Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Violence and Redemption in the Holy Land

We are hearing much about the third intifada as lone Arabs attack Jews with knives and axes, and try to kill lots of people with their cars. One Arab, frustrated by his inability to successfully play human skittles leapt from his vehicle and proceeded to attempt to beat his chosen victim with an iron bar before being subdued. Acts of violence and terror are now a weekly occurrence and would be a daily occurrence if not for the vigilance of the security services.

The debate on how to prevent violence (and ultimately how to stop it completely) is heavily influenced by the extremists so unless we have loud, clear and unequivocal guidance from our political, religious and moral leaders the street will continue to rule; passions rather than respect will govern our actions and the violence will escalate because no-one is seen to effectively and consistently provide justice.

“If we really want to take an effective stand against extremism, we should not obsess over the extremists; rather, we should tackle those who facilitate, empower and legitimize extremism.” Providing a Platform for Terror, Nov 29, 2012 by Sam Westrop

An example: The debate on “ownership” of the city of Jerusalem has been magnified by the Palestinian leadership, so that now, all residents of Jerusalem have been deemed settlers and occupiers, and therefore, are justified as fair game… just like any modern orthodox Jew (those wearing knitted kippot and tsitsiot over their jeans). But Jerusalem is the main battleground, lose that one and Haifa and Tel Aviv will follow.

Who are the people facilitating, empowering and legitimizing extremism?
After the murder of the three Jewish seminarians in Judea and Samaria, Fatah (of which President for Life Mahmoud Abbas is its leader) posted the following threat (with thanks to Isi Leibler):

“Sons of Zion, this is an oath to the Lord of the Heavens: Prepare all the bags you can for your body parts. … We wish for the blood to become rivers.”

That’s inciting the populace to violence. The savage imagery portrayed cannot hint at even a glimmer of hope for a peaceful future between neighbors.  And yet this is a man in control of an entity that desires national freedom, someone we have often been told is a ‘genuine’ partner for peace.

Intolerance does not need a reason, it simply requires a target. The entire history of Palestinian nationalism is predicated on the denial of legitimate Jewish history, the renunciation of Jewish rights and the delegitimization of Jewish sovereignty.   Not drawing attention to this nationally mandated bigotry legitimises it, on a global scale.

In 1955 Israel blithely dismissed the UN with the words, famously uttered by Ben-Gurion “oom shmoom” (the UN, so what?) That pithy phrase soon entered the Israeli political lexicon. The contempt it expressed was deserved, nevertheless it was a mistake to ignore the damage to Israel that propaganda could cause, spread globally through the UN.  Allowing others to write and re-write the history books has done Israel incalculable damage by helping Israel’s enemies to spread their narrative into the global mainstream.

One example from the many corrupt UN agencies will suffuse as the exemplar for United Nations duplicity.   The creation of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) was an act of conspiracy whose intent was to guarantee a continuous war would be waged against Jewish existence in Israel.  The United Nations fashioned an organization that was answerable only to itself, was self-perpetuating and whose foundation document, applied to any nation other than Israel would have been deemed to be blatantly illegal. UNRWAs raison d’être can only be interpreted as easing into position the replacement of one population with another. Thus UNRWA legitimized Arab colonialism and is, for as long as it remains in existence, an act of United Nations sanctioned ethnic cleansing.

The struggle against the UN may be arduous as well as costly to Israel but it is a necessity for its survival and yet Israel has largely suffered in silence rather than fighting it.

Israel’s founding political leaders were left-wing and militantly secular, at least until the ascent of the right wing Likud party to national leadership in 1977.  Yet the same political attitude has continued to govern Israel’s elites since 1977 – it has meant that neither Left nor Right has addressed the religious dimensions of the war between Israel and its enemies, either internationally or internally within Israel.

Writing in Yedioth Aharonoth (an Israeli newspaper) on 9th November 2014 Yoaz Hendel described the killing of an Arab wielding a knife at police as resulting “from the national-religious conflict being waged.”

In any society in which a vacuum forms, people with definite ideas will fill the emptiness that has been created. That vacuum is an opportunity for views of what is right and what is wrong and of personal continuity expressed through time and space. Our identity is layered. Europe is allegedly a post-nationalism entity and this is where many of its problems lie.  People who feel that something is missing from their lives are susceptible to a crippled interpretation of any process that can be explained to them with simplicity.

While issues of identity are never simple - if a person is born in a country they take on the identity of the country in which they live, or they should. It is part of the basis for the social contract that defines and enriches everyone living in a democracy. An Israeli may be a Christian, Druze, Jew or Muslim. Their primary identity may be national (based on their place of birth or election) or religious but Israel has refused to engage in this debate. This has created a vacuum which allows the extremists to dominate the ongoing debate amongst all Israelis.

A “big” problem in Israel is that the national anthem clearly states Nefesh Yehudi (Jewish soul).   This makes the Arabs feel like “outsiders” which they don’t like! I suspect that a Nefesh Yisraeli (soul of Israel) would be equally unacceptable however it may be the only answer that has broad national backing, except to those who do not want a state called Israel.  And those people who don’t want to live under a Star of David (for a national flag)? There are 29 Christian nations that include crosses in their national flag (including Britain and Sweden).  There are 17 Muslim nations with Islamic symbols.  The Palestinian Authority flag is green, white, red and black. These are the classic colors of Islam, pan-Arab imperialism and Ba’athist genocide.  The flag of Hamas is theocratic.

Arab identity is not based solely on ethnicity.  It is religiously colonialist and brutally intolerant of any minorities unfortunate enough to endure living beneath its exercise of power.  Palestinian nationalism is inconsistent with Jewish self-determination. A person of Jewish faith cannot be a Palestinian unless they are hostile to Zionism (which is arguably the main aspect of Israeli identity).  Palestinian nationalism has usually been antisemitic and it denies Jewish Near-Eastern history while interpreting European Jewish history unfavorably.  This is nothing less than a war to deny Jewish civilization.

