Friday, November 20, 2009

Nidal Hasan and Fort Hood.

 

A Study in Muslim Doctrine

by Raymond Ibrahim

One of the difficulties in discussing Islam's more troubling doctrines is that they have an anachronistic, even otherworldly, feel to them; that is, unless actively and openly upheld by Muslims, non-Muslims, particularly of the Western variety, tend to see them as abstract theory, not standard practice for today. In fact, some Westerners have difficulties acknowledging even those problematic doctrines that are openly upheld by Muslims — such as jihad. How much more when the doctrines in question are subtle, or stealthy, in nature?

Enter Nidal Malik Hasan, the psychiatrist, U.S. Army major, and "observant Muslim who prayed daily," who recently went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing thirteen Americans (including a pregnant woman). While the media wonders in exasperation why he did it, offering the same old tired and trite reasons — he was "picked on," he was "mentally unbalanced" — the fact is his behavior comports well with certain Islamic doctrines. As such, it behooves Americans to take a moment and familiarize themselves with the esotericisms of Islam.

Note: Any number of ulema (Muslim scholars) have expounded the following doctrines. However, since jihadi icon and theoretician Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, has also addressed many of these doctrines in his treatises, including by quoting several authoritative ulema, I will primarily rely on excerpts from The Al Qaeda Reader (AQR), for those readers who wish to source, and read in context, the following quotes in one volume.

 

Wala' wa Bara'

Perhaps best translated as "loyalty and enmity," this doctrine requires Muslims to maintain absolute loyalty to Islam and one another, while disavowing, even hating (e.g., Koran 60:4), all things un-Islamic — including persons (a.k.a. "infidels"). This theme has ample support in the Koran, hadith, and rulings of the ulema, that is, usul al-fiqh (roots of Muslim jurisprudence). In fact, Zawahiri has written a fifty-page treatise entitled "Loyalty and Enmity" (AQR, p. 63-115).

One of the many Koranic verses on which he relies warns Muslims against "taking the Jews and Christians as friends and allies … whoever among you takes them for friends and allies, he is surely one of them" (Koran 5:51), i.e., he becomes an infidel. The plain meaning of this verse alone — other verses, such as 3:28, 4:144, and 6:40 follow this theme — and its implications for today can hardly be clearer. According to one of the most authoritative Muslim exegetes, al-Tabari (838-923), Koran 5:51 means that the Muslim who "allies with them [non-Muslims] and enables them against the believers, that same one is a member of their faith and community" (AQR, p. 71).

Sheikh al-Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), takes the concept of loyalty one step further when he tells Muslims that they are "obligated to befriend a believer — even if he is oppressive and violent towards you and must be hostile to the infidel, even if he is liberal and kind to you" (AQR, p. 84).

In ways, Hasan's life was a testimony to loyalty and enmity. According to his colleague, Dr. Finnell, Hasan "was very vocal about the war, very upfront about being a Muslim first and an American second." If his being "vocal about the war" is not enough to demonstrate unwavering loyalty to Islam, his insistence that he is first and foremost a Muslim is. Other evidence indicates that the primary factor that threw him "over the edge" was that he was being deployed to a Muslim country (Afghanistan) — his "worst nightmare."

According to a fellow Muslim convenience store owner who often spoke with Hasan, the thought that he might injure or kill Muslims "weighed heavily on him." Hasan also counseled a fellow Muslim not to join the U.S. Army, since "Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims," again, showing where his loyalty lies. Tabari's exegesis comes to mind: the Muslim who "allies with them [non-Muslims] and enables them against the believers, that same one is a member of their faith and community," i.e., he too becomes an infidel (AQR, p. 71).

Another source who spoke with Hasan notes that "in the Koran, you're not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell."

At any rate, surely none of this should come as a surprise. In April 2005, another Muslim serving in the U.S. Army, Hasan Akbar, was convicted of murder for killing two American soldiers and wounding fourteen in a grenade attack in Kuwait. According to the AP, "he launched the attack because he was concerned U.S. troops would kill fellow Muslims in Iraq."

 

Taqiyya

This doctrine, which revolves around deceiving the infidel, is pivotal to upholding loyalty and enmity wherever and whenever Muslim minorities live among non-Muslim majorities. In fact, the Koran's primary justification for deception is in the context of loyalty: "Let believers [Muslims] not take for friends and allies infidels [non-Muslims] instead of believers. Whoever does this shall have no relationship left with God — unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions" (Koran 3:28). In other words, when necessary, Muslims are permitted to feign friendship and loyalty to non-Muslims, or, in the words of Abu Darda, a pious companion of Muhammad, "We grin to the faces of some peoples, while our hearts curse them" (AQR, p. 73). Taqiyya's importance for upholding loyalty and enmity is evidenced by the fact that, just three pages into his treatise, Zawahiri has an entire section called "The Difference Between Befriending and Dissembling." There he shows that, while sincere friendship with non-Muslims is forbidden, insincere friendship — whenever beneficial to Muslims — is not.

