Friday, April 14, 2006

The Radical Politics of Islamic Fundamentalism

From The Australia/Israel Review April 2006 edition, by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen* ...

...Political Islam – aggressive, totalitarian – is now fully on the offensive.
  • On January 3, Iran announced it would restart its nuclear program....
  • On January 25, Palestinians gave a resounding electoral victory to the Islamic messianic political party Hamas, which has now turned to Iran for assistance.
  • the last days of January and first days of February, four quiescent months after a Danish newspaper printed political cartoons of Mohammed, violent mass protests against Denmark and other European countries erupted in the Islamic world.

However disturbing each of these three developments is individually, we would miss their greater significance if we did not see their fundamental relatedness. In fact, they are ominously more important than the sum of their parts.

Within a blink of the political eye, we have witnessed political Islam’s most widespread social mobilisation – from Europe, through the Middle East, and into Asia ...

Political Islam is on the march in the three loci of politics: the street, the halls of power, and the field of battle. Its targets are both domestic (to suppress freedom and dissent within Islamic countries; sharia is already becoming the rule in Gaza) and international (to spread its sway and impose its orthodoxy abroad).

While its international power is still circumscribed, political Islam’s ambitions are extensive, violent, and frightening – with its members sensing its growing potential (fuelled also by America’s geo-strategic weakening in the Iraq quagmire). We must consider that we are witnessing the beginning of political Islam’s intensifying social and political mobilisation into a new multipronged, intercontinental intifada. A Sunni Muslim cleric, having helped organise anti-cartoon protests in his hometown and in Beirut, explained the protests’ significance: “The way I see it, the war [with the West] has already started.”

In the street, the halls of power, and the battlefields, political Islam flexes its muscles. Its physical aggressiveness is exemplified in its disproportionate, violent reaction to the cartoons.... a “spontaneous” Islamic explosion of protest spanned countries and continents.

The initial sites of anti-cartoon violence were in many of political Islam’s hotbeds. In Gaza...Syria, Iran’s close ally...Lebanon, the province of Iranian-controlled Hezbollah .... In Iran, the epicentre of political Pakistan, and in Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. A good portion of the world has become unsafe for, of all peoples, the Danes.

Augmenting the physical violence is the rhetoric of violence ...they brandished murderous banners, including: “massacre those who insult Islam”; “butcher those who mock Islam”; “Britain, you will pay: 7/7 on its way”; and “Europe, your 9/11 will come.” In Gaza, demonstrators demanded the hands of cartoonists be cut off, and an imam at the Omari Mosque declared, to 9,000 of the faithful, “We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible.” More specific death threats against publishers and cartoonists alike, including a bounty of $1 million for the murder of the Danish cartoonists....

This is not normal politics. This is not even the normal excess of normal politics. Imagine what European and American commentators would say if tens of thousands of Americans, Britons, Germans, or Israelis marched with calls for the murder of Palestinians, Lebanese, Iranians, or Muslims in response to a few anti-American, anti-European, or antisemitic cartoons appearing in one, or a few, Arab or Islamic newspapers. Yet Western politicians and commentators have mostly indulged this outpouring of violent hatred. Even when decrying it, they blame the cartoons’ publishers and express pious regret that the cartoons insulted the Prophet Mohammed and Muslims, as if there is any normal political cause and effect (let alone a proportionate one) operating here. This Western indulgence is extremely wrongheaded and self-injurious. It cloaks the political Islamic proto-intifada in a measure of legitimacy. It emboldens its instigators and its shock troops in the street, revealing the West’s unwillingness to respond resolutely to these verbal and physical assaults with moral, rhetorical, and political clarity.

In the halls of power, Hamas is in ascent, armed with the hallucinatory antisemitic and murderous political Islamic ideology and practice that is grounded in its charter. ...In a cascade of antisemitic accusations, Jews emerge virtually as evil incarnate (seeking “to demolish societies, to destroy values, to wreck answerableness, to totter virtues, and to wipe out Islam”), and they are calumnied as culpable for a vast catalogue of invented crimes against humanity (“there was no war that broke out anywhere without their [the Jews’] fingerprints on it”) and for planning to subjugate the entire Middle East as a stepping stone to the rest of the world. Israel, of course, must be destroyed. And not just Israel the country.

The genocidal and apocalyptic charter’s Article 7 declares: “Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise, whatever time it might take. The Prophet... said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” For Hamas, Allah’s promise is the Palestinians’ - indeed all Muslims’ - command. And, showing that Allah’s promise is directed not only at Israel - but that it governs political Islam’s desired treatment of all non-Muslim peoples - Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas’ leader, declared to Italy’s Il Giornale on February 4 in reference to the cartoons, “We should have killed all those who offend the Prophet,” a principle that obviously translates into killing all those who ever offend the Prophet.