And yet, over three generations Israel has failed to attack this apartheid view of Arab-Palestinian exceptionalism which refutes Muslim or Christian Israeli identity as bogus and worse, a betrayal of the “Arab nation.” The nephew of an Arab member of parliament called himself an Israeli Muslim in an internet video and as a consequence he was forced to flee for his life - overseas. His aunt, the Member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi, publicly attacked him.  This is also a marker for the extremists.  It tells them that violence against the individual is permissible.  Most of the Arab leadership and its captive intelligentsia terrorizes the populace into conforming to an anti-Zionist / antisemitic narrative that denies them full integration into Israeli society.

Benjamin Netanyahu has refined the art of doing nothing during three terms as Prime Minister.  When he is forced to confront anything he is a populist leader so his do-nothing approach encourages chaos. It is only at the breaking point that he will choose the easiest route to placating the situation.  This is his failure.  It is his weakness as a leader.

It will damn him in any future written history about Israel because the issue of identity is even more important than whether or not the current leader of the Palestinians is inclined towards making peace with Israel.  Peace will not be achieved while a large fifth column lives in Israel, one that refuses to acknowledge the equal rights of the Jewish majority. Paradoxically, the equal rights of the Arab minority are undermined by the fear of that fifth column.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s British television tackled the issue of discrimination and prejudice with the sitcom “Till Death us do Part.”  Its American equivalent “All in the Family” ran for most of the 1970’s.  Israel desperately needs something similar to re-educate its people.

Kurt Tucholsky (a journalist and social commentator) labelled World War I a “worldwide latrine filled with blood, barbed wire, and hate songs.”  For Israel (and Jews elsewhere), if the world is to not become another latrine filled with blood and hate songs it needs to de-escalate the passions that are being expressed everywhere in strident and apocalyptic terms.  For that to happen Israel, for one, needs a firm and guiding hand at the helm of government. Novelist Amos Oz believes the Israel-Palestine conundrum is a battle between extremists and pragmatists - on both sides. Only when the extremists are all but silenced will there be a chance for peace between Israel and Palestine. In a normal society guidance would come from the clergy and then from government but in Israel because of its secular history that clerical guidance is absent or mostly confrontational. So leadership must begin with the government providing a vision for how it can unify the nation and marginalize those people or groups who are working to keep the nation divided.

Barry Rubin (Israeli columnist and professor) said “The Palestinians’ leaders have long believed that an intransigent strategy coupled with some outside force—Nazi Germany, the USSR, weaning the West away from Israel—will miraculously grant them total victory. They aren’t going to change course now that that route leads not forward but in circles.”

That same Arab-Palestinian strategy is fought in the Western World usually far more subtly than the naked racism and religious bigotry that is expressed within the Muslim world nevertheless things will get worse, everywhere, because the fascist nature of identity politics is again reasserting itself in western social discourse.

Fascism is the tyranny of the few against an even smaller group in order to proscribe that groups equal exercise of human rights and ultimately, by eliminating their equal rights, to exclude that target group.

Israel is the victim of fascism in the UN and that fascism is spilling over into Western society. Jews are once more becoming victims.  How often have we engaged in peaceful protest, only to be confronted with intimidation and violence? These twin tactics are the fascists preferred tools of persuasion. In the boycott movement and in academia such methods as these are viewed as the acceptable demonstration of their right to freedom of expression. Our right to not live in fear is inevitably dismissed as the suppression of our enemies own right to protest.  In Weimar Germany the Nazis used the same tactics that the Left and their Muslim allies now use to undermine our democratic rights.

Here’s the thing.  The Palestinians have their identity. It is 1,400 years old, tribal and hierarchical. It is racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and antisemitic.  It is Arab history being fiendishly re-enacted today in Iraq and Syria.

Israeli identity is still in the mix. It is still under development. It is 66 years old (1948), it is 97 years old (1917) and it is 4,000 years old.  It is defined by the period of the Bible, by the Second World War, by 1948, 1967, 1973 and 1979 (the War of Independence, the 6 Day War, the Yom Kippur War and the Peace Treaty with Egypt).  Judaism and Israel began in history some time between 2,600 and 2,100 years before the Prophet Muhammad got his big idea.

Arab identity as expressed in jingoistic circles is based on disrespecting ones enemy. Pan-Arabism has an intellectual history in the 20th Century that is wholly triumphalist. All opponents are ‘the enemy’ – remember the recent picture of the Arab women showing her shoe to ‘the Jew’?  In Arab culture the shoe directed towards a persons face says “you are beneath me, I trample on you”.  It is a telling symbol of Arab cultural attitudes that it finds no opposition in Arab society.

With age comes wisdom (in theory). Respect is earned by intentional humanity that is endowed unconditionally.  It is a concept that Arab identity denies to us and to everyone who is not them. It is their greatest strength but also the root of their greatest threat to us.

Israel, for its own sake as well as for the sake of the Diaspora, must understand the consequences of failed leadership, of its inability to create a credible consensus.  Finding a way to express our rights in our sovereign homeland that is inclusive for all of Israel’s citizens must be a priority.  Only then will peace be possible.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sticks and Stones

Israel is attacked in universities and Israel is attacked in the Press. We, Israel’s supporters, are attacked for supporting the ‘provincial’ nation state of the Jewish People. We are waging a war for hearts and minds and yet we behave as if the tactics of our opponents are unimportant even though the results may not be so. Many of us blithely ignore this conflict because “the scaremongers” disturb our docility.  Those rabble rousers annoy us, if we are honest with ourselves, because complexity confuses us.

When we are forced to take sides most of us are uncomfortable with the facts and too many variables make the likelihood of resolution, slim.  This encourages the weak to cut corners and listen to the people who treat them like simpletons.  It works.  The quickest way to win over converts to a cause is to create a Manichean reality inhabited by goodies and baddies, victims and aggressors (but more about that later).  Life is rarely so simple.

