Tag Archives: jihad

Quote of the day: Obama’s kumbaya doctrine

“Obama wants ‘no victor/no vanquished‘ in Iraq, in Syria, in Gaza.  He likes inclusive, power-sharing, unity governments like Fatah-Hamas and Sunni-Shia-Kurd.

Why not start on Capitol Hill?  Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi can invite some Republicans to join the DSCC and DCCC, help raise funds for Tea Party candidates, and find an inclusive, power-sharing compromise on healthcare, immigration, etc.

Maybe when Democrats and Republicans master the no victor/no vanquished strategy, they can help spread inclusiveness and tolerance in parts of the world where disputes are typically resolved by other means.”

A friend commenting on President Obama’s recent New York Times interview, where he said that “he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.”

To be fair, Obama himself suggested in this interview that Democrats and Republicans had to “adopt the same outlook that we’re asking of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds or Israelis and Palestinians: No victor, no vanquished and work together.” But then he immediately blamed “the rise of the Republican far right for extinguishing so many potential compromises” – which leaves the question: does Obama think the Republican far right is worse than Hamas or the savage Islamic State?

But Obama’s kumbaya-doctrine is particularly worrisome given his already dismal record in the Middle East. As the indispensable Walter Russell Mead points out in an essay at The American Interest,

“It’s not clear that the President’s goal of a grand bargain with Iran is within reach, or that it will deliver the kind of stability he hopes for. For one thing, it’s possible that the Iranians are less interested in reaching a pragmatic and mutually beneficial relationship with Washington than in using Obama’s hunger for a transformative and redeeming diplomatic success to lure him onto a risky and ultimately disastrous course.”

 

Let’s first abolish Pakistan

Some two weeks ago, The New York Times published a lengthy op-ed that advocated essentially the same idea proposed a few years earlier in the paper’s pages by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi’s piece was entitled “The One-State Solution;” the more recent version – written by influential University of Pennsylvania professor Ian Lustick – has the title “Two-State Illusion.”

The psychopath who cruelly ruled Libya and the University of Pennsylvania professor basically agree that for the sake of the Palestinians, Israel as a Jewish state has to be abolished – never mind the fact that Israel is arguably the most successful state established in the decades since World War II. Indeed, Professor Lustick seems to think that Israel’s success is all the more unpalatable given the likely failure of a Palestinian state. As he correctly anticipates: “Strong Islamist trends make a fundamentalist Palestine more likely than a small state under a secular government.”

Of course, this insight could have prompted Lustick to contemplate options that wouldn’t entail the destruction of the Jewish state – but tellingly, it didn’t.

Since Lustick’s piece was published, there have been many excellent responses, including a commentary by Gilead Ini who highlights an important but much too rarely mentioned point.  In a short list of ideas that the NYT would never discuss because they would be considered “simply beyond the pale,” Ini rightly notes:

“Nor has The New York Times offered space in its coveted opinion pages for debate about whether the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which is entangled in border disputes and burdened by extremism, should be annulled, folded back into India from which it was carved. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the newspaper promoting arguments in favor of the elimination of any recognized, democratic country. Such ideas…are beyond the pale. Except, of course, when it comes to Israel.”

It is indeed fascinating and revealing to compare the media’s treatment of Pakistan and Israel – not least because the Muslim state of Pakistan and the Jewish state of Israel were established at almost the same time by partitioning formerly British-ruled territories. In both cases, the consequences entailed bloodshed and refugees, though the magnitude is incomparable: the creation of Pakistan resulted in some 14 million refugees, and estimates of the number of people who lost their lives range from several hundred thousand to one million. 

Many millions more were displaced or killed when East and West Pakistan split in 1971; in addition, as a recent Forbes op-ed puts it, Pakistan has been “at war with itself” ever since it was created to supposedly “preserve ‘what is most precious in Islam.’” Judging from Pakistan’s dismal record in every respect, one would unfortunately have to conclude that intolerance and extremism are what is most precious in Islam.

A few years ago, Fareed Zakaria tried to explain “Why Pakistan keeps exporting jihad,” noting that:

“For a wannabe terrorist shopping for help, Pakistan is a supermarket. There are dozens of jihadi organizations: Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaeda, Jalaluddin, Siraj Haqqani’s network and Tehrik-e-Taliban. The list goes on. […] The Pakistani scholar-politician Husain Haqqani tells in his brilliant history “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military” how the government’s jihadist connections date to the country’s creation as an ideological, Islamic state and the decision by successive governments to use jihad both to gain domestic support and to hurt its perennial rival, India.”

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s destabilizing influence is not restricted to exporting jihad and terrorism: after all, Pakistan has also supplied nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran.

In other words, one could easily imagine that if Pakistan didn’t exist, the world might be a much better place… But of course, it is completely out of the question to entertain such a thought in polite company – which definitely includes NYT readers. Yet, as soon as Israel is concerned, quite a few people who would be appalled to have a debate about the benefits of Pakistan’s demise seem to feel that it is entirely respectable and even constructive to argue that abolishing the world’s only Jewish state could help to resolve some difficult problems.

It might be tempting to conclude that this attitude can be explained with concerns about the plight of the Palestinians. After all, the Qaddafi-Lustick vision of “Israstine” seems to be motivated primarily by the quest to accommodate Palestinian demands such as the “right of return” that are incompatible with Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state.

But curiously enough, few people seem concerned about the plight of Pakistan’s “Palestinians” – the Baloch. Indeed, the Baloch have arguably a much better claim to nationhood and a state than the Palestinians, and they have fought for independence ever since Balochistan came under Pakistani rule. Perhaps more importantly in the context that is relevant here, there can be little doubt that the suffering of the Baloch is so severe that one can even make the case that they are among the “most unfortunate” people in the world.

So why is nobody arguing that Pakistan should be dissolved if it is unwilling to grant Balochistan independence and is obviously unable to provide the Baloch with even the most rudimentary services or guarantee their most basic human rights?

Or, to put it differently: why do the Palestinians get so much more attention and support than the Baloch or, for that matter, the Kurds and many other groups that are oppressed and would like to have independence or at least autonomy?

The answer is of course that only the Palestinians can blame the Jews for their situation – and this is plainly something that has great appeal in much of the world.  As David Nirenberg notes in his new book “Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition:” “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel.’ ” Professor Lustick and the New York Times are obviously eager to help spread this message.

And to be sure, as little sense as it makes to explain the challenges of the world we live in in terms of the tiny Jewish state, it is certainly much easier and incomparably less risky than explaining some of the major challenges of our times in terms of failed Islamic states like Pakistan and the problem-plagued Muslim world at large.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog; also published in Polish in Racjonalista.

The child-soldiers of Palestine

* Originally published at my JPost blog on January 26 *

Last Thursday, many Sunni Muslims celebrated the birth of Islam’s founder Muhammad. As the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported, Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced during a ceremony to mark this occasion that Hamas was planning to establish a “military academy” that would offer training to children as young as twelve. The children attending the school would be able to “graduate with a diploma or a BA in military affairs.”