Again, Zawahiri quotes that standard reference, Tabari, who explains Koran 3:28 as follows: "Only when you are in their [non-Muslims'] power, fearing for yourselves, are you to demonstrate friendship for them with your tongues, while harboring hostility toward them. But do not join them in the particulars of their infidelities, and do not aid them through any action against a Muslim" (AQR, p. 74).

And therein lies the limit of taqiyya: when the deceit, the charade begins to endanger the lives of fellow Muslims — whom, as we have seen, deserve first loyalty — it is forbidden. As Zawahiri concludes, the Muslim may pretend, so long as he does "not undertake any initiative to support them [non-Muslims], commit sin, or enable [them] through any deed or killing or fighting against Muslims" (AQR, p. 75).

Again, we are reminded that the "moment of truth" for Hasan, who seems to have led something of a double life — American major and psychiatrist by day, financial supporter of jihadi groups and associate of terrorists by night — is the fact that he was being deployed to Afghanistan, i.e., he would have been aiding non-Muslim Americans against fellow Muslims (remember, he was "a Muslim first and an American second"). He tried to prevent this, getting a lawyer, to no avail. Thus, since he had taken deceit to its doctrinal limit and was now being placed in a position where he would have to actually demonstrate his loyalty to Americans against Muslims, it appears he decided to take it to the next level (see doctrine below).

Incidentally, we also find that "he [Hasan] was going to be kind of the caretaker for [American] Muslim soldiers. Sometimes Muslim soldiers have a rift between what they're doing and their faith," according to Major Khalid Shabazz, an Army Muslim chaplain. "That person who is a leader needs to quell some of those fears and help them through that process."

This all sounds well and good, but what, precisely, does it mean? If, as we have seen, Islam clearly forbids Muslims from aiding infidels against fellow Muslims, and if being in the U.S. Army requires American Muslims to fight non-American Muslims now and again, how was Hasan — or any other observant Muslim — going to "quell some of those fears and help through that process"? How, if not by merely instructing them in the centuries-old arts of taqiyya?

 

Jihad

Amongst learned infidels, jihad is the most recognized and notorious of all Muslim doctrines. Literally meaning to "struggle" or "strive," jihad can take on any form, though its most native and praiseworthy expression revolves around fighting, and killing, the infidel enemy — even if it costs the Muslim fighter (the mujahid) his life: "Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the path of Allah; whoever fights in the path of Allah — whether he dies or triumphs — we shall richly reward him" (Koran 4:74). And "Allah has purchased from the faithful their lives and possessions, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight in the path of Allah, killing and being killed" (Koran 9:111).

The hadith also has its fair share of anecdotes advocating the "one-man jihad." Zawahiri's treatise, "Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents," (AQR p. 137-171), spends much time justifying the desperate solo jihad — otherwise known as the "martyrdom operation" — including by offering the following hadith: "A Muslim asked Muhammad, O Messenger of Allah! If I plunge myself into the ranks of the idolaters and fight till I am killed — what then, to heaven? He [Muhammad] said yes. So the man plunged himself into the ranks of the idolaters, fighting till he was slain" (AQR, p. 153).

The learned ulema agree. According to al-Qurtubi (d. 1273), "There is no wrong for a man to singlehandedly attack a mighty army — if he seeks martyrdom — provided he has the fortitude." Others indicate that one of the reasons making the one-man jihad permissible is that it serves to "terrify the foe" (AQR, p. 155).

And there it is: When all else failed, when Hasan's forthcoming deployment into Muslim land forced him to expose where his true loyalty (wala') lies, pretense (taqiyya) gave way to full-blown struggle (jihad). Hasan, who sacrificed many years to become a psychiatrist and a U.S. Army major, in the clear words of the Koran "exchange[d] the life of this world for the Hereafter." Evidence also indicates that he believed "martyrdom operations" were not only valid but laudable acts of courage, writing "YOUR INTENTION IS THE MAIN ISSUE" (capitals in original). Zawahiri puts it more articulately: "The deciding factor is … the intention." Is the mujahid killing himself "to service Islam [laudable martyrdom], or is it out of depression and despair [forbidden suicide]?" (AQR, p. 157).

(Unfortunately and, no doubt, much to Hasan's chagrin, infidel medics ensured his failure to achieve martyrdom.)

The greatest proof that, at least in his own mind, Hasan was waging a jihad is the fact that he utilized that immemorial jihadi war cry — Allahu Akbar! — which has served to terrify the infidel denizens of the world for centuries. Here's an example from Muslim history (circa the early 8th century): "The [non-Muslim] inhabitants of eastern Anatolia were filled with terror the likes of which they had never experienced before. All they saw were Muslims in their midst screaming 'Allahu Akbar!' Allah planted terror in their hearts. … The [non-Muslim] men were crucified over the course of 24 km" (from Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk).