This is not a friendly rivalry between intellectual competitors.  If we use the word “opponent” our enemy has already won the moral high ground because this is not a game we are playing and they will not ‘play’ by our ‘civilized’ rules of engagement. The antagonism of our enemy can be seen in their signs of protest and the slogans they scream at us.  It can be understood in the actions of their activists and in the allegiances of their fellow travelers.

For instance, “Palestine will be free; from the river to the sea” means the obliteration of the State of Israel which would in turn mean genocide (even Palestinian “moderates” accept that anyone employed by the State would be tried for crimes against humanity and that means any one who has served in the IDF, or anyone who worked for or benefited from their relationship with the state.)  Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners often do not differentiate between Israeli and Jewish products when they attack shops but would be horrified if anyone were to attack supermarkets that stock halal products even though they may be imported from Muslim countries that are misogynistic, homophobic, slave-trading and founded on an institutionally racist premise.

To quote David Semple Manchesters third intifadists  “The BDS mob pretended not to be anti-Jewish but then poured out ……conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel, reminiscent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Jews were called Nazis; they were called dirty pigs; they were called murderers; they were even called Christ killers.”

But then I was called a child murderer for serving in the IDF.  One British activist for Palestine accused a Christian supporter of Israel of being “lower than those Jews.”

As I have previously stated, fascists on the Left and their Islamic allies view us as the enemy. We have no redemptive qualities that would save us. This is nascent Nazism. It is also the reason that they call us Zio(n)-Nazis.  They label us so that any excuses we may make for our actions appear at best lame, at worst, the self-justification of apologists for an evil regime.  If you call someone a name often enough, and create the pictures to go with it, the result is that you eventually create a vision in the mind of the public that is almost impossible to eradicate. It is propaganda at its most base, its most fundamental emotional level and therefore the most effective means of impregnation.

Our enemy has 3 assets we lack:

1.                  The Cause: This is an idea that is framed, encircled within absolute boundaries. Validity or accuracy is unimportant.  To quote Winston Churchill “the fanatic cannot change his mind and will not change his subject.”

2.                  The Semantic High-Ground: This is won by fighting a war of words. In a world that is easily afflicted by boredom, dualism creates a short-hand that instantly imprints a story on our sub-conscious. Settler and indigenous, colonizer and refugee, aggressor and victim are word-plays meant to initiate a dynamic interplay between the words and pictures we are fed, and our imagination.

Pictures are used to subliminally reinforce our prejudices. Children confronting soldiers are all of them innocents meeting the neighborhood bully, head-on.  It is what Cass Sunstein of Harvard University refers to as “bias assimilation.”

Words are at their most bestial when used to justify atrocity. But without them no reasonable person would support a Palestinian demand for a return and therefore the overturning of Jewish independence.  Without a justification for atrocity David could not become Palestinian and Goliath could not be Israeli.  The genocidal sub-text of Palestinian independence at Israel’s expense is facilitated by hijacking the biblical narrative.   That murderous sub-text is concealed behind a narrative defining Jesus as a Palestinian even when that surrogate Jesus stabs a Jewish toddler through the heart, cuts off the head of a sleeping baby, or with a rock, dashes out the brains of a toddler. Frustration sanitizes infanticide. Warfare has its rules, terror does not. It sounds obscene when the result is the same death to a child but without the rules of war anything is possible. By rewriting the rule-book to upturn definitions of terror and self-defense the fascist Left aids and abets the murderer but they can only justify this by shifting reality to suit their storyline.

3.         Passion: The committed individual will try to sway the uninvolved bystander by enunciating the intensity of their feelings in any way that effectively demonstrates their beliefs.  Ethics are therefore, not of necessity, a requirement.  Their passion will lead them into activism in university, in the union movement, in any organization they join and in politics.  If they are not confronted by an equally passionate opposing viewpoint they will prevail because they will assert their ideology over all others.

The difference between Zionists and anti-Zionists is that as Zionists we will try to reason with our questioner in order to rationally explain who we are and what we believe.  But in a radicalized group, correcting false beliefs will often intensify those beliefs.  To anti-Zionists, we are the enemy, not misguided but less human; hateful and an abomination.

So I will repeat: we are fighting a war and yet we use the words, demeanor and the tactics of the debating society while our enemy are fighting a war and as befits their contempt for us, their tactics are that of the warrior.  We naively believe that we can still win this war fighting under Queensbury’s Rules.

Plucky little Israel may be able to defeat its larger enemy on the battlefields of the Muslim Near-East but our Western European-American War is being fought in civil society, often by uncivil means and we are ill-equipped to combat the tactics our enemy employ against us. They outnumber us, their numbers are growing and they will never play by our rules unless they know the result in advance – in their favor.

I recently attended a meeting where Dr. Einat Wilf spoke. Dr Wilf is a former member of the Israeli Knesset and of the Israeli Labor Party.   As a woman who served in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the 18th Knesset, her opinion on why Israel appears to be blind to this particular arena of warfare was a revelation, at least to me.  She said that in the testosterone filled committees, members of the Knesset understood guns and tanks but not ideas.

It is insufficiently precise to say that Israel lacks the sophisticated European political idioms for dealing with Palestinians Arabs because that accusation is predicated on assumptions of compatibility, mutuality and equal receptivity to shared co-existence. Under those circumstances we could similarly question Europe’s appreciation of the challenges to sovereignty that it also faces in the ongoing battle to integrate its immigrants into European society.

In the macho Muslim ocean Israel inhabits, it is not even close to grasping the nature of the response it needs to provide to the two pronged war it faces on a continuous basis. The Hot War uses missiles and mortars.  The Cold War utilizes surrogate armies and sympathetic fellow travelers to wage a War of Attrition which it intends to win by weakening the resistance of its enemy – us.  Its combatants use rocks as well as cars as deadly projectiles against our bodies. The diplomatic war is used to discredit and ultimately disenfranchise Israel’s supporters so that a diplomatically and economically isolated Israel is sufficiently weakened for an unfavorable ‘peace’ to be imposed from the outside. Our enemies use physical as well as intellectual attributes to harass us and exert continuous and negative pressure upon us and if not us, then those around us.

