Saturday, September 20, 2008

Madam Secretary - A Secure Israel is a Condition for Peace.

 

By Eli E. Hertz

 

A strong Israel is a vital asset to the free world and America. To be a strong and dependable friend in a 'rough neighborhood', Israel must have defensible borders and military prowess capable of addressing multiple challenges which can materialize suddenly in this unstable region.

The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis is not the only adversary Israel faces. Historically, anti-Zionism has been the glue behind Arab nationalism. It has provided a convenient scapegoat for deflecting Arab states' frustration over unsolved domestic problems, but it also stems from a deep innate intolerance that exists throughout the Muslim world to any non-Muslim presence. Israel has no alternative but to remain strong enough to fend off the combined capabilities of all Arab states - a reality that leaves little room for risk-taking or margin for error.

While indeed peace with the Palestinians is a core issue for both Israel and the Arab states, the scope of the conflict cannot be artificially minimized by ignoring that the Arab world as a whole continues to view Israel as a foreign irritant, an artificial, illegitimate and ultimately transitory entity which by hook or by crook, must ultimately be destroyed or disappear.

Israel's security concerns are further exacerbated by its objectively small size, both geographically and demographically. Its tiny size makes Israel more vulnerable than a large country like the United States. This situation is further complicated by Israel's geopolitical proximity to the crucible of Arab terrorism.

One must keep in mind that Israel is located in a region of the world where the strong prey on the weak. Even weak Arab states such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait are victimized by their Arab neighbors. The Middle East, with its patterns of despots, coups, assassinations, civil wars, revolutions and lack of respect for human life, resembles Europe during its own bloody centuries of nation building. Realistically, for the foreseeable future, little positive substantial change can be expected in this regard. The late Anwar Sadat, keenly aware of just how capricious the Middle East can be, laughed during an October 1980 interview with The New York Times remarking dryly: "Poor Menachem [Begin] ... I got back ... the Sinai and the Alma oil fields, and what has Menachem got? A piece of paper."

Political upheaval in Arab lands will continue to threaten Israel's security. The magnitude and multiplicity of strategic threats it faces mean Israel must make its security assessments realistically based on a host of possibilities - to hope for the best but be prepared for worse case scenarios as well, and tie a secure future to far more than 'pieces of paper' sitting on a 'shelf.'

Objectively, how vulnerable is Israel? In fact, it is almost impossible for non-Israelis to fathom Israel's size. To say that Israel is a tiny nation does not begin to describe the state's predicament. Slightly larger than the Canary Islands, more or less the size of the state of New Jersey, Israel fits into Lake Michigan with room to spare.

Israel's pre-1967 borders - the borders Secretary Rice and the Palestinians want Israel to pull back to (in the 'first phase') - lacked rhyme or reason and reflect the deployment of Israeli and Arab forces when the 1948 armistice agreement for a cease-fire was signed.

At one of the narrowest points in central Israel, the entire width of the state from the Mediterranean coastal town of Netanya to the Green Line is a mere nine miles - just about three times the length of John F. Kennedy Airport's runway (14,570 feet or 4,441 meters). If Israel would relinquish the foothills on the east side of the Green Line to Palestinian control, Ben-Gurion International Airport would be within range of shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles, Katyusha rockets and mortars. The heart of Tel Aviv, Israel's New York City, is merely 11 miles from the West Bank 'as the crow flies.'

In an interview with the German news paper Der Spiegel in November 1969, the late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, a lifelong dove, described Israel's pre-Six-Day War borders as "Auschwitz' lines" that threaten Israel's survivability. IDF Major General (res.) Yaakov Amidror puts Eban's 'Auschwitz' metaphor in operational terms in regard to the West Bank.

In a 2005 analysis of what 'defensible borders for a lasting peace' entail, Amidror explained that even from a technical standpoint, the Green Line lacks minimum 'defensive depth' - an overarching principle of military doctrine for all armies: There is insufficient battle space for a defensive force to redeploy after being attacked; there is no room for reserves to enter or counterattack; and there is no minimal distance between the battle front and the strategic interior necessary for any army to function.

American military experts have recognized the importance of shoring up Israel's borders to provide some territorial depth. In a study published immediately after the 1967 Six Day War, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Earl Wheeler said that "the minimum required for Israel's defense includes most of the West Bank and the whole of Gaza and the Golan Heights." The study content was considered so explosive and contrary to State Department policy, it was classified "Top Secret" until the Wall Street Journal revealed its conclusions in 1983.

The need for territorial depth has not decreased over time. U.S. Lt. General (ret.) Tom Kelly, who served as Chief of Operations during the 1991 Gulf War, said in the wake of the Gulf War:

"I cannot defend this land (Israel) without that terrain (West Bank) ... The West Bank Mountains, and especially their five approaches, are the critical terrain. If an enemy secures those passes, Jerusalem and Israel become uncovered. Without the West Bank, Israel is only eight miles wide at its narrowest point. That makes it indefensible."

This sentiment was echoed in the assessment of the late U.S. Admiral James Wilson "Bud" Nance, who told Congress in 1991 that there was:

"... no logical reason for Israel to give up one inch of the disputed areas. Quite to the contrary, I believe if Israel were to move out of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it would increase instability and the possibility of war, increase the necessity for Israel to pre-empt in war and the possibility that nuclear weapons would be used to prevent an Israel loss, and increase the possibility that the U.S. would have to become involved in a war."