Some will want to believe that Hamas will tame itself now that it faces the responsibility of governing. Hamas, under crippling diplomatic and financial pressure, is seeking to do the minimum necessary to get the willfully gullible in the West to sign onto its political legitimacy.... This is the familiar doubletalk among Palestinians dedicated to Israel’s destruction - a moderate face for the Western world, an antisemitic and murderous one when speaking to their own people. When addressing the Islamic world, Meshal (who was just in Teheran making deals) continues to emphasise that Hamas will never change its goals, but rather that, in a plan of stages and varying means, it will work toward its annihilationist end while singing a more acceptable tune to the West: “Hamas has a vision. Hamas has a plan. Hamas can manage the political battle, just like it managed the military battle, but in a different language, with different tools - and recognising Israel is not one of them.”

Meshal said this just a week after the election victory, in a long, chilling address after the Friday sermon at a Damascus mosque. After his audience was moved by his speech to interrupt him with the chant, “Death to Israel. Death to Israel. Death to America,” Meshal lapsed into a blood-curdling reverie: “Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. Allah willing, before they die, they will experience humiliation and degradation every day.... Allah willing, we will make them lose their eyesight, we will make them lose their brains.” And, after the Hamas election victory on February 12, Hamas placed on its official website two Hamas suicide bombers’ video testaments, one of which said, “My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah. We will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood - and our children’s thirst with your blood.” So, after the election victory, from the “high” Meshal to the “low” mass-murdering bomber, when speaking among themselves, it all sounds the same - and a lot like Hamas’s genocidal charter.

The figure who most formidably exemplifies contemporary political Islam is not Osama bin Laden. It is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, with whom Hamas forms a tag-team of interlocking support. Ahmadinejad’s by-now-notorious Holocaust denial was no act of a rash militant. More than being merely antisemitic, it was a symbolic political gauntlet, a declaration to the West that he, Iran, and political Islam seek to overturn what is understood to be truth, who is owed moral respect, and who will determine the contours of acceptable politics.

...This rhetoric of mass murder, though shocking to Western publics and political Islam’s more naïve apologists, is entirely consistent with the genocidal rhetoric and proto-genocidal violence already long practiced by political Islam’s vanguard - especially Hamas and Iranian-controlled Hezbollah - euphemistically known as “suicide-bombing”.

No less than three successive Iranian presidents have publicly called for the annihilation of Israel and the effective mass murder of hundreds of thousands or millions. ... Ahmadinejad’s call to “wipe Israel off the map” ...echoes the “moderate” former president and current Iranian power broker Hashemi Rafsanjani.... “If, one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill, because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Here Rafsanjani is dispassionately thinking through the implications of a genocidal policy in which one nuclear bomb dropped near Tel Aviv would effectively destroy geographically tiny Israel. He gladly declares to his nation and the world that the costs - including hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Iranians dead as a result of nuclear retaliation from Israel’s invulnerable nuclear-armed submarines - would be worth it.

Political Islam is a transnational movement.... It wants politics to be merged with, and subordinated to, Islam in a domestic and (for many) ultimately global rule of fundamentalist versions of Islam.

But by identifying political Islam, we emphatically do not implicate all Muslims or all Islam. The phenomenon includes only Islamic-grounded political regimes, organisations, and initiatives that share (whatever their other - sometimes internecine - differences, Shia versus Sunni, Arab versus Persian, et cetera) a common ideological foundation about Islam’s political primacy or its need to systematically roll back the West. It is a conviction that the modern world is fundamentally corrupt and must be reshaped, often through the annihilation of others. Therein, political Islam resembles the international communist movement in its heyday.

Political Islam is many things: totalitarian, aggressive, conquering, cocksure about its superiority and destiny to rule, intolerant, bristling with resentment, and only tenuously in touch with aspects of reality. But what marks it most distinctively are two things: its religious consecration of its tenets, emotions, and goals, which are putatively grounded in Allah’s will and to which slavish (indeed literally mindless) devotion is due; and its cult of death, which produces its extreme danger and has three central components.

First is the willingness to die (or at least to let political Islam’s duped minions die) for the greater earthly and heavenly glory of political Islam and for a martyr’s place in paradise. This is rhetorically and behaviorally manifest throughout the movement, including in the well-known glorification of suicide bombers’ deaths by the videotaped killers and their families, and in public ceremonies and speeches of political leaders, including Meshal’s broadcast to the world in the wake of Hamas’s election victory: “Today, you are fighting the army of Allah. You are fighting against peoples for whom death for the sake of Allah - and for the sake of honor and glory - is preferable to life.”

Second is the well-established willingness to slaughter entire categories of opponents and the drive to attain the weaponry to do so.

And third is the unabashed rhetorical ease and lurid excess of trumpeting fantasies of killing opponents, starting with Israelis, for any real or imagined bucking of political Islam. (In December, according to a poll conducted for the London Times, 37 percent of British Muslims said that British Jews are “legitimate targets as part of the struggle for justice in the Middle East.”) More than the members of any other major modern political movement, political Islamists, including their highest leaders, exhibit an archaic bloodlust of the kind quoted above, repeatedly speaking with evident relish and unmatched openness of killing their enemies, decapitating them, playing with their blood and body parts, and watching them suffer.

Rafsanjani combined all three components of this death cult with his effective public admission that he would contemplate suffering potentially millions of casualties of his own citizens in a nuclear exchange in order to destroy Israel for the greater glory of Islam. What leaders, other than from political Islam, have openly told such things to their people, including that they would sacrifice millions of them?

