Friday, February 29, 2008

Libya outsmarts EU.

By Dana Moss 

 

Following intense EU and French mediation, the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor were released from their Tripoli prison. After the jubilation came realpolitik, with politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats intensifying contacts with oil-rich, authoritarian Libya. In Brussels, bureaucrats set about drafting the framework for negotiations for a framework agreement. Yet despite recent optimism, whichever direction EU-Libyan relations head, chances are that the EU could harm its standing in the region and betray its values.

 

The EU has longed to include Libya in the Euro-Med Partnership, the traditional framework through which it interacts with the Mashriq and Maghreb since 1995. Offered observer status in 1999, Libya has expressed interest, but never took the step of signing up to the instrument.

European eagerness hinges on the need for Libyan cooperation in stemming immigration from Africa, the potential energy sources in the country – making it a logical market for Europe and a profitable investment for European companies as well as the eventual opening of the Libyan market to European goods.

 

European enthusiasm has been reciprocated in turn with Libyan vacillation. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has given contrary opinions on the matter, recently characterizing the Barcelona Process as "designed to serve ulterior motives and based on double standards." Libyan intransigence toward the Barcelona Process stems logically from its international rehabilitation and petrochemical riches. Reluctant to carry out the necessary political and economic reform, engage with Israel and be subordinate to the demands of a European bloc, it has shied away from large forums such as the Barcelona Process in favor of smaller ones, such as the 5+5 Dialogue Group. The latter, bringing together five Southern European states and five Maghrebi states, allows Libya to voice its concerns while essentially freeing its hands. By navigating this path, Libya can garner economic and political goods whilst remaining politically independent. As one European parliamentarian described the matter, "Libya is in a win-win situation, and it's holding all the cards."

 

So keen is the EU to court Libya that it is reportedly about to offer it an alternative framework to the Barcelona Process, namely the European Neighborhood Policy. This instrument, intended to create "a ring of friends" around the EU, was a response to its enlargement, aimed at East European states such as Georgia, and is applicable to those Middle Eastern states already in the Barcelona Process.

 

Dangerously, such overtures legitimize Libyan reluctance to engage in reform and condone a non-cooperative stance toward Israel-Palestine relations. They award intransigence, at least, as long as the reluctant party is backed by oil wealth and strategically located. This approach also stands in direct contradiction of prior statements, as although the Joint Conclusions signed between Brussels and Tripoli in May 2007 agreed to "discuss the various potential frameworks for the future relations, taking into consideration the EU's Neighborhood Policy" the Commission Web site still earnestly recites, "Libya would need to first become part of the Barcelona Process." Such opposing descriptions give a harmful impression of European backpedaling and insincerity.

 

Yet leaving the status quo as it is, namely with member states engaged in business and political relations with the former pariah, but with no formal relationship with Brussels, also places the EU on precarious ground. Under the current format, two different regimes are also created: one in which countries have to reform politically, and another where they can still maintain relations with the EU regardless of their political behavior. This duality and preferential treatment makes the EU look hypocritical, as well as boding badly for the projection of its power.

 

The EU thus faces a catch-22 situation with Libya: leave Libya out and a dual regime will be created in the Middle East; yet, to offer a framework acceptable to Libya a special system for the previous pariah will need to be created. One thing is for certain – either way, Tripoli stands to gain, as a FRONTEX (European border agency) official ruefully admits, "Libya … they play smart."

 

Dana Moss 

 

Dana Moss is a Senior Fellow at the Transatlantic Institute

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

 

 

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Palestinian Christians live in constant fear.

By Father Raymond J. De Souza

JERUSALEM -Here with an item from last week's news that you might not have heard about: Unidentified gunmen blew up the YMCA library in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning. While no one was hurt, two guards were temporarily kidnapped while the offices were looted, a vehicle stolen and all 8,000 books destroyed. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Fatah accused Hamas of being behind it. Hamas, for its part, strongly denied any responsibility and condemned the attack. Meanwhile, confidential sources in Gaza told the Jerusalem Post that the attack was in response to the reprinting of the Muhammad cartoons in Danish newspapers last week.

The supposed motivation for the attack, and the fact that it was not big news, illustrates the dire situation faced by many Christians living in the Palestinian territories.

There are only some 3,500 Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, in Gaza. Over the past two years, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have claimed responsibility for attacks against Christian figures and institutions with the stated goal of driving Christians out of Gaza.

If indeed the attack on the YMCA was motivated by the latest wave of violence in Denmark over the cartoon controversy, it shows how precarious the Christian position is. The Young Men's Christian Association in Gaza is open to Muslims and includes a school, sports club and community hall. It is not a centre of Christian proselytism. But if events in Denmark which have nothing to do with Christianity can produce anti-Christian violence in Gaza, then it is clear that there is nothing Christians can do to avoid such violence.