The prospects of a new Arab state, a Palestinian state, on Israel's border have raised concern by U.S. policy makers, as well. Writing in Commentary in 1997, Douglas Feith, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said such a state would give the Arab world "a much greater capacity than they now have to facilitate terrorism against Israel, conduct anti-Israel diplomacy, assist or join enemy armed forces in the event of war, and destabilize local states (such as Jordan) that cooperate with Israel."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was even more candid, remarking in a talk with Pentagon employees in August 2002:

"If you have a country that's a sliver and you can see three sides of it from a high hotel building, you've got to be careful what you give away and to whom you give it."

Eli E. Hertz

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

 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Christian Group: Indict Ahmadinejad for Threatening a Holocaust.

 
by Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel

 

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to speak in the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, a major international evangelical Christian group based in Jerusalem plans to send a petition to the U.N. Secretary-General calling for the arrest and indictment of Iran’s president on charges of incitement to genocide against Israel. The petition from the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (I.C.E.J.) has gathered signatures from tens of thousands of Christians around the world, as the group joins the chorus of prominent voices from many countries demanding that Iran’s president be brought to justice.

“We feel a profound and telling moral duty to speak out against the growing Iranian nuclear threat to Israel,” said David Parsons, media director for the I.C.E.J.

"The silence of most Christian clergy in the face of Germany's horrific bid to annihilate European Jewry left a deep stain on the churches,” said the I.C.E.J.’s executive director, Rev. Malcom Hedding. “Yet from it has arisen a sense among multitudes of Christians today that we have an inescapable moral duty to earnestly speak out whenever another genocidal campaign threatens the Jewish people.

"Unfortunately, we are concerned that just such a genocidal campaign is taking shape in the form of Iran's repeated threats to eliminate the Jewish state, and its quest for nuclear means to carry out these threats," said Hedding.

'Hold Ahmadinejad Legally Accountable for Clear Calls to Genocide'
For several years Ahmadinejad, as president of the Islamic Republic, has repeatedly threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” and has repeatedly denied the holocaust as a “myth.” Israeli Government officials and American legal experts say that such statements are a clear call to genocide and thus a  violation of the U.N. Charter Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, a treaty drafted by the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and approved in 1948 by the General Assembly.

A week ago Israel’s Minister of Pensioner Affairs and former Mossad Agent and Nazi-hunter Rafi Eitan told a German magazine that capturing Ahmadinejad and sending him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague was a distinct possibility.

In 2006, following a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran sponsored by the Iranian government, and prior to Ahmadinejad’s visit to to the United Nations, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations convened to declare a legal battle against the rogue Islamic leader. Among the speakers at the event was Alan Dershowitz, perhaps America’s most well-known attorney, who argued the legal grounds for indicting Ahmadinejad. Since then, numerous Jewish and non-Jewish groups have called for the leader’s indictment. 

At another event, in Toronto, Dershowitz called Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the “Hitler of the 21st century…a dictator who denies one Holocaust in order to bring about another Holocaust.”

The latest shot in the battle has been fired by the I.C.E.J., who plan to deliver their petition, signed by more than 55,000 people in 128 countries, to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the eve of next week’s appearance by Ahmadinejad at the General Assembly. The petition reflects the sentiments of community leaders and government officials around the world, who are outraged that the U.N. has bestowed upon him the honor of addressing the Assembly on its opening, rather than pursuing his indictment for violating the Assembly’s very own charter and treaties.

The petition is called ‘Stop a Nuclear Iran’, and it points out that the Iranian president's statements that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and his denial of the Holocaust violate the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Particularly disturbing, as the I.C.E.J. points out, is the fact that Ahmadinejad’s Iran is developing the means to carry out its threat to commit genocide against the Jewish State.

Chilling Film Concludes with a Call to Action
A short film,produced by the the I.C.E.J., compares Hitler’s partly successful campaign to wipe out the Jewish nation with that of the Iranian leader.

“It was a crime of genocide, so enormous, so horrific, committed by men so sinister, with so many innocent victims, and so few rescuers, that it has it deserves its own name: the Holocaust,” the narrator begins.

“Nothing compares to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. Yet today, an alarming campaign to commit genocide, targets the same Jewish people.

“It is Iran’s call for wiping Israel off the map and its drive for the means to carry it out,” continues the narrator in the film, referring to Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

“We should take these threats seriously,” the voice in the film says, as direct quotes from Ahmadinejad’s speeches to cheering crowds appear on the screen:

Israel must be wiped of the map.”

“The elimination of the Zionist regime will be smooth and simple.”

The video shows Iran’s leader delivering a speech full of vituperative attacks on Jews, and the reaction of the crowd as it chants, repeatedly, “Death to Israel” with thousands of fists pumping in the air.

The film continues: “The Iranian president has violated an international treaty on incitement to genocide, yet the United Nations has yet to hold him to account or to take effective action against Iran’s nuclear threat.

As for the Holocaust, says the narrator, “he says it never happened.”

“We say, never again!” proclaims the film.

“Let’s be the rescuers of the day. Let’s stop Iran!” the film exhorts, as it presents a link to the I.C.E.J.  petition.

The petition adds that Ahmadinejad’s campaign “not only endangers Israel, but is also a threat to the peace and security of the world community."