Indeed, while the takbir (the formal term for "Allahu Akbar") can be used in various contexts, it is by far primarily used in a jihadi context, past and present. Nearly 1,400 years ago, Muhammad and the early Muslims cried "Allahu Akbar" immediately before attacking their infidel neighbors; eight years before the Fort Hood massacre, Mohamed Atta cried "Allahu Akbar" immediately before crashing a hijacked plane into one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Even Bukhari, the most authoritative hadith compiler, has an entire chapter titled "The Recitation of Takbir [i.e., Allahu Akbar] in War."

Yet confusion abides. An AP report writes: "As if going off to war, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan cleaned out his apartment, gave leftover frozen broccoli to one neighbor, and called another to thank him for his friendship — common courtesies and routines of the departing soldier. Instead, authorities say, he went on the killing spree that left thirteen people at Fort Hood, Texas, dead." Contrary to the tone of this excerpt, Hasan's actions were far from contradictory. After all, he was "going off to war."

Wala' wa bara,' taqiyya, and jihad all help explain Hasan's actions. Even so, other lesser-known aspects of Islam lend their support to the view that he was acting from an Islamist framework.

 

Sakina

Several people who encountered Hasan before, and even during, the time he went a-jihading note that he evinced an almost unnatural amount of calmness — certainly for one getting ready to go on a killing spree. No doubt, many will point to this as a sign that he was suffering from some sort of schizophrenic episode.

Yet the fact remains: according to jihadi lore, a feeling of tranquility and calmness is supposed to descend on the mujahid, especially during the most stressful moments of combat (see Koran 9:26 for confirmation). This is known as sakina (calmness, tranquility). Osama bin Laden himself often describes his experience of sakina during the Afghan-Soviet war: "Once I was only thirty meters away from the Russians and they were trying to capture me. I was under bombardment, but I was so peaceful in my heart that I fell asleep. Before a battle, Allah sends us sequina [sakina] — tranquility." Of course, whether Hasan experienced "true" sakina, or whether he was merely affecting to himself, is irrelevant. Rather, the point here is that, once again, that which appears inexplicable or indicative of "mental instability" can be explained through an Islamic paradigm.

 

Da'wa

According to Sharia law, Muslims are not permitted to voluntarily reside in non-Muslim nations, such as America, except under certain circumstances. One of these is if the Muslim is actively engaged in da'wa, that is, proselytizing; another is if he fights in the path of Allah, jihad. Both serve the same purpose: empowering Islam by numbers and territory, respectively. Merely living in infidel territory out of choice, however, because it offers a "better life," is forbidden. (To get an idea of how serious a matter it is for Muslims to reside in non-Muslims nations, see some online fatwas.)

Accordingly, we find that the observant Hasan, prior to his jihadi spree, was engaged in da'wa for years. In fact, he aggressively pursued it to the point that he was reprimanded by the authorities. Nor did he cease trying to proselytize — that is, trying to validate his living with infidels — until the day before he went on his rampage, when he gave his neighbor a copy of the Koran. Of course, many Westerners will project their notions of proselytism onto Hasan and see only a God-fearing man "altruistically" concerned for the souls of others. Unfortunately, even the business card he included with his Koran gifts is indicative of violence, as it stealthily introduces him as a "soldier of Allah." Moreover, the "altruistic" interpretation fails to take into account the sort of legalism observant Muslims such as Hasan often adhere to: if he literally believed he was "exchanging this life for the Hereafter," he most likely also believed that he had to justify his voluntary dwelling with infidels, hence the da'wa.

* * *

Soon following the Fort Hood massacre, FBI agent Brad Garrett explained Hasan's behavior as follows: "It's one of those things that he obviously went to kill a lot of people [jihad] and commit suicide [martyrdom]. Maybe in his own mind that he's saving future lives [Muslim loyalty]." Read with the bracketed concepts I supplied, Hasan's actions become logical and consistent — again, from an doctrinal point of view, that is, from a point of view the West, especially its leaders, are loath to explore and alacritous to ignore.

For example, "U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat who is one of two Muslims serving in Congress, cautioned against focusing on the alleged shooter's religion [and thus its doctrines] and instead said the discussion should be about mental health issues."

Flagrant obfuscations aside, the facts remain: loyalty to Muslims and enmity for infidels (wala' wa bara'), a secretive double life (taqiyya), violence in the name of Allah (jihad) — all these can easily explain Hasan's violent rampage in Fort Hood.

