Wednesday, April 04, 2007
...Despite the best intentions of a generation of would-be peacemakers and a host of concessions on the part of the Israelis, Arab and Muslim opinion seems even more set in its determination to depict Israel as an evil oppressor. Indeed, the long record of Israeli peace offers and withdrawals since the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 has, if anything, seemed to encourage the demonization of both the Jews and their state.
The view of this lamentable drift toward further conflict from afar is - though it entails less personal sacrifice - just as dispiriting. For Jews in the Diaspora, even those who care deeply about Israel's welfare, the process by which nothing seems to deflect the Palestinian Arabs from a course set for violence is both perplexing and horrifying.
As the virus of anti-Zionism - a belief that is more often than not merely a thinly veiled New Age intellectual version of classical anti-Semitism - spreads from Europe to America's college campuses, the question of how to answer the challenge has left many Jews confused. A consistent pattern of Israeli peace offers and concessions answered by Palestinian rejection and terrorism ought to have ended serious discussion about American pressure on the Jewish state.
But it hasn't. If anything, the more Israel seeks to give in the name of peace, the worse it is treated.
If affirming their continued support for the right of Israel to defend itself against terror makes them stand out, then many American Jews simply opt out. The reaction from many Jews who don't wish to identify with the side that liberal intellectuals often brand these days as the bad guy of the Middle East is to abandon advocacy for Israel - or at least downplay it.
.....The Haggada speaks of the Divine promise of the redemption of the children of Israel in Egypt by reminding us that "this promise has sustained our fathers and us. For not only one enemy has risen against us, in every generation men rise against us to destroy us."
.... students of all ages, as well as their parents, must recall that the goal of contemporary anti-Semitism is specifically to detach us from our history and our connection to Israel.
The retelling of the story of the Exodus seems to inspire free people everywhere. Yet it also represents the aspirations of countless generations of Jews, who dreamed not merely of universal freedom but of the revival of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. We owe it to them - and even more, to ourselves - and to those who will come after us to never forget that.
Refocusing on that narrative is daunting when you consider the rising support for Palestinian dreams of eradicating Israel and the world's willingness to tolerate Iran's faith-based drive for nuclear weapons to help accomplish that horrifying goal. In the face of such hatred, it's possible to lose heart and to stand silent while an intellectual mob bays for Jewish blood.
But as difficult as the times may be, the words of the Haggada.... can still supply us with the courage that we need. It's a lesson we must teach again to our children and ourselves. Like each Jewish generation since the Exodus that preceded us.....
The writer is executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.
Unilateral concessions have failed; different Israeli approach needed
On hearing the prime minister optimistically predict a peace agreement within a short timeframe, we would do well to prepare for further diplomatic flexibility on our part.
The two diplomatic formulas which were rejected by Sharon during his term in office - the Saudi Initiative and the Geneva Initiative – are now being renewed by Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. If various clauses in these initiatives are adopted, they will join the series of Israeli concessions, withdrawals and flexibility of the last decade - almost all of them undertaken unilaterally and void of any benefit.
In the summer of 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak tried for the first time to end the conflict all at once. The concessions he presented at Camp David went far beyond anything Israel was prepared to relinquish in the past, breaking what was termed "red lines."
Yasser Arafat rejected the proposals and didn't even bother to present counter proposals. Weeks later the Palestinians embarked on the Intifada. By the end of the year, in a desperate election eve attempt in Taba, the Barak cabinet proposed further concessions beyond those offered at Camp David – all in vain.
Even with the change in government and in the face of growing violence, Israel's principle positions continued to erode. In the Latroun address in 2003 Prime Minister Sharon stated that the Palestinian state is a "de facto" state.
His statement led to the Quartet's Road Map that allotted three years to a peace agreement and enabled the establishment of a Palestinian state prior to that – without any parallel compensation (such as right of return for refugees to areas under Palestinian rule only.)
Sharon ignored its drawbacks and preferred to highlight the fact that the first phase demanded that the Palestinians dismantle their terror infrastructure; he then forced the Road Map on his cabinet.
Yet just a few months later, he deviated from the Road Map and launched the "disengagement" initiative, which comprised new concessions: Dismantling the settlement bloc and full withdrawal to the 1967 borders before reaching a final-status agreement and without receiving anything in return.
Under pressure from Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon managed to extract from the Americans several understandings relating to a future final-status agreement: American recognition that Israel is entitled to defensible borders; inclusion of the large settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty; and a declaration that Palestinian refugees would not return to Israeli territory.
Leftist wishful thinking
When the "disengagement" was over, its architects, including Olmert and Livni, announced similar moves in Judea and Samaria within the framework of the "realignment." Mahmoud Abbas' helplessness, the rise of Hamas to power and the Second Lebanon War delayed the plan, and we could have expected that lessons would have been drawn, but now it appears that unilateral submission is likely to continue.