The I.C.E.J.’s Hedding also slammed the leaders of certain Christian groups, among them the Mennonites and the Quakers, who plan to further honor Ahmadinejad by hosting him at a special reception during his visit to the U.S., in which the Christian leaders hope to engage in a “dialogue” with the threatening leader.

"These Christian leaders will forever be associated with the appeasement of wickedness,” said Hedding, bringing to mind the lasting condemnation of Western leaders for appeasing Hitler in the 1930’s.

Hedding explained to his fellow Christians that “Jesus did not talk with Herod because he represented a system that was corrupt and evil."

Rally at U.N. Plaza
David Parsons spoke to INN a day before his departure for a New York rally at the Dag Hammerskjold Plaza in front of the United Nations' world headquarters. He explained that the rally will be led Monday, on the eve of the annual fall opening of the U.N. General Assembly, at which Ahmadinejad will be invited to speak along with the leaders of other member states. The rally, organized by the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, is sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, United Jewish Communities, U.J.A.-Federation of New York, and Jewish Council for Public Affairs."

The rally will repeat the message of the petition and demand that the U.N. bring the recalcitrant Iranian leader to justice.

“I think there are lessons we can take from Hitler,” Parsons said. “When someone develops a warped self-awareness, like Hitler had about being the ‘fuhrer’ of the fatherland, and makes threats against the Jews, and then develops the means to carry them out, we should take all this seriously.

“It looks like Ahmadinejad has all three—warped self awareness, threats and the means to carry them out.”

As Parsons discussed the Islamic Republic’s support for its leader's “radioactive rhetoric,” he could only speculate on the “dark religious reasons” of Iran’s Muslim clerics in pushing for nuclear weapons for the country.  Parsons also pointed out that “even [former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, who is considered moderate, was the first to suggest nuking Israel 5-6 years ago.”

Rafsanjani said that Iran has nothing to fear from an Israeli retaliation, since “Israel in return could only hit a few Arab cities” and not Iran, according to Parsons.

“It’s not just a threat to Israel, it’s a threat to the whole world,” said Parsons of the Iranian menace. “So much more could be disrupted,” he explained, by the economic and political shockwave that would follow a physical blast from an Iranian warhead.  

Parsons offered words of warning to his fellow Christians: “The history is that Christian leaders were silent during the Holocaust, and we dare not be silent again in the face of another genocidal threat against the Jewish people.

“We feel a profound and telling moral duty to speak out against the growing Iranian nuclear threat to Israel.”

Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel

 

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



The myth of al-aqza.

 

Holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been politically motivated

By Mordechai Kedar

 

 

When the Prophet Mohammad established Islam, he introduced a minimum of innovations. He employed the hallowed personages, historic legends and sacred sites of Judaism and Christianity, and even paganism, by Islamizing them. Thus, according to Islam, Abraham was the first Muslim and Jesus and St. John (the sons of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aron) were prophets and guardians of the second heaven. Many Biblical legends ("asatir al-awwalin",) which were familiar to the pagan Arabs before the dawn of Islam, underwent an Islamic conversion, and the Koran as well as the Hadith (the Islamic oral tradition), are replete with them.

 

Islamization was practiced on places as well as persons: Mecca and the holy stone - al-Ka'bah - were holy sites of the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Great Mosque of Istanbul were erected on the sites of Christian-Byzantine churches - two of the better known examples of how Islam treats sanctuaries of other faiths.

 

Jerusalem, too, underwent the process of Islamization: at first Muhammad attempted to convince the Jews near Medina to join his young community, and, by way of persuasion, established the direction of prayer (kiblah) to be to the north, towards Jerusalem, in keeping with Jewish practice; but after he failed in this attempt he turned against the Jews, killed many of them, and directed the kiblah southward, towards Mecca.

 

Muhammad's abandonment of Jerusalem explains the fact that this city is not mentioned even once in the Koran. After Palestine was occupied by the Muslims, its capital was Ramlah, 30 miles to the west of Jerusalem, signifying that Jerusalem meant nothing to them.

 

Rediscovering Jerusalem

Islam rediscovered Jerusalem 50 years after Mohammad's death. In 682 CE, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled

reaching Mecca for the Hajj. Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad Calif, needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage and settled on Jerusalem which was then under his control. In order to justify this choice, a verse from the Koran was chosen (17,1 = sura 17, verse,) which states (translation by Majid Fakhri):

 

“Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs, He is indeed the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. "

 

The meaning ascribed to this verse is that "the furthest mosque" (al-masgid al-aqsa) is in Jerusalem and that Mohammad was conveyed there one night (although at that time the journey took three days by camel,) on the back of al-Buraq, a magical horse with the head of a woman, wings of an eagle, the tail of a peacock, and hoofs reaching to the horizon. He tethered the horse to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and from there ascended to the seventh heaven together with the angel Gabriel. On his way he met the prophets of other religions who are the guardians of heaven.

 

Miraculous account

Thus Islam tries to gain legitimacy over other, older religions, by creating a scene in which the former prophets agree to Mohammad's mastery, thus making him Khatam al-Anbiya ("the Seal of the Prophets”.)