However, as a widely quoted Associated Press (AP) report indicates, this was apparently not an entirely new initiative: since last September, Hamas has been offering a military training program as “a weekly elective…in all Gaza high schools,” and the ceremony on Thursday included celebrations of the “graduation” of the first 3600 participants:

“More than 3,000 Palestinian teenagers on Thursday graduated from the ruling Hamas terror group’s first high school military training program in the Gaza Strip, displaying mock weapons, crawling commando-style on the ground and taking up fighting positions for thousands of cheering supporters.

Hamas officials said the Futuwwa, or ‘Youth,’ program is aimed at fostering a new generation of leaders in the struggle against Israel.”

A fifteen year old graduate of this program quoted in the AP report was enthusiastic:

“My officer taught me the values of courage, sacrifice and love of jihad, as well as some battle tactics […] I feel that I can free my energy in a good way. I can do for real what I do in video games.”

There may well be a connection between this “educational” initiative by Hamas and the efforts mentioned by senior Hamas commander Zaher Jabarin in a recent interview with Hamas’ Al-Quds TV. In the interview, Jabarin boasted that Hamas labors “day and night” to educate Palestinian children to become suicide bombers.

“There was training of the divine generation, the true generation of martyrdom-seekers, through which we can participate in the battle. First, before anything else, before any Jihadi action, before the transfer of weapons, money, etc., and everything required for action, first and foremost is the individual person. The Islamic Movement [Hamas] took care of the education of this youngster who will participate in this battle […] We labored day and night to build the person, who will participate in this battle […] The Palestinian youngsters, the resistance and Jihad warriors, fight and quarrel over performing a courageous suicide operation.”

Jabarin emphasized that Hamas was “now preparing for the battle of liberation, and not just the resistance as we have done in the past” – and tellingly, the teenagers “graduating” on Muhammad’s birthday were called “Liberation Vanguards.”

Among the many questions that should be raised in this context is whether the claim by AP that Hamas has been offering a military training program as “a weekly elective…in all Gaza high schools” means that UNRWA – which runs 245 schools for 225,000 students in Gaza – cooperates with Hamas in hosting or otherwise facilitating the military training of teenagers. UNWRA also has a program for donors to “adopt” a Gaza school, and recently, the German government donated 3 million Euros for the construction of two additional UNRWA schools in Gaza. No doubt these donations are well-meant, but they obviously also allow the Hamas-rulers of Gaza to avoid committing resources to the education of Gaza’s children while leaving them free to finance instead “jihad” training for teenagers.

It is perhaps also time that the organizations that are so eager to indict Israel for any harm that comes to Palestinian teenagers in situations of conflict take note of the longstanding and prevalent Palestinian practice to provide children with some sort of military training.

In June 1970, Life Magazine featured a report on “Palestinian Arabs” with a cover photo that showed a group of boys holding what seems to be real guns; the photo was captioned: “The ‘Tiger Cubs’ train at a camp in Jordan.”

Life 1261970 cover

The report included another similar photo accompanied by a text explaining that it showed “student guerillas in Jordan receiv[ing] weapons instruction in a tent under the stern gaze of Che Guevara. The course is sponsored by the liberation front.”

Life 1970 Pal story

Or consider this revealing testimony, first published in 1985 and reprinted 1998 for a special Al-Ahram series on “50 years of Arab dispossession”: in an interview, Nagi El-Ali, a prominent cartoonist, decries Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon, but then he boasts:

“I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.”

Right: those cowardly Israeli soldiers, utterly shocked when they encounter heavily armed children sent by cynical adults to fight for them… And of course, these adults know very well when to switch from the perverted pride reflected in El-Ali’s recollection – and countless other similar statements – to a display of abject victimization.

To be sure, Palestinian youngsters no longer train “under the stern gaze of Che Guevara,” but otherwise, not all that much has changed: nowadays, they get trained as “Jihad warriors” who proudly graduate on Muhammad’s birthday, indoctrinated to regard it as a privilege to perform “a courageous suicide operation.” The international community makes sure Hamas won’t have other expenses for education and continues to overlook the vicious legacy of decades of determined Palestinian efforts to teach children that violence and terrorism are noble and admirable.

 

Ali Abunimah hopes Obama will make history [updated]

No, the title of this post doesn’t mean that Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada hopes President Obama will achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in his second term. After all, like most “pro-Palestinian” activists, Abunimah is not primarily interested in the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather in getting rid of the Jewish State.

Yet, as much as so-called pro-Palestinian activists may hate Israel, they often also have plenty of other resentments that add up to an utterly unhinged world view. There is perhaps no better way to examine the fringe views that are so popular in “pro-Palestinian” circles than to follow Ali Abunimah on Twitter.

Consider this recent tweet by Abunimah:

Abunimah on Obama

To be sure, once upon a time, Abunimah had a much more favorable view of Obama – but that was of course when Obama would “attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time.”

By now, Abunimah seems thoroughly disenchanted, not just with Barack Obama, but even with the Democratic Party in general:

Abunimah on US parties

It is noteworthy that in this tweet, support for Israel ranks only third in the list of Democratic faults.

That is because Abunimah was also tweeting a Reuters report published by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that described how some Pakistanis reacted to Obama’s re-election.

Abunimah on Pakistan

Of course, Ali Abunimah doesn’t usually care all that much what’s going on in Pakistan, and he certainly wouldn’t like it if people started to compare all the attention the Palestinians are getting to the disgraceful neglect of the Baloch struggle against Pakistan’s murderous oppression of their aspirations for freedom.

However, Abunimah’s concern for Pakistani victims of American drone strikes is apparently due to his view that both the US and Israel should be condemned for fighting against Islamist terrorism. It was therefore hardly a surprise when Abunimah retweeted a complaint that General Petraeus had resigned because of an extramarital affair, and not because “he murdered innocent people.”

Abunimah on Petraeus

Elaborating on this issue at the Electronic Intifada, Abunimah not only reminded his readers that Petraeus once made a controversial remark blaming the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict for fuelling the flames of Arab hatred for America, but also claimed that this remark was motivated by “the same cold calculation of how to maintain and advance US imperial domination that allowed him [Petraeus] to oversee – on behalf of the president – wars, occupations and murders of children and teenagers and other civilians all over the world using drones.”

So in the world of Ali Abunimah and his many fans, the US president and the generals who serve in the US army are all just murderers and criminals.

Needless to say, this is even more true when it comes to Israel. Here is Ali Abunimah’s take on the recent aggression from Hamas-ruled Gaza:

Abunimah Gaza resistance Abunimah PalDefForces

Amazingly, there are still people who apparently think Abunimah should somehow be taken seriously. Last March, The Forward published a fairly sympathetic profile of him, which concluded with the remark that Abunimah feels that the criticism he gets proves that people “are paying attention” to him. The Forward profile ended by quoting Abunimah:

“I am not a professor at a big university. I don’t have a think tank behind me. I don’t have a title, and yet I am able to influence in one way or another the way people think and the way that they act […] As much as the opposition would like to ignore me, they can’t, and that is not because of any title I carry.”