Israel, envisioned and constructed by intellectuals, the state that still worships its scholars, remains deaf and blind to the words that wound even though those words may eventually kill.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Arab Violence and Palestinian Identity

On the 22nd of October 2014 an East Jerusalem Arab drove his car into a group of people waiting for the Jerusalem light rail service. Two people, a baby and a new immigrant subsequently died as a result of this act of terror. It happened as violence has all but prevented the service from connecting the two halves of the city, effectively re-dividing Jerusalem for the first time since 1967.  At the same time, riots on the Temple Mount put a stop to visits by Jews or anyone else interested in visiting Judaism’s holiest site.

One of Judaism’s greatest innovations was for worship to become an intellectual exercise and not an act that was dependent on geography, physical artifact or structure.  Nevertheless, power has always demanded of its rulers an imposing physical space as demonstration of their commanding presence.  It is as if we are unable to emotionally detach ourselves completely from the Golden Calf.  And this applies to most of the world’s faiths today and all of them, at some time in their history. If we recognize this condition as a statement of a human need for physical reassurance then we can also understand both the war waged against us and part of the response that is required from us.

Throughout Israel a conflict over identity is being fought. As distance between Israel’s founding fathers (and mothers) widens, Arabs born in Israel are becoming more Israeli and less Arab. This is a good thing because successful integration in any society is based on a shared identity which may take a single generation to achieve or even two or three generations if there is opposition to this integration.  

An ethnic identity is the only thing that keeps Israel’s Arab citizens ‘Palestinian,’ and even that is a lie because Arab identity is postulated on a trans-national ‘universalist’ ethnic indivisibility.

A national identity is tribal and to the fundamentalist Muslim, un-Islamic. In the mythology of the Arab founding narrative Muhammad chose the Arabs for his religious revelation and not the ethnic inhabitants of one geographically limited area.  It may be resented by non-Arab Muslims but it is impossible to deny the influence it has had over Near-Eastern politics and ethnic insecurity.

It explains the ethnic bigotry of some of Israel’s Arab members of parliament. It explains the reason why Arabs who renounce this racist faux-legal construct of third generation Israeli-Palestinian identity are violently opposed by professional Palestinian agitators and anti-Zionists. The recent case of a teenager forced to flee for his life from his kith and kin occurred solely because of his public announcement that he was an Israeli Muslim.  The viciousness of the Arab reaction is indicative of the threat felt by racists who fear for the fight over what constitutes a legitimate identity. They fear that this fight may be taken into their home territory.

That ‘brave’ 17 year-old teenage boy (as referred to immediately above) is a relative of the anti-Zionist MK (Member of Knesset) Hanin Zoabi. What is remarkable is that she appears to have committed an act of criminal incitement when she justified the kidnapping of three Israeli seminarians who were almost immediately thereafter murdered.   Her public denunciation of her young relative was on first reflection mild compared to her public justification for kidnapping. She derided him as “from a divorced family. His mother now lives in Nazareth Illit, where he studies at a Jewish school. He's sleazy. He's distorted his identity."

That Hanin Zoabi MK does not now languish in prison is a display of monumental cowardice by Israel’s parliamentary and judicial leadership.  This case clearly demonstrates the fascism that is intrinsic to the Palestinian cause. So the question is - how do we fight this war?

If according to the current narrative a Jew cannot be a Palestinian, then conversely, a Palestinian identity is invalidated by adoption of a Jewish or Israeli identity.

Many years ago Yasser Arafat famously dismissed the suggestion that a Jewish missionary effort might help to resolve the conflict between the two sides by threatening to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians who would ‘convert’ to Judaism in order to take advantage of Israel’s Law of Return.  He was bluffing of course. Proselytes away from Islam are tortured and then murdered in the Arab world. Again it is viewed as an act of ethnic betrayal.   Identity politics is the Arab way to bully the rest of us into adopting a defensive position. In our post-modern Western world we reject specific national identities as countering a harmonious inter-ethnic existence.  But we permit it to our minorities if they are vocal enough and violent enough in their opposition to us.

The issue of resolving Palestine – Israel is therefore also hampered by ultra-orthodox control over religious identity.   Mass conversion would be impossible to contemplate and would take centuries to actuate.

Just as Christians, Muslims and Druze are able to settle almost anywhere in Israel, the reverse must similarly apply.  It is mainly Arab apartheid that actively prevents Jews settling amongst Arabs.   Jewish missionary activity would break down this brick wall of opposition to Arab integration in Israel and it would help to marginalize Israel’s racist opponents both in Israel and in the West by exposing the real nature of their opposition to Jewish self-determination.   The media must be encouraged to openly debate this Arab particularistic opposition and yes, it would expose Jewish insecurities about their own religious identity as well as the issues that ultra-orthodox authority have created within Israeli society (as well as internationally).  Removing religious coercion would focus religious competition – identity has always been a competition for “souls.”

How to respond to the inevitable riots against integration? Counter them by building thousands of housing units for demobilized soldiers in every town that threatens violence.

Within Israel, the twin actions of encouraging an Israeli identity amongst Arabs and prosecuting those people who threaten this freedom to choose their identity would force everyone to consider their racist positions and to reconcile those positions within a democratic and Western orientated Jewish State.  It would lower the heat in Israel’s parliament because passionate positions on intra-Israeli identity are not based on inclusion and as such discourage equality and kinship within society.

And last, it would go some way towards resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict because without a Palestinian base “in-country” there would be no support in Israel, by Arabs, for a Palestinian “Return.”  Supporters of the Palestinian Right of Return in Europe and the Americas could only then reconcile their support through antisemitic argument that would be obvious to everyone.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ISIL. Conquest and Root Causes

This is the Final part of a 3 part series.