In the last 100 years, there has been no equal to this cult of death in major political movements, except Nazism and perhaps imperial Japan. And, like Nazism, political Islam acts irrationally upon its death cult’s violent maxims, no matter their frequent self-destructiveness.

What is political Islam’s game plan for triumphing? ... the current Iranian regime, led by Ahmadinejad, thirsts for revenge against the “arrogant” West. ... A renascent and ascendant Muslim world would first acquire nuclear weapons and thus attain parity of power with the West. Then it would annihilate Israel. Aided by global Islamic forces (there are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world), which are already showing their strength in Europe, political Islam would proceed to assail the West, weaken it, and ultimately subdue it. ...Eventually...a world “without the United States and without Zionism.”

The idea of Iran - together with sundry Islamic regimes, scattered bands of terrorists, and an activated Muslim street in Europe - defeating the West should not be dismissed as a Lilliputian megalomaniacal fantasy. Obviously, many Muslims and their countries will not sign on, and, in the end, political Islam cannot prevail against a resolute West. But, in the meantime, it can do enormous damage. The really bad news is that al-Qaeda is not the main problem. Iran is. As the most powerful political Islamic state, it exports terrorist violence through its proxies and, with diplomacy and petrodollars, supports other political Islamic regimes and insurgencies. And nuclear weapons, after all, are the great military equaliser. Even without them, al-Qaeda was able to inflict colossal damage on the American people and economy. Ahmadinejad’s brazen and cocksure pronouncements of the West’s impending doom echo Nikita Khrushchev’s bullying prophecy, “We will bury you.”

Such reveries appear common among political Islam’s ranks. A placard in the London anti-cartoon demonstration proclaimed, “Europe, you’ll come crawling when mujahideen come roaring!” Hamas dreams of reconquering Seville and extending Islamic power into Europe. And, after commanding Europe to apologise to the Islamic nation in his televised al-Jazeera sermon, Meshal warned, “Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination, but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing.”

...Islamic world is in the throes of political Islam, even if much of it is not. (It’s a big world.) Political Islam controls governments and threatens others, and it is being successfully deployed by cynics in a variety of countries and societies. It has highly motivated and effective terrorist groups. Anyone indiscriminately targeting civilians in so-called suicide-bombing, or applauding such proto-genocidal killing; anyone calling for the murder of cartoonists and those who publish them, or applauding such calls; anyone threatening mass murder in today’s world while working to conquer the territory or acquire the weaponry to make it possible, or applauding such threats, understands, in this age of al-Jazeera and the Internet, that this is all part of a widespread political Islamic assault on the West. The history of genocide in the modern era is that, in the rare instances that political leaders publicly threaten to annihilate enemy peoples, they mean it.

But there are grounds for hope.... Until now, political Islam was content to attack rhetorically and physically only Israel, the United States, and occasionally their most conspicuous allies (Great Britain and Spain for joining the United States in the war in Iraq). Most European countries (even if we acknowledge some real divergence from the United States in outlook) were content to free-ride on America’s willingness to be the front line against political Islam’s aggressiveness. But, now, political Islam has decided to abandon its self restraint in expressing and acting on its global hostility to the West. And it has gone too far. We may be witnessing a shake-up in European political thinking vis-à-vis political Islam and Israel’s role in the conflicts in, and emanating from, the Middle East.

Many Europeans finally get it. Although it is unlikely to appear overnight, there are encouraging signs. Merkel’s call to stop the Iranians, and her appropriate adoption of the Hitler comparison, has -.... On February 23, leading members of Italy’s government issued a manifesto - “For the West, Force of Civilisation” - that begins, “The West is in crisis. Attacked externally by fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism, it is not able to rise to the challenge.” A few days later, Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, criticised “timid European political leaders” for their failure to respond resolutely to the anti-cartoon violence. “To stand firm,” the paper concluded, “when others are thrusting a war of civilisations upon you that you never wanted to fight is difficult. But to yield means definite ruin.” Even Great Britain’s Guardian, for long virtually a house organ for the Palestinians’ and political Islam’s assaults on Israel and the United States, has made a stunning about-face, alarmed by political Islam’s adherents’ calls for murder. After arguing, in a stinging editorial, for the prosecution of the “Muslim fanatics”, whose threat it describes as “real, present and serious,” the Guardian explained, “Ours is a tolerant way of life; we must be robust in defending it against its enemies.”

As political Islam has made clear in the last few weeks, the battle is to be fought on the three fronts of politics - the street, the halls of power, and the battlefield. Two of the fronts are relatively easy to engage. The West is powerful, and political Islam has no hope of prevailing should Europe stand united with the United States and Israel against the intimidation of the street and the machinations of political Islam in the halls of power. So the most pressing questions are: With what unity and determination will the West respond to political Islam? And on battlefields of whose choosing?

*Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, an affiliate of Harvard’s Centre for European Studies and author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, is completing a book on genocide in our time. © The New Republic, reprinted in the AIJAC Review by permission, all rights reserved.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Football Killing Fields

From National Review Online, April 11, 2006, 1:11 p.m., by Tom Gross ...