Since the "disengagement," dismantling of terror infrastructures is no longer a prerequisite for diplomatic talks, and Israel has come to terms with a Palestinian national unity government that includes Hamas, while it is also prepared to enter talks on a political horizon, namely, on the clauses of a final-status agreement. The renewal of the Saudi Initiative, whose key demand is withdrawal to the 1967 borders on all frontiers, also constitutes the relinquishment of understandings accepted from the time of US President Ford until George W. Bush.
How did it transpire that while the Arabs and Palestinians are sticking to their guns and even increasing their demands, Israel is skipping from one initiative to another while abandoning principles and positions that were deemed crucial only yesterday?
This has several explanations: According to the Leftist approach, for example, Palestinian demands are essentially justified; the Israeli occupation is the mother of all sins, and therefore, any concession or withdrawal is a blessing.
Another position is the enchantment of reconciliation – the belief that aggressive and demanding parties can be placated by giving in to their demands. There's also detachment from reality - ignoring the data and situation, as presented by the intelligence forces – and wishful thinking. Mistakes were also made due to absentmindedness and weakness.
Different approach needed
Another common error stems from ignorance when it comes to the rules of negotiation, and primarily from misunderstanding the difficulties entailed in unilateral moves: There are no free meals and there are no free concessions.
And finally, and this should not be concealed, since Taba, through to the "disengagement" and perhaps until today, the ineffective practice of concessions has been carried out for the sole purpose of political survival.
Will a downfall and a series of concessions satisfy the Palestinians to such an extent that they would end the conflict and cease making further demands on us?
It is doubtful whether this will happen, because historically the more Israel moderated its demands, the more the Palestinians hardened theirs. Moreover, it will not happen because unilateralism or the series of concessions were not subjected to mutual concessions, and also because Palestinians have not allowed closure in any former attempts.
The incumbent Palestinian government's positions are similar to those prevalent prior to Oslo, and gradually signs of Palestinian-Israeli demands are also becoming evident and joining external ones – this does not herald the end of the conflict, but rather, the demise of the Jewish State.
This is not the way to make peace. Right from the start we needed a different Israeli approach, void of the above failures and futile reconciliations and focused on the advancement of Israeli interests rather than sacrificing them.
Sadly, mainstream Muslim teaching accepts and promotes violence.
... there is much that is clearly wrong with the Islamic world. Women are stoned to death and undergo clitorectomies. Gays hang from the gallows under the approving eyes of the proponents of Shariah, the legal code of Islam. Sunni and Shia massacre each other daily in Iraq. Palestinian mothers teach 3-year-old boys and girls the ideal of martyrdom. One would expect the orthodox Islamic establishment to evade or dismiss these complaints, but less happily, the non-Muslim priests of enlightenment in the West have come, actively and passively, to the Islamists' defense.
These "progressives" frequently cite the need to examine "root causes." In this they are correct: Terrorism is only the manifestation of a disease and not the disease itself. But the root-causes are quite different from what they think. As a former member of Jemaah Islamiya, a group led by al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, I know firsthand that the inhumane teaching in Islamist ideology can transform a young, benevolent mind into that of a terrorist. Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it. While there are many ideological "rootlets" of Islamism, the main tap root has a name--Salafism, or Salafi Islam, a violent, ultra-conservative version of the religion.
It is vital to grasp that traditional and even mainstream Islamic teaching accepts and promotes violence. Shariah, for example, allows apostates to be killed, permits beating women to discipline them, seeks to subjugate non-Muslims to Islam as dhimmis and justifies declaring war to do so. It exhorts good Muslims to exterminate the Jews before the "end of days." The near deafening silence of the Muslim majority against these barbaric practices is evidence enough that there is something fundamentally wrong.
The grave predicament we face in the Islamic world is the virtual lack of approved, theologically rigorous interpretations of Islam that clearly challenge the abusive aspects of Shariah. Unlike Salafism, more liberal branches of Islam, such as Sufism, typically do not provide the essential theological base to nullify the cruel proclamations of their Salafist counterparts. And so, for more than 20 years I have been developing and working to establish a theologically-rigorous Islam that teaches peace.
Yet it is ironic and discouraging that many non-Muslim, Western intellectuals--who unceasingly claim to support human rights--have become obstacles to reforming Islam. Political correctness among Westerners obstructs unambiguous criticism of Shariah's inhumanity. They find socioeconomic or political excuses for Islamist terrorism such as poverty, colonialism, discrimination or the existence of Israel. What incentive is there for Muslims to demand reform when Western "progressives" pave the way for Islamist barbarity? Indeed, if the problem is not one of religious beliefs, it leaves one to wonder why Christians who live among Muslims under identical circumstances refrain from contributing to wide-scale, systematic campaigns of terror.