 

Not surprisingly, this miraculous account contradicts a number of the tenets of Islam: How can a living man of flesh and blood ascend to heaven? How can a mythical creature carry a mortal to a real destination? Questions such as these have caused orthodox Muslim thinkers to conclude that the nocturnal journey was a dream of Mohammad's. The journey and the ascent serves Islam to "go one better" than the Bible: Moses "only" went up to Mount Sinai, in the middle of nowhere, and drew close to heaven, whereas Mohammad went all the way up to Allah, and from Jerusalem itself.

 

What are the difficulties with the belief that the al-Aqsa mosque described in Islamic tradition is located in Jerusalem? For one, the people of Mecca, who knew Muhammad well, did not believe this story. Only Abu Bakr, (later the first Calif,) believed him and thus was called al-Siddiq (“the believer".)

 

The second difficulty is that Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in "Kitab al-Maghazi," a book by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Waqidi. According to al-Waqidi, there were two "masjeds" (places of prayer) in al-Gi'irranah, a village between Mecca and Ta'if - one was "the closer mosque" (al-masjid al-adna) and the other was "the further mosque" (al-masjid al-aqsa,) and Muhammad would pray there when he went out of town.

 

This description by al-Waqidi which is supported by a chain of authorities (isnad) was not "convenient" for the Islamic propaganda of the 7th Century. In order to establish a basis for the awareness of the "holiness" of Jerusalem in Islam, the Califs of the Ummayad dynasty invented many “traditions" upholding the value of Jerusalem, which would justify pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the faithful Muslims. Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa "transported" to Jerusalem. It should be noted that Saladin also adopted the myth of al-Aqsa and those "traditions" in order to recruit and inflame the Muslim warriors against the Crusaders in the 12th Century.

 

Must Judaism defer to Islamic myths?

Another aim of the Islamization of Jerusalem was to undermine the legitimacy of the older religions, Judaism and Christianity, which consider Jerusalem to be a holy city. Islam is presented as the only legitimate religion, destined to replace the other two, because they had changed and distorted the Word of God, each in its turn.

 

Though Judaism and Christianity can exist side by side in Jerusalem, Islam regards both of them as betrayals of Allah and his teachings, and has always done, and will continue to do, all in its power to expel both of them from this city. It is interesting to note that this expulsion is retroactive: The Islamic broadcasters of the Palestinian radio stations consistently make it a point to claim that the Jews never had a temple on the Temple Mount and certainly not two temples. (Where, then, according to them, did Jesus preach?)

 

Yasser Arafat, himself a secular person (ask Hamas!), did exactly what the Califs of the Umayyad dynasty did 1300 years ago: He marshaled the holiness of Jerusalem to serve his political ends. He must not have given control of Jerusalem over to the Jews since according to Islam they are impure and the wrath of Allah is upon them. Moreover, the Jews are the sons of monkeys and pigs. The Jews are those who distorted the holy writings which were revealed to them and denied God's signs. Since they violated the covenant with their God, He cursed them and they are forever the inheritors of hell. So how could Arafat hand over Jerusalem to the Jews?

 

The Palestinian media these days are full of messages of Jihad, calling to broaden the national-political war between Israel and the Palestinians into a religious-Islamic war between Jews and Muslims. For them, Christianity is no better than Judaism, since both “forfeited" their right to rule over Jerusalem. Only Islam - Din al-Haqq ("the Religion of Truth") - has this right, and forever.

 

Since the holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been, and still is, no more than a politically motivated holiness, any Muslim leader or ruler would be putting his political head on the block should he give it up. Must Judaism and Christianity defer to myths related in Islamic texts or envisioned in Mohammad's dreams, long after Jerusalem was established as the ancient, true center of these two religions, which preceded Islam? Should Israel give up on its capital just because some Muslims decided to recycle the political problems of the Umayyads 1250 years after the curtain came down on their role in history?

 

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University’s department of Arabic

 

 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seven Years Later: The Jihadist International.

 

By Hassan Mneimneh

 

1st part of 2

 
Understanding al Qaeda's true character, structure, and strategy provides important clues about why the organization has not been able to ignite a global jihad. Still, the organization poses a grave threat to international stability and to the United States in particular. The next generation of al Qaeda leaders may be able to deliver more localized sporadic deadly attacks.
 
Seven years after the worst lethal attack against the U.S. mainland, the leadership of the group that claimed responsibility continues to survive with impunity. Since 2001, al Qaeda, a loosely defined organization, has had a volatile history. It has lost, then partially recovered, its main launch pad in the Afghan plateau; precariously secured, then been substantially beaten out of, a new base of operations in Iraq; claimed credit for a series of terrorist acts across the globe--shattering lives and confidence in security and state authority in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and initiated a failed insurgency in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of its principal, Osama bin Laden. But its hopes of igniting a global jihad have not materialized. Instead, its efforts have been effectively curtailed in many locales, it has suffered considerable setbacks in others, and it has had to confront ideological and dogmatic challenges.[1] Most significantly, al Qaeda has so far failed to deliver on its declared goal of inflicting on the United States another spectacular terrorist attack. Still, al Qaeda remains a threat to international stability in general and to the United States in particular. The nature of the danger it represents is best understood in the context of its character, structure, and strategy.
 
Character and Structure

Al Qaeda is not a cohesive organization with centralized governance. Instead, it is a diffuse network of "franchises" bound primarily by a rigid reductionist ideology and broad strategic outlook. The franchises offer allegiance to a global nominal charismatic leadership that, through direct involvement or through the endorsement of local initiatives, has an arbitrage function, redirecting resources--human and financial--in order to optimize impact and effect. This function, however, tends to be ad hoc and opportunistic and not aligned with a consistent and detailed strategy. In the absence of a sophisticated strategy, al Qaeda adheres to a wholesale rejection of the world order: states, governments, and international organizations are deemed illegitimate.
 