The ultimate lesson? So long as Muslim doctrines are downplayed in the West, so long will warning signs, even concrete intelligence, be ignored, so long will such seemingly inexplicable incidents occur, so long will the media continue grasping for straws and Americans be "completely blindsided," so long will "Muslim grievance" be the default answer, so long will appeasement and concessions (domestically and internationally) be the only solution, so long will jihadis and Islamists grow emboldened and contemptuous, expecting more. Ad infinitum.

Conversely, if the Fort Hood massacre causes Americans to begin taking Islam's doctrines more seriously, the thirteen slain, while dying tragically, will not have died in vain.

Raymond Ibrahim is the associate director of the Middle East Forum and the author of The Al Qaeda Reader, translations of religious texts and propaganda

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Kiss the Independence Intifada goodbye.


by Michael Young

The death of the Independence Intifada of 2005 has been prematurely announced many times. However, today we have in front of us  a genuine corpse, the end of the fleeting aspiration four years ago, at least in its more restricted form, of establishing a system emancipated from Syria. The Syrians, who left Lebanon through the window after Rafik Hariri’s assassination only to re-enter by the front door in recent months, have done so thanks to an understanding with Saudi Arabia. There are differences between what we have today and the Syrian-Saudi condominium after Taif, above all that the Syrian Army is no longer deployed in Lebanon. The latest contract is more equitable and is complicated by the fact that Iran has a powerful stake in the system   through Hizbullah. However, it is familiar in leaving Lebanon with little discernible sovereignty, in large part courtesy of Lebanese divisions. 

 

It’s no secret that the Saudis put considerable pressure on the prime minister-elect, Saad Hariri, to come to an arrangement over the new government with the opposition, one reason why he was forced to spend much time negotiating with Michel Aoun, to the irritation of his Christian partners. The Syrians, too, kept their end of the bargain, apparently with Turkish prodding, by bringing Aoun into line. After five months, the Hariri government was made in Lebanon only in the narrowest of ways. 

 

This represents a fundamental shift from what Lebanon had between 2005 and 2009. From 2004 on, the country was placed under an effective, if highly imperfect, form of international trusteeship, thanks to a series of Security Council resolutions governing Lebanese affairs. This began with Resolution 1559, calling for a Syrian withdrawal, an end to foreign interference in Lebanon’s presidential election that year (and presumably all years), and the disarmament of armed groups. The UN decisions also included Resolution 1595, which set up an international commission to investigate Hariri’s murder, and it was followed by Resolution 1701, establishing a reinforced mechanism for the stabilization of southern Lebanon after the summer war of 2006. 

 

That international scaffolding has been substantially eroded in recent years, by action or omission. Resolution 1559 has been implemented only in the sense that Syrian soldiers have left Lebanon. However, Syrian meddling in Lebanese affairs has been unrelenting, and in late 2007 France significantly undermined the letter of the resolution, which it had co-sponsored, by actively bringing Damascus into the Lebanese presidential election. As for the disarmament of Hizbullah or pro-Syrian Palestinian groups, nothing has happened, and the Cabinet is preparing to find a consensual rhetorical formula in its statement to evade the question. 

 

The initial optimism surrounding the Hariri investigation has, similarly, worn off. Although the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, remains confident that he will bring indictments, there continues to be serious question whether the guilty will ever be identified. There was a perceptible slowdown during the two years of Serge Brammertz, so that today no suspects are in custody. The regional and international political climate does not favor raising the heat on Syria – realistically the principal culprit in the crime. While it is too early to be definite, we should begin considering the possibility that no indictments will be brought, despite Bellemare’s assertions.  

 

As for Resolution 1701, it has been a mixed bag. The reinforced UN force in the south has doubtless limited Hizbullah’s margin of maneuver in the border area, forcing the party to rebuild its  main line of defense north of the Litani River. However, the resolution has failed utterly in preventing Israeli overflights but also Hizbullah’s massive rearmament, because the Security Council has been unwilling to punish Syria or Iran for violating its conditions. That the Lebanese government will soon put together a policy statement endorsing this situation helps little. 

 

We should heed what the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, told Al-Nahar last week. He warned that arms exports from Iran put Lebanon at great risk, then added, pointedly, that he hoped the Lebanese government realized this. Lest we forget, the scope of Israeli destruction in 2006, though enormous, was contained by the Americans, mainly to avoid discrediting the Siniora government. Feltman’s remarks indicated that Washington would be less inclined next time around to do the same thing. In other words, the Lebanese must accept that their best protection against Israel is Resolution 1701. 

 

So the Syrians are back. They don’t rule Lebanon from Anjar, but they are likely to retain a final say on most decisions of importance in the country. If one wants to see the glass as half full, Syria must now accept as a reality that many of its political foes are represented in the government and Parliament. Syria’s ability to tap into corruption and patronage networks has been blunted. But if the glass is half empty, Assad has significantly negated the emancipatory impulses of 2005, allowing him to once again use Lebanon to advance Syrian interests, to the Lebanese detriment.