Outrage and disbelief as world soccer body condemns Israel, not Hamas.
...FIFA has condemned Israel for an air strike on an empty soccer field in the Gaza Strip that was used for training exercises by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. This strike did not cause any injuries. But at the same time FIFA has refused to condemn a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli soccer field last week which did cause injuries.

...As FIFA meets in the next few days to decide what action to take against Israel, the double standards involved could not be more obvious. Up to now FIFA, which sees itself as a purely sporting body, has gone out of its way to avoid politics, and has refrained from criticizing even the most appalling human-rights abuses connected to soccer players and stadiums.

When Saddam Hussein's son Uday had Iraqi soccer players tortured in 1997 after they failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France, FIFA remained silent. Uday, who was chairman of the Iraqi soccer association, had star players tortured again in 1998. And in 2000, following a quarterfinal defeat in the Asia Cup, three Iraqi players were whipped and beaten for three days by Uday's bodyguards. The torture took place at the Iraqi Olympic Committee headquarters, but FIFA said nothing.

Again, FIFA simply looked the other way while the Taliban used U.N.-funded soccer fields to slaughter and flog hundreds of innocent people who had supposedly violated sharia law in front of crowds of thousands chanting "God is great." (Afghan soccer coach Habib Ullahniazi said that as many as 30 people were executed in the middle of the field during the intermissions of a single soccer match at Kabul's Ghazi Stadium.)

FIFA equally failed to speak out when soccer stadiums in Argentina were turned into jails.

FIFA's silence was no less deafening when, according to the International Red Cross, about 7,000 prisoners were detained (and some tortured) in Chile's national soccer stadium after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973.

...As for the Middle East, FIFA refused to criticize the decision to name a Palestinian soccer tournament after a suicide terrorist who murdered 31 people at a Passover celebration at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002. (At the tournament, organized under Yasser Arafat's auspices in 2003, the brother of the suicide bomber was given the honorary role of distributing the trophies to the winning team.)

FIFA also failed to condemn the suicide bomb at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October 2003 which injured three officials from the leading Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa.

But then last week, FIFA finally found a target worthy of its outrage, and leapt into action. That target was Israel.

The international governing body for soccer condemned the Jewish state, and announced that it was considering possible action over the Israeli air strike last week on the Gaza soccer field that had been used for terrorist training exercises. The field, which had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad, was empty at the time; the strike itself came in response to the continuing barrage of Qassam rocket attacks directed at Israeli towns and villages.

Only a couple of days earlier, one of those Qassam rockets landed on a soccer field at the Karmiya kibbutz in southern Israel, causing light injuries to one person. Several other Israeli children and adults needed to be treated for shock. The attack was claimed by the Al-Quds brigades, an armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The soccer pitch is regularly used by children and it was only a matter of luck that there were not greater injuries. (Since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, several members of the kibbutz, including a ten-month-old baby, have been wounded after their homes took direct hits from Qassams. Israelis elsewhere have died after being hit by these weapons.)

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Jerome Champagne, FIFA's deputy general secretary, who had personally condemned the attack on the Palestinian soccer pitch, refused to extend a similar condemnation to the attack on the Israeli pitch.

Champagne said he had discussed the matter with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and that a decision on what action to take against Israel would be announced soon. Champagne, a French national, also sent an official letter to the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland. (FIFA is based in Zurich.)...

The outrage felt in soccer-mad Israel at these astonishing double standards is all the greater since FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made it clear that FIFA should not become involved in politics. Following calls last December from German politicians that Iran should be banned from participating in the forthcoming World Cup (which starts in Germany on June 9, 2006) because of repeated Holocaust denial by the Iranian president, Blatter said "We're not going to enter into any political declarations. We in football, if we entered into such discussions, then it would be against our statutes. We are not in politics."

Indeed so emboldened does Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now feel by FIFA's support that he announced last week that he will likely attend Iran's opening match against Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11. Holocaust denial is a serious crime punishable by a prison term of up to five years in Germany, but Ahmadinejad no doubt feels that powerful international bodies like FIFA will protect him.

Meanwhile FIFA (and other sporting bodies) continually turn a blind eye to boycotts of Israeli sportsmen.

In February, Tal Ben Haim — the Israeli national soccer team captain, who plays his club soccer for the English Premiership team Bolton Wanderers — was banned from joining his Bolton teammates for their training matches in Dubai. FIFA pointedly ignored this. ...Only last week, another English club, West Ham, left their two Israeli players, Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan, at home when they went to Dubai. FIFA naturally had nothing to say....

— Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and New York Daily News. Among his previous pieces for NRO is "Jeningrad".)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Farewell Arik Sharon

From Ynet news 11/4/06 by Ronny Sofer ...

Government bids Ariel Sharon goodbye: Ailing prime minister declared permanently unfit to head country after 100 days in hospital; Special government session called to declare Olmert no longer temporary replacement

The government convened Tuesday morning for a special session in order to declare that Ehud Olmert is no longer a temporary replacement for ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

On Friday, Sharon will complete a 100-day stay at hospital, paving the way for declaring him permanently unfit to lead the country by law....