The combination of ideology and loyalty allows al Qaeda to compensate for the general absence of conventional institutional structures worldwide. Local affiliates--notably in Iraq, where a bureaucracy of oppression was well anchored--have exhibited complex administrative structures. But the global organization has preserved the ephemeral and virtual aspects of the original database (the literal meaning of "al Qaeda" in Arabic) compiled by bin Laden for coordinating with like-minded "activists."
The true character of al Qaeda has often been lost amid alarmist portrayals that paint it as the harbinger of an inevitable totalitarian caliphate and dismissive assessments that reduce it to little more than a figment of the imagination of the uninformed or the politically motivated. The lack of institutional capacity for sustained action, inherent to the nature of the diffuse network, drastically limits the likelihood of al Qaeda translating its ultimate utopian (or dystopian) dream into reality, but the carnage and dislocation it has inflicted in recent years demonstrate amply that the problem cannot be reduced to one of law and order.
 
Al Qaeda is not a cohesive organization with centralized governance. Instead, it is a diffuse network of "franchises" bound primarily by a rigid reductionist ideology and broad strategic outlook.
 
Al Qaeda may be quixotic in its pursuits, but it is none-theless waging a global war against the United States and the current world order. If war is defined as actions aimed at reducing the assets--physical, human, and financial--of one's enemy while limiting the loss of, preserving, or increasing one's own assets, al Qaeda's assault on the United States seven years ago may be ranked as one of the prime examples of asymmetrical warfare in modern history. With little expenditure and with the easy sacrifice of nineteen of its foot soldiers, al Qaeda forced the United States into a conflict with rules of engagement dramatically different from any previous battles in which the United States has taken part. While the United States is bound in its conduct of war by both international conventions and its own codes of ethics, al Qaeda displays no such limitations, targeting noncombatants and other conventionally protected categories solely on the basis of their vulnerability.[2] Al Qaeda uses the resulting imbalance to force the United States into an onerous, almost prohibitive, adherence to principles--or into the ultimately even more costly departure from these principles for the purpose of containing and eliminating the continuous threat.
 
Two Major Currents

Al Qaeda is not solely responsible for the degeneration in the interpretation of the Islamic corpus that gives religious sanction to acts of terrorism. Through omission and commission, Arab and Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders have condoned or endorsed statements and actions that served as building blocks for the extreme positions espoused by al Qaeda. If suicide bombing and the killing of civilians is justified in one context--as an "act of resistance" by Palestinians in Israel,[3] for example--the justification can easily be extended to acts directed at the global hegemon, local potentates, and "complicit" populations.
 
Ideology, against the backdrop of an acquiescing culture, is the main component in al Qaeda's operational model. Arab culture might have despaired about the promises of nationalists and leftists, but its acceptance of their diagnosis of societal and political ills as the ultimate responsibility of Zionism and U.S. imperialism has lingered. The al Qaeda brand of militancy is a phenomenon at the confluence of two major currents in modern Arab and Islamic cultural evolution: first, the gradual expansion of Salafism, an undeclared "reformation" within Sunni Islam seeking the return of Muslims to the original faith, traceable to the fourteenth century literalist scholar Ibn Taymiyyah and applied as a restrictive socio-religious regimentation by the clerical establishment in Saudi Arabia, and second, a paradigm shift cascading from the Arab Nahdah ("renaissance") of the nineteenth century, replacing piety with proselytism and quietism with political activism as normative values in Muslim life and positing Islam as a "total" system and solution for all political discontent, as promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood--a movement born in Egypt in the late 1920s--and other "Islamist" formations. Both currents have adopted a sociocultural, behavior-altering approach in their host societies, relegating economic necessities and developmental needs to a nebulous background.
 
In the 1980s, the Afghan jihad incubator enabled the fusion of the main elements of both currents, producing the ideological framework of the uncompromising totalitarian regimentation implemented by al Qaeda and sister organizations whenever and wherever possible. The parochial character of the concerns of most militants persisted even with the creation of a de facto "jihadist international." Whether in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere, jihadists returning from Afghanistan were not able to articulate an attractive message for their respective societies. Instead, their brutal actions often resulted in further alienation from mainstream society. Only with the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001--an act that created visual parity with the Superpower--was the leadership of al Qaeda able to transcend parochialism, reinvigorate jihadists, and present itself as the flag-bearer of a capable, transnational, Ummah-wide movement.
 
Ideological Framework

The ideological underpinnings of this movement are its adherence to Salafist religious irredentism and Islamist vanguard activism--i.e., an activism cleansed of the populist dilutions introduced by the Muslim Brotherhood and restored to its elitist character. "Ideological purity" is a sine qua non for any group seeking affiliation. The commitment to an action-oriented, unequivocal rejection of any existing order is the other prerequisite. From North Africa to the Levant, and from Yemen to Iraq, the al Qaeda imprimatur is made available only to groups that satisfy these dual requirements. The Salafist concept of al-wala' wa-l-bara' (allegiance to true Muslims and repudiation of all others),[4] in belief and in practice, is presented as the foundation for a relationship with the al Qaeda leadership and the subsequent authorization of an al Qaeda franchise. And ideological purity serves as the common denominator, ensuring compatible views with limited coordination.
 