The problem is not their behaviour but, in the eyes of the violent Islamist jihadists, their very presence. They must simply live in hope that some faraway event does not inflame the anti-Christian wrath of their neighbours. Is it any wonder that Christians in such situations desire to emigrate? Could anyone judge harshly the few thousand Christians in Gaza if they were to leave entirely?

A second noteworthy dimension of the Gaza YMCA bombing is, well, how un-noteworthy it was. It was treated in the Israeli press as a sort of news brief. After all, there was the continuing story of the assassination in Damascus of Hezbollah's chief of terror operations, Imad Mughniyeh. And just hours after the YMCA attack, eight Palestinians in Gaza were killed in an explosion at the home of Ayman Fayad, a senior Islamic Jihad official. All Palestinian organizations blamed the Israeli Defence Forces for the blast; Israel denied any involvement.

So how can the destruction of a library, or the firebombing of a school, or the desecration of a church be reported against the daily toll of political violence elsewhere, to say nothing of the international stories? On the same weekend, the French foreign minister arrived for a visit, and a German newspaper reported that Israel was preparing to declare dead the two soldiers who were kidnapped in 2006, the incident which gave rise to the Second Lebanon War.

Even then, who would do the reporting? There is no free press in Gaza. Outside reporters, whether Israeli or foreign, cannot move about freely and pursue such stories. Foreign reporters in particular need extensive handlers, as they do not know the local language, the local geography or the local leaders. It is much easier to stay in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and rewrite press statements about the visit of the latest foreign dignitary.

Even if the reporters came, what would they be told? It is well known that Christian Palestinians who have been subject to firebombings, seizures of homes and businesses, assaults and death threats still tell foreign visitors that they have excellent relations with their Muslim neighbours. After the foreigners go home, these Christians must remain, and are loath to give any reason for jihadist extremists to think that they are stirring up trouble.

And so it goes -- news trickles out about one outrage or another, but it gets lost if it gets noticed at all. Meanwhile, Christians in Gaza and the West Bank try to live quietly, never knowing whether a newspaper in Denmark or a papal speech in Germany or nothing in particular might be the pretext for violence coming to their doors.

It is an awful way to live. It is more awful still that so few know, or care about it.

Father Raymond J. De Souza

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

 

Hamas Kids' TV Rabbit: Eat the Danes, But Not Danish Food

by Ezra HaLevi

A Hamas-run children's TV program aired recently encouraging hatred of Denmark, the West and Israel. The show's star, a rabbit named Assud, threatens to "bite and eat" the Danish if they republish cartoons of Islam's founder, Mohammed.

"If they repeat it we will kill them," Assud explains to the young viewers. "I will bite them and eat them!"
 
The program focuses on the call to boycott Danish and Israeli products. "Denmark and the West are targeted because of the Mohammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper," Palestinian Media Watch Director Itamar Marcus points out in a recent dispatch. "Israel is targeted because it exists."

Saraa, the young TV hostess of the program, describes the publication of the Muhammad cartoons as "the West's attack against [Mohammed]." The program then features children phoning into the program to condemn the "cowardly infidels" and vow to fight them.

"The children's show, Tomorrow's Pioneers, has used its previous animal character co-hosts, the Mickey Mouse lookalike Farfur and the bee Nahul, to champion violence, promote hatred of Israel  and preach about world Islamic supremacy," Marcus said. "To further reinforce its anti-Israel message, Hamas  has killed off both characters and blamed Israel."
  
The following is PMW's transcript of the broadcast of Feb. 22, 2008 on Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV:
 
Saraa: Did you see the West's attack against the Messenger [Muhammed]?
              What do you have to say about this?
Amaani, 10 year old girl by phone: I say to the cowardly infidels...
Assud: Criminals.
Amaani: Criminals.
Assud:  Do you boycott Israeli and Danish products?
Amaani: Yes
Assud: You don't eat them at all?
Amaan: I don't eat them at all.
Assud:  Great! Keep it up!
Saraa:  We will all boycott Danish products, and Israeli products first.
 
* * * * * *

Saraa:  What can we do for the Messenger?
Inaas, 10 year old girl by phone:  We can fight them because
         they cursed  Allah's Messenger.
Saraa: 'Tomorrow's  Pioneers' army will redeem the Messenger,
        with their possessions and their blood, Assud,
        and will not let them repeat this attack.
Assud: If they repeat it we will kill them, by Allah.
Saraa: In His will.
Assud:  I will bite them and eat them!

Ezra HaLevi

 

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

 

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Sderot Calculus

By Bret Stephens

The Israeli town of Sderot lies less than a mile from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the intifada seven years ago, it has borne the brunt of some 2,500 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists. Only about a dozen of these Kassams have proved lethal, though earlier this month brothers Osher and Rami Twito were seriously injured by one as they walked down a Sderot street on a Saturday evening. Eight-year-old Osher lost a leg.