 

On April 24, 2007, Assad told the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at a meeting held in Damascus that “[Lebanon’s] most peaceful years were when Syrian forces were present. From 1976 to 2005 Lebanon was stable, whereas now there is great instability.” Will his forces return to Beirut? Does he want them to? If he could he would. However, Syria has done well enough by chipping away at the order put in place after its withdrawal, and now has allies even within the majority camp. 

 

As a Syrian academic close to the regime once stated privately at an academic conference: Lebanon had a choice between being with Syria or with Iran. The Saudis, otherwise absent from that menu, have apparently chosen for the Lebanese. This opens the door to many possibilities, even if Syria will not soon break with Iran over Lebanon. But what it really does is remind us that what happened four years ago was neither an intifada nor, ultimately, a moment of true independence. 

 

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Tack: Save the scarecrow

 

by S

Some scarecrows are charmers. They cannot maintain their upright position without outside support, but there's a wide engaging smile scrawled on their faces and their incontrovertible cute-factor makes everyone adore them.

Just hear all that pretentious poppycock spouted at us by world opinion (as ever, resonated shrilly by our own left wing). According to trendy conventional wisdom, the Palestinian Authority's scarecrow - Mahmoud Abbas - can do no wrong. At the same time, the Israelis who keep him from keeling over can do no right. Simple isn't it?

Abbas was universally lauded for purity of heart and purpose when he first ascended Yasser Arafat's vacated throne in 2004. After his recently announced retirement, Abbas is piteously beseeched to please reconsider. As per pompous Western pundits, the scarecrow shakily ensconced in Ramallah is our last viable hope for peace. The scarecrow must be saved. Without him the sky is sure to come crashing down.

And who instilled all that dejection and gloom in our upstanding scarecrow? Who is responsible for his desperation, for the I-can-go-on-no-longer melancholy? Only one answer exists: intransigent settlement-building, concord-stifling, conquistador Israel.

BUT BEFORE we subscribe to the international community's premise of Israeli culpability for all that goes awry (and plenty does), there are four critical questions to ponder: Does Abbas deserve his good-guy credentials? Why has he proven such an abysmal failure? Who truly undermined him? And is he worth saving?

1. Is Abbas really righteous? Holocaust-denier Abbas is indisputably a more urbane version of Arafat, with better PR-sense and a closer shave (not that Arafat in his day wasn't adulated as the harbinger of optimism and harmony). True, Abbas sings Arafat's song, but, oh, how much more genteel the rendition!

Abbas has no use for Arafat's in-your-face hysterical chants. He'd never send us to drink from Gaza's sea nor openly exhort millions to march on Jerusalem. His style is slyer than that. To paraphrase Roberta Flack's 1973 hit, mild-mannered Abbas is "killing us softly with his words."

His repertoire consists of the same reliable old Arafat standbys - back to the 1949 armistice lines, Jerusalem is Arab Palestine's capital, no antiterrorist campaign, no end to incitement and no relinquishment of the right to inundate the Jewish state with hostile Arabs.

But Abbas does offer compromise. While he insists the Western Wall be placed under exclusive Muslim control, he magnanimously agrees to permit small numbers of Jews to pray at a limited section thereof under conditions stipulated in 1930 by the Mandate's post-Hebron-massacre Shaw Commission (which forbade the blowing of the shofar). Abbas pledges to generously allow us to reassume our once-lowly status. Big of him.

2. Who impeded Abbas's success? In point of fact Abbas didn't really stand a reasonable chance to begin with. He was pretty much bound to flop. He cannot pull his own public toward an accommodation with Israel. It's not a matter of conciliatory forces overcoming fanatics. The Arab street consistently, since 1920, seems controlled by an inexorable self-destruct mechanism compelling it to follow the most extreme available option. Perceived moderates are cravenly defensive and are neutralized to no small measure by their own machinations. They themselves fan the flames of zealotry. Rather than dispute radical narratives, they echo them as means to winning popularity.

It all boils down to a contest between run-of-the-mill hard-liners and even more unyielding hard-liners. No truly painful concessions are even remotely contemplated in Ramallah.

No body of opinion dares depart from entrenched revilement of the "Zionist entity." All libel and demonize Israel. To the extent that variant views exist, they are only cosmetic and superficial. The debate is make-believe, not about substance but about which anti-Israel tactics are preferable.

Entirely missing from the Palestinian equation is a peace camp, one which need not embrace Israel - as some Israelis do the Palestinians - but a party which thoroughly reevaluates the regression, damage and suffering that Palestinian-instigated violence has over the generations inflicted upon Palestinian society itself. Such sobering reassessment is primarily the Palestinian interest - for their own sake and not for the love of us.