Well, with all this influence Abunimah fancies himself having, Obama has already one leg in prison… Of course, there may be severe overcrowding, since most US generals should probably also be there, and let’s not forget George W. Bush and all Israeli leaders and generals and whoever else isn’t in favor of the glorious “resistance” put up by Islamist terrorists in the Middle East and elsewhere.

* * *

This is a belated cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

In response to this post, G-Nice‏@ArikSharon alerted me to an interesting piece written by the widely respected Palestinian* commentator Hussein Ibish a few years ago. Under the title “What does Ali Abunimah really believe?,” Ibish notes that he and Abunimah wrote “numerous articles and monographs” together, but that Abunimah’s views “have shifted radically in recent years.” Ibish also points out something I’ve often noticed when reading Abunimah’s output: namely, that he “tailors his statements to appeal to different audiences in different media at different times” – which perhaps indicates that he is aware that openly standing by the unhinged views with which he fires up his fans would come with the price of not being taken serious by a less partisan audience.

Needless to say, I fully agree with Ibish’s view that “its not really possible to fully understand what Abunimah’s real thinking is without consulting [his] tweets in which he has been letting his guard down and allowing those who pay attention to get a close glimpse of his actual agenda, which is decidedly not a pretty picture.”

But since Ibish uses the term “agenda,” it’s worth highlighting that Abunimah combines his enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas and Islamic Jihad with a relentless demonization of Israel, passing it off not only as “pro-Palestinian”, but also as a progressive defense of human rights.

This is of course exactly the kind of “pro-Palestinian” activism that has done so much to poison progressive politics.

Whether or not Abunimah’s activism can be described as “pro-Palestinian,” it sure qualifies as obsessively anti-Israel. Yet, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated with his recent speech at the UN to much applause, it indeed seems that championing the “Palestinian cause” is generally understood as requiring harsh denunciations of Israel.

But it is too often overlooked that the most fervent anti-Israel ideologues show symptoms that are hard to distinguish from those that Walter Russell Mead has repeatedly described so well for antisemitism. As Mead put it:

“Jew haters don’t understand how the world works; anti-Semitism is both a cause and a consequence of a basic failure to comprehend the way pluralistic and liberal societies behave. As a result, nations and political establishments warped by this hatred tend to make one dumb decision after another.”

Those who are consumed by hate for the world’s only Jewish state and dedicate themselves single-mindedly to the goal of undoing its establishment tend to exhibit similar failures of comprehension – which is arguably no coincidence given the often observed overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

But as Mead rightly noted in a post on “The Hate That Dares Not Speak Its Name,” “many of today’s anti-Semites like to think of themselves as enlightened, modern people and [they] get all huffy and hissy if anyone accuses them of prejudice in any form.”

This is certainly true for Ali Abunimah and many of his fellow activists and followers. Yet, while Abunimah has repeatedly tried to distance himself from activists who propagated antisemitic tropes all too openly, there is no denying that the politics of the supposedly “progressive” down-with-Israel crowd differs very little from the hate-filled visions of antisemites.

As hard as Abunimah may try to pose as a progressive anti-racist and defender of human rights, his enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas and groups like Islamic Jihad ultimately means going along with the seething Jew-hatred expressed in the Hamas Charter and in countless jihadi pronouncements.

But there is arguably more to it, because – as I tried to illustrate by highlighting Abunimah’s views on Obama – dedicated anti-Israel activists like Abunimah tend to have radical fringe-views not only on Israel, but also on many other issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the down-with-Israel-crowd also hates a lot about America and the West in general – and this hate is so all-consuming that there seems to be little else.

Those who happily subscribe to these fervent resentments will therefore usually be unable or unwilling to see the Middle East and the Muslim world as anything but victims of Western depravity. Whatever might be wrong there is not deemed worthy of attention given the enormity of Western wrong-doing.

To be sure, this version of “The White Man’s Burden” has long been a widely accepted part of the supposedly progressive world view that elevates the “Palestinian cause” to the all-important issue of our time. While the latent antisemitism that is so frequently an integral part of this “progressive” activism certainly helps to explain some of the bizarre positions that are so enthusiastically embraced by “pro-Palestinian” campaigners, it is also very interesting to look at this as a broader manifestation of the Zeitgeist. Some of the writings by Richard Landes are particularly interesting in this context. He has coined the term “Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome,” arguing:

“Without self-criticism and its accompanying learning curve, there is little progress. Hence progressives rightly emphasize self-criticism. […] In some cases, however, self-critical progressives can take this strategy so far that they fall into the trap of taking most or all of the responsibility for something when it is not primarily of their doing. To some extent, this unusual generosity reflects the notion that it takes a “big man” to admit fault, and that if we progressives are stronger, we should make the first, second and even third moves of concession and apology, in order to encourage those with whom we find ourselves in dispute. Combining inflated rhetoric with a therapeutic notion that the disadvantaged should not be held to the same exacting standards (moral equivalence) leads one to fall into self-critical pathologies.

In the most extreme cases, we encounter Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS): “it is all our fault; and if we can only be better, we can fix anything/everything.” This hyper-critical attitude can be seen with particular clarity in the response of some progressives and radicals to both the 9-11 attack in 2001 in the US, and the 7-7 attack in 2005 in London. For many, “What did we do to make them hate us?” trumped “What are they telling themselves that makes them hate us so?” In a sense, the very preference for the former question underlines our desire to be in control. Maybe we can fix what it is that we do to them, so they’ll not hate us so. Maybe even, they’ll like us. […]

The tendency to hyper-self-criticize leads to a kind of moral self-absorption in which one loses any sense of the other side of any conflict as moral agent. […] the real tragedy here comes with the unconscious racism involved in such a moral argument. The proponents of such thinking fail to grant the “other side” any moral agency. “Their behavior is entirely reactive, a response to our bad deeds. If only we would stop, they would stop.” This approach, which gives us, among other things, the current policy of appeasement in the West, also operates on assumptions that the “other” — in this case, the global Jihadis and the Muslim cultures from which they draw their recruits — are not autonomous moral agents. In other words, they, like animals, can’t help themselves. Hence, we make no moral demands on them, indeed, we lower ourselves to their moral level with our equivalences.”

* * *

*Correction: Somebody on Twitter protested my description of Ibish as Palestinian, and indeed it seems I was mistaken. There is only very little information on Ibish’s family background available, but a 2003 obituary of his father, Professor Yusuf Hussein Ibish, indicates that he came from a Syrian-Kurdish family while his mother Joan Schenck was apparently European or American.

Longing for the Gaza of November 2005?

I’m tempted to regard it as a bit of a silver lining that Yaacov Lozowick has recently broken his blogging abstinence to comment on what Israelis often simply call “hamatzav” – the situation, which currently is of course once again a rather troubled one.