It is no stretch to say that life in Sderot has become unendurable. Palestinians and their chorus of supporters — including the 118 countries of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, much of Europe, and the panoply of international aid organizations from the World Bank to the United Nations — typically reply that life in the Gaza Strip is also unendurable, and that Palestinian casualties greatly exceed Israeli ones. But this argument is fatuous: Conditions in Gaza, in so far as they are shaped by Israel, are a function of conditions in Sderot. No Palestinian Kassams (or other forms of terrorism), no Israeli "siege."

The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be "proportionate." What does that mean? Does the "proportion" apply to the intention of those firing the Kassams — to wit, indiscriminate terror against civilian populations? In that case, a "proportionate" Israeli response would involve, perhaps, firing 2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza. Or should proportion apply to the effects of the Kassams — an exquisitely calibrated, eye-for-eye operation involving the killing of a dozen Palestinians and the deliberate maiming or traumatizing of several hundred more?

Surely this isn't what advocates of proportion have in mind. What they really mean is that Israel ought to respond with moderation. But the criteria for moderation are subjective. Should Israel pick off Hamas leaders who are ordering the rocket attacks? The European Parliament last week passed a resolution denouncing the practice of targeted assassinations. Should Israel adopt purely economic measures to punish Hamas for the Kassams? The same resolution denounced what it called Israel's "collective punishment" of Palestinians. Should Israel seek to dismantle the Kassams through limited military incursions? This, too, has the unpardonable effect of resulting in too many Palestinian casualties, which are said to be "disproportionate" to the number of Israelis injured by the Kassams.

By these lights, Israel's presumptive right to self-defense has no practical application as far as Gaza is concerned. Instead, Israel is counseled to allow goods to flow freely into the Strip, and to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas.

But here another set of considerations intrudes. Hamas was elected democratically and by overwhelming margins in Gaza. It has never once honored a cease-fire with Israel. Following Israel's withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements from the Strip in 2005 there was a six-fold increase in the number of Kassam strikes on Israel.

Hamas has also made no effort to rewrite its 1988 charter, which calls for Israel's destruction. The charter is explicitly anti-Semitic: "The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!" (Article Seven) "In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad." (Article 15) And so on.

It would seem perverse for Israeli taxpayers, including residents of Sderot, to feed the mouth that bites them. It would seem equally perverse for Israel merely to bide its time for an especially unlucky day — a Kassam hitting a busload of schoolchildren, for instance — before striking hard at Gaza. But unless Israel is willing to accept the military, political and diplomatic burdens of occupying all or parts of Gaza indefinitely, the effects of a major military incursion could be relatively short-lived. Israel suffered many more casualties before it withdrew from the Strip than it has since.

Perhaps the answer is to wait for a technological fix and, in the meantime, hope for the best. Israel is at work on a missile-defense program called "Iron Dome" that may be effective against Kassams, though the system won't be in place for at least two years. It could also purchase land-based models of the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, used by the U.S. to defend the Green Zone in Baghdad.

But technology addresses neither the Islamic fanaticism that animates Hamas nor the moral torpor of Western policy makers and commentators who, on balance, find more to blame in Israel's behavior than in Hamas's. Nor, too, would an Iron Dome or the Phalanx absolve the Israeli government from the necessity of punishing those who seek its destruction. Prudence is an important consideration of statesmanship, but self-respect is vital. And no self-respecting nation can allow the situation in Sderot to continue much longer, a point it is in every civilized country's interest to understand.

On March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, N.M., killing 18 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson ordered Gen. John J. Pershing and 10,000 soldiers into Mexico for nearly a year to hunt Villa down, in what was explicitly called a "punitive expedition." Pershing never found Villa, making the effort something of a failure. Then again, Villa's raid would be the last significant foreign attack on continental U.S. soil for 85 years, six months and two days.

Bret Stephens

 

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

 

 

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gaza: Hamas strikes out

By Ami Isseroff

What if you gave a spontaneous demonstration and nobody came? Well, almost nobody.

Following the great success of the Hamas inspired invasion of Egypt, Israeli authorities were anxiously awaiting the planned "spontaneous" demonstration of Gazans that was supposed to bring 50,000 desperate folks to the Gaza border with Israel. No less than 50,000 people were supposed to have joined the "spontaneous" protest. Numerous international media outlets hastened to trumpet the latest Hamas triumph An organizer gushed, "We have been stunned by the large number of people who joined the protest." But they were all counting their Gazans before they hatched. The great Gaza non-violent action was a bust. About 5,000 people showed up, mainly university students and schoolchildren who were obviously recruited and brought en-masse for the event: "We're going on a field trip today to demonstrate against the Jews."

The IDF had planned for the worst, which the right thing to do, but Ahmad struck out this time.

