Monday, February 27, 2012
Yonah Alexander Ain’t No Dove on the Western Sahara
Yonah, in case you were wondering about the title, means “dove” in Hebrew. Which is ironic because Yonah Alexander’s 3-year crusade to pin all the ills of the Maghreb on the Polisario Front and to legitimize Morocco’s illegal occupation of the Westen Sahara has as far as I can see only one predictable outcome, which is increased violence, continued instability, and further disunity. His advice to US policymakers – from his four reports on terrorism in the Maghreb/Sahel (1,2,3,4) – boils down to a total acceptance of the Moroccan expansionist agenda, specifically legitimizing Moroccan sovereignty over the territory and closing the Tindouf refugee camps.
A good place to start in understanding how this long-time terrorism expert arrives at such legalistically challenged, ethically bankrupt, and strategically counterproductive conclusions is to take a look at the extent to which he has been, for several years now, in bed with the American Morocco lobby. A few examples jumped out at me in my recent research into the Morocco lobby:
In my last post, I wrote about how repugnant I find it that Alexander appears as an expert source on the website of the thoroughly biased and compromised Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP), Rabat’s lobbying outfit in Washington. Alongside the greatest stars of the Morocco lobby -- Holley, Gabriel, and Abinader – it’s hard not to see a lot of guilt by association there.
In earlier readings of Why the Maghreb Matters, Alexander’s original pro-Morocco anti-Polisario diatribe, I hadn’t noticed, among the numerous luminaries listed as project participants, the mention of Marney Cheek, a partner at the prestigious Washington law firm Covington & Burling, under “staff.” Of all the fine law firms in DC, it is interesting that Alexander should choose a lawyer from Covington & Burling, which “has for a number of years been representing the Moroccan state phosphate company that carries out phosphate exploitation in occupied Western Sahara.” Western Sahara Resource Watch has written extensively about C & B’s secretive and unsavory lobbying efforts to run interference for Morocco’s illegal theft of the natural resources of an occupied territory without the consent of the inhabitants.
Then for the first yearly update of Why the Maghreb Matters in 2010, who does Alexander take on to prepare his Chronology of Maghreb and Sahel Terrorism since 9/11 but Caitlin Dearing, Manager of Research and Special Projects at the MACP. This is the same Caitlin Dearing that was Principal Author of a September 2009 study titled Group Rights and International Law: A Case Study on the Sahrawi Refugees in Algeria, a project co-sponsored by the MACP (Robert M. Holley, Executive Director, and Jean Abinader, Editor) and the Inter-University Center of Legal Studies (Yonah Alexander, Co-Director). Let me just say here that Ms Dearing chooses to ignore decades and volumes of international law that condemns Morocco for the Western Saharan refugee crisis and tries to pin it all on Algeria. To say she is a tainted researcher is an understatement.
Then in Alexander’s next update in 2011 he mentions that “according to open intelligence sources and a recent fact-finding trip to the region in January 2011, there exists growing evidence that AQIM, local traffickers, and possibly members of the Polisario are forming links with Latin American organized criminal groups for trafficking drugs and humans via transit network into Europe.” Moroccan news reports about this “fact-finding trip” place Alexander during January 2011 in Dakhla, Western Sahara, with “a US delegation including members of centers of research and studies on security issues and international relations, based in Washington.” Jean Abinader of the Moroccan American Center is identified as one of the other members of the delegation. As to what they were doing there, the article reports that “The American delegation met with some people who have fled the Tindouf camps and returned to Morocco, and discussed the terrorist threat in the Sahel-Saharan zone and the involvement of members of the polisario in numerous illegal activities.” And while none of the reports specify who paid for or organized this nice little trip, I have my suspicions that Abinader did a lot of leading Alexander around by the nose.
My point here is that even a cursory look at Yonah Alexander’s recent history reveals a disturbing amount of collaboration and cooperation with the American Morocco lobby. On the Western Sahara issue, this pro-Moroccan alignment translates into anti-Polisario/anti-Western Sahara policy recommendations that, if implemented, would prove disastrous for the Western Sahara, Morocco, the Maghreb, and ultimately US interests. I repeat: “Yonah Alexander ain’t no dove.”
Not having any idea at all about Mr. Alexander’s ethnic background, I was perhaps presumptuous in using the Hebrew translation of Yonah/Jonah as a hook in this article. Wikipedia informs me of a couple other derivations of the name Yonah that might have been more appropriate. Yonah, for example, means “bear “in Cherokee and “’right now’ in the sense of being hopeful” in the Oromo language in Ethiopia. Hmmmmm. Actually, the more I think about it, the Cherokee angle would have been a good hook, given the rather startling similarities between the atrocious treatment of the Cherokee nation at the hands of the US government and military in the 1830s and what Professor Alexander proposes to inflict on the Sahrawi nation today. Maybe for another post.