But even rigid literalism is capable of yielding multiple interpretations, and the textual corpus (the Quran and the Sunnah) is frequently nuanced and has tolerant inclinations. To compensate for this potential pitfall, al Qaeda ideologues have instituted a "maximalist" approach that always errs on the side of severity and austerity. Applied to the political realm, maximalism depicts all political players as strategic enemies and identifies religious justifications, however tenuous, for all hostile actions taken against them. Through this "no holds barred" approach, maximalism creates the illusion of an al Qaeda that is centralized and strategically minded.
 
The career of Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq is an illustration of both the power of the ideology-based model and its pitfalls--from an al Qaeda perspective. Zarqawi, a Jordanian veteran of the Afghan jihad, sought and ultimately received the endorsement of the al Qaeda leadership for his actions in post-Saddam Iraq. He nonetheless preserved operational autonomy, determined the local strategy, and engaged in an effective genocide against Shiite Iraqis. While phrasing his objections in utilitarian terms (and hence preserving the maximalist stance), Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second-in-command, cautioned Zarqawi against the harshness of his methods.[5] Zarqawi did not heed the (half-hearted) message. The Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda affiliate that emerged as a result of Zarqawi's efforts, later collapsed as a result, mutatis mutandis, of the widespread discontent of its "subjects" against the oppressive and arbitrary measures it implemented in the form of religious and social maximalism. The failure of al Qaeda in Iraq today seems irreversible; even the admission to mistakes and excesses on the part of the Islamic State of Iraq by bin Laden himself[6] could not mitigate the counterproductive effects of its maximalism. The Sunni insurgency in Iraq is not over; it is, however, no longer a tool in the al Qaeda global jihad.
 
The "surge" of U.S. forces in Iraq enabled the transformation of the popular discontent in Sunni Iraqi society over the al Qaeda presence into an active force that inflicted on the global organization one of several setbacks that are ultimately the result of its dogmatic maximalism.[7] The most important such setback, for the symbolism associated with it, was the apparent failure of the al Qaeda insurgency in Saudi Arabia. A primary supplier of suicide bombers to Iraq, through underground jihadist networks, Saudi Arabia was the ultimate prize sought by al Qaeda, both for its symbolic value as host to the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, and for the ideological affiliation between its clerical establishment and the al Qaeda doctrine.

Hassan Mneimneh

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

 

Seven Years Later: The Jihadist International.

 

By Hassan Mneimneh

 

2nd part of 2

 

A Prize Denied

Saudi Arabia represents a unique example of a partnership between an absolute monarchy and a clerical establishment to which the monarchy has delegated control over religion, culture, and education. Through the abundance of oil wealth, the Salafist beliefs espoused by the Wahhabi establishment found a means of propagation to the rest of the Muslim world. While Saudi society has largely adjusted to Salafist dogma, the relocation of Salafism to other Muslim societies is often a generator of tension and confrontation. Al Qaeda has productively used the resulting polarization for recruitment. In Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda regarded the disapproval displayed by the clerical establishment vis-à-vis the behavior and positions of the Saudi monarchy as a green light for action toward regime change. Its incremental efforts in this direction were preempted by government security operations forcing al Qaeda supporters in Saudi Arabia to premature action. This insurgency set off two important reactions. First, the clerical establishment refused to endorse the purity and maximalism openly espoused by the insurgency and commanded instead allegiance and loyalty to the monarchy, even if its adherence to Islamic precepts were less than total. Second, the Saudi public, which seemed to support, or at least condone, the brutality displayed by the al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq--often at the hands of Saudi jihadists--was appalled by its repatriation. Grievances and contradictions in Saudi society may provide new points of entry for al Qaeda. Irredentism and maximalism, however, did not yield the immediate results al Qaeda expected.
 
The "surge" of U.S. forces in Iraq enabled the transformation of the popular discontent in Sunni Iraqi society over the al Qaeda presence into an active force that inflicted on the global organization one of several setbacks.
 
Al Qaeda's assessment of the effect of authoritarianism and dictatorship elsewhere in the Arab world was more accurate. It has thus benefited considerably from the accommodation of Islamism undertaken by Arab rulers--ostensibly to control its rise--both in gaining new recruits and channeling activists from one locale to another. Saddam Hussein sought to contain the growing Islamist threat by embracing a faith campaign that served as an actual program of initiation for Iraqi Sunni society into Salafism and Islamist activism and ensured compliance, at least for a while, with the harsh rule of Zarqawi and the Islamic State of Iraq. Similarly, Muammar al Qaddafi ravaged Libya through erratic social and educational policies, enabling grassroots Salafism and, through political repression, forcing activists out of the country to join the jihadist international. Libyans today are distinctly overrepresented in the new generation of al Qaeda--in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and beyond.[8]
 
Network Failure

The worldwide arbitrage of jihad resources is implemented largely through Internet communications. It is, however, subject to abuse and can even be used against al Qaeda's designs or interests. The battle of Nahr al-Barid in Northern Lebanon in 2007 as detailed below provides a distinct illustration.
 