ISIL or IS (the Islamic State as they prefer to be known) are no more than or less than another, in a long line of Islamist revolutionary movements. Their theatrical acts of torture and their public murders have solid roots in ‘revolutionary’ warfare. Extremists will willingly point to the Prophets own actions to justify their behavior. Muhammad publicly beheaded between 300 and 900 male opponents from the Jewish tribe of Qurayza and then gave his victims wives and children to his loyal followers, (in payment for services rendered).

Terror always works to intimidate weaker tribes but if ISIL are bombed out of Syria they will melt away into Iraq and Lebanon, and if permitted, into Turkey.

As a nation, Turkey has thus far successfully integrated a fundamentalist ideology into its main political infrastructure in direct contradiction to the secularist ‘Kemalism’ of the modern Turkish state.  So Turkey must be careful how it relates to the Islamic State (ISIL).  Turkey is a member state of NATO with a significant South Eastern border that it shares with both Syria and Iraq. It does not want to embroil NATO in what many people in the Muslim world view as an internal Muslim religious conflict nor does it want to be seen to be a participant in the killing of fellow Sunnis.

Kobani is much in the news at this time as it comes under attack by ISIL.

Kobani is the last Syrian town before the country’s northern border with Turkey. Geopolitical maps of what exiled Kurds in Europe call Western Kurdistan transect territory across the Syrian and Turkish borders.

Kurdish forces only wrestled control of Kobani (aka Ein al-Arab) from the Syrian military in 2012.  The attack by ISIL represents a dream assault for Neo-Ottoman (expansionist) Turkey.  If ISIL manage to capture and massacre the residents of the city then many Kurdish fighters will have been slaughtered without the military being blamed for the bloodshed. If Turkey is then encouraged to intervene elsewhere on behalf of any of its minorities, it will be on Neo-Ottoman terms.

Turkey was much angered by the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood led government of Egypt and continues to voice open contempt for the government of General el-Sisi. This too is consistent with Turkish support for an ideologically sympathetic movement.

Appeasing Islamist extremism can only encourage the worse elements amongst Islamists to push the limits of tolerance of any society in which they take hold.  It was this logic that saw an Egyptian court place a ban on the Brotherhood on 23rd September 2013.

It is therefore puzzling that President Obama ceased military aid to Egypt after the July 2013 coup.  Being seen to support a regime that was both irrational and bigoted because it was initially freely elected is consistent behavior for President Obama but is neither strategically nor historically sound. For example, no US president could justify a similar stand on Communism.

In the early years after the Russian Revolution communism split between Stalinists who demanded the realization of the ideal of “Socialism in One Country” and Trotskyism which opposed “One Country Socialism.”  The USA and European nations were intolerant of both variants and remain so.  Except in Islamism's non-hierarchical nature it is difficult not to draw comparisons between Islamism and communism.

The ever bleeding wound of Sunni–Shia antipathy and mutual antagonism has boiled over into uncontrollable, murderous rage intermittently since the Iranian revolution of 1979. The schism between the two main sects of Islam has existed for nearly all of the fourteen centuries since Muhammad founded his faith.  Al Qaeda veterans poured into Syria from Iraq and were generously re-supplied by Turkey so that they soon became the main military faction to oppose the Alawite regime.

Thomas Paine, the political activist and philosopher said that “to argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”  And so it seems we are desperate to refrain from making comparisons between Islamism and Communism.  Perhaps this is the reason that our leaders are incapable of applying a consistent standard when confronted with the Islamist threat to global peace and security.

Neo-Ottoman Turkey is a member of NATO and yet it has encouraged ISIL.   The civil war in Syria and before it, the Iraqi debacle helped to draw out the monumental hatred that exists between the two rival Sunni and Shia sects and not just in Syria where the dictatorship of the Assad family kept the conflict under control.

Turkey has been encouraged to flex its imperialistic muscles by Europe’s de facto acceptance of its conquest of Northern Cyprus 40 years ago. The UN has all but ignored this conflict. When Israel and Cyprus signed a maritime border treaty in late December 2010 Turkey all but asserted its colonial right of first refusal when it judged the accord on 21st December 2010 to be “null and void”. 

Conflict with its Christian, Kurdish, Shia and Israeli neighbors demonstrates Turkey's bona fide right to lead the regions Sunni Muslims.

At the start of the Arab Spring the Muslim Brotherhood took democratic control of Tunisia and Egypt. Syrian Shia minority rule appeared to be increasingly precarious.  If Turkey could control Sunni forces it could re-establish Turkish influence in Libya.  Iraq’s Shia majority could be destabilized and Sunni minority rule re-asserted.  All nations in the region would be subservient to Turkey as had been the situation during the period of the Ottoman Empire.

Analysts and arm chair pundits in the Western media publicly admit that the bombing campaign will do very little to solve the problem of IS.  The ideology they represent is one of limitless power for their faithful followers. Their consequent actions are justified through the bloodthirsty history of the first three generations of Muslim history.  Nations that supported ISIL now fear ISIL but only because they cannot control it.

The bombing of ISIL in Syria may have inadvertently recreated the conditions for another Lebanese civil war.  Shia Hezbollah’s inordinate political influence was based on the support they received from both Iran and Syria.  When the Syrian civil war broke out in March 2011, Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General of Hezbollah) felt obligated to repay his Syrian protector by sending thousands of his soldiers to fight alongside of the Assad regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Withdrawing Hezbollah’s battle tested troops from Syria may undermine the Shia effort to contain ISIL. At the same time, as ISIL disperses it will enter Lebanon and hide amongst Sunni supporters.  The coalition will be unable to intervene in Lebanon and this may make inevitable a military flare-up in Lebanon.

The fifth member of the original anti-IS coalition is Qatar. Its role is admitted to be only “in support of” the coalition. It will not be bombing IS positions.  According to media reports Qatar continues to fund Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat al Nusra (the al-Nusra front) and other Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda (of which IS was originally affiliated). It is through its funding of these terrorist organizations that it undermines its neighbors. Al Jazeera, the Qatari global news network ridiculed the beheading of the two American journalists and described the beheadings as no more than pretext for the US intervention in Syria (to which it is now nominally committed in its participation).