In his most recent post, Lozowick argues that, according to reports about the current efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, Hamas seems to be demanding “what Israel already gave in 2005.” As Lozowick explains:

“2005 was a very very long time ago. So long ago that almost nobody old enough to use twitter or otherwise be able to express an opinion on Israel and Palestine can be expected to remember it. Still, the fact is that in September 2005 Israel pulled its very last soldier out of Gaza, after having pulled its last settlers out in August.  […]

The significance of this is that between September 2005 and early 2006, there was no Israeli blockade of Gaza. […] There can be little doubt that had the Gazans done in 2005 what the Jewish Agency did in 1947, namely purposefully go about the mundane but crucial task of nation building, Israel wouldn’t have interfered. On the contrary: a majority of Israelis were hoping – fervently or dubiously – they’d do exactly that, which is why Sharon, then followed after his illness by Ehud Olmert, built the election strategy of their brand new party Kadima on the idea of continuing the disengagement process on the West Bank. […]

The reason none of this ever happened is that the Palestinians made their choices, and their choices were not what Israel had hoped. And thus began the downward spiral to where we’re at now.”

Concluding his post, Lozowick asks:

“Is Hamas…now negotiating for what already existed in 2005, after having spent the intervening years pounding into the collective Israeli psyche that the gamble of 2005 was idiotic?”

I think it’s fascinating to recall in this context a PBS interview with veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that was aired on November 28, 2005. The transcript of the interview is entitled “Border Openings Historic Step for Gaza Strip.”

At the outset, PBS interviewer Ray Suarez outlines the context:

“For the first time in nearly four decades, Palestinians took control of the border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, this one at the Rafah checkpoint. The deal to give the Palestinians control of Rafah and other crossings was part of an agreement brokered by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice two weeks ago. It ended Israeli control of the crossing three months after Israel withdrew settlers and troops from Gaza, and is meant to foster greater movement for Gazans and their goods.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are preparing for parliamentary elections in January. But today’s primaries in Gaza for those elections and held by the ruling political party Fatah were canceled by the Palestinian Authority. The Authority blamed political opponents of Fatah for gunfire at many polling stations.”

Suarez begins the interview by asking Erekat about the postponement of the Gaza primaries, but Erekat responds by dismissing the violence in Gaza, claiming confidently that “Palestinians are realizing that it’s the ballots and not the bullets that will shape the future of Palestinians.”

Responding to questions about the opening of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Erekat says [my emphasis]:

“I have to state on the record there are three significant things that happened with this border opening. Number one is that for the first time in our history we have a control over who comes and who goes through an international border. And this is very significant thing. This is the difference between Gaza being a big prison, 1.3 million suffocating or Gaza open and people are free to come and go.

Secondly, we have the element of the European Union who courageously accepted our invitation to come and help us in upgrading our human and technical know-how in running international borders in accordance with international standards. […]

I think Dr. Rice [Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] has pulled a miracle with these agreements. They have negotiated this for two-and-a-half months. All the deals were made there.

Maybe it was the psychology of the Israelis giving up their control and occupation 38 years later that was difficult for them maybe without it every step of the way. But the fact that Dr. Rice came and exercised her negotiating skills with us and the Israelis, we had no alternative, both of us, but to go along the way. And then today we have a border crossing that’s opening.”

Turning again to the upcoming Palestinian elections, Erekat states:

“I think will be the most significant thing to happen in Palestinian political life.

This will be a turning point in our political life. Look at the results of the primaries already taken. Look at the fact that we will go into these elections and I don’t think our life will be the same. If we add to that the dimension of the Israeli elections that are coming on March 28. […] I think ever since the Israeli occupation came to my hometown Jericho in 1967, I have never seen something more significant in Israel than what I see now. [A reference to the formation of the centrist Kadima party.]

And I hope that once the dust settles down that the Israelis would have elected a government that is willing to go with us towards the end game, the end of conflict, the treaty of peace which I believe is doable. […]

The interviewer then asks:

“There’s a pattern in these conversations both on the Israeli side and on yours as they point to the other side and say this has to happen, this has to happen, this has to happen, or else the deal is off. What do you have to accomplish on your side as a confidence-building measure in order for the Israelis to believe that the PA can really be in control of the territories that they quit?”

Erekat responds:

“One authority, one gun, and the rule of law. I believe this is a major challenge that is facing us. This is President Abbas’ main program now. I believe you have to see these elections as part of this program because once these elections are over I don’t think the political life of any part, Palestinian Party, that is, will be the same.

The challenge for us is to restore the rule of law, public order, one authority, one legal gun. And we’re not doing this for the Israeli or the Americans. We’re doing it for the sake of maintaining Palestinian social fabric. […]

No militias, no private armies. The parties shall not have guns. And I think a policy of zero tolerance to multiple authorities and multiple guns would be pursued after — with the Palestinian Authority. And I think if we can deliver this, I think in the U.S., in Israel, elsewhere, among the Palestinians above anything else, because that’s what we need to provide, the sense of security to Palestinians.”

We all know, don’t we, what happened: Hamas emerged victorious in the Palestinian elections in January 2006, and by June 2007, Hamas violently took over Gaza.

But while Saeb Erekat’s optimism proved completely unwarranted when it came to the Palestinians, the Israelis fulfilled his fondest hopes: in the elections in spring 2006, Kadima emerged as the strongest party, followed by Labor, while Likud sustained heavy losses.

I’ll just close with a picture – or rather a graph – that is arguably worth a thousand words in the context of the current developments, illustrating what Yaacov Lozowick means when he writes that Hamas “spent the intervening years pounding into the collective Israeli psyche that the gamble of 2005 was idiotic.”

How to stoke Islamophobia [updated]

Addressing Congress just a few days after the devastating terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush repeatedly emphasized the need to distinguish between the peaceful teachings of Islam and the fanaticism of those “who commit evil in the name of Allah.” The terrorists who had struck on 9/11, were, Bush asserted, “traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Even Bush’s most vitriolic critics would echo this view for years. Writing in the Washington Post in July 2007, John L. Esposito, Founding Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – which in 2005 was renamed The HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – insisted: “In our post-9/11 world, the ability to distinguish between Islam itself and Muslim extremism will be critical.”

But soon enough, this was no longer good enough. With a new administration in Washington trying to distance itself from Bush’s “war on terror” at least rhetorically, there were determined efforts to avoid any reference to Islam.

By now, however, it seems clear that this avoidance strategy hasn’t been helpful in any way.

In a scathing essay peppered with lots of sarcasm, Walter Russell Mead recently commented on the “War That Nobody Wants,” arguing:

“But roads paved with good intentions don’t always take you where you want to go, and denial does not look like an effective or sustainable strategy in the current state of what is and remains a multi-theater war against a set of armed religious fanatics and bigoted zealots with a crazed world view and the capacity to make a lot of trouble in a lot of places at the same time. […]

If you want to stoke Islamophobia, don’t level with the people about the nature of the problems we face. […] sometimes truth needs to be told. […] We are fighting a battle first to contain and then to defeat a vicious ideology of murder and hate that masks itself as religious zeal. We are fighting this war both at home and abroad, and there is not an inhabited continent anywhere on Planet Earth where this threat is not a serious concern. All Muslims are not our enemies — far from it, and many of our most important allies and associates are decent, pious, enlightened Muslims who loathe the hate-spewing murderers as much as anybody else — but all of our enemies claim to be fighting in the name of Islam.”