... the government session marked an official farewell from Sharon's leadership. ...Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said: "This is a difficult and sad day for all of us....We didn't imagine we'd reach this moment. We're praying and hoping for Ariel Sharon's wellbeing ...."

Palestinians appeal to UN

From JPost Apr. 10, 2006 By YAAKOV KATZ ...

The Palestinians called on the United Nations Security Council to take harsh steps against Israel following the death of an 8-year-old girl from IDF artillery fire in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip. According to Army Radio, the Palestinian Authority's observer in the UN, Riad Mansour, said that "the international community cannot stand by while women, men and children are killed and wounded."

Mansour added that Arab states were expected to meet soon to decide how to deal with IDF strikes in the Gaza Strip, including turning to the UNSC with a request to take on the issue.

....The IDF expressed regret over the girl's death and the wounding of civilians, but blamed terrorist groups continuing to fire Kassam rockets at Israel.

..."Rockets are one of the resistance tools," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas government. "Our people have the right to resist the occupation. The occupation is the problem and as long as the problem exists our people have the right to resist."

... the IDF shut down the Jericho District Coordination Office (DCO).... following the government's resolution on Sunday to reinforce its measures against the new Hamas-led Palestinian government, declaring it a "hostile entity" and ruling out contacts, including talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

...A joint Israeli-Palestinian civil administration for the territories, the Jericho-based DCO was established following the signing of the Oslo Accords and represented one of the strongest links between Israel and the PA. The Jericho office was the last remaining remnant from the Oslo Accords and, in other PA-controlled cities, coordination between the IDF and the Palestinian security forces was done by phone.

AP contributed to this report.


From an article Published by the GLORIA Center,Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya Volume 10, No. 1, Article 2 - March 2006 By Joshua Teitelbaum and Meir Litvak*, translated from Hebrew by Keren Ribo (the source article is a long, academic piece, but well worth it for serious students of the Middle East, who will be subtley affected by its subject matter throughout their academic careers)...

Since the publication of "Orientalism" in 1978, Edward Said's critique has become the hegemonic discourse of Middle Eastern studies in the academy. While Middle Eastern studies can improve, and some part of Said's criticism is valid, it is apparent that the Orientalism critique has done more harm than good.

Although Said accuses the West and Western researchers of "essentializing" Islam, he himself commits a similar sin when he writes that Western researchers and the West are monolithic and unchanging. Such a view delegitimizes any search for knowledge--the very foundation of the academy. One of Said's greatest Arab critics, Syrian philosopher Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, attacked Said for the anti-intellectualism of this view. Since German and Hungarian researchers are not connected to imperialism, Said conveniently leaves them out of his critique. Said also ignores the positive contribution that researchers associated with power made to the understanding of the Middle East. Said makes an egregious error by negating any Islamic influence on the history of the region.

His discursive ... led him before September 11, 2001 to denigrate the idea that Islamist terrorists could blow up buildings and sabotage airplanes.

Finally, Said's influence has been destructive: it has contributed greatly to the excessively politicized atmosphere in Middle Eastern studies that rejects a critical self-examination of the field, as well as of Middle Eastern society and politics.....


Despite the positive contribution of "Orientalism" in increasing the awareness of scholars to cultural biases and the importance of discourse in shaping research, the harm the book wrought was no less great. Apart from unfounded historical generalizations on the development of Middle Eastern studies in the West, on "representing" Islam in the West, and on Middle Eastern society itself, even to the point of adopting essentialist approaches which he himself attacked, there are several methodological failures in the book which cast a shadow over Said's writing. Amongst these one can point to the unspoken demand that the scholar identify with the object of his research as a precondition for research aptitude; giving preference to matters of presentation ... over aiming at empirical and historical truth; and ignoring Islam as a significant cultural discourse, a key factor in the formation of Middle Eastern politics and society.

The principle problem in Said's criticism is its contribution to the exaggerated politicization of Middle Eastern studies and transforming it into a hegemonic discourse which silences all self-criticism, for self- criticism is the essence of all academic research.

As we reflect back on more than a quarter century since the publication of Orientalism, it seems that Arab intellectuals in the Middle East are more self-critical than ever before. The Internet, an opening up of the press, and satellite television have increased the amount of public space for airing opinion. Self-criticism in the Middle East is flourishing.[76] For many years, Middle Eastern studies in the West has suffered from a kind of self-censorship that threatened to destroy "the free spirit of inquiry, discovery, and expression which has inspired and guided the whole modern movement of scholarship and science."[77] It is our hope that the opening up of debate in the Middle East--be it with respect to women's issues, Islam, democracy, or peace with Israel--will serve as an example, loosening up the stifling effect that Said had on Middle Eastern studies scholarship in the Western academy.

*Joshua Teitelbaum is Senior Fellow, Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, and Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern History, Bar Ilan University. Meir Litvak is Senior Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies, and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University. Dr. Teitelbaum began his studies at UCLA in 1976; Dr. Litvak began his at Tel Aviv University in 1980. In this article, they reflect on the influence of Said's Orientalism throughout their years of studying and teaching about Islam and the Middle East. They hope it will be useful to students and teachers alike. This is a revised and expanded version of an article which appeared in Hamizrah Hehadash, Vol. 55 (2005).