While nonviolence failed, the same old proven methods were still at work.Terrorists Militants launched several rockets at Sderot, wounding one ten year old in the shoulder and lightly wounding a mother and child. The rockets, writes Bradley Burston, were the real failure of Palestinian non-violence. Palestinians have never managed to make a really non-violent protest, and Palestinian advocates of "non-violence" never claim that their struggle should be exclusively non-violent. The ISM for example, which claims to support non-violence, also supports "legitimate resistance" (blowing people up).

Burston is mistaken. On the one hand, even had the organizers of the "spontaneous" demonstration succeeded in bringing out 50,000 or 100,000 people, and even had they managed to not fire rockets for a day, or throw rocks, it would still be a moral failure. A violent and unjust end cannot be justified by non-violent means. A non-violent demonstration in favor of apartheid, Nazism or slavery is not a great moral triumph that demands our respect. The Israeli sanctions on Gaza are due to the fact that the terrorists militants fire rockets on Israel. The demonstrators were non-violently demanding the "right" to fire rockets on civilians for no reason. No doubt, "human rights" advocates can prove that this "right" is anchored in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, but common sense says otherwise. The general goal of the Hamas is the destruction of Israel. Genocide is still genocide even if it is supported by cute little kiddies holding hands. No doubt these kiddies are avid fans of the Hamas rabbit that eats Jews.

On the other hand, if the organizers had succeeded in "spontaneously" bringing out 50,000 or 100,000 people, it would be a great PR victory, mistaken by most "analysts" for a "moral" victory. No media outlets, no "peace" organizations and no "humanitarians" would care that Hamas was launching rockets at the same time as the demonstration was taking place, just as nobody cares that this was a demonstration of children in support of the right to murder and maim other children.

Hamas and its puppet organizations failed this time, but they'll no doubt be back. Next time the participants will get much more "encouragement" to participate in the "spontaneous" generation. An AK-47 in the small of your back is a great motivator. There are other ways too. Israel needs to plan for the eventuality. Perhaps these people should be greeted by a friendly Israeli event, to show our good will. I was thinking that a gay parade or a Bikini swim wear fashion show might be just the thing.

Ami Isseroff

 

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

 

Sunday, February 24, 2008

RIGHTING RIGHTS WRONGS.

By Gerald M. Steinberg

December 10 is International Human Rights Day -- marking the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948. In accepting this document following the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, the signatories pledged to protect the "inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family." Like other such anniversaries, the date provides an opportunity to examine the accomplishments, as well as the failures, in implementing this pledge.

The failures are clearly dominant -- in much of the world, human rights, including the basic right to life, are given short shrift. The watchdogs, both in the United Nations itself, and in the accompanying network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to promote morality and human rights, have not only failed -- they have become a major part of the problem.

The basic norms of human behavior, including the right to life, are violated regularly by oppressive regimes in Burma, Sudan, North Korea, Syria, China (particularly in occupied Tibet), Iran, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. And yet the representatives of some of these governments also sit on the "reformed" United Nations Human Rights Council. The UNHRC and many similar organizations pay lip service to ethical norms, while applying double standards and closing a blind eye to the massive violations. In 2001, the U.N. held a conference in Durban attended by thousands of delegates, ostensibly to combat racism and xenophobia. Following a preparatory conference in Iran, led by Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, this exercise became a vehicle for hatred and anti-Semitism.

Many of the hundreds of NGOs that claim to promote and protect human rights are often guilty of aiding and abetting this disgraceful process. Powerful international groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Paris-based FIDH (International Federation of Human Rights), and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have used the massive resources at their disposal to exploit these norms to pursue private ideological agendas. They participated in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference, which was even worse than the diplomatic session. The NGO reports consistently focus disproportionately on the United States and Israel, and erase the context of terrorism in order to make false and frequent accusations of "war crimes," "collective punishment," "indiscriminate mass killing," and "violations of international law." For example, in 2006, HRW published hundreds of pages attacking Israeli responses to Hizbollah attacks, and glossing over Hezbollah's aggression and use of human shields. In contrast, this group issued a handful of reports protesting real basic rights violations in Burma, or analyzing the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The "halo effect" enjoyed by the U.N. and NGO human-rights network two or three decades ago has also been eroded by reports which make headlines, but are later shown to be fabricated or unverifiable. Lacking their own research capabilities, groups such as HRW and Amnesty rely on "local eyewitnesses" for evidence in Colombia (FARC), Gaza (Hamas), Lebanon (Hezbollah), and elsewhere. However, there are numerous documented cases in which these "eyewitnesses" are part of the political warfare which exploits the rhetoric of human rights by making false claims. They know that their reports, regardless of the lack of evidence or context, will be used to promote boycotts, demonization, and other political campaigns. In this way, human rights have become a vehicle to promote incitement, hatred, and terror -- the antithesis of the objectives proclaimed in 1948.

