Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Palestinian Authority and the Goldstone Report: A Pie in Obama's Face and a Key to Understanding Their Behavior.


by Barry Rubin

Should the Palestinian Authority (PA) be the main advocate pushing acceptance of the bizarre Goldstone report in order to demonize Israel at the UN or might it just stand aside and let a couple of dozen Arab and Muslim-majority states take the lead?

This is—or should be—a minor issue but it has blown up to once again push the main reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict into everyone's face.

When the U.S. government asked the PA not to be the main sponsors of demanding UN sanctions against Israel, the Palestinian leadership agreed for a few hours. But then, unable to resist flaunting its radicalism and obstructionism, it then double-crossed the United States. This step further sabotages President Barack Obama's efforts to advance the peace process, which often seems to be his number-one international priority.

On the surface, the Palestinian leadership—PLO, Fatah, and Palestinian Authority (PA), which are all the same thing—is once again shooting itself in the foot. It is throwing away a real opportunity for a state; it is sabotaging its relationship with Western patrons.

How to explain this apparent perverseness, which Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once called, "Never missing a chance to miss an opportunity"?

The answer is simple: When it comes down to a choice between continuing the conflict and trying to win a total victory that wipes Israel off the map or making peace and getting a state, the Palestinian leadership always chooses the former.

And when it comes to choosing between being a bit more moderate and gaining Western support or being demagogically radical and appealing to the most radical forces, the Palestinian leadership chooses the latter. The Fatah-dominated PA doesn't want peace with Israel; it prefers peace with Hamas, its rival that not only murders and tortures Fatah people but—one more irony—is the main beneficiary of the Goldstone report.

Wishful thinkers beware! Reality is once again battering down your door.

Briefly, the Obama Administration is trying to make peace and wants the PA's cooperation. If the UN goes ballistic and now bashes Israel as an evil, illegitimate, war criminal—on the basis of Hamas propaganda no less which is all the Goldstone Commission really purveys—this will not help the cause of peace and will wreck U.S. policy.

So the Obama Administration basically said to the PA: Look, we're getting you lots of money and diplomatic help on the basis of the idea that you want peace. No president in history has ever been more sympathetic and supportive of you. So stand aside on this issue for a few days. Do us this little favor.

But this is too much for the PA, which now faces protests and criticism at home. (Fun fact: If the PA cannot even refrain from sponsoring Goldstone, can anyone expect it to compromise on territory, security measures, an end to the conflict, and the settlement of all Palestinian refugees in Palestine? Think about that one for five minutes please.)

This is at least the fourth time in its short nine-month history where the Palestinians and Arab states did this to Obama:
--PA leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Washington for his first trip and said he had no intention of compromising on anything but would just wait until the United States delivered an Israel which had to give up everything.

--Abbas refused to negotiate with Israel unless he had a total freeze of construction on all settlements with no exceptions despite Obama's desperate efforts to get talks going.

--Arab states asked to make small confidence-building steps toward Israel to help the president said "No!"

So much for Obama's apologies, his Cairo and UN speeches, strong words of support for the Palestinians (the people supposedly in an intolerable situation and desperate for a state), and his panegyrics for Islam. Flattery, Mr. President, will get you nowhere.

Can you get it, Mr. President: All this merely feeds the fires of radicalism. Like, in a real sense, the peace process of the 1990s and the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, more concessions breed more violence; more apologies give birth to more demands.

Remember that the peace process of the 1990s ended when PA leader Yasir Arafat refused a state along with more than $23 billion in aid both at Camp David and in the Clinton plan.

Remember that the Palestinians, handed all of the Gaza Strip, instead of making it a model for launching peace made it a launching pad for rockets aimed at Israel.

Remember that when the previous Bush Administration was trying to be supportive, the PA made a deal through Hizballah with Iran to bring in massive amounts of arms on a ship. Discovering how the PA had lied turned that administration against them.

Remember that in 1989 when the United States had initiated a dialogue with the PLO on the basis of its stopping terrorism, the organization refused to keep that pledge and instead dispatched a terrorist unit to machinegun civilians on the Tel Aviv beach. This action led to the end of the dialogue.