There are many people who try to blame regional and even global Muslim dissatisfaction on Israel because of Jewish Palestine's conflict with Sunni Palestinians.  Inter-Arab and inter-Muslim conflict is ignored or excused with reference to Israel and ‘the Jews’ or Zionists. The wars being waged in Iraq and in Syria are proxy wars between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia with various other regional players such as Qatar and Turkey also vying for greater influence.

Historically, both Jordan and Egypt have similarly sought to manipulate events in the region to their advantage and control.

Those wars being waged between Shia and Sunni are sometimes expressed as tribal conflicts but irrespective of form they will only subside if the root cause is addressed. That root cause is a fundamentalist belief, a theocratic superstition that instead of a shared humanity, we are all of us nothing more than objects for conquest.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

ISIL, Western Aggression, and Muslim Extremism

This is part 2 of a 3 part series.

A recent newspaper headline declared that “Arabs and Muslims Do Not Trust America” but an explanation for that headline would also have explained that they do not trust that which they do not control.

The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in his speech to the diplomats gathered for the opening of the 2014 UN General Assembly said:  Western 'aggression' in the Middle East helped foster extremism.  He was only partly correct.

The exercise of power is a unilateral decision whether or not it is legitimized in the eyes of some, by being part of a grand coalition. It is in the exercise of power that trust and respect are built. IS are not open to negotiation. Trust and respect are wholly irrelevant.  Fear is the only thing that counts.  IS is a brutal colonialist enterprise that enslaves, demands conversion from its captives, and kills to demonstrate its absolute power. Its purpose is power for its faithful followers and its line of attack is merciless. Opposition is met with annihilation. Containment is not an option, defeat is inconceivable.

Many people excuse Hamas crimes against humanity because for them, the ends will always justify the means, no matter how heinous those crimes may be.  Hezbollah’s Shiite chief Hassan Nasrallah said that there are no red lines. He was simply enunciating the unwritten, sixth pillar of Islamic faith. When we say that Hamas is not IS and that the Muslim Brotherhood is not monstrous we do this so that we may fear it less. We sanitize that which we fear because if it is not dangerous then we can accept it even when we should not.

So, Barack Obama, President of the most powerful nation on the earth and a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, said: "ISIS is not Islamic".  David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, educated at Eton and Oxford University said "ISIS are not Muslims they are monsters."  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of the Islamic State with a PhD from the Islamic University of Baghdad said "We are Muslims."

This is what others say:

In 2006, senior Wahhabi cleric Abdul Rahman al-Barrak released a fatwa which stated that the Shia are "infidels, apostates and hypocrites ... [and] they are more dangerous than Jews or Christians."

The al-Nusra Front declared in 2012: "The blessed operations will continue until the land of Syria is purified from the filth of the Nusayris (Alawite - Ed.) and the Sunnis are relieved from their oppression."

The Alawite minority (12% of the total Syrian population) have controlled most of the country since 1920. Nevertheless, that Sunni quote means almost 3 million people will be ‘cleansed’ (murdered) if this al Qaeda offshoot succeeds in capturing Syria for the Sunni mob.

Even so, a Sunni-Alawite alliance in Syria is still possible, if Assad is able to relinquish control over all of Syria.  His family has maintained its rule for 43 years, through the acquiescence and military strength of his Sunni partners until the civil war and infiltration by al Qaeda affiliated (Sunni) fighters.  To share power now Bashar al-Assad must be able to guarantee that his people are not butchered as they have butchered others. 

Perhaps we have a right to be a little bit confused. Our leaders say one thing – the Muslim world says something else.

If I may offer an explanation by illustration:
The Klu Klux Klan was representative of a significant proportion of American public opinion until they were marginalised.  This was only possible because the internal narrative of White America was altered to largely reject racism. When Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected President of the United States of America it was his opposition to the KKK contagion, coupled with the judicial activism of the US Supreme Court that ultimately defeated the movement.   Treatment of African Americans in the USA was, until that time, a crime against humanity.

Similarly, not all Europeans were Nazis but the Shoah could not have taken place without the passive complicity of Europe’s citizenry.

It is easy for me from the comfort of my 21st Century home, to cast judgement on the frailty and the fears of those populations that are permanently exposed to institutionalized and state supported systems of bigotry and terror. But to deny that bigotry is at the very least a contributory factor in the passive acceptance of such a framework.  Denial of those facts is part of the conspiracy that protects it.

ISIS is an abomination to many Muslims but it is supported by the selective use of Islamic texts and thus, by a large swathe of Muslims across the globe.  Islam is a religion of peace but it is also a religion of war; and war is a central plank of its expansion throughout history.  The ends do justify the means in Islam even when used against their own people but certainly when justified against non-Muslims.

In “Hamas and Political Legitimacy” (20/8/2014) I wrote that Hamas has a Hitler Complex.  It is so sure of its own theological infallibility it is willing to sacrifice its own population in a destructive war to first humiliate its enemy and then, to destroy it, utterly.  Hamas is no different to any other Muslim fundamentalist movement. 

The only mistake IS made was that it provoked the United States by publicly beheading two American journalists.  Before then it had killed thousands of Christians and in all probability many more thousands of Muslims. Its attempted genocide of the Yazidis has all but been forgotten though it occurred less than two months ago. The main difference between IS, its predecessors and contemporary rivals in the Muslim world is its success.  Violence will gain the Islamic State an audience and a minor horde of sociopathic followers, extreme violence however, earns a global audience and an army of sociopathic wannabes.

For the Western-Arab coalition, containment of the IS contagion means infiltration by the dispersed ‘warriors’ and therefore, destabilization spreading throughout the region. Appeasement represents the worst of options because it is a sign of weakness and will only encourage more acts of terror. The logic is that the faithful are tested by their resolve, not as measured by their success but more crucially, when they appear to be failing in their endeavour.  Appeasing IS will lead to more 911’s and far greater casualties in the long term.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

US Launches Air Strikes on Islamists in Syria

Representatives from 26 countries attended a conference in Paris on the 15th of September 2014.  Diplomats from the UN, Russia, China, the USA, France, Germany, Canada, Britain and the Arab world attended. At the conclusion of the conference a statement was issued that condemned the Islamic State and ‘showed support’ for the newly elected government of Iraq.