In order to change this dismal state of affairs, and restore the moral foundation and universality of human rights, the structure of the international diplomatic and NGO mechanisms must be changed, and the leaders must be replaced. The creation of alternative mechanisms to promote human rights, in which membership is limited to democratic governments, and which (without Iran and Sudan) would restore some of this lost legitimacy. Instead of the ineffectual and compromised head of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, new officials willing to stand up to politicized double standards are necessary.

Among the NGO superpowers, Kenneth Roth, who has headed Human Rights Watch since 1993, and Irene Khan, who has controlled Amnesty International since 2001, have been in power for far too long. They are responsible in large part for the politicization of human rights, including the double standards and lack of credibility. The same is true for the leaders of other groups in Europe and elsewhere that claim to promote human rights, and misdirect tens or in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars annually provided for this purpose.

At the same time, in order to restore the lost moral foundation of the human-rights movement, the donors and members of these organizations must also act responsibility to ensure that their support is not abused. It is not enough to simply write a check and come to an annual cocktail party, and declare that they have done their share to promote human rights. Donors to NGOs can be compared to directors of corporations that are accountable for transgressions committed by the officers of their firms. Following the 2001 Durban NGO Forum, the Ford Foundation (under threat of congressional investigation) accepted responsibility for funding some of the most virulent participants, and has implemented guidelines that are designed to prevent a repetition. Some donors to groups such as HRW have cut or conditioned their donations on an end to the double standards, and some members and officials of Amnesty have resigned in protest. These are all steps in the right direction.

In the Spring of 2009, the U.N. Human Rights Council has scheduled a follow up to the infamous Durban conference. This provides a rare opportunity for the governments that actually care about human rights, as well as the NGO community, to reverse course, and demonstrate that the lessons have been learned. If they succeed, this will mark an important step in the restoration of the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But if they fail, the Declaration, and the foundation of an international moral code based on a single universal standard, may never recover.

Gerald M. Steinberg

 

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

 

 

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Palestinian Women and Children in the Throes of Islamikaze Terrorism Part I

by Raphael Israeli

 

1ST PART OF 4

 

Abstract

Palestinian clerics and leaders have, of long date, and often with the support of radical and establishment clerics and columnists from other Arab countries, lent their support to Islamikaze, or what is popularly called "suicide bombing". That development has made room for the ever widening circle of participants in those horrific bombings: first, avowedly non-Islamist organizations, such as the Tanzim, the Aqsa Brigades and the Force 17 troops, began taking part in those attacks, in the process claiming for themselves the "benefits" in Paradise which accrue to the martyrs; then women joined in, against the established tradition of Muslim women participating in active hostilities and exposing themselves to "indecency"; and finally with children throwing in their lot, with the encouragement of their elders, among the Palestinians and elsewhere in the Islamic world.

 

Apologia

Even prior to 11 September, and certainly much more so thereafter, Muslim clerics such as radical Sheikh Qaradhawi, the Egyptian exile in Qatar; the Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Muhammed Tantawi, who is considered the highest authority to deliver Muslim verdicts; Sheikh 'Akrama Sabri, the hand-picked Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, and many others who took up residence in the West, such as sheikhs  al-Bakri and al-Masri, Muslim-Arab radicals pursued by the justice systems in their countries, who received political asylum in Britain and settled in London, pronounced themselves in favor of the Islamikaze killings for the sake of Islam, especially against Israelis.[1] Tantawi is perhaps the most duplicitous among them, for unlike others, who have been either clearly for (and this is the majority of those who articulated their thinking) or emphatically against, such as Sheikh al-Ansari from Qatar, Tantawi has both attended the  Alexandria Inter-faith Conference in early 2002, where those acts of terror were denounced, but then his position has constantly eroded. He came first to justify  the Wafa Idris act of terror, the first perpetrated by a Palestinian woman (in Jerusalem in early 2002), and then accepted in fact the indiscriminate attacks against civilians as legal. His position is particularly sensitive because while he responds to the Egyptian establishment and has to toe the official anti-terrorist line espoused by his government which appointed him, he is also in a responsible and prestigious enough location to heed the popular resentment of the masses against the US and Israel.

The involvement of women, first as victims of terror and then as its progenitors, was brought up by Syrian-born Sheikh 'Umar al-Bakri, who took refuge in London , advocated at some point that "all homosexuals there ought to throw themselves down from the Big Ben"[2], called the British MP's "monkeys"[3], and vowed that the flag of Islam would "fly high on Downing Street 10 and at the Elysee"[4]. He justified and defended the 11 September New York and Washington horrors, which for him came as a "compensation for the atrocities the US had committed against Islam", and exhorted Muslims to unite and fight, sacrifice themselves and their wealth in order to gain access to Paradise and to make the difference between "truth and falsehood, Belief and heresy, oppressors and oppressed, the alliance of Satan against the Alliance of Allah"[5]. After the American attack against Afghanistan was launched, he issued a fatwa against Pakistani President Musharraf and other Muslim leaders who let their territory be used by Americans against a fellow Muslim state. In that verdict, for what it is worth, he raised, inter alia, many aspects of the status of women in Islam and in general, in the context of what we call terrorism and he insists on dubbing  Jihad. For him, the Muslims who collaborated with the US, were murtaddun (apostates), if "at all they were Muslims to start with", and since they are involved in the war against Muslims, the sentence of murtadd harbi (an apostate who should be fought) applies to them, to wit :