Sadly, however, it appears the taboo on sincere reconciliation with Israel as a Jewish state with a moral right to continue existing in this region is too powerful for any aspiring Palestinian politician to break. Not a word is heard across the Green Line about genuine unequivocal acceptance of Israel. At most there is reluctant readiness for a limited truce so long as Israel basically capitulates to every last Arab precondition.

Abbas is entrapped in his own mendacious rhetoric and in the very uncompromising consensus he actively helps construct. He was therefore even powerless to please US President Barack Obama by postponing the showdown on the Goldstone report.

3. What rendered Abbas so disconsolate? According to the prevalent liberal legend, his spirit was crushed because all settlement growth - the microscopic traces thereof that can at all still be vaguely detected - wasn't forthwith frozen for good. Israel's inability to fulfill his wish obediently and Obama's inability to twist Israel's arms instantly and excruciatingly was more than Abbas could withstand.

Really?

Perhaps Abbas's travails have less to do with Israel and everything to do with Obama's egregious misreading of a region that fails to conform to progressive Harvard texts? Obama essentially forced Abbas to call the January 24 election. American democracy loves elections, but in the undemocratic Muslim galaxy they spell nothing but trouble (Afghanistan being merely one palpable example). When George W. Bush pressured Abbas to hold the 2006 election, he set off a disastrous chain-reaction that propelled Hamas to power in Gaza.

No future PA electoral result would be legitimized by Hamas but is likely to trigger a power struggle that could lose Abbas the remainder of his latifundia. There is no way the scarecrow Israel artificially props up as its peace partner can survive another American-imposed election.

Abbas knows that his sole source of security in Ramallah is the IDF. He cannot endure without Israel, yet he cannot appear to be in its debt. He cannot shirk the Hamas threat and he cannot in reality stand up to it. He cannot do without America's embrace but it also breaks his ribs. It's all pretty disheartening, but settlements have nothing to do with Abbas's bind. Settlements are nothing but his pretext.

4. Is Abbas indispensable? Just about as much as the scarecrow is in the vegetable patch. He doesn't do much, but some gardeners swear by their handcrafted creation. The scarecrow, to be sure, contributes to the ambiance with his undeniable whimsical decorative value, which is more than can be said for Abbas. To declare the Ramallah scarecrow an interlocutor is to elevate the useless relic to the status of a daunting delusion. To offer life-risking concessions to the haggard effigy is nothing but stupid and dangerous.

 

S

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Diplomatic Warfare: Palestinians Threaten Unilateral Statehood.

 

by P. David Hornik

 

Will they try it? And how will Israel respond?

The rhetoric is flying these days in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that "there is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and any unilateral path will only unravel the framework of agreements between us and will only bring unilateral steps from Israel's side."

He was responding to threats by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that the Palestinian Authority would ask the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state in all of the post-1967 territories with its capital in East Jerusalem — part of Israel's united capital of Jerusalem and formally under Israeli sovereignty for over four decades.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and universally acclaimed moderate, has joined the fray with some immoderate words, saying: "God willing, we will soon have an independent state with its capital in Jerusalem. … Today we are renewing our commitment to the entire Palestinian people — the martyrs, the wounded and the prisoners … to continue the path to victory, the path to a free and independent Palestine." Given that "martyrs" refers to suicide bombers and "prisoners" to convicted terrorists in Israeli jails, these words would be regarded as endorsement and encouragement of terrorism if someone less diplomatically protected and anointed than Abbas had uttered them.

Israeli leaders have fired back some warning shots.

Even some visitors from abroad have gotten into the act. Bill Clinton, speaking at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, said: "In the last 14 years, not a single week has gone by that I did not think of Yitzhak Rabin and miss him terribly. Nor has a single week gone by in which I have not reaffirmed my conviction that had he not lost his life on that terrible November night, within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East." For many Israelis who lived through the drastically increased terrorism of the early "Oslo process" and then through the three years of greatly reduced terrorism during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister, the second sentence of that quote from Clinton is more than a little problematic.

To top it off, Arnold Schwarzenegger is here too, though he appears to be keeping his remarks mercifully neutral and anodyne.

What's behind the rhetoric? The idea of a unilateral Palestinian push for statehood was broached recently by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and has been gaining steam. The Palestinians say that with the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks frozen, they have no choice but to try and get their state by their own means. A quirk in that position is that, ever since Barack Obama became U.S. president, it's Abbas who has steadfastly refused to meet with Netanyahu whereas Netanyahu has been constantly affirming his readiness to meet with Abbas and start negotiations on the two-state solution.

If pressed on that point, the Palestinians say they can't enter negotiations with Netanyahu unless he freezes all Israeli settlement activity. Yet even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that Netanyahu has already made "unprecedented" concessions on settlement construction. Nor, at any time in the off-and-on history of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 1993, have the Palestinians made a total settlement freeze a condition for holding talks.