Hamas against the world

From Ynet News 110/4/06 by Sever Plocker . . .

The sooner Israel and the world bring down Hamas, the better it will be for everyone

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the world seem to be headed for a head-on collision. . . The . . .intention is to cause complete chaos in the PA that would then force President Mahmoud Abbas to disband parliament and call new elections.

.... the U.S. administration and Congress have cut off commercial, economic and foreign aid . . .European Union ...senior officials have refused monetary aid and have broken economic or diplomatic ties with official and semi-official PA institutions, and international aid organizations have quietly begun pulling their workers out of PA areas and halting many joint activities with the PA.

...Israeli banks have announced they would stop providing services to Palestinian banks...because of laws prohibiting money laundering that could finance terrorism. The large Arab banks, including some that served the Palestinian Authority in the past, "disengaged" from the Palestinians even before the Israeli ones. In this situation, it's not just that the Palestinian treasury is empty. It has no treasury.

At the same time Israel has upped its military pressure on Hamas and expanded the attacks and targeted assassinations (including, but not limited to, in response to the onslaught of Qassam rockets). These attacks are meant not only to prevent the restoration of a severely limited terrorist infrastructure, but also to send a clear message to the new Palestinian administration: From Israel's perspective, Hamas remains a terrorist organization, period..

... there is an Iran-like administration gaining ground in the PA....The real rulers are the security and terror organizations, who themselves are subservient to highly secrete authorities... If it can manage to hold on to power long enough to create a manageable economic reality, get rid of Fatah activists, give out jobs to party supporters and to win a minimum of international and Arab recognition, it will be able to position itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people for years to come.

The earlier Israel and the international community work to bring down the Hamas government, the better it will be for everyone. Hamas must not be allowed to function, or even raise its head.

Preventing the Iranization of the Palestinian Authority is not just an Israeli interest. It is an interest of the entire Middle East, and of the entire world. The Hamas revolution will not stop at the border crossings of Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas: Islamo-fascist threat

The Australian editorial 10/4/06 calls for Hamas to "adapt" to Israel. A number of letters to the editor were published in response (11/4/06). This is the full text of one letter . . .

Dear Sir
Your Editorial today ("Hamas must adapt", 10th April) expresses a commendable but sadly unrealistic hope: that Hamas will reinvent itself soon. This won't happen and the time has come to seek other answers for the misery being endured by people of the region, above all the Palestinian Arabs.

Hamas views its political mission as the vanguard of the worldwide Islamic revolution led by its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. Its election win is simply a tactic to establish Islamic rule under Sharia law and will lead, in fact, to the eradication of democracy under its regime. Hitler similarly used democratic means to establish his version of totalitarianism.

History makes it clear that the Arab nations, including the Palestinians, are not really interested in Palestinian statehood at all. They have rejected every single proposal to establish a state, including the 1937 Peel Commission, the 1939 British White Paper, the 1947 UN partition plan, the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations, and the 1993-2000 Oslo process culminating in Barak's offer. From 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank. The Palestinians could have demanded, and the Jordanians could have granted, an independent state, but did not.
The Palestinian humanitarian crisis is caused less by the aspiration to establish a Palestinian state and more by the aspiration to destroy the Jewish state. Your editorial call to abandon this futile mission as a necessary precursor to true peace is right, but unrealistic. It won't happen soon, and certainly not under the leadership of Hamas.

What's needed is for the Arab nations to stop using the Palestinians as political pawns. Under the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) established exclusively and temporarily for Palestinians in 1949, and with a unique definition of the term "refugee", half a million Palestinian refugees of the late 1940s have today become four million-plus. Every other group of refugees over the past 60 years (including over 20 million European refugees of WW2 and 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab nations) under the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has dwindled in number as people are resettled. The PA has administered Gaza and its eight refugee camps since 1994. Rather than encourage Palestinians to resettle in new locations or assume responsibility for their own lives under the Palestinian Authority, the Arab world, abetted by UNRWA, has actively expanded Palestinian refugee numbers and exacerbated their misery, as a ploy to destroy Israel.

You cannot expect Hamas to lead the Arab world into acceptance of a Jewish neighbour.

Hamas is an Islamo-fascist threat to Israel, Arab democracy, and the whole civilised world. The abandonment of the dream of destroying Israel must start with the truly moderate Arab nations and dawn on the whole Arab world ....

Regards . . .

Monday, April 10, 2006

Islam's Imperial Dreams

From The Wall Street Journal Opinion page, Tuesday, April 4, 2006 BY EFRAIM KARSH ...

Muslim political ambitions aren't a reaction to Western encroachments.

When satirical depictions of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper sparked a worldwide wave of Muslim violence early this year, observers naturally focused on the wanton destruction of Western embassies, businesses, and other institutions.

