Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jerusalem: for Islam, just a tool for superseccionism

An excellent historical review, published by Daniel Pipes in 2001, has even more relevance today. The following are very brief excerpts only. Follow the link to the full review.

...An historical survey shows that the stature of the city, and the emotions surrounding it, inevitably rises for Muslims when Jerusalem has political significance. Conversely, when the utility of Jerusalem expires, so does its status and the passions about it. This pattern first emerged during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. Since then, it has been repeated on five occasions: 
  • in the late seventh century, 
  • in the twelfth-century Countercrusade, 
  • in the thirteenth-century Crusades, 
  • during the era of British rule (1917-48), and 
  • since Israel took the city in 1967. 
The consistency that emerges in such a long period provides an important perspective on the current confrontation....

Politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries; what the historian Bernard Wasserstein has written about the growth of Muslim feeling in the course of the Countercrusade applies through the centuries: 
"often in the history of Jerusalem, heightened religious fervour may be explained in large part by political necessity." 
This pattern has three main implications. 

First, Jerusalem will never be more than a secondary city for Muslims; 
"belief in the sanctity of Jerusalem," Sivan rightly concludes, "cannot be said to have been widely diffused nor deeply rooted in Islam." 

Second, the Muslim interest lies not so much in controlling Jerusalem as it does in denying control over the city to anyone else. 

Third, the Islamic connection to the city is weaker than the Jewish one because it arises as much from transitory and mundane considerations as from the immutable claims of faith.

Mecca, by contrast, is the eternal city of Islam, the place from which non-Muslims are strictly forbidden. 

Very roughly speaking, what Jerusalem is to Jews, Mecca is to Muslims – a point made in the Qur'an itself (2:145) in recognizing that Muslims have one qibla and "the people of the Book" another one. The parallel was noted by medieval Muslims; the geographer Yaqut (1179-1229) wrote, for example, that 
"Mecca is holy to Muslims and Jerusalem to the Jews." 
In modern times, some scholars have come to the same conclusion: 
"Jerusalem plays for the Jewish people the same role that Mecca has for Muslims," writes Abdul Hadi Palazzi, director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community.

The similarities are striking. Jews pray thrice daily to Jerusalem and Muslims five times to Mecca. Muslims see Mecca as the navel of the world, just as Jews see Jerusalem. Whereas Jews believe Abraham nearly sacrificed Ishmael's brother Isaac in Jerusalem, Muslims believe this episode took place in Mecca. The Ka'ba in Mecca has similar functions for Muslims as the Temple in Jerusalem for Jews (such as serving as a destination for pilgrimage). The Temple and Ka'ba are both said to be inimitable structures. The supplicant takes off his shoes and goes barefoot in both their precincts. Solomon's Temple was inaugurated on Yom Kippur, the tenth day of the year, and the Ka'ba receives its new cover also on the tenth day of each year. If Jerusalem is for Jews a place so holy that not just its soil but even its air is deemed sacred, Mecca is the place whose "very mention reverberates awe in Muslims' hearts," according to Abad Ahmad of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey.

This parallelism of Mecca and Jerusalem offers the basis of a solution, as Sheikh Palazzi wisely writes:
separation in directions of prayer is a mean to decrease possible rivalries in management of Holy Places. For those who receive from Allah the gift of equilibrium and the attitude to reconciliation, it should not be difficult to conclude that, as no one is willing to deny Muslims a complete sovereignty over Mecca, from an Islamic point of view - notwithstanding opposite, groundless propagandistic claims - there is not any sound theological reason to deny an equal right of Jews over Jerusalem.
To back up this view, Palazzi notes several striking and oft-neglected passages in the Qur'an. One of them (5:22-23) quotes Moses instructing the Jews to "enter the Holy Land (al-ard al-muqaddisa) which God has assigned unto you." Another verse (17:104) has God Himself making the same point: "We said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Land.'" Qur'an 2:145 states that the Jews "would not follow your qibla; nor are you going to follow their qibla," indicating a recognition of the Temple Mount as the Jews' direction of prayer. 
"God himself is saying that Jerusalem is as important to Jews as Mecca is to Moslems," Palazzi concludes.
His analysis has a clear and sensible implication: just as Muslims rule an undivided Mecca, Jews should rule an undivided Jerusalem.