Eight days later, on the 23rd of September, a coalition comprising the USA, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates and Qatar began an assault on Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria.  They had notified the tyrant Bashar al-Assad of their intentions before commencement of operations but only because they did not want Assad’s forces shooting down the coalitions airplanes.

A couple of observations then:

ISIS is the unintentional progeny of Sunni extremism and yet they are also the predictable consequence of uncritical Muslim thought throughout Muslim history. The vision of a Global Caliphate is the cornerstone of this religious thinking.

The debate in Muslim history has always centered round the methodology of achieving a global caliphate (an empire ruled exclusively by and for the Muslim faithful). Accord has taken direction from military conquest; in modern times by creeping migration and incremental acceleration of demands for internal self-determination; and by hostile international diplomatic posturing.  It is inevitable that today it is being attempted by a combination of all three.

Islamist movements never saw themselves as anything but transnational.  They arose according to the contemporary ideological environment and if not checked, did not remain isolated to one geographical region. Fabulous economic wealth helped to propel the extremist ideology of the Islamic Levant onto a greater world stage but militancy was always present even when unable to express itself openly.

Charles Allen described one particular sect, the Wahhabis, as “God’s Terrorists.” They arose in Saudi Arabia in the 18th Century and are now concentrated in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE.  Wahhabis represent the governing aristocracy and administration of Saudi Arabia and have therefore provided the principle funding for a ruthless ultra-conservative version of Islam via its worldwide network of schools and mosques.  And Qatar is the world’s wealthiest country (per capita).  It also, has helped to spread the chaos - by providing much of the funding for the HAMAS movement. Moreover, it has funded the more extreme Islamist al Qaeda linked factions that oppose the Shiite regime in Syria.

A couple of years ago a scandal erupted in Britain when a newspaper investigation revealed a Saudi funded private school network that provided textbooks which taught children the ‘proper’ way to cut off the right hand and left foot of thieves. Exhortations to remain separate rather than to integrate into British society were part of the school ethos.  Some people will point out that Western foundations spread the ideals of democracy, equality and human rights in overseas aid programs, and they object to this teaching because it is a foreign, and to them, an alien and unwelcome implant.  This then, is one of the arguments liberals use for excusing schools that teach their children how to commit torture and mutilation, as punishment, in the name of their faith. While I disagree with this argument for the simple reason that a democracy is unlikely to kill those with whom it disagrees, the speed with which we try to excuse the behavior of Islamic organizations preaching the antithesis of our democratic system is far more worrying.

Extremism taught as Normal Behavior

Salafism follows the literal traditional texts of the first three generations of the founders of the 7th Century Islamic faith.

Wahhabis are also referred to as Salafis (even as many view the former as no more than a subset of the latter).   Both are universally recognized as being more extreme than the adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood which, has a similar ideology but is less inclined to maintain the strict defining code of Salafism. 

ISIS is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  ISIL is the same movement but stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Levant defines the territorial ambitions of IS in far more grandiose terms unless both Iraq and Syria are viewed through ‘secular’ Ba’athist imperialist ambitions.   We may choose to place a Salafi label on them but whatever label we select to assign to them, the grisly and barbaric behavior of IS (the Islamic State) represents the logical consequence of the ideas behind Islamic purity.

The estimated 31,000 jihadis fighting for IS are not going to be cowered by a US led coalition of authoritarian Muslim regimes.  With ideological sympathy from amongst the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis they will disperse when attacked and hide amongst their coreligionists across the Arab and greater Muslim world.

In order to permanently degrade ISIL and prevent it from rising again we have to first accept that their genocidal theology and as a consequence, their abhorrent methodology will find resonance amongst many Muslims in every society. Until we accept this alarming fact we will not seriously approach the subject of how to a) initially contain this phenomenon and how to b) ultimately destroy it.

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part series.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Israel’s Foreign Policy Dilemma

The news headlines screamed out the terrible news “Turkey kills deal on gas with Israel”.  Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz stated that the deal was dead unless (until) Israel made peace and Gaza’s needs were fulfilled.  More specific he said that Israel must “instate a permanent peace there with all its elements”.  “All its elements” means to include all those Muslim Nazis who support a permanent state of war with the Jewish people.

For a generation or more the Western press has been incapable of relating to a theocratic justification for genocide so it ignores it.

An Egyptian lawyer, a woman, promotes her online video which advises all Muslim men to go out and rape Israeli women as punishment for Israel’s actions against its enemies.  This is from the Arab country where rape appears to have become a national leisure time sport.  Eighty three per cent of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment and 98% of foreign female visitors have suffered a worse fate if, they stupidly assume a right to appear in public.

A senior Palestinian official, Abbas Zaki in 2014 tells the faithful that “Allah is gathering the Jews (to Israel) so we can kill them.”

The Arab world assumes superiority over the rest of us because the prophet ‘chose’ the Arab peoples to conquer the globe for Islam.  This racist Aryan style doctrine has not always been at the center of the Arab self-image.

Moving forward from the late 19th Century, Western thought on nationalism heavily influenced Islamists who were deeply disturbed by the Muslim inability to shake off Western encroachment on their own conquered territories.   From the 1850’s onwards the period of European exploration in Africa excited Western audiences.  But articles and books that described the activities of the Arab slave traders in Africa deeply unsettled Western opinion as the barbarism of their trade was slowly revealed.  This need to protect Africans became the pretense behind Western colonialism in Africa.

The nation state of Israel did not exist in 1860 nor had the forced demographic superiority of the Arabs been disturbed.  However, from the 1860’s nationalism was an intellectually satisfying means of understanding Arab weakness against the infidel. It has continued to inform the Arab relationship with both Muslim and non-Muslim nations whether under the guise of Pan-Arabism or Ba’athism.