Wake up, people. Peace would be preferable if possible. Peace is a beautiful dream. But that dream keeps getting interrupted by nightmares, one after the other.

Those who run nations and are responsible for the lives and welfare of their people, those whose duty is to inform the people, and those who speak out publicly have a duty to cast aside wishful thinking and face the truth, as demonstrated by numerous examples and historical experience:

--Israeli-Palestinian peace is still very distant.

--The PA is unwilling and incapable of making peace.

--Weakness in dealing with this issue breeds contempt; concessions create more violence and extremism.

--A responsible policy is one that maximizes stability by keeping Hamas from taking over the West Bank and brings down its rule in the Gaza Strip; minimizes violence by supporting Israel's right to self-defense; and does the most possible to raise the living standards of Palestinians.

As for Obama and the European leaders, you've had the experience now learn the lessons.

 

 

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

 

The IAEA and Israel.


by Ephraim Asculai

Israel was one of the founding members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was established in 1957. At that time there were high hopes for this organization, established as a follow-up to President Eisenhower's vision of Atoms for Peace. It was to be a technical organization, with the objectives to: "seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. It shall ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose." These objectives are still valid, inscribed in the Statute of the IAEA, but their interpretations have strayed widely. From a highly technical organization the IAEA has turned into a highly political technical organization.

Because of the politicized situation, the IAEA General Conference (GC) was able on September 18, 2009 to pass a resolution that "calls upon Israel to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards." The resolution did not call on India and Pakistan, members of the same IAEA region and two countries that carried out underground nuclear tests, to accede to the NPT, and there was no resolution reprimanding Iran for its continuous non-adherence to the requests of the IAEA for information on its suspect nuclear program. Interestingly, the vote on the "Israeli Resolution" was almost evenly split and was passed by less than a majority of the GC attendees (49 voted for, 45, including most of the Western countries, against, and 16 abstained). There is also an annual GC resolution discussing "The Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East." The much discussed Iranian proposal for a resolution prohibiting attacks on nuclear installations was apparently withdrawn before it came to a vote.

Because of the "regional system" employed in most of the UN family organizations, Israel was never given a seat on the IAEA's Board of Governors (BOG). According to this system, the seats on the BOG are allocated to geographic regions and nominated by the regional states. Israel geographically belongs to the Middle East and South Asia region, which also includes India and Pakistan. Israel, not being accepted by the others as a member of its region, is excluded from exercising its inherent right. This is nothing new, and in some of the organizations Israel found its place as a member of the European Region, in some cases of a Western group, and oddly enough, also at one time in the sports region of Oceania. This also did damage to the IAEA, e.g., when Israel, because of this discrimination, strongly and successfully opposed giving the task of hosting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to the IAEA. In the text of the CTBT, the place of Israel is assured.

The first time Israel was singled out at the IAEA was in 1981, following the destruction of the Iraqi reactor that was under construction at Tuwaitha. At that time, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Israel to adhere to the NPT. This was followed by a similar IAEA GC resolution. In comparison, in 1998, following the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, there was a strong GC resolution condemning the tests and calling on all states to adhere to the NPT. India and Pakistan were never mentioned by name. The tests were described as having taken place in South Asia (the Middle East was not included in the definition of the region).

Politics clearly dominates the issue. Egypt, the traditional leader of campaigns against Israel in international bodies, likely prefers that Israel not declare whether it has or does not have nuclear weapons. Rather, Egypt wants to make sure it will not have these in the future. Egypt well knows that the route to WMD disarmament is not through the formal adherence to treaties. Upholding treaties is possible only when it is in the basic interest of the treaty parties to do so. With Iraq and Libya having been caught red-handed, and with Iran rushing towards nuclear weapons, in spite of these countries being parties to the NPT, the situation in the Middle East is not very conducive towards regional nuclear disarmament. Is it reasonable to demand that Israel abandon its years'-long policy of opacity? Even Egypt knows that the chances of this happening in the present state of affairs are very low. Thus the latest IAEA resolution is a part of the ongoing haranguing of Israel.