Unfortunately it seems that Mead’s common sense arguments won’t be welcomed by those who prefer to complain loudly about “Islamophobia” while they themselves dismiss the distinction between Muslims and violent extremists who justify savage acts of terrorism in the name of Islam.

As the recent controversy about ads in several US cities that denounce violent jihad as “savage” illustrates, we apparently live in a time when it is “anti-Muslim” to feel it is “savage” that self-described jihadists would consider videos of beheadings “very, very important” tools for recruiting volunteers to their ranks. And apparently, it’s also beyond the pale to recoil at the savagery of Muslim fanatics who proudly announce that they will keep trying to kill a fourteen-year old girl that they already injured grievously to silence her demands for education, respect and dignity.

The prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy, who is widely considered a liberal activist, has done much to publicize the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as “savage.” As I have documented, she responded to the ads by declaring herself a “proud savage;” she then proceeded to deface one of the ads and, in the aftermath of being arrested and charged with misdemeanor and criminal mischief, she started a very successful publicity campaign to style herself as a latter-day heroine of the Civil Rights movement – while boasting at the same time that she and her supporters succeeded in getting the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to announce revised advertising guidelines.

After all this agitation, Eltahawy has now decided that it was finally time to do what one could have expected from a prominent writer long ago, and she has taken to the pages of the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website to make her case in writing.

It is quite obviously a weak case. The headline of her post announces “If anti-Muslim ads are protected, so must be my free speech right to protest” – but the text reveals that even Eltahawy is aware that her act of vandalism wasn’t really an exercise of free speech, because she admits: “I broke the law, yes.”

But Eltahawy adds defiantly: “So what? I broke it to make a point of principle. Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims are still being bullied and vilified.”

Indeed, Eltahawy tries hard to make the case that there is at least some “coincidental correlation” between the ads that denounce violent jihad as savage and various incidents of anti-Muslim violence and bigotry. Her article opens with a reference to a recent arson attack on the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo:

“Five days after I spraypainted over a racist and bigoted advertisement in the New York subway, a man set fire to my brother’s local mosque. He struck just a few hours after the mosque’s kindergarten had been filled with children at Sunday school, including my four nieces and nephews.

It was a coincidental correlation but there was nothing casual about either the hate speech on the walls of the subway […] or the arson in Ohio, which was described as an ‘act of terrorism’ by officials who announced federal hate crime charges against the suspect.”

Leaving aside the fact that Eltahawy of course knows full well that the accused arsonist was reportedly motivated by his anger about recent anti-American violence in the Middle East, it is noteworthy that it apparently wouldn’t occur to her that, due to the fanaticism of violent jihadists, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children live daily under the threat that her nieces and nephews might have faced attending Sunday school in a mosque in Ohio.

One could also recall in this context the terrorist attack on a religious seminary in Jerusalem in spring 2008 that resulted in the killing of eight students and the wounding of 11 others – a result that was cheered and celebrated by Hamas supporters in Gaza.

In the world of Mona Eltahawy, it is “anti-Muslim” to denounce any of this as savage. And in Mona Eltahawy’s world it is also “anti-Muslim” to point out that there is not just a “coincidental” but a very direct “correlation” between the thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians as well as the many brutal terrorist attacks and the ringing endorsements of a divinely ordained genocidal battle against the Jews by leading clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who – according to Eltahawy herself – is “mainstream” and “commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels.”

While Eltahawy would not hesitate to express her loathing of Qaradawi’s views on women in the strongest terms, she apparently takes no offense when Qaradawi tells his “huge audience” of followers that the extermination of Jews by Muslims is divinely ordained – so much so that even the “stones and trees” will do their part by betraying any Jew who might hide behind them.

Whether Eltahawy and her supporters like it or not, the kind of Jew-hating jihad preached by Qaradawi and recently threatened by the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s  Muslim Brotherhood is indeed savage in the context of 21st century civilization.

The claim that it is “anti-Muslim” to say so unfortunately makes sense only if one accepts that Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred is and should be part of mainstream Muslim beliefs. Mona Eltahawy seems to accept that when she rails against the condemnation of jihad as savage and adopts the hashtag #ProudSavage, but fails to even acknowledge the appalling ideology and acts of the violent jihadists of our time.

Rather bizarrely, she concludes her CiF-article by emphasizing that her nieces – who apparently live in the US – “will not grow up to be scared or apologetic for being Muslim, or Egyptian, or brown.” She also praises the “refusal to be intimidated by bullies” shown by many young Muslims who “were just 10 or 11 when 9/11 happened, and […who] refuse to apologise for something they had nothing to do with.”

Very different from what Eltahawy suggests, nobody who wants to be taken serious will demand that young Muslims apologize for “something they had nothing to do with.” But it is entirely reasonable and justified to expect Muslims – whether younger or older – to understand that demands to ignore the horrors advocated and perpetrated by violent jihadists won’t do much to combat anti-Muslim bigotry.

Mona Eltahawy clearly doesn’t understand that and concludes her article declaring: “The only hashtag I will consider is #ProudSavage.”

* * *

This post was first published at my JPost blog and, under a slightly different title, cross-posted on CiFWatch.

Update:

Only after I published this post, I saw that the Wall Street Journal had an article on this issue on October 1. The brilliant title says it all: “Call a Terrorist a ‘Savage’? How Uncivilized.”

Here is one of the examples highlighted in the WSJ to illustrate that the description “savage” is justified:

“This is a Reuters photo that ran on the New York Times front page for Sept. 1, 2004. It shows an Israeli bus after it had been blown up by a suicide bomber. Neither bloody nor gory, the photo is nonetheless deeply disturbing, because it shows the lifeless body of a young woman hanging out a window.

The Times news story added this detail about the reaction to that attack. “In Gaza,” ran the report, “thousands of supporters of Hamas celebrated in the streets, and the Associated Press reported that one of the bombers’ widows hailed the attack as ‘heroic’ and said her husband’s soul was ‘happy in heaven.'” What part of any of this is not savage?”

Some three weeks have passed since the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as savage erupted, and neither Mona Eltahawy nor her fans and supporters have bothered to explain why they object to this. I have asked this question a few times on Twitter, but either I didn’t get any answer – which actually was sort of the best-case scenario – or I got blocked (this was Mona Eltahawy’s response) or I had some abuse hurled at me. Sad times for self-described progressives: it seems they can function only in a well-insulated echo-chamber.

In any case, I’ve in the meantime also come across a report on reason.com about Mona Eltahawy’s defacing of one of the ads, which notes:

“Eltahawy is not a raving lunatic. In the past she has made some fairly intelligent criticisms of extremists. But even allowing that few people keep cool heads while getting handcuffed by burly cops, she has obviously gone off the deep end here.”