Less attention was paid to the words that often accompanied the riots--words with ominous historical echoes. "Hurry up and apologize to our nation, because if you do not, you will regret it," declared Khaled Mash'al, the leader of Hamas, fresh from the Islamist group's sweeping victory in the Palestinian elections: "This is because our nation is progressing and is victorious. . . . By Allah, you will be defeated. . . . Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good."

Among Islamic radicals, such gloating about the prowess and imminent triumph of their "nation" is as commonplace .... These historical claims are in turn frequently dismissed by Westerners as delusional, a species of mere self-aggrandizement or propaganda. But the Islamists are perfectly serious.... Though tempered and qualified in different places and at different times, the Islamic longing for unfettered suzerainty has never disappeared, and has resurfaced in our own day with a vengeance. ....

... As a universal religion, Islam envisages a global political order in which all humankind will live under Muslim rule ... As the 14th-century historian and philosopher Abdel Rahman ibn Khaldun wrote, "In the Muslim community, the jihad is a religious duty because of the universalism of the Islamic mission and the obligation [to convert] everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force." ....

.... Physical force has remained the main if not the sole instrument of political discourse in the Middle East. Throughout the region, absolute leaders still supersede political institutions, and citizenship is largely synonymous with submission; power is often concentrated in the hands of small, oppressive minorities; religious, ethnic, and tribal conflicts abound; and the overriding preoccupation of sovereigns is with their own survival.

...these circumstances have resulted in the world's most illiberal polities. Political dissent is dealt with by repression, and ethnic and religious differences are settled by internecine strife and murder. One need only mention, among many instances, Syria's massacre of 20,000 of its Muslim activists in the early 1980's, or the brutal treatment of Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish communities until the 2003 war, or the genocidal campaign now being conducted in Darfur by the government of Sudan and its allied militias.

As for foreign policy in the Middle East, it too has been pursued by means of crude force, ranging from terrorism and subversion to outright aggression, with examples too numerous and familiar to cite.

Reinforcing these habits is the fact that, to this day, Islam has retained its imperial ambitions...... Like the leaders of al Qaeda, many Muslims and Arabs unabashedly pine for the reconquest of Spain and consider their 1492 expulsion from the country a grave historical injustice waiting to be undone...

...Whether in its militant or its more benign version, this world-conquering agenda continues to meet with condescension and denial on the part of many educated Westerners. To intellectuals, foreign-policy experts, and politicians alike, "empire" and "imperialism" are categories that apply exclusively to the European powers and, more recently, to the United States. In this view of things, Muslims, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, are merely objects--the long-suffering victims of the aggressive encroachments of others. Lacking an internal, autonomous dynamic of its own, their history is rather a function of their unhappy interaction with the West, whose obligation it is to make amends. This perspective dominated the widespread explanation of the 9/11 attacks as only a response to America's (allegedly) arrogant and self-serving foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

...however, Islamic history has been anything but reactive. From Muhammad to the Ottomans, the story of Islam has been the story of the rise and fall of an often astonishing imperial aggressiveness and, no less important, of never quiescent imperial dreams. Even as these dreams have repeatedly frustrated any possibility for the peaceful social and political development of the Arab-Muslim world, they have given rise to no less repeated fantasies of revenge and restoration and to murderous efforts to transform fantasy into fact. If, today, America is reviled in the Muslim world, it is not because of its specific policies but because, as the preeminent world power, it blocks the final realization of this same age-old dream of regaining, in Zawahiri's words, the "lost glory" of the caliphate.

.... now that this war has itself met with a so far determined counterattack by the United States and others, and with a Western intervention in the heart of the House of Islam, it has escalated to a new stage of virulence....for if the political elites of the Middle East and elsewhere were ever to reconcile themselves to the reality that there is no Arab or Islamic "nation," but only modern Muslim states with destinies and domestic responsibilities of their own, the imperialist dream would die.

It is in recognition of this state of affairs that Zawahiri wrote his now famous letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, in July 2005. ..... Only by harnessing popular support, Zawahiri concluded, would it be possible to come to power by means of democracy itself, thereby to establish jihadist rule in Iraq, and then to move onward to conquer still larger and more distant realms and impose the writ of Islam far and wide.

Something of the same logic clearly underlies the carefully plotted rise of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, the (temporarily thwarted) attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to exploit the demand for free elections there, and the accession of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. Indeed...some analysts now see a new "axis of Islam" arising in the Middle East, uniting Hizballah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, elements of Iraq's Shiites, and others in an anti-American, anti-Israel alliance backed by Russia.

... the fuel of Islamic imperialism remains as volatile as ever, and is very far from having burned itself out. To deny its force is the height of folly, and to imagine that it can be appeased or deflected is to play into its hands. Only when it is defeated, and when the faith of Islam is no longer a tool of Islamic political ambition, will the inhabitants of Muslim lands, and the rest of the world, be able to look forward to a future less burdened by Saladins and their gory dreams.

Mr. Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, and his new book, "Islamic Imperialism: A History," on which this article is based, is about to be published by Yale. This article originally appeared in the April issue of Commentary.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hamas:Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism

From JCPA , Institute for Contemporary Affairs founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation, JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF, Vol. 5, No. 22, 6 April 2006, by Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi. . . .