In an additional deviation from the stated objectives of the IAEA, the outgoing director general of the IAEA took it upon himself to further politicize his appointment (he is designated in the Statute as the "chief administrative officer of the Agency") in voicing his opinion time and again that Israel must adhere to the NPT.

In this political context, Israel will probably not take these resolutions, statements, and other politically discriminating actions seriously. According to the preamble to the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, "the principles of free consent and of good faith…are universally recognized." The free consent of Israel will not come about because of resolutions. Israel's actions will be decided internally, after due consideration and due process.

The importance of the IAEA lies not in its political actions, but in its immense technical capabilities. It helps countries all over the globe in the application of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. It plays an important role in the application of safeguards, albeit limited in many cases. On the other hand, the IAEA suffered gravely because of the political overtones in its Iran reports. The GC did the IAEA a disservice in its discriminatory resolution on Israel. If it wants to be taken seriously, the IAEA must change its ways. It is up to the incoming director general to do this.

 

 

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

 

Peace Elusive in Jerusalem.

 

by P. David Hornik

Khaled Abu Toameh reports that the Palestinian Authority leadership is behind a spate of religiously related violence in Jerusalem these past few days.

 

On Sunday, amid growing incitement and tension, Israel decided to close down the Temple Mount compound. Soon after about 150 Arabs, apparently from East Jerusalem and northern Israel, threw rocks and bottles at security forces near the Mount, and another 100 Arab men refused to leave the Mount before finally doing so in the evening.

 

On Monday, with the Israel police closing the Mount to Muslim male worshippers under 50 after finding wheelbarrows filled with rocks there, an Israeli border policeman was moderately wounded when stabbed by a West Bank Palestinian on a bus in northern Jerusalem. Stone-throwing incidents at Israeli worshipers and security personnel continued throughout the day. The events come amid rumors of Jewish plans to “take over the Mount” during the Jewish High Holiday season.

 

Behind the rumors, claims Toameh, are the upper echelons of the Palestinian Authority—desperate to deflect anger over the PA’s decision not to request a vote on the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The vote could have led to the report being discussed at the UN Security Council, a prospect Israel wants badly to avoid. The PA “rescued” Israel under intense pressure from the Obama administration, which appears to have accepted Israel’s argument that heavily penalizing it—as the report seeks to do—over the war in Gaza will make further territorial withdrawals impossible.

 

The Palestinian reaction, writes Toameh, has been “an unprecedented wave of condemnations and accusations of treason,” and “the violence…in the past few days can be seen in the context of the PA leadership’s attempts to divert attention from what a Palestinian minister described as ‘one of the worst scandals since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.’” Israel indeed arrested one senior Fatah official, Khatem Abed Al-Kadr, on suspicion of inciting the violence.

 

The situation, then, is rich in irony. Concerned that peace was on the line, the U.S. administration leaned on Israel’s ostensible peace partner not to take what looked like an irredeemably hostile step. The result of even this passive compliance by the PA is that the peace of Jerusalem is once again broken in the holiday season. A reasonable conclusion—that “peace” in the sense of a final settling of differences is nowhere in sight and should not be an active policy goal—remains nowhere near, of course, being adopted by the U.S. administration and others axiomatically committed to the “peace process.”

 

Apart from what can be found in age-old holidays and autumnal air peace has, indeed, been elusive these days in the real Israel that exists beyond the diplomatic clichés and fantasies. Despite efforts to contain it, the Goldstone Report is already wreaking havoc with Defense Minister Ehud Barak having been advised by Israel’s justice minister last week to cut short a visit to Britain after a Palestinian “human rights” organization tried to get him arrested there. Barak stayed for his visit, and a British court rejected the bid on grounds of his diplomatic immunity.

 

Vice-Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, however, appears less confident than Barak and has already canceled a visit to Britain next month for fear of being arrested. Yaalon calls it “a campaign whose goal is to delegitimize the state—first via [earlier suits], and then in legal efforts to use the Goldstone report to harm those involved in Operation Cast Lead.” Or as Phyllis Chesler put it, “If this is not dealt with, then Israelis will be walled up into a new kind of ghetto.” An Israeli official legal team is now dealing with a thousand lawsuits facing Israeli military and political leaders around the world.