Following the links provided here leads to two articles by Mona Eltahawy. The first was written in July 2005, shortly after the 7/7 London bombings; the second one is from January 2006 and comments on the riots staged by Muslims in response to some cartoons published in an obscure Danish newspaper. In both articles Eltahawy expresses views she apparently no longer holds – because if she did, it’s hard to see why she would have been so incensed by the denunciation of violent jihad as savage.

Consider these statements from Eltahawy’s commentary on the cartoon riots:

“the cartoon incident belongs at the very center of the kind of debate that Muslims must have in the European countries where they live – particularly after the Madrid train bombings of 2003 and the London subway bombings of 2005. While right-wing anti-immigration groups whip up Islamophobia in Denmark, Muslim communities wallow in denial over the increasing role of their own extremists.

As just one example, last August Fadi Abdullatif, the spokesman for the Danish branch of the militant Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization, was charged with calling for the killing of members of the Danish government. He distributed leaflets calling on Muslims in Denmark to go to Fallujah in Iraq and fight the Americans, and to kill their own leaders if they obstructed them. […]

Not only does Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization banned in many Muslim countries, have a branch in Denmark, but Abdullatif has a history of calling for violence that he then justifies by referring to freedom of speech – the very notion the Danish newspaper made use of to publish the cartoons. In October 2002, Abdullatif was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after Hizb-ut-Tahrir handed out leaflets that made threats against Jews by citing verses from the Koran. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence.

Abdullatif used the Koran to justify incitement to violence! And we still wonder why people associate Islam with violence?

Muslims must honestly examine why there is such a huge gap between the way we imagine Islam and our prophet, and the way both are seen by others. Our offended sensibilities must not be limited to the Danish newspaper or the cartoonist, but [must extend] to those like Fadi Abdullatif whose actions should be regarded as just as offensive to Islam and to our reverence for the prophet.”

I sure couldn’t agree more – indeed, about a year ago, I argued in a post asking “Who’s defaming Islam?”:

“efforts to shield Islam from defamation by non-Muslims will inevitably look like an attempt to proscribe free speech as long as authorities that claim a leading role in the Muslim world as well as mainstream Muslim groups and widely revered Muslim scholars come out with statements that sound quite ‘Islamophobic’ when quoted as representative of mainstream Muslim views.”

However, in the meantime, Mona Eltahawy seems to have changed her views. She apparently no longer thinks it is worthwhile to make demands on her fellow Muslims and prefers instead to add her voice to the chorus of complaints about western “Islamophobia” and styling herself as a potential victim by declaring herself a “proud savage.”

But while Muslim extremism and militancy remain as much of a problem today as they were on 9/11, we know that the charges about “Islamophobia” have been greatly exaggerated. As Jonathan S. Tobin pointed out in a post entitled “FBI Statistics Belie Islamophobia Hysteria:”

“It has become an accepted trope of contemporary journalism that American Muslims are under siege and beset by hatred and prejudice. But the evidence for this conventional wisdom is lacking. The story line of Muslim persecution in the United States has always been a matter of anecdotes and perception, not facts. That truth was confirmed this week when the FBI released their annual crime statistics report which showed once again that hate crimes against Muslims remain rare and are far outnumbered by attacks on Jews. […]

Because the far greater number of attacks on Jews is not viewed […] as proof the country is boiling with hatred for Jews, how can anyone rationally argue that the far fewer number of assaults on Muslims can justify the conclusion that Islamophobia is rampant?”

Tobin, however, is making the same mistake that I made: he wrongly assumes this is a rational debate. But it isn’t a rational debate – and as far as Mona Eltahawy is concerned, it shouldn’t be a rational debate. Indeed, it seems she feels that as long as she has some 165 000 followers on Twitter, rational argument is just a waste of time.

Mona Eltahawy claims victory for vandalism [updated]

Last week, opponents of free speech had a great time in New York City.

During the annual UN General Assembly meeting, some Arab and Muslim leaders, including the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, took advantage of recent Muslim riots against a hyped YouTube clip denigrating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad to revive longstanding efforts to impose a global ban on anything deemed offensive to religion. According to the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), it was now time for the international community to “come out of hiding from behind the excuse of freedom of expression.”

While the representatives of OIC member states took to the UN podium to demand restrictions on freedom of expression, one of the organization’s member states had the great satisfaction to see one of its nationals demonstrating right there in New York that there was always something to offend Islam.

Incensed by an ad in the New York subway that denounced violent jihad as “savage” and called for supporting Israel, the prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy decided to register her objections to the ad. She did so, however, not – as one might have expected – by writing an article explaining her objections and her apparent identification with violent jihadis, but by seeking out one of the ten posted ads and defacing it with spray paint. A brawl ensued when Eltahawy encountered a woman who tried to stop her from defacing the ad, and Eltahawy was arrested and held overnight to face a criminal mischief charge in court on the following day.

Given that she has a large following on Twitter, it was hardly surprising that, as soon as the news of her arrest spread, her supporters started a campaign with the hashtag #FreeMona. It was then that it first became clear that Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood was pleased with Eltahawy’s actions: Ikhwanweb, which represents the “official opinions of the Muslim Brotherhood,” posted a tweet in support of the #FreeMona campaign.

When Eltahawy was informed about this after her release, she, in turn, seemed pleased enough to retweet it.

A day later, an Egyptian newspaper reported that President Morsi had instructed Egypt’s consul general in New York “to closely follow the case of Egyptian-American journalist and human rights activist Mona Eltahawy.”

Responding on Twitter, Eltahawy ultimately rejected Morsi’s concern, advising the Egyptian president that he had enough challenges at home and that there was no need to worry about her.

But apparently, Eltahawy didn’t bother to ponder the question why Morsi and the Brotherhood had been so eager to show support for her.

After all, she had made a name for herself as a “heroine of the Arab Spring” by being very open about the physical and sexual abuse she suffered when she was arrested while covering demonstrations in Cairo in November 2011. Half a year later, she caused a heated controversy with a feature essay in Foreign Policy magazine. Under the title “Why Do They Hate Us?,” Eltahawy asserted that there was a “war on women” in the Middle East and that “Arab societies hate women;” she also sharply criticized the views of the Muslim Brotherhood and its spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi on female genital mutilation.

While we can safely assume that the Brotherhood didn’t appreciate that at all, they were of course astute enough to warmly embrace Eltahawy now when she was acting in a way that was obviously very useful for the OIC’s efforts to push for restrictions to free speech.

Indeed, completely absorbed in her own breathless efforts to style herself as a latter-day heroine of the Civil Rights movement – helped along greatly by a truly disproportionate and uncritical media coverage of her “protest” that included an eight-minute segment on CNN International – Eltahawy proudly announced on Twitter that her act of vandalism had been vindicated: “Thanks to all who defaced those racist piece of shit ads: MTA Amends Rules After Pro-Israel Ads Draw Controversy http://nyti.ms/QY0KzG.”

This is of course exactly what Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz foresaw when he was asked by The Algemeiner to assess the revised advertising guidelines announced by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Dershowitz described the change not only as “clearly unconstitutional,” but emphasized that “it incentivizes people to engage in violence. What it says to people, is that if they don’t like ads, just engage in violence and then we’ll take the ads down. It’s very bad policy […] and it’s just plain dumb, because it is going to encourage violence.”