1.      His blood becomes permissible and he must be killed;

2.      His marriage becomes invalid, as does his guardianship of his children and relatives[6];

3.      His property is permissible and he will no be able to bequeath it;

4.      He cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery;

5.      He must be treated with animosity and hatred…;

6.      There is no difference between a man and a woman… The blood of a woman who is a heretic harbiyya is permissible, even if her fighting is limited to singing… Thus acted the Prophet against the fighting women of the Quraysh tribe. He permitted their blood and ordered them killed, although he generally  prohibited killing women[7].

 

This verdict, which allowed the killing of Muslim women under certain circumstances, appeared under the emblem of "The Shari'a Court of the United Kingdom", and was signed jointly by al-Bakri himself, under his title of "Shari'a Court Judge in London", and Muhammed al-Musa'ari, the Secretary General of the Committee  for Protection of Legitimate Rights in Saudi Arabia, which lends to it authority and respectability. Its English version, however, was slightly different and signed by "Muslim Jurists from Syria, Lebanon, Kuweit, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom", with the names of the original two signatories, Bakri and Musa'ari, appearing at the bottom, with their phone numbers for further inquiries. In this version, the Qur'anic verse was added which threatened that "the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to make mischief in the land, is only this – that they should be murdered or crucified, or their hands and feet should be cut-off  on opposing sides, or they should be imprisoned"[8]. And the section about the women of Quraysh who were killed by the Prophet, was replaced by a paragraph that reads :"Therefore we ask Muslims with the capability, especially the armies of Muslim countries, to move quickly and to capture those apostates and criminals involved in these crimes, especially the ruler of Pakistan [President Musharraf], King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and  [President] Rabbani of Afghanistan".[9]

The exposure of women to harrowing physical mutilation, on authority of the precedent set by the Prophet, though it was concealed in the English version, where women were omitted from those horrors, together with the determination to dissolve marriages of "apostate" men, naturally had an impact on the developing debate on the active participation of Muslim women (and by extension also children),  in the Islamikaze attacks as actors, or on suffering the consequences thereof as passive spectators. For once the taboo was lifted on involving women (and children) in the course of Muslim violence during this brand of Jihad, or in the hardships that resulted therefrom, no obstacles could be envisaged any longer for including them in that struggle. Here, we shall focus on Palestinian women and children, because their people, who have been engaged in a murderous battle against Israel, have become the chief model of Islamikaze in the Muslim world. The Palestinians have  emerged in effect, not only as the most active agents  in the implementation of the idea, but have also widened the circle of the participants beyond the few self-sacrificing radicals, into a legitimate and all-encompassing national form of struggle, in which women and children have taken the initiative, or were led, to partake. Unlike  al-Bakri and al-Masri's fantasies where they articulate their wishful thinking to confront the world, bring down the West, kindle a world Islamic revolution and subvert their western countries of exile from within, Palestinian clerics are unified by the theme of what they perceive as a concrete, daily and all-pervasive national struggle to which they are pushed to provide theological responses. And once they sanctified Islamikaze as a legitimate form of struggle, indeed encouraged it, they could not exclude women and children from it, nor refute them when they pressed for participation. Other Muslim clerics were also dragged into the debate, but let us first focus on the Palestinian clerics' stated positions on Islamikaze, which by necessity generated the inclusion, first of individuals who did not belong to the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were members of the avowedly "secular" Fatah and Aqsa Brigades,  followed by women and then children, in those horrendous acts of terror.

 

 

The Role of Palestinian Doctors of the Holy Law

           

A pertinent place to start would be the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh 'Akrama Sabri, who was appointed by Arafat (not by the Hamas or some other fanatic group). Just one week prior to the disastrous act of Islamikaze against the discotheque in Tel-Aviv, where 21 teenagers who were making merry were blown to pieces, in early June 2001, and as a sinister prophecy of things to come, he delivered a Friday sermon in the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. By legitimizing and even praising the killing of Israeli children, just as the killing of women in general was justified by Bakri, both Muslim Women and children would now become potential casualties for the sake of Islam. Sabri first praised the Islamikaze martyrs in general, criticized the Saudi Mufti who had prohibited these acts (in the meantime the said Mufti qualified his prohibition), and demanded that the Americans release the four Muslims who were convicted for the first attempt to blow up the Twin Towers in 1993. Then came the text of his sermon:

Oh Muslims!! Let me begin my sermon with a quote from the words of the Prophet's Companion… in a speech to his army before the battle of Mu'tah[10], where he said : Oh people, I swear by Allah that the thing you hate [meaning death] is what you are going out to seek today-, namely the shahada (martyrdom)…

 with a large army nor with force. We are fighting only with this religion of Islam with which we have been blessed by Allah. So, attack and you will gain one of two blessings: either victory or martyrdom. In the eighth [sic,  ought to be seventh) Century, the Muslim army consisted of 3000 fighters while the Romans [sic, ought to be Byzantines], had 100,000… Nevertheless the Muslim commanders decided to go into the battle…

Oh Muslims ! The first Commander of the Muslim Army sacrificed his life in Mu'tah…, so the command was taken over by another Companion until his right-hand palm was cut-off. He passed the banner to his left hand until that was severed too, so he continued to hold the banner with the two stumps of his severed hands until he was struck down…His body was cut in two, in his body there were 50 stabbings, but none of them entered in his back because he did not retreat… That is the nature of Believers who do not retreat at the time of assault. I am asking: was his breaking into the ranks of the enemy called "suicide"? No !! Allah Forbid!! That was martyrdom for the sake of Allah ! The Prophet then named him ja'far (the Flyer), because Allah granted him two wings when he reached Paradise, in place of his two hands lost in combat. He persisted in attacking the enemy until he attained martyrdom…We say this to those who think it is an act of "suicide"…Be careful with your rulings[11]

[Finally, after the pool of commanders was depleted], came along Khalid Ibn al-Walid [later a famous fighter in the conquests of Islam], fought fiercely and devised a brilliant plan for withdrawal, sustaining only minimal casualties. … Before the Prophet sent the army to Mu'tah he gave instructions not to kill innocent people, women or children, not to uproot a tree of destroy a house. This is our great Islamic religion. It encourages good ethics and high morale in peace and in war… On the other hand, our enemies destroy houses, kill children…and uproot trees. They prevent pregnant women from reaching hospitals…They use airplanes against defenseless civilians. Yes, they are occupiers and do not deserve any sovereignty.

We tell them that as much as you love life, the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between he who loves the hereafter and he who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and strives for martyrdom. He does not fear the oppression of the arrogant or the weapons of the blood-letters. The blessed and sacred soil of Palestine has vomited all the invaders and all the colonialists throughout history, and it will soon vomit, with Allah's help, the present occupiers.[12]

 

This statement of the preference for death over life, citing the precedents of the Companions of the Prophet, not only sanctifies martyrdom and posits is as an ideal in itself, and not only as a necessity, but pushes Muslims to fight against all odds, even when they are certain to die, as it posits martyrdom as a worthy alternative to victory. What is interesting is that the venerable Sheikh skips over the logic of his own sermon by:

a.       Bringing up the precedents of the Prophet who spared the lives of the innocent, but at the same time pushing young people to die amidst indiscriminate killing, which is in the nature of Islamikaze attacks, where the maximization of civilian casualties is an ideal; and

b.      While he unremittingly praised the martyrs, who fought against all odds, he also lauded the brilliant act of withdrawal of Kahlid ibn al-Walid, which is exactly the reverse of martyrdom, namely the admission of the vanity of sacrifice in the face of reality, and the praiseworthy abandonment of it and the election of life over death.

 

If this was the official Palestinian attitude prior to September 11, how much more so subsequent to it, when the escalation of the Palestinian Intifadah and the total mobilization of the Palestinian people against Israel produced a stepped up resort to Islamikaze acts on a scale, with a frequency and  continuity, and with a zealotry and rage, never experienced before by Muslims anywhere, and  deserving of the comparison with the Japanese Kamikaze at the end of the Pacific War. But there was a difference: while the kamikaze aimed at military targets in order  to destroy the American fleet in the Pacific,  the Palestinian Islamikaze aim primarily at Israeli civilian targets in order to maximize casualties, terror, disarray  and demoralization among them, something akin to what the perpetrators of the Twin Tower horror had devised against the US. True, at first, Yasser Arafat tried to appear as negating acts of Islamikaze that the world had rejected with disgust after the New York disaster, and he declared his siding with the war against terrorism. His troops even killed three jubilating Hamas youth, who could not hide their delight at the sight of  terror-stricken America. But soon thereafter, not only the Hamas escalated their war of terror through martyrdom against Israel, but they were joined by Arafat's own forces, the Aqsa Brigades, Force 17 and the Tanzim. In fact, the Fatah, Arafat's movement within the PLO, embraced the Hamas concept that martyrdom operations had achieved a kind of balance of deterrence for the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel., and they were in fact an "act of self-defense" against what they saw as "Israel's aggression[13]. Consequently, there was an intensification of the incitement to more Islamikaze attacks by Imams throughout the Palestinian Authority. Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, who incidentally doubles up as a lecturer in ecology at the local Aqsa University in Gaza, delivered a clear message to his Palestinian audience on a Friday service at a mosque in Gaza:

…We are convinced of the victory of Allah, we are convinced that one of these days we shall enter Jerusalem as conquerors, and to Jaffa, Haifa, Ramla… and all Palestine as conquerors…All those who did not gain martyrdom yet will wake up in the middle of the night and say : " My God! Why did you deprive me of martyrdom, for the shahid lives by Allah Our enemies now suffer more than we do, because we know that our dead go to Paradise while the Jewish dead go directly to Hell and to their cruel lot.…This is the reason for our steadfastness, out of obedience to Allah… The Jews are expecting their false Messiah, but we are waiting for our Mahdi and for Jesus, Blessed be He …He will kill with his own hands the Jewish false Messiah, in Lydda, Palestine. Palestine will then be, as in the past, the cemetery for the invaders, as it had been for the Tatar, Crusader and the old and new colonialist invaders…

A Hadith says that "The Jews will fight you, but you shall dominate them".  What could be more beautiful than this tradition? It will be Allah who would put the Muslim in a position of dominance over the Jew…until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and the tree will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah!, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him!' Except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews"… We believe in this hadith, we are also convinced that this hadith heralds the spread of Islam and its rule all over the land…

Oh beloved, look to the east of the earth, and you will find Japan and the Ocean. Be assured that these will be owned by the Muslim nation as the hadith says " from the Ocean to the Ocean"…

Oh Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest Heavens…

Oh Allah, show the Jews a black day…

Oh Allah, annihilate the Jews and their supporters…

Oh Allah, raise the flag of Jihad across the land

Oh Allah, forgive our sins…[14]

 

This incessant self-aggrandizement of the Muslims as the future rulers of the entire universe on the one hand, and the incitement for action and glorification of death, which have seeped down to all the crevices of the grassroots of Palestinian society on the other, impel the Palestinian populace to identify instinctively with their martyrs  and eo ipso to encourage more sacrifices among them. Thus, when visitors come to the homes of the martyrs to greet (not to bring condolences) to the "delighted" (not bereaved) families of the Islamikaze, the mothers declare to the gatherings that are well publicized in the official press and television, their vow to send in the rest of the boys too, some present some yet to be born, into Jihad and  acts of Iskamikaze.  Children from kindergarten age on, also appear on Palestinian television during their regular "educational" activities, brandishing weapons and vowing, with visible excitement and joy over something they ill-comprehend, their desire to be martyrs. The constant nurturing of the flames of the Intifadah by this never-ending, ever growing, enthusiasm for Jihad and martyrdom, which they say is well rooted in Islamic history, is the most revolutionary and lasting contribution of the Palestinian leadership, clerical and political, to the idea of the Palestinian struggle. So much so, that when Arafat was confined to his office by the Israeli siege around and in Ramallah in April 2002, his most cited declaration to the press was that he aspired to become a shahid (martyr) himself, among the million martyrs that he envisaged marching on Jerusalem.

              

 



[1] . See e.g. al-Jazeera Televison (Qatar), 16 September, 2001; Memri 227, 26 September,2001 www.lailatqadr.com/stories/p4040401.shtml , 4 April 2002; Memri 363, 7 April, 2002; Ak-Quds al'Arabi  (london),. 21 July, 2001.

[2] . The Times, 9 September, 1996; and The Guardian,  9 September, 1996.

[4] Le Monde, 9 September, 1998.

[5] .Agence France Press (Paris), 14 September, 2001.

[6] .Even in relatively moderate Egypt, whose regime is one of the closest to America in the Muslim world, a case became cause celebre recently, when an outspoken woman writer, Nawwal Sa'dawi, who criticized the Hajj to Mecca as an act of paganism, was declared heretic by Islamists, and her husband was ordered to divorce her. Previously, an academic from Cairo University, Dr Nasir Hamid abu-Zeid, who had been equally accused of heresy, was ordered to divorce his spouse and created a worldwide outrage. He exiled himself to the West rather than submit. For this note, I am indebted to my colleague, Dr Rivka Yadlin.

[7] . www.obm.clara.net/shariacourt/fatwas/fs3.html

[8] . Sura 5:33

[9] . See ftn. 8.

[10] .In the year of AD 629, after the reoccupation of Syria by the Byzantines, the Prophet sent  a 3,000 men expedition to Mut'ah in southern Syria which made a show of force there. For the general context, see Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam,  Vol. I, University of Chicago, 1974, p. 194.

[11] . Reference is made, obviously, to the Saudi Mufti mentioned above, before retracting his fatwa by qualifying it very heavily.

[12] . Memri No. 226, 8 June 2001.

[13] .See the Announcement released by the Hamas,  commenting on Arafat 's speech of 17 December, 2001 which pledged to close the Hamas down  and put an end to terrorism.

[14] .Palestinian Authority Television, 12 April, 2002. Memri, 17 April, 2002.

Share It