 

“Peace” was also disrupted by Hamas’s release, in return for the freeing of 20 female Palestinian security prisoners, of a video of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In it the wan Shalit addresses the Israeli people and his family in Hamas-scripted words. Neither the reality of his over-three-year captivity nor the relentless swirl of media reports about deals involving the freeing of 450, or 1000, terrorists does much to instill serenity.

 

And when lurking behind it all is the unkindest cut—the U.S. president swallowing Iranian stalling tactics hook, line, and sinker—the peace of Jerusalem indeed seems better relegated to the realm of prayer than to the ongoing march of evil and folly in the political sphere.

 

 

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

 

Friday, October 9, 2009

The newest round of war.

 

by Caroline B. Glick

 

Since the Palestinians must know that their new terror campaign will end in an Israeli victory, it is worth considering why they have anyway decided to launch it. Four explanations come to mind

 

An atmosphere of fantasy pervaded US President Barack Obama's Middle East peace processor George Mitchell's meetings with Israeli leaders on Thursday. In separate photo opportunities, Mitchell stood next to President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and pledged to surmount all obstacles to achieve peace not only between Israel and the Palestinians but between Israel and Syria and Lebanon and with the whole Arab world.

Mitchell's remarks yesterday were even more stunning than similar statements from him during previous visits because this week the Palestinians launched their newest terror campaign against Israel. Like previous rounds of Palestinian terror against Jews beginning in 1929, the latest round has been precipitated by wholly fabricated claims by Muslim leaders that Israel is asserting Jewish rights to the Temple Mount — Judaism's most sacred site — and so endangering the Muslim claim to the sole right to worship at the site that was never even mentioned in the Koran.

Beginning last week, convicted felon Raed Salah — who served a prison sentence for his Israeli Islamic Movement's Northern Branch's financial and other ties to Hamas — began inciting Israeli and Palestinian Muslim worshippers to make war against Israel. As he does every few months, Salah claimed falsely that Jews were committing the unforgivable "crime" of seeking to worship on the Temple Mount during Succos. Succos, which we observed this past week is of course one of the three harvest festivals in which Jews are commanded to go up to the Temple Mount. This time, Salah's lies were accompanied by similar ones from Hamas leaders and Fatah leaders alike.

As is their standard practice, Palestinian leaders used known euphemisms in their declarations of war. Rather than openly call for Jews to be slaughtered, they called on Muslims to defend the Temple Mount from fictional Jewish assault. Wheelbarrows of rocks were found stockpiled on the Temple Mount on Monday. The rocks made clear the intention of Muslim leaders to reenact the 1990 stoning of Jewish Succot worshippers at the Western Wall. That Muslim assault precipitated a steep increase in Palestinian terror during the months that followed.

This week's riots similarly recall the 1996 Palestinian onslaught. That aggression was justified by the false Palestinian allegation that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to open the Western Wall archaeological tunnel was part of a secret plot to dislodge the Aqsa mosque. Yassir Arafat used his manufactured libel as an excuse to order his US-trained and Israeli-armed Palestinian security forces to open fire at IDF soldiers. In the violence that followed some 15 soldiers were killed.

The most violent exploitation of fabricated claims of Jewish aggression against Judaism's most sacred site to date of course came in September 2000. Then Arafat and his deputies in Fatah supported by Hamas and the Israeli Islamic Movement claimed that then opposition leader Ariel Sharon's September 28, 2000 visit to the Temple Mount — a visit that had been coordinated in advance with the PA — was an act of war against the Palestinians and against Islam as a whole. More than 1,500 Israelis were killed in the seven years of terror war that followed.

Perhaps the most overt call for a renewal of jihad against Israel this week came from Fatah leader and titular PA President Mahmoud Abbas. In an interview on Yemenite television Abbas said, "The second intifada erupted because of [former prime minister Ariel] Sharon's visit to [the Temple Mount] and…it lasted seven years. This time, therefore the matter of Jerusalem requires a much greater effort [by the Palestinians], something more practical. It's not enough to talk about Jerusalem in books, or to give sermons in mosques. There is a need to work for it."