Politicians and scholars in the West have taken up the chant that Islamic extremism is caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict. This analysis cannot convince any rational person that the Islamist murder of over 150,000 innocent people in Algeria--which happened in the last few decades--or their slaying of hundreds of Buddhists in Thailand, or the brutal violence between Sunni and Shia in Iraq could have anything to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Western feminists duly fight in their home countries for equal pay and opportunity, but seemingly ignore, under a façade of cultural relativism, that large numbers of women in the Islamic world live under threat of beating, execution and genital mutilation, or cannot vote, drive cars and dress as they please.
The tendency of many Westerners to restrict themselves to self-criticism further obstructs reformation in Islam. Americans demonstrate against the war in Iraq, yet decline to demonstrate against the terrorists who kidnap innocent people and behead them. Similarly, after the Madrid train bombings, millions of Spanish citizens demonstrated against their separatist organization, ETA. But once the demonstrators realized that Muslims were behind the terror attacks they suspended the demonstrations. This example sent a message to radical Islamists to continue their violent methods.
Western appeasement of their Muslim communities has exacerbated the problem. During the four-month period after the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in a Danish magazine, there were comparatively few violent demonstrations by Muslims. Within a few days of the Danish magazine's formal apology, riots erupted throughout the world. The apology had been perceived by Islamists as weakness and concession.
Worst of all, perhaps, is the anti-Americanism among many Westerners. It is a resentment so strong, so deep-seated, so rooted in personal identity, that it has led many, consciously or unconsciously, to morally support America's enemies.
Progressives need to realize that radical Islam is based on an antiliberal system. They need to awaken to the inhumane policies and practices of Islamists around the world. They need to realize that Islamism spells the death of liberal values. And they must not take for granted the respect for human rights and dignity that we experience in America, and indeed, the West, today.
Well-meaning interfaith dialogues with Muslims have largely been fruitless. Participants must demand--but so far haven't--that Muslim organizations and scholars specifically and unambiguously denounce violent Salafi components in their mosques and in the media. Muslims who do not vocally oppose brutal Shariah decrees should not be considered "moderates."
All of this makes the efforts of Muslim reformers more difficult. When Westerners make politically-correct excuses for Islamism, it actually endangers the lives of reformers and in many cases has the effect of suppressing their voices.
Tolerance does not mean toleration of atrocities under the umbrella of relativism. It is time for all of us in the free world to face the reality of Salafi Islam or the reality of radical Islam will continue to face us.
Dr. Hamid, a onetime member of Jemaah Islamiya, an Islamist terrorist group, is a medical doctor and Muslim reformer living in the West.
NO one will believe the story that the 15 British Royal Navy personnel were ‘kidnapped’ for crossing into Iran’s territorial water. It is hard to believe the confessions of some of these soldiers on TV were not dictated by their kidnappers.
...We used to see such irrational behavior from Saddam Hussein before he was toppled by a devastating international storm. Iran cannot afford to follow in the footsteps of Saddam, especially when we consider the huge imbalance in power between Iran and the international community. Iran’s military parades may impress its poor people, but these will turn the tables on Tehran, which may face a fate similar to that of Saddam.
Iran should not live in an illusion and believe that the United States has been defeated in Iraq ...... Iran should be aware of the fact the US and its allies have liberated Iraq....America is not the loser. The real losers are the people of Iraq and Iran, which is facing international sanctions. Soon these sanctions will devastate the economy of Iran.The United States has not been defeated and it will not leave Iraq.
....If Iran’s calculations were rational and free of political theories, it will find out that it has lost the support and cooperation of other countries in the region. The money spent by Tehran on meaningless military parades and showoffs will only lead to hatred and animosity against Iran. Having failed to learn any worthwhile lesson from the bloody history of Saddam Hussein, Iran is repeating the mistakes of the former Iraqi President. By kidnapping British navy personnel and keeping them hostages Iran is attracting military action against itself.....
... we are about to see an inferno, which will engulf all countries in the region.
From JPost, Apr. 3, 2007 by JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT, LONDON ....
Some British schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim students, a government-sponsored survey has revealed.
Teachers are afraid to confront anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial among Muslim pupils, according to a Historical Association survey funded by the Department for Education and Skills, The Daily Mail reported..... Researchers gave an example of a high school in the north of England that dropped the Holocaust as a subject of study.
The report went on to say that in another department at the school, the Holocaust is taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among pupils. The same department, however, avoids teaching the Crusades for fear of "Muslim rage" since their "balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."
The report said some schools are using history "as a vehicle for promoting political correctness."
A different school found itself "strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the history of the State of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination," according to The Daily Mail report....