What's really behind the rhetoric at least on the Palestinian side, in other words, is not any sort of legitimate grievance against the Netanyahu government, but two things. First, they're disappointed with Obama, who they thought — especially after his June 4 Cairo speech — would "deliver" Israel by endorsing all the Palestinian demands and dismissing Israel's; instead, the picture that has emerged is more nuanced. Second, with radical Hamas in charge of Gaza and Abbas's own Fatah Party hewing to traditional positions of rejecting Israel and affirming "armed revolution," the mainstream Palestinian leadership of Abbas and Fayyad is under pressure to tack toward extremism while still trying to sound politic enough to keep the Western financial and diplomatic largess flowing.

Are the Palestinian threats of unilaterally attaining statehood realistic? Even though such a move would be a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which for over four decades has established that the solution of the issue is through negotiations, Russia and some of the European states are said to be supportive of this Palestinian aim. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, the Palestinians are really contemplating bringing their demand to the Security Council, where it would — presumably, though even this can't be said with total confidence — face a U.S. veto, instead of just bluffing to up the pressure on Israel.

Especially when, to date, the Palestinian Authority has achieved neither water nor security independence. An Israeli official is quoted as saying that "the Palestinian Water Authority wouldn't last a day on its own" — that is, without primarily Israeli assistance. "We allocated them a piece of land on the coast to build a desalination plant and they have decided not to build it." As for security, given the current anarchic state of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas still needs help from the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Security Agency, and the Israeli Civil Administration just to travel from his headquarters in Ramallah to any other Palestinian town. Or as an Israeli officer is quoted as putting it, "When Abbas travels it is like a military operation. Everyone is involved since the PA forces cannot yet completely ensure his security."

As always, it boils down to this: Missing from the Western discourse on this whole issue is sufficient acknowledgment of the gap between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. On one side, is a Western democracy genuinely desirous of peace; on the other is a dysfunctional, bifurcated entity still riven with Islamic and Arab-nationalist hatred of Israel and a sense of grievance at its very existence. Netanyahu remains locked in a diplomatic struggle to establish himself and Israel as a reasonable, constructive party.

He's up against the fact that, given the larger realities of geopolitics and Arab economic power, Abbas, Erekat, Fayyad et al appear guaranteed to retain their moderate image no matter how extreme their actual rhetoric, tactics, and threats.

P. David Hornik

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Beyond Appeasement: The Concession Man.

 

by Herbert I. London

When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1936 he noted that based on his stance of appeasement with Hitler “peace was at hand.” Alas, Chamberlain was duped and, as might have been expected, history has not treated him kindly. But, however false the concessions made by Hitler, Chamberlain believed he had obtained a concession: Restraint on Nazi imperial ambitions.

In 2009 America’s own Chamberlain, President Obama, has adopted a stance beyond appeasement; he engages in preemptive conciliation without any expectation of a quid pro quo. President Obama does not wait to be double-crossed; he is concession man who gives before he is asked and remarkably puts American interests at risk in order to enhance his international standing.

Without securing any benefit from the withdrawal of missile sites and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic, President Obama blithely gave up what had been negotiated and settled with our allies. This move was heralded by the Russians, as might be expected. But Russian leaders immediately noted that they will not use this gesture to put pressure on Iran’s ambition to obtain nuclear weapons. After all, a Russian spokesman noted, “Why should we make a concession when you’ve decided to correct a mistake?”

On September 23, President Obama addressed the United Nations, and in the midst of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he embraced the Palestinian position for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, a divided Jerusalem, a cessation of new settlements in the West Bank and a “contiguous” Palestinian state. This was said without the slightest concession from the Palestinian side. There wasn’t any demand that the state of Israel must be recognized. There was not the slightest recognition of defensible borders. There was not a hint that Palestinian violence would be arrested. And most significantly, there did not seem to be the slightest recognition of geographic realities: A contiguous Palestinian state of Gaza and the West Bank means Israel would have to be divided in half.

Israel, America’s only real ally in the Middle East, was being dismembered in front of the General Assembly amid thunderous applause from the ranks of tyrannical states. It was as ifAhmadinejad wrote Obama’s speech.

President Obama also suggested that he stands for the oppressed people of the world – a truly noble sentiment. Yet in the next breath he alluded to the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad in Iran – this, as the oppressed there were on the streets, beaten by the Revolutionary Guard, harassed in the homes, murdered by government thugs and raped in prison. Yet those oppressed people were ignored by our president. Here again an emotional concession was made without the slightest reciprocal gesture from the Iranian leadership.

And why should they or any of our enemies concede anything when President Obama does their bidding? General Khadafy thinks Obama should be president for life. The only problem with this idea from Khadafy’s perspective would be that the president might soon run out of things to concede.