The newest round of violence has been building up for the past month. According to data released by the IDF, over the past month, the volume of terror attacks nearly doubled from 53 attacks in August to 95 in September. This week's spike in violence caused IDF commanders to warn of the possibility that the violence will spread throughout Judea and Samaria. With the near seamless integration of Arab Israeli leaders in the incitement of violence, there is good reason for concern that Arab Israelis will play a prominent role in the newest round of jihad against Israel.

Abbas and his prime minister Salam Fayyad have augmented their violent attacks against Israel with a renewed diplomatic assault against the Jewish state. Fayyad and Abbas have both called for the US and European governments to condemn Israel's imaginary provocations and moves to "Judaize" the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Rather than condemn these Fatah leaders for their key roles in inciting violence, the Europeans have been embracing them. Led by Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, European governments have demanded that Israel end its provocative behavior. For its part, rather than dismissing these obviously false allegations out of hand, the Obama administration demanded that Israel give an accounting of its actions to prove that it is not provoking Palestinian violence.

How long the newest Palestinian campaign lasts, and how many Israelis will be killed is still unknown. Due in large part to their military training provided by the US under Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, Fatah forces in Judea and Samaria are today better trained and equipped than ever before. In Gaza, Hamas is preparing for a new round of war by housing poor Palestinians along the border with Israel to make it difficult for Israel to defend itself without killing Hamas's civilian shields. At the same time, the IDF remains stronger than these Palestinian forces. So Israel's eventual victory over this new terror campaign is a foregone conclusion, contingent only on the political courage of its leaders.

Since the Palestinians must know that their new terror campaign will end in an Israeli victory, it is worth considering why they have anyway decided to launch it. Four explanations come to mind.

First, it is notable that the calls for jihad are being sounded three weeks before Hamas and Fatah leaders are scheduled to meet in Cairo to reinstate their unity government pending a new round of parliamentary and presidential elections next year. It is possible that in inciting a new terror war against Israel, Abbas and Fayyad and their comrades in Fatah are signaling Hamas that they will be willing collaborators in a Hamas-dominated government.

Then too, since Hamas is favored to win both of those elections, Fatah leaders may be using their calls for jihad to increase their popularity among Palestinians ahead of a possible bid to cancel the elections or in anticipation of the likely derailment of the negotiations toward a unity government. Whatever the case, the looming talks between Hamas and Fatah no doubt figure prominently in the new round of anti-Jewish violence.

The second reason for the renewal of Palestinian violence against Israel and the use of false allegations of Jewish provocations on the Temple Mount as a justification for that violence is that Fatah leaders believe that they can use their campaign to convince the Obama administration to redouble its pressure on Israel to make massive concessions to the Palestinians even before any "peace" negotiations begin. This was Arafat's goal in inciting the 1996 violence. At that time, his gambit was wildly successful. Then US president Bill Clinton responded to the Palestinian violence by blaming Netanyahu and forcing him to begin negotiating the IDF's redeployment from parts of Hebron.

There is also the possibility that Raed Salah — the most visible force behind this week's Temple Mount riots — is using them to jockey for a more powerful position in the Israeli Arab-Palestinian leadership hierarchy. Inspired by the Hamas takeover of Gaza and Hizbullah's chokehold on the Lebanese government, Salah may have decided that the time is ripe for Israeli Arabs to raise their profile in the jihadist pecking order.

The fourth possible explanation for the current round of violence is that it is being incited by the Syrian and Iranian governments who together control Hamas and are influential in Fatah and Israeli Arab circles. Iranian and Syrian interest in provoking such violence now is clear. If the Netanyahu government and the IDF are kept busy contending with Palestinian terrorism, it will be more difficult for them to address Iran's nuclear weapons program either diplomatically or militarily.

All of these possible causes of the violence shed light on how events are likely to progress. Future events after all will in large part reflect the interests of the parties involved in inciting the current attacks against Israel.