Indeed, Mona Eltahawy has repeatedly emphasized that she was proud of her actions (and, presumably, their success) and that she wouldn’t hesitate to do the same again.

At the same time, she has so far avoided to use her freedom of speech and her many possibilities as a prominent writer to explain why she would take offense when violent jihad is described as savage, and why she is so outraged by Qaradawi’s views on women, but apparently unperturbed by his glorification of genocidal jihad against the Jews.

* * *

UPDATE:

This post was originally published in The Algemeiner. In the meantime, The Guardian’s Comment is Free site has published a piece by Mona Eltahawy, claiming: “If anti-Muslim ads are protected, so must be my free speech right to protest.

Asserting once again that the ads she defaced were “racist and bigoted” and suggesting a “coincidental correlation” to various instances of anti-Muslim violence and verbal abuse hurled against her (who loves to hurl verbal abuse against others), Eltahawy fails again to explain why condemning violent jihad as “savage” is “anti-Muslim,” but she does repeat her identification as a #ProudSavage.

In any case, my headline here – “Mona Eltahawy claims victory for vandalism” – remains sadly appropriate. As a new Washington Post article by Jonathan Turley notes:

“Free speech is dying in the Western world. […] A willingness to confine free speech in the name of social pluralism can be seen at various levels of authority and government.”

Referring specifically to the “savage jihad”-ads and the change of advertising rules celebrated by Eltahawy as a victory for those who defaced the ads, Turley writes:

“Such efforts focus not on the right to speak but on the possible reaction to speech — a fundamental change in the treatment of free speech in the West. The much-misconstrued statement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that free speech does not give you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater is now being used to curtail speech that might provoke a violence-prone minority. Our entire society is being treated as a crowded theater, and talking about whole subjects is now akin to shouting ‘fire!’”

Read the whole piece to see how far free speech has already been undermined. Turley concludes grimly:

“The very right that laid the foundation for Western civilization is increasingly viewed as a nuisance, if not a threat. Whether speech is deemed inflammatory or hateful or discriminatory or simply false, society is denying speech rights in the name of tolerance, enforcing mutual respect through categorical censorship.”

 

Mitt Romney’s jihad

As anyone who followed the recent controversy about an ad denouncing jihad as savage should know by now, it’s “racist” to do so, and there are some people who would declare themselves a #ProudSavage to protest such an outrageous libeling of jihad. Indeed, the meaning of jihad is really first and foremost and basically always self-improvement. [Repeat as often as necessary, and then some].

But!!! In the wake of last night’s presidential debate, it turns out that some people think Mitt Romney is on a jihad – and that can’t mean anything good, right?!?!? A lot of people even seem to think that Romney is out to kill Sesame Street’s Big Bird, and there’s even a campaign to “Save Big Bird.”

I’m telling you: jihad is savage when Mitt Romney is doing it…

 

 

Mona Eltahawy defends jihad: We are all proud savages now! [Updated]

On Tuesday, the prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy informed her almost 160 000 Twitter followers in no uncertain terms that she was incensed by an advertisement that had been placed in some New York City subways stations. Quoting a Reuters report about the ad, Eltahawy referred to it as “‘Savage’ jihad ad,” and, by adding the hashtag  #ProudSavage, presumably declared her solidarity with maligned jihadists who see themselves in a war against Israel and (western) civilization.

Indeed, as the day wore on, Eltahawy playfully pondered on Twitter how best to protest the ad, deciding eventually that defacing it with pink spray paint would be “sexier” than the alternatives. A few hours later, Eltahawy was going through with her plan to cover one of the ads with pink paint, but was confronted by a woman resolved to stop her. The ensuing brawl was captured by a New York Post camera crew, and Eltahawy was eventually arrested and held overnight to face a criminal mischief charge in court.

This story is a perfect, if utterly depressing, illustration of the mindless sloganeering that all too often passes for political action and debate nowadays.

First, let us consider what the ad that Reuters described as “inflammatory” really said. As the Reuters report noted, the ad equates “Islamic jihad with savagery;” saying specifically:

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

To me, the most straightforward reading of the message here is: Jihad, understood as war, and in this case specifically as war against Israel, is savage. This is only “inflammatory” if you worry that many Muslims would be insulted to see violent jihadi acts of war denounced as savage.

But apparently, this is not how Eltahawy and her many ardent supporters read the ad. The most revealing illustration for their reading was provided by the well-known cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who has rightly been criticized for his “staggering amount of work dedicated to advancing explicitly anti-Semitic political imagery.”

Latuff was quick to support the #FreeMona campaign developing on Twitter with a drawing that, according to Latuff’s own caption, meant to illustrate that “equating Muslims with savages is freedom of speech – protesting against it is not…”

But while Latuff claimed that the ad was “equating Muslims with savages”, his rendering of the ad tellingly left out the last line “Defeat Jihad.”

It wasn’t the text of the ad that equated Muslims with savages, but Latuff – as well as Eltahawy and her admirers – apparently equated Jihad, understood as war, and specifically as war against Israel, with Islam and therefore with Muslims.

That would probably please jihadists everywhere.

Let’s now consider what the solidarity expressed in the hashtag #ProudSavage really means in the context of contemporary jihadist declarations and actions.

First, I would hope that we can all agree that self-described jihadists who consider videos of beheadings “very,very important” tools for recruiting volunteers deserve to be denounced as savage.

Unfortunately, jihadi rhetoric can hardly be considered as all that more civilized.

Among the most widely known examples is probably the Hamas Charter, especially the declaration:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

The enormously influential Egyptian Islamic leader Yusuf Qaradawi – who is even regarded by some as “Global Mufti” – has explicitly praised this declaration as “one of the miracles of our Prophet,” noting:

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

Qaradawi has made many similar statements encouraging hatred and violence between Muslims and Jews; indeed, a few years ago, he even used his popular Al Jazeera show that reached an audience of tens of millions of Muslims to praise the Holocaust as a divinely ordained punishment for the Jews, expressing the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

How “racist” or “hateful” is it to denounce these racist and hateful views as savage?

Indeed, if there is such a thing as universal values and universal human rights and if we all share a common humanity, then it cannot be that denouncing calls by mainstream Muslim organizations and personalities for a bloody Muslim Jihad against Jews is somehow worse than this incitement to Jew-hatred and violence.

Well-meaning people like Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, are therefore arguably wrong to criticize this specific ad by repeating the well-worn piety that “for the vast majority of Muslims, ‘jihad’ refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.”

That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that, as I have documented above, there is today also a mainstream Muslim understanding of jihad as bloody and, as far as Jews are concerned, ultimately genocidal war. There are also numerous violent jihadi groups, and the “vast majority of Muslims” who understand jihad as a spiritual quest have arguably little reason to feel offended when violent terrorists are denounced as savage.