. . . . Hamas' tactical agreement to play by the democratic rules was a Trojan horse. It exploited the fragmentation of Fatah and the weakness of the Palestinian Authority to achieve political dominance as a first stage toward establishing Islamic rule that will implement Sharia law and lead, in fact, to the eradication of democracy.

Hamas views its political mission as the vanguard of the worldwide Islamic revolution led by its parent-movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas' rise to power has inspired Islamic movements all over the world and motivated them to emulate Hamas' approach (tactical participation in a democratic process) in order to win similar successes in their own countries, especially in Jordan.

The current leader of the international Muslim Brotherhood, Mahdi 'Akef, recently issued a new strategy calling on all its member organizations to serve its global agenda of defeating the West. He called on individual members of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide to not only join the "resistance" to the U.S. financially, but also through active participation.

Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam, who is responsible for the Palestinian security forces, publicly committed himself on March 24, 2006, not to order arrests of operatives who carry out terror attacks. In light of al-Qaeda's growing interest since August 2005 in developing a presence in the West Bank and Gaza, Sayyam's declaration amounts to an open invitation to terrorists of all stripes to acquire a refuge and a convenient base for activity.

It should come as no surprise that the Palestinian Authority under Hamas rule is becoming a safe haven for Islamic terror organizations, first and foremost al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda totally rejects any element of Western influence and sees terror as the most effective means to overthrow the infidel regimes, spread Islam, and establish Islamic rule. Hamas, however, is prepared to make a pretense of going along with Western democratic rules and thereby exploit them to remove the infidel regimes, propagate Islam, and install Islamic rule that will eliminate democracy. However, its ultimate long-term goals are no different from al-Qaeda's.

As recently as March 2006, high-level Hamas officials attended events in Pakistan and Yemen where members of the al-Qaeda network were present and in one case offered monetary support for the new Hamas government. Al-Hayat reported on April 4, 2006, "a definite presence" of al-Qaeda operatives in the Gaza Strip who had just infiltrated from several Arab countries.....

Follow the link for the full paper.

US planning strike on Iran

From JPost, Apr. 8, 2006 12:59, by BARRY SCHWEID AND JERUSALEM POST STAFF ....

The American government is planning a military strike on Iran, including bombing its nuclear reactor, according to an investigative report to be published in the April 17 issue week of The New Yorker magazine.

According to the report, which quotes a former senior CIA official, President George Bush and his administration see Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "a new Adolf Hitler."
A senior Pentagon adviser, quoted in the article, said the White House was convinced the only way to solve the problem would be to change the balance of power with Iran through war.
Another former senior American defense official said the United States was planning a series of bombing operations against Iran that would humiliate its religious leadership and lead its people to replace their government.

The report comes shortly after the failure of talks between the US and Iran over the future of Iraq, according to a source in the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, Israel Radio reported. Nevertheless, the source said, it was hoped that the discussions would recommence after the establishment of a new government in Iraq.

....The US and the Europeans have brought their case against Iran to the United Nations, but there is no decision on whether to try to impose economic or other penalties on Iran to try to force a resumption of negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.

In Vienna, Austria, diplomatic sources reported the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, would go to Teheran this week to try to wrest concessions. In about two weeks, he is due to report to the Security Council on whether Iran is heeding a call by the council to reimpose a freeze on enrichment of uranium and fully open its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

... the (US) administration hoped ElBaradei would reinforce a message to the Iranian government that it must comply with its international obligations, including curbs on proliferating nuclear technology.

IAF air strikes kill 14 in Gaza

From JPost, Apr. 7, 2006 23:09 by YAAKOV KATZ ...

An IAF aircraft fired missiles at a Fatah training camp near Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip late Saturday evening after spotting suspicious activity. Six Palestinians were killed in the strike. Weekend missile strikes killed a total of 14 Palestinians, including a seven-year-old boy.

Security forces will go on high alert Sunday morning out of fear that Palestinian terror groups will launch retaliatory attacks against Israel.

.... despite the targeted killings and escalation in the IDF's anti-Kassam operation launched a week-and-a-half ago and dubbed "Southern Arrow", Palestinian terror cells still succeeded in launching at least five rockets at Israel over the weekend. The IDF responded with artillery barrages that pounded Kassam launch sites in addition to IAF missile strikes on two access routes used by the rocket cells in the northern Gaza Strip.

The actions drew a harsh response from the Hamas with Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the new government, calling the attack a brutal massacre. "Maybe it's an important message to the president (Abbas) today that Israel is not interested in peace or political compromises," he said.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the PA chairman, called Friday's missile strike an "unforgivable crime," adding that "Israel's destructive policy is a continuing violation of the calm and will soon have painful consequences." Abu Rudeina called on the Quartet to intervene "in order to pressure Israel to stop its attack on the Palestinians."

The heads of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip also issued threats and in a public message, said "the movement will not return to business as usual following the crimes committed by the Israelis. The movement's enemies will pay [and] the coming days will prove the seriousness of our intentions. The Zionist enemy must wait and see our powerful and painful response." ...