By the same token, the European and American responses to Palestinian calls for violence against Israel and Jews show how the newest round of Palestinian aggression against Israel is likely to be greeted by the West. In its easy willingness to accept false Palestinian accusations about imaginary Israeli provocations, the EU is demonstrating that a transformation has taken place in its policy towards the Arab conflict with Israel. Whereas in the past the EU has been a more or less neutral actor in the region — officially refusing to support either side, while unofficially siding with the Palestinians against Israel —the European position on the Palestinian violence over the past week has been indistinguishable from the Arab League's position. Europe's newfound willingness to openly side with the Palestinians against Israel makes clear that the EU's role in the violence to come will be qualitatively different from the role it has played in past Palestinian terror campaigns. Israel's ability to launch a relevant and coherent diplomatic campaign to defend itself is contingent on the Foreign Ministry recognizing that a transformative shift has taken place in Europe's treatment of Israel.

And this brings us back to George Mitchell in Jerusalem. What Mitchell's absurd statements about peace breaking out in the region in the near future show is that the Obama administration is perfectly willing to pretend away the Arab violence against Israel. Whether motivated by naivete, an overarching desire for international peace conferences, a plan to align US foreign policy with that of Europe, or hostility towards Israel, that fact that Mitchell can talk about peace when the Palestinians have just declared war makes clear that the Obama administration is uninterested in playing a constructive role in quelling the violence. It certainly isn't interested in helping Israel to secure the lives of its citizens.

Israeli officials have sought to play down the significance of the events this week in Jerusalem. This is a mistake. If the newest round of violence is to end quickly and at a minimal cost in lives, it is essential for Israel to stop defensively humoring Mitchell and move quickly to offense both militarily and diplomatically.

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

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

 

Qassams are still launched at the western Negev.

 

 

 

The scandal is still going on!!!

 

One should be under the rockets in Sderot, just like all the other citizens of Sderot. and feel what it's like to be in Sderot  at these times, with the terrorists playing Russian rocket  roulette with the lives of Israeli citizens.  Israel should adopt a zero tolerance policy for rockets. Every rocket that flies from Gaza into Israel is a violation of UN Charter Article 51 - an armed attack giving Israel the full and complete right to proportional self-defense. Proportional doesn't mean equating lives; it just means that if they fire a rifle at you, you can't nuke them.  It also doesn't mean that for every life taken, you can take one life, as the international community absurdly believes. It simply means that you don't react totally out of proportion, and neither do you look at the actual damage caused, but rather, you look at the risks of an attack. If each rocket can potentially kill 100 people, then just because they missed, it doesn't remove the risk that had been there. Israel doesn't have to wait until inevitably a rocket hits a school bus or a kindergarten or an ambulance; it can look at the risks, not just the actual consequences.

 

 

Why do we never hear calls for Hamas leaders to be charged with war crimes?


Why, for example, do we hear no calls for human rights investigations into Hamas gunmen using Palestinian children as human shields? Why so few stories on the reports of Hamas assassins going to hospitals to hunt down their fellow Palestinians? And where are the international human rights groups demanding that Hamas stop blurring the most fundamental line in warfare: the distinction between civilian and combatant? Did the West surrender to Islam or does anti-Semitism prevail over justice? As to what Islam means for all of us.

 

Just open :

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/gushkatif4ever

 

Jerusalem: 'We win, you lose'.


by Gerald Steinberg

Since the deadly 1929 riots, the struggle over Jerusalem has been at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and, as recent events show, nothing has changed. For the Palestinians and their supporters, any Jewish presence in Jerusalem that is not under Arab control is not only unacceptable, but seen as threatening. And every ancient text, archeological find or property claim that validates the 3,000-year Jewish historical and religious heritage in this most sacred of cities, is angrily rejected as "Judaization." These allegations are used to promote and justify violent attacks, from rock-throwing to mass terror.

In the language of game theory, Jerusalem - more than any other dimension of this extremely complex conflict - has been and remains a zero-sum situation. This means any concessions from one side are necessarily victories for the other, making compromise not only difficult but inconceivable. In a zero-sum world, there is no room for different voices and opinions, and compromise based on acceptance of different perspectives is impossible. Thus, for the Arabs, recognition of the history and legitimacy of Jewish claims is a threat to their own narrative and legitimacy, particularly for the Muslims. Trapped in this social rubric, shared control based on mutual acceptance and recognition, as imagined in many peace programs, is impossible.