The "settlements" are a precondition for peace

Wars end when one side knows that it has lost and is willing to make peace. The Arab side refuses to accept that it was defeated in four wars and various insurgencies.

Arafat walked away from Ehud Barak's peace offer in 1999 without a reponse and Abbas refused to even consider Olmert's similar offer in 2008.

Like the Duke brothers in "Trading Places," the Palestinian Arabs think they can re-trade the Israeli War of Independence, go back in time, erase the historical record, and reclaim victory.

If you lose and refuse to make peace, you pay a penalty, and the normal penalty is loss of territory.

For opportunistic reasons (placating Muslim trading partners and restive Muslim populations) most countries indulge the Muslim fantasy that defeat is inconceivable and therefore reversible. That simply leads to more futile violence.

Just as important is the Jewish presence in what would have been a Palestinian state, if the Palestinians had wanted to have a state in 1999 or 2008. That ship probably has sailed; chaos in the region around them makes it impossible de facto to create a Palestinian state today.

If the Palestinians wanted peace, then they would tolerate a Jewish population in their putative state, just as Israel embraces a 20% Arab minority. The fact that the Palestinians demand a state entirely Judenrein ("clean" of Jews) betrays hostile intent.

To indulge the Palestinians on the matter of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria is unprecedented in international peace negotiations, and utterly and despicably hypocritical on the part of the majority of Security Council members.

Sure - let them be independent

Since the adoption yesterday, of the UN Security Council's anti-Semitic demand for Judenrein territory for a proposed Islamist state, the following, from a Martin Sherman op-Ed in Algemeiner last month has become much more relevant:

...Should any measures, not mutually agreed upon, be instituted in international forums to advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel should announce that, since consensual resolution of conflict has proved unattainable, it will seek other alternatives – now unavoidably unilateral.

Next, the Israeli leadership must muster the intellectual integrity not only to identify the Palestinians for what they really are, and what they themselves declare they are: an implacable enemy.

Israel must also undertake a policy that reflects this underlying and undeniable truth — now made even more starkly obvious by the recent Palestinian-sponsored UNESCO resolution denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

Clearly, Israel has no moral obligation or practical interest in sustaining such an enemy’s economy or social order.

Independence implies…independence
Consequently, should Israel be confronted with an un-vetoed resolution to promote Palestinian statehood, it must convey in unequivocally clear terms to the Palestinians, and to their supporters, that if it is independence they demand, then independent they will have to be.

As a result, Israel will cease, forthwith, to provide all services and merchandise that it provides them today. In other words: no water, electricity, fuel, postal services, communications, port facilities, tax collection or remittances will be supplied by Israel any longer.

After all, what possible claim could be invoked to coerce one sovereign entity to provide for another allegedly sovereign entity – and an overtly adversarial one at that?
Indeed, when Israel declared its independence, no Arab country rushed to help it develop and evolve. Quite the opposite: The Arab world imposed embargoes and boycotts on it, and on anyone with the temerity to conduct commerce with it.

These proposed measures will vividly expose the farcical futility of the Palestinians’ endeavor for statehood, people who — almost two decades after the Oslo accords and massive investment — have not produced anything but an untenable, divided entity, crippled by corruption and cronyism, a dysfunctional polity, an illegitimate president, an unelected prime minister and a feeble economy that — with its minuscule private sector and bloated public one — is unsustainable without the largesse of its alleged “oppressor.”

Nothing could do more to lay bare the absurdity of the Palestinians’ total dependence on the very body from which they seek independence.

...That just might have a chilling effect on the world’s enthusiasm for the whole idea of Palestinian statehood.

Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kurds Bring the Fight BACK to Iran

From American Interest, 15 December 2016, by Jonathan Spyer & Benjamin Weinthal:

The Kurds of Iran are the least powerful of all such communities in the Middle East, but now they have begun attacking the regime. Will it end in a massacre?

*Jonathan Spyer is the director of the Rubin Center at IDC Herzliya. Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.