This plunge into the U.N. quagmire has made the president and, to an unprecedented degree, the nation look weak and ineffectual. It appears as if the United States is in decline and cannot marshal the fortitude to defend its own interests. When Chavez, Castro, Ahmadinejad, Khadafy applaud the action of an American president, something must be wrong.

What is wrong, of course, is that concession man in his pursuit of a transnational agenda, no longer represents the will of the American people. He is, in his own eyes, president of the world, a world in which national sovereignty is subordinated to global concerns. From global warming to the zero option on nuclear weapons, President Obama is employing these policy instruments to foster his global goals.

Where this will end is anyone’s guess. But on one point I am sure: Should Obama’s policies be pursued, the world of the future will see an America in decline and instability rampant on the world stage: Welcome to the Second Dark Ages.

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

State Department uses Islamist Anti-American Propaganda to Criticize Turkish Army Kicking Out Islamists.

 

by Barry Rubin

I’ve already written about how former President Bill Clinton, in line with the Obama Administration’s thinking,
acted as an apologist and even booster of Turkey’s Islamist regime. Now the State Department is doing it. Indeed, this is a fascinating little example of how thoroughly Islamists bamboozle the West.

The State Department issued its annual religious freedom report. If you look at the
section on Turkey, you will see that a main—perhaps the main—source is Mazlum-Der, which is the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People. What could be better than human rights and helping oppressed people?

Unfortunately, Mazlum-Der is a
front for the Islamist government in Turkey and the main oppressed people it’s concerned about are Hamas, Hizballah, and others of that ilk.

In fact, this group is headed by an Islamist member of parliament for the Adiyaman district who comes from the ruling party,
Faruk Unsal, who has been personally involved in repressing those criticizing the regime through trumped-up treason charges! [To hide Unsal's identity, his name appears only on the Turkish, not the English language site, and neither tell you about his political role.]

As for the group, to give an example, on May 1 it organized a rally in Diyarbakir with Kurdish Hizballah calling for the regime to uninvite Israel to joint militry maneuvers. Clearly, the government had already decided to do so and assigned its front groups to show "popular support" for that step.
So the State Department, by using a radical group as a source, falls into the Islamist trap in several ways:

--Religious Muslims in Turkey are portrayed as victims of the military and judiciary. These are, in fact, the only two institutions that the AK hasn’t infiltrated and largely taken over yet. So Islamists use the State Department to discredit the army and courts to make it easier to complete their seizure of the state apparatus.

--There is no mention whatsoever of the real oppression going on, which is of secularists who are being forced out of jobs, not given government contracts, sent to jail, sued by the government, or even facing violence.

--While the report does discuss the situation of non-Muslims in Turkey, it leaves out the virulent antisemitism that the regime has been promoting. In addition, it doesn’t mention the fact that the government refuses to legalize the prayer houses of the Alevis, who constitute 10 to 20 percent of the population.

What is particularly amazing is that the U.S. government accepts the word of an Islamist, anti-American group which of course wants as many radical Islamists as possible in the army to fulfill its own goals. Such soldiers, of course, could commit acts of terrorism (against Americans, too), pass information onto Iran, serve as regime spies against pro-democratic forces, and ensure that the military never blocks the regime’s attempt to become a dictatorship.

The report's wording has to be seen to be believed:

“Officers and noncommissioned officers were dismissed periodically for ignoring repeated warnings from superior officers and for maintaining ties to what the military considered Islamic fundamentalist organizations…."

So could the United States be accused of human rights' violations if it had dismissed a certain army major rather than waiting until he murdered 13 people and murdered a score of others?

"Some members of the military, judiciary, and other branches of the bureaucracy continued to wage campaigns against what they label as Islamic fundamentalism. These groups view religious fundamentalism as a threat to the secular state.

"Reports by Mazlum-Der, the media, and others indicated that the military periodically dismissed religiously observant Muslims from military service. Such dismissals were based on behavior that military officials believed identified these individuals as Islamic fundamentalists, which officials believed could indicate disloyalty to the secular state.”

Islamic fundamentalists in the army are a threat to the secular state? Where could they possibly have gotten that idea?

Note, too, the contradiction. The army says it warns people first and then dismisses them only if they refuse to break connections to radical groups. But Islamists claim these soldiers are being persecuted because they are "religiously observant Muslims." This is nonsense.

But, remember, this is what the U.S. army would have been charged with if it had taken action against an officer who applauded the murder of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, then claimed he was being discriminated against simply because he was a Muslim.

And this is a violation of religious freedom? Remember that an “Islamic fundamentalist” is someone who holds a political ideology advocating Turkey becoming an Islamist dictatorship. What next? The State Department criticizes Egypt or Jordan for kicking “Islamic fundamentalists” out of their armies?

Well, at least the U.S. government is consistent since--judging from the evidence coming out after the Ft. Hood murders--it doesn't remove Jihadists from its own military.

 

 

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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