A new organization called the “Sharq Forum” has announced its launch from Tunisia and that the head of its preparatory committee is former Al Jazeera general manager Wadah Khanfar. According to a press release:
Press Release 10 January 2011Arab scholars and politicians are preparing to launch from the Tunisian capital, Tunis, a new initiative called the Sharq Forum. The Forum is an independent global institution designed to implant the values of engagement, dialogue and democracy in Arab countries; and contribute to building a stable political future with economic prosperity. It seeks to nurture political consciousness, exchange of expertise, set out priorities, and bolster understanding and collaboration between the Arab world and its environs. The Forum would be launched on Friday, 13th January in the presence of Tunisian President, Dr Muncef Al Marzouki, and with the attendance of a number of scholars, politicians and personalities from across the region. Wadah Khanfar, head of the Forum’s preparatory committee, and former director general of Al Jazeera Network said “the new realities created by the Arab revolutions necessitate a comprehensive dialogue between the various constituencies acting on the Arab political and social landscape.” He added, “the Forum would be a platform for this dialogue, leading to the presentation of initiatives and charting of priorities, which would help the countries and people of the region make the transition to political stability and economic prosperity.” Through its activities, the Forum would offer opportunities to its members to advance the political priorities agreed upon by the various tendencies, in addition to presenting projects and insights that would integrate and realise the economic development of Arab countries. Membership to the Forum will be open the political forces, intellectual vanguard, social and youth movements, civil society organizations, entrepreneurs and journalists in the Arab world.
According to a report in a Mideast business publication, Wadah Khanfar was born and educated in Jordan where, consistent with a Muslim Brotherhood background, he was educated as an engineer. The same report indicates that he also was a student activist, organizing a student union an activity also consistent with a Muslim Brotherhood background. In a TV interview, Khanfar stated that started his career as a journalist as an analyst on African affairs, mainly on Al Jazeera, while living in South Africa where he was doing graduate study in international politics and African studies at the time. He also described himself in the interview as “a researcher and consultant in Middle Eastern economics and political affairs.” In 1997, Khanfar became the Al Jazeera correspondent in South Africa. However, while living in South Africa, Khanfar was also was the Director of Human Resource Development for the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO), an organization closely tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood. A memo purporting to be a 1998 briefing document prepared for the South African President Thabo Mbeki has long been posted on the Internet and describes the IIFSO as working closely with Hamas. The memo also identifies an individual called Wahdan Abu Ahmed KHUNFUR who it says was a Trustee of the Al Aqsa Foundation in South Africa as well as a Hamas contact. The Al Aqsa Foundation is one of the organizations comprising the Union of Good, the worldwide coalition of charities collecting money for Hamas and directed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. The memo appears to be genuine, containing substantial detail and matching the time that Khanfar was known to be living in South Africa, but cannot be verified as genuine or that these are the same individuals. It should be noted, however, that a Jordanian newspaper reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave Qatari officials a file demonstrating Khanfar’s Hamas/Brotherhood connections. An analysis posted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs also traces Mr. Khanfar’s connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and it should be noted that according to a U.K. media report, Khanfar’s brother is a Hamas activist in Jenin. Previous posts have discussed Khanfar’s role as Al Jazeera General manager and his recent resignation well as a report that Al Jazeera coverage changed dramatically to a far more “populist/Islamist approach.” when Khanfar took over in March 2003.