The quasifictional world map adopted by al Qaeda consists of only three recognized (virtual) political entities: the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (straddling the internationally recognized Afghanistan and Pakistan), the Islamic State of Iraq, and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus. Elsewhere, as a function of the maturity of the local conditions, it is either ard jihad (territory of jihad, including all non-Muslim lands); ard ribat (territory in which jihadists gather in anticipation of jihad); or ard nusrah (Muslim societies not ripe for jihad but ones in which jihadists can be recruited). Fath al-Islam, a self-declared Salafist jihadist formation, sought affiliation with al Qaeda, but leaked reports indicate that the al Qaeda vetting emissary advised against granting the affiliation on the grounds of the group's nonadherence to al Qaeda ideology and the unsuitability of Lebanon as ard jihad.[9] Ignoring the cold shoulder from al Qaeda leadership, Fath al-Islam, which appears to have links with Syrian intelligence, sought al Qaeda supporters directly over the Internet, ensuring a continuous flux of jihad volunteers to swell its ranks. By the end of its battle with the Lebanese armed forces, hundreds of jihadists that al Qaeda could have mobilized to its advantage had died, and a local Sunni population stood alienated from jihadism.
 
The Next Generation

While the efforts of its affiliates across the Middle East were in jeopardy, the al Qaeda leadership itself was under assault in Afghanistan. With savvy acquired over decades of local presence, it has so far been able to navigate the contradictions of the region to ensure survival and even to develop adjusted plans of action.
 
In Iraq, past dogmatism is tempered by a reluctant desire for accommodation, with the Islamic State of Iraq courting other Sunni insurgency factions. If the Iraqi government adheres to cautious and productive measures, this courtship may prove to be too little too late. In the Levant, a renewed focus on the Palestinian cause, the perennial motivator of Arab societies, seems to be contemplated by al Qaeda leadership in Iraq and in Afghanistan.[10] A trustworthy local affiliate, however, does not yet exist. In North Africa, as in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa and well into Africa and Southeast Asia, al Qaeda seems to be devising approaches that might amount to serious departures from the previous strategic outlook and, if not countered, might herald a new phase for al Qaeda.
 
Al Qaeda continues to struggle through the paradox that the same ideology that serves to cement its authority hampers its ability to become truly powerful. The next generation of al Qaeda, steeped in ideology and trained in tactical maneuvers, may deliver more sporadic operations, but it is unlikely to succeed where its predecessor has failed in igniting a meaningful global jihad.
 
Hassan Mneimneh

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

 

 

Notes

1. For an example of the ongoing challenges and al Qaeda's attempt at addressing them, see the brief document "Tarshid al-'Amal al-Jihadi" [Toward the Maturity of Jihadist Actions] by Sayyid Imam Sharif, former leader of the Egyptian al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyyah, and Ayman al Zawahiri's January 2008 polemical 216-page refutation, "al-Tabri'ah."
2. The rooting in jurisprudence of the license to accept high levels of civilian casualties has gravitated to expanding the concept of tatarrus (noncombatants used as human shields by the enemy) to include the virtual totality of the enemy population. See, for example, the 2005 treatise by Abu Yahya al-Libi, "al-Tatarrus fi-l-Jihad al-Mu'asir" [Human Shields in Contemporary Jihad].
3. Notable in this respect is the "groundbreaking" opinion of Yusuf Qaradawi, one of the most prominent mainline religious scholars of Islam today, in "Shar'iyyat al-'Amaliyyat al-Istishhadiyyah fi Filistin al-Muhtallah" [On the Religious Legitimacy of the Martyrdom Seeking Operations in Occupied Palestine], which justifies civilian casualties by stressing that Israeli society is militarized in its totality.
4. On the basis of the maximalist understanding of this notion, any dialogue with non-Muslims is condemned. See, for example, the denunciation of the response of Saudi intellectuals to their U.S. counterparts in 2002 by Yusuf al-'Ayiri, "al-Raja' Inbatihu Sirran" [Please Prostrate in Private].
5. Zawahiri's letter to Zarqawi was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on October 11, 2005. It was originally contested as a fabrication, but later references to its content in Islamist circles confirmed its authenticity.
6. "Risalah li-Ahl al-'Iraq, Ahl al-'Ilm wa-l-Fadl al-Sadiqin" [A Letter to the People of Iraq, the Truthful Holders of Knowledge and Virtue], Al Jazeera, October 22, 2007.
7. For an example of debates, even within Salafism, on the excesses of jihadism in Iraq, see "Dahr al-Muthallib 'ala Jawaz Tawliyat al-Muslim 'ala Muslim min Kafir Mutaghallib" [The Refutation of the Denunciation of the Permissibility of the Appointment of Muslims to Govern Muslims by a non-Muslim Prevailing Force], circulated in Iraq in 2005.
8. "Libyans Advance in al Qaeda Network," Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2008.
9. The incisive reporting on Fath al-Islam by the Lebanese journalist Fida' Itani has been recently integrated into a detailed study of jihadism in Lebanon: al-Jihadiyyun fi Lubnan: Min Quwwat al-Fajr ila Fath al-Islam (Beirut: Dar al-Saqi, 2008).
10. Statements stressing the centrality of the Palestinian question were made by both leaderships. See, for example, Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi, "Al-Din al-Nasihah" [Religion Is Advice], placed on jihadist websites on February 23, 2008; and Osama bin Ladin, "Asbab al-Sira' fi al-Dhikra al-Sittin li-Qiyam Dawlat al-Ihtilal" [The Causes of the Conflict, in the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Creation of the State of Occupation], Al Jazeera, May 17, 2008.

