslo Accords, we have gotten any closer or further away from that goal post. Or whether or not it is time to re-examine the premises that this paradigm has been predicated upon.

FP: Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

Stern: When I was with the American Jewish Congress, I started to lobby for a piece of legislation to try to correct the deeply entrenched anti-Israeli and anti-American biases in most, if not all, of the Middle Eastern Studies Departments in universities across our nation. These departments are brought to us at the taxpayers’ expense through the National Defense Education Act, which is an earlier moniker for Title VI of the Higher Education Act.  I felt that since the taxpayer was footing the bill for these departments, we might be able to find a legislative corrective, to try to have some sort of balance in the curriculum. It was very difficult because many professors’ groups felt that this would encroach on their” academic freedom”.

I worked on this for many years, and did finally pass some legislation that incrementally amended the original legislation to try to reflect “a diversity of perspectives,” among other things.  However, the more I investigated, the more I saw that not only were our nation’s universities, to a very large extent, being underwritten by the Saudis, but teacher training workshops for teachers of kindergarten through twelfth grade, their curricula, and even their textbooks. Then I started learning about think tanks that were heavily underwritten by the Saudis. I concluded that the Saudis with their vast petro dollars have conducted a hugely successful public relations campaign on their behalf, and consistently used the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a single factor analysis for everything that was wrong about the Middle East.

I realized that it was no coincidence that for more than thirty years, spanning successive American administrations we have been hearing Saudi Arabia described over and over again as our “moderate ally in the Muslim world,” and then expanded to “our moderate ally in the war on terrorism.” Yet, we found out on December 6, 2010, with gratitude to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said, “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups, world-wide,” and Former Undersecretary of the Treasury, Stuart Levy, had said, in June of 2007 on ABC news, “If I could snap my fingers and cut off the terrorist funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia.”

I realized that it was our addiction to their fuel that was giving them the petro dollars to underwrite universities, and teacher-training workshops, and think tanks, as the Saudis are the number one exporters of Wahhabist Islam and Sunni terrorism. I entitled the book, “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West’s Fatal Embrace, which came out this past November, and was released by Palgave Macmillan. It is going into its second printing this June, and will now be available in paperback.

FP: Your annual “Rays of Light in the Darkness” dinner will be coming up, shortly, on June 21, 2012.  Tell us about this event, what it entails and why it is special. Who will the honorees be this year?

Stern: We will never win the war that the radical Islamist has waged against all of Western civilization by the back of a bayonet, alone. Nor will the the Christian and Jewish infidel ever be trusted to impose our values, from the outside. If we are truly going to win the war that the radical Islamist has waged against us, we have got to reinforce those incredibly courageous voices that come from within their society that have revolted against the constant atmosphere of incitement and hatred. These people that we have honored each year, have risked everything, including being cut off from family and friends, and even their very own lives, in order to tell the truth about radical Islam and the nature of much of the Arab and/or Muslim worlds from which their hail.

Beyond that, I feel as a proud American, a proud Zionist and a proud Jew, that it is incumbent upon me and my organization to be able to say “thank you “ to these remarkable examples of courage and of what it takes to be truly human.  We honor them in a prestigious dinner in Washington, DC, together with some outstanding friends of Israel who are well known, public figures. This year we will be honoring Ambassador John Bolton, Senator Mark Kirk, (Republican, Illinois), and Representative Allen West, (Republican, Florida).

And our special  “Speakers of the Truth” honorees  this year will be Simon Deng, a former Sudanese slave, who had experienced first-hand, the effects of Arab racism and the impact of Khartoum’s jihad against South Sudan.  He is an ardent supporter of the South Sudanese Independence movement and a vocal defender of Israel, pointing out that the United Nations’ hypocritical fascination with Israel, which has led it to ignore the crimes, and to even support regimes which commit heinous abuses of human rights. Simon has spoken out against the Durban Conference on Racism and how it had disintegrated into a hate-fest against the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

And Cynthia Farahat, an Egyptian political activist, in exile, who founded the Msr el-Om Party, (later called the Liberal Egyptian Party), and served on its political committee. Cynthia had personally watched many of her closest friends being massacred by the Egyptian Islamists in the very recent past. Cynthia is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy and is Advocacy Director at Coptic Solidarity.

I have become strong personal friends with many of our past honorees, and it has been a true honor to get to know them and to be able to share in their struggles.

FP: Sarah Stern, good luck on your annual dinner and thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

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