The Jewish state remains no more than an excuse pursued by racists for the partial failure of Arab racial or religiously inspired imperialism.

Turkey tried to ignore the political, tribal and religious nature of this inter-Muslim conflict. Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish foreign minister (now Prime Minister) stated his policy as “Zero problems with its (Muslim) neighbors”.  But this doctrine soon turned out to be unworkable as instead, it alienated all of its neighbors. Syria fell into civil war, ‘accidentally’ shelling Turkish border towns in the process.  Egypt’s Muslim fundamentalist government seemed to desire nothing less than the bankruptcy of the entire country and events in Iraq threatened to spill over into Turkey, destabilizing Turkey’s south eastern (Kurdish) provinces.  Turkish military aid to their preferred insurgency groups added further oil to the flames of the Syrian inferno and helped to further destabilize the rest of the region.

Persia (Iran) and Turkey (Neo-Ottoman) are both former imperialist Muslim powers and like the Arabs, history is central to their identity, to the active exclusion of any other ethnic or religious group.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the current Prime Minister of Turkey has sagely informed Israel that Jews lived ‘better’ under Muslim protection and therefore they should return to this previous barbaric era of religiously prescribed slavery.   In the aftermath of Israel’s latest conflict with Gaza a respected Turkish journalist calls for Jews who live in or do business with Turkey to be taxed in order to pay for rebuilding Gaza. This is one way to blame a minority for something that is beyond its control and we can assume that it is not meant to demonstrate Islamic grace or charity towards one if its previously persecuted minorities in spite of Davutoglu’s dissimulation.

Prime Minister Davutoglu is a keen advocate of Neo-Ottomanism based on Islamic principles. To assume a humanly rational and ethical attitude from a religious bigot is naïve and demonstrates a dangerously unsophisticated knowledge of human nature. He was formerly chairman of the department for international relations at a Turkish university.  Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu like his president, Recep Erdogan, has no moral qualms about his nations seedy past or their present imperialist pretensions.

The Turkish president Recep Erdogan accused Israel of excessive use of force in its most recent conflict with HAMAS in Gaza.

President Erdogan accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people. He declared that “Israel has surpassed Hitler in its barbarities.”

I shall respond to those charges:

The number of dead in all of Israel’s conflicts since the 1880’s (in over 120 years of warfare) is estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 victims of Jewish, Druze, Christian and Muslim faith. During a shorter period of recent history Turkey murdered between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 Christian Armenians. It murdered up to 500,000 Assyrian Christians. Turkey murdered some 900,000 Greek Christians. Estimates vary but up to 3,500,000 Christians were murdered between the Armenian massacre of 1895 and the Anatolian massacre of 1922.  Up to 500,000 Kurds were murdered by Turkish nationalists

Turkey is an infamous trend-setter.  It was the rapidity with which the world forgot Turkey’s crimes against humanity that encouraged Hitler to undertake his genocidal war, a war which eventually killed over 60,000,000 people.  That is the entire population of Britain or France.  As late as 2012 it was reported in the German press that the Turkish Neo-Ottoman military gassed Kurds, yet another barely reported crime against humanity ignored by the United Nations Organization.  Turkey is guilty of ethnic cleansing, of occupying Northern Cyprus and transferring the Kurds into illegal settlements (a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).  In one of Turkeys more ironic crimes against humanity Kurds, forced off their own land have been transferred into land that is not theirs to settle.

Since the bloody massacres that crowned the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453 Turkish Muslim rule has been an abomination of bloodshed and division, and saying sorry is rarely tolerated.  A journalist can be jailed for even referring to the past.

So excuse me if I become a little confused at Turkeys’ demands for Jewish restraint when confronted with thousands of mortar rounds and thousands more missiles deliberately fired by Arab supremacists at our civilian schools, at our civilian buses and at our civilian hospitals.

There are people, call them ‘moderates’ if you wish, they believe that being tolerant of bigots reaps a reward. They think that passion and self-censorship are unnecessary between people in conflict. They believe that trust can be achieved even after the most acrimonious of divorces and relationships can be mended over time.  They do not live in the real world where such anger as exists has an inter-generational memory seared into the consciousness of its adversaries, on both sides.

Just as the fascist left has taught many Jews and their non-Jewish supporters some important lessons about betrayal, so Israel’s relationship with the Muslim world in the Near East and beyond is approaching a crossroads.  The Left is in denial.  It has failed to address the religious element in the war between the two (Jewish and Muslim) civilizations.

Hate destroys but it also presents a warning to those people who are willing to listen. Calls from the past, calls for the rapist to attack the weak and calls from the idealist with his or her revanchist dreams are not meant to intimidate an adversary. They are messages from an enemy of their intent to demolish bridges not build them.

Israel must deliver a message that it will neither forget Turkish aggression nor will it turn the other cheek. It must begin by accepting the loss of its trade with Turkey. It should break off diplomatic relations with Turkey and not just because Turkey supports Israel’s enemies against it.  Incitement against minorities justifies its cultural dominance.  Turkey has actively encouraged the Muslim Brotherhood whether under the guise of al Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front or in its latest disguise, the Islamic State.

Israel needs Turkey as a major strategic ally, but not unless it can be trusted.

The reason that Israel has stayed clear of replacing Turkey with Greece is that Greece’s past antisemitism is both entrenched and unimpeded by any necessity it may feel warrants the establishment of closer ties.  If Israel is isolated in the world then acknowledging its own failures without complete reciprocity can neither create trust nor improve the relationship.

Sadly then, there is a perception that one of Israel's possible foreign policy options is 'that it is better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don't.'

Unfortunately, this appeasement never works.  Turkey often behaves like a national criminal enterprise. It is the last nation in the world that should lecture Israel on ethical conduct during war-time. It is the last nation in the world that should set conditions for its participation in energy deals that profit it more than it profits Israel.