 

 

 

Monday, September 15, 2008

The U.S. Congress in 1922

 

 By Eli E. Hertz

On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine—anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea:

"Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected." [italics in the original]

On September 21, 1922, the then President Warren G. Harding signed the joint resolution of approval to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine.

Here is how members of congress expressed their support for the creation of a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine - Eretz-Israel (Selective text read from the floor of the U.S. Congress by the Congressman from New York on June 30, 1922). All quotes included in this document are taken verbatim from the given source.

 

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD

1922 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

NATIONAL HOME
FOR
THE JEWISH PEOPLE

JUNE 30, 1922

HOUSE RESOLUTION 360
(Rept. NO. 1172)

 

Representative Walter M. Chandler from New York - I want to make at this time, Mr. Speaker and gentlemen of the House, my attitude and views upon the Arab question in Palestine very clear and emphatic. I am in favor of carrying out one of the three following policies, to be preferred in the order in which they are named:
  (1) That the Arabs shall be permitted to remain in Palestine under Jewish government and domination, and with their civil and religious rights guaranteed to them through the British mandate and under terms of the Balfour declaration.
  (2) That if they will not consent to Jewish government and domination, they shall be required to sell their lands at a just valuation and retire into the Arab territory which has been assigned to them by the League of Nations in the general reconstruction of the countries of the east.
  (3) That if they will not consent to Jewish government and domination, under conditions of right and justice, or to sell their lands at a just valuation and to retire into their own countries, they shall be driven from Palestine by force.

 

"Mr. Speaker, I wish to discuss briefly each of these alternatives in order. And first let me read the now celebrated Balfour declaration of date of November 2, 1917, during the progress of the Great War, and afterwards incorporated in the preamble of the British mandate authorized by the League of Nations. The Balfour declaration was in the following language:

His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country.

"If this is not a condensed and at the same time a complete bill of rights both for the Arabs of Palestine and for the Jews who intend to remain in their present homelands outside of Palestine, I have never read or seen one. It is conceded by the Arabs themselves that the present government of the country under the British mandate and through the Zionist organization as an administrative agency is infinitely better than the government of the Turks who were chased out of the country by Allenby, the British general. It is probably better than any that the Arabs could create and maintain for themselves.

"I respectfully submit that the Arabs in Palestine should be and would be happy and content under the present government of that country if it were not for Turkish and Arab agitators, who travel around over the land stirring up trouble by making false representations concerning the true character of the Zionist movement, and by preaching a kind of holy war against the immigrant Jews who arrive from day to day. The Arabs are well represented in the personnel of the present Palestine administration, which has recognized their language as one of the official languages of the country, and has given official standing to the Moslem religion.

"In the second place, if the Arabs do not wish to remain in Palestine under Jewish government and domination there is plenty of room outside in purely Arab surroundings. The British Government and her allies made overtures and gave pledges to the Arab people to furnish them lands and protect their freedom in consideration of Arab alliance with the Allies during the World War. That pledge has been kept. The Hedjaz kingdom was established in ancient Arabia, and Hussein, Grand Sheriff of Mecca, was made king and freed from all Turkish influence. The son of King Hussein, Prince Feisal, is now the head of the kingdom of Mesopotamia [Iraq], and Arab predominance in that country has been assured by the Allies to the Arab people.

"Mesopotamia is alone capable of absorbing 30,000,000 people, according to a report submitted to the British Government by the Great English engineer, Sir William Wilcocks. Arab rights are also fully recognized and protected by the French mandate over Syria. There are also several flourishing Arabic cultural and political colonies in Egypt. In short, the Arab-speaking populations of Asia and Africa number about 38,000,000 souls and occupy approximately 2,375,000 square miles, many times larger than the territory of Great Britain. In other words under the reconstruction of the map of the east, the Arabs have been given practical control of Greater Arabia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and parts of Egypt, which gives them an average of 38 acres per person. If the Arabs are compelled to leave Palestine and turn it over entirely to the Jews, it is admitted that the Arab race would still be one of the wealthiest landowning races on the earth. Therefore, I contend that if they will not consent to live peaceably with the Jews, they should be made to sell their lands and retire to places reserved for them somewhere in Arabia [Saudi], Syria, Mesopotamia, or Egypt, that suit them best, and where they can worship Allah, Mahomet [Muhammad], and the Koran to their heart's content. After all is said, the fact remains that the Arabs have more lands than they need, and the Jews have none. I am in favor of a readjustment under the Balfour declaration, without too great regard to nice distinctions in the matter of the question of self-determination. This thought brings me to my third proposal heretofore mentioned, that the Arabs should be driven out of Palestine by the British and Jews, or by somebody else, if they will not listen to the voice of reason and of justice.

"I shall probably be told that, regardless of the question of land and property rights, the Arabs have an interest in the holy places around Jerusalem. Admitting that their claims in this regard are just, there should be no trouble along this line. There is no reason to believe that Jews and Christians would deny them access to the holy places in the pilgrimages that they might desire to make from their Arab countries. But if the rights of the Jews to their ancient homeland are to be made dependent, as a final question, upon Moslem interests in the holy places around Jerusalem, I am willing and prepared to repudiate these rights entirely and to shut the Arabs out altogether."

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