Indeed, in the wake of 9/11, there were countless appeals by western leaders and commentators admonishing people not to conflate terrorists who kill in the name of Islam with the religion followed by more than 1.5 billion Muslims. But when we have an ad that denounces jihad as savage, the “politically correct” consensus now seems to be that this is an “anti-Muslim” ad.

Unfortunately, this view appears to reflect the sad fact that when it comes to Israel, most Muslims are indeed opposed to the Jewish state’s existence and Jews are viewed negatively by an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East.

Another reason why this ad is interpreted as “anti-Muslim” is of course the fact that it was sponsored by a group that has often rightly been criticized and condemned for campaigns that betray anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet, such groups arguably only stand to gain adherents when it becomes anti-Muslim bigotry to denounce violent jihad as savage.

As deplorable and objectionable as it is that some believe that by denigrating Islam and Muslims in general, they are engaging in pro-Israel activism, it is not all that much better to pretend that widespread hatred of Jews, Israel and even the West doesn’t exist in the Muslim world.

Particularly a prominent writer like Mona Eltahawy surely had the option to turn to numerous widely read media outlets to explain what she finds so objectionable in this specific ad – and perhaps also what she thinks of the mainstream Muslim views of jihad I cited above. Engaging in an act of futile vandalism accompanied by a few rather vulgar tweets and claiming that this is an exercise of free speech and anti-racist political action is indeed a poor reflection on a widely admired writer of our time.

But while I am writing this, Eltahawy’s most recent tweet announces:

“I return to court to face my charges – proudly – on Nov29. #ProudSavage #FuckHate #NYC

And, in yet another tweet posted just five minutes ago and already retweeted by almost 100 people, Eltahawy declares:

“I spray painted that racist piece of shit poster out of principle, protected speech & non-violent disobedience. Proud & absolutely no regrets!”

Unthinking demagoguery attracts a lot of fans, it seems. And what do you know: there is also a new slogan, because, naturally, when a much-despised fringe group sponsors an ad describing the jihad that targets Israel as savage, the most anti-racist thing to do is to declare that we are all proud savages now…

* * *

This article was published on my JPost blog and in the Algemeiner.

UPDATE:

There is an amazing article in The Forward, which reports under the title: “Jewish Groups Object to Anti-Muslim Ad; Hope To Limit Damage From ‘Savage’ Controversy

“The timing of the [ad] campaign could not be worse, as anger is still simmering worldwide over the anti-Islamic YouTube film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ which insults the Prophet Muhammad. Despite the small reach of the AFDI campaign – only 10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York City’s 400-odd subway stations – the reaction to it is unpredictable.

Jewish advocates are particularly disturbed by the ads because they combine anti-Islamic propaganda and pro-Israel discourse as if supporting Israel and rejecting Islam were two sides of the same coin.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a longtime champion of interreligious dialogue, told the Forward that he was “troubled” by the linking of Islam and Judaism in such a contentious way.

“People must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,” Schneier said. “The only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.”

Schneier added that in the same way that other seemingly small manifestations against Islam have been taken as extremely offensive in the past, it would not be hard to imagine how this “could mutate in other parts of the Muslim world” — and raise anti-Israel feelings.

“These ads are Islamophobia at its worst, and in a very irresponsible fashion, since Israel has been brought into the frame,” Schneier said.”

So let’s get this straight: The good Rabbi Schneier, who thinks that these ads present “Islamophobia at its worst,” also thinks that “10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York City’s 400-odd subway stations” could cause terrible riots all over the Muslim world and “raise anti-Israel feelings.”

On the last point, the Rabbi might be less worried if he knew that “anti-Israel feelings” and outright Jew-hatred are so prevalent in the Muslim world that it’s hard to “raise” them. And when it comes to his inordinate fear of Muslim mob violence, the Rabbi might want to check out the excellent World Affairs Journal piece by Michael Weiss on “Guilt and the ‘Innocence of Muslims’.”

But, most pathetic – if likely well-meaning – is of course this part:

“People must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,” Schneier said. “The only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.”

Rabbi Schneier should tell this one time to Global Mufti Qaradawi – though unfortunately, he won’t be able to do this in person, because Sheikh Qaradawi doesn’t meet with Jews

The Forward’s coverage of this story also includes a blog post that reports gleefully that at least five of the 10 ads have been politically corrected – which is to say, partly plastered over by stickers claiming “Racism” or “Hate speech.”

The morale of the story is clearly that it is “Islamophobia at its worst” to distinguish between Muslims and jihadists – which presumably means: all Muslims are jihadists and anyone who wants to say something not so flattering about jihad should be told to shut up so as not to risk a frightful outbreak of jihadi=Muslim rage…

 

Who’s defaming Islam?

Efforts to combat “Islamophobia” have long been on the agenda of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), but there are legitimate concerns about the implications of various initiatives that have sought to criminalize any “defamation” of Islam. Whenever I read about these issues – raised e.g. in this recent piece – I’m left with a lot of questions, because it seems to me that it is often Muslims, and indeed Muslim authorities, that are the worst offenders.

Consider the examples from the Saudi textbook on “Studies from the Muslim World” quoted in my previous post. To say that the Koran encourages Jew-hatred surely sounds “Islamophobic,” but unfortunately, that seems to be very much the message that Saudi authorities want to convey to the millions of Muslim youngsters who study this textbook.

Similarly, it would seem definitely defamatory to say that one of the most influential Muslim preachers believes that Hitler should be seen as “divine punishment” for the Jews – but unfortunately, this is just one of many shocking statements made by Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, who is revered as a great scholar by many millions of Muslims.

Western non-Muslims are often admonished to avoid formulations that associate Islam with terrorism or racism. One frequently cited argument is that “just as the Ku Klux Klan does not speak for Christianity,” terrorists who claim to be motivated by Islamic teaching don’t speak for Islam and do not deserve to have their claim taken seriously.

But in this context it’s instructive to recall that the UN has not adopted a definition of terrorism because the OIC wants to make sure that the definition would not include violent acts that its Muslim member countries deem part of “the legitimate struggle of peoples in the exercise of their right to self-determination.” As everyone knows, this means that Kurdish terrorists will remain terrorist, whereas “jihad” as defined in the Saudi “Studies from the Muslim World,” won’t be terrorism:

“Jihad for the sake of Allah is the only path to liberating Palestine. Only through jihad did the Muslims conquer Jerusalem, and only through jihad did the Crusaders leave Palestine. Likewise, only through jihad will the Jews leave Palestine.”

There are plenty of examples indicating that the Muslim Brotherhood – which, given its impressive popular support can now definitely claim to be a “mainstream” group, and which is often described as “moderate” in the Western media – has a similar view. And no matter what Western liberals may want to believe, the term “jihad” most definitely does not refer to some struggle for self-improvement here.

The obvious problem is that the OIC’s efforts to shield Islam from defamation by non-Muslims will inevitably look like an attempt to proscribe free speech as long as authorities that claim a leading role in the Muslim world as well as mainstream Muslim groups and widely revered Muslim scholars come out with statements that sound quite “Islamophobic” when quoted as representative of mainstream Muslim views.