THE LATEST round of Arab violence in Jerusalem, fanned by competition for the prestige gained by the most extreme voices highlights the lack of movement on this core identity issue. For most Palestinians, and indeed, much of the surrounding Arab and Islamic world, there is absolutely no readiness to acknowledge even the most basic historical facts that would require compromise on Jerusalem.

In July 2000 at the Camp David summit, Yasser Arafat shocked and angered president Bill Clinton by rejecting any discussion of joint control over Jerusalem. Clinton and his advisers, who had been shepherding the Oslo negotiations for many years, should not have been surprised. Arafat's position reflected and reinforced the dominant view of most Arabs and Muslims.

Similarly, the efforts by NGO officials who claim to promote mutual acceptance and compromise on Jerusalem, and are funded by European governments, have sharpened the zero-sum framework. For example, political NGOs like Ir Amim only criticize Israel. The film Jerusalem Moments was described in The Jerusalem Post as an "incendiary Palestinian propaganda onslaught" and "an exercise in the bludgeoning documentation of Palestinian victimhood and of allegedly mindless Israeli cruelty and aggression."

For Palestinians, support from these Israeli NGOs is used to reinforce the zero-sum position, and reject compromise. (Ir Amim and similar political NGOs also address foreigners, including journalists and diplomats, and take groups on highly distorted "educational" tours of Jerusalem and the security barrier in the effort to press their positions.) By their nature, zero-sum situations are not confined to one side of the conflict; when one participant rejects all compromise, the others are forced into the same strategy. Thus, the Palestinian and Arab position that erases all Jewish links to Jerusalem leads to escalation of Jewish defensive moves, designed to prevent a return to the 1948-1967 situation of total exclusion and desecration.

For Jews, the total failure to implement the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement guaranteeing, on paper, free access to sacred sites, remains a traumatic memory. Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Arab occupation, the Jewish Quarter, including synagogues and cemeteries, was systematically desecrated, and the "international community" did nothing to enforce the agreement. Since then, the periodic waves of Arab violence in Jerusalem revive the concerns that agreements based on shared sovereignty or "international control" would lead to the same unacceptable situation. With no sign of movement towards a realistic compromise, Jewish Israelis worry that unless their presence in the city is strengthened, they will eventually be pushed out, yet again.

In the zero-sum cycle, the Jewish responses to this history and ongoing threats are denounced by the Palestinians and their supporters as more "occupation" and "Judaization" of Jerusalem. This feeds the escalating violence and reinforces the sense that there is no sense in talking, as no one is listening or willing to compromise.

TO MOVE towards even minimal mutual understanding that can contain and prevent outbreaks of violence, the first goal must be to open Palestinian and Arab society to hearing the Jewish version. This would allow for the transition from the zero-sum black-and-white conflict framework to what is known as a "win-win" framework, which allows for coexistence and equality, despite basic differences in narrative and ideology.

This is where the various would-be peacemakers and NGO funders, particularly from European governments, should put their money and focus their activities. As long as the Arab and Muslim position slams the door to block Jewish history, Jerusalem will remain a battleground in which the Jewish nation will have no choice but to use force when necessary to defends these rights.


Gerald Steinberg heads NGO Monitor and is on the political science faculty of Bar-Ilan University.

 

Obama and Israel: Betrayal in the Broken Places

 

by Benjamin Kerstein

 

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.

-Ernest Hemingway

For a politician, there is no more dangerous combination of traits than hubris and ineptitude. In a friendly environment, the detrimental effects of these flaws can be staved off, for a time, by talented spin doctors, a sympathetic press, or the enthusiasm of one's followers. In the maelstrom of Middle East politics, however, they tend to be almost immediately apparent, and the resulting fall from grace is often precipitous. President Barack Obama, who appears to possess both traits in unique abundance, has had to find this out the hard way; and whether he has learned his lesson or not remains to be seen.

 

In Israel, however, conclusions have already been drawn, and the results are not particularly pretty for Obama. Put simply, he is the least popular American president in recent memory. The percentage of Israelis who consider him friendly to Israel has never been high, but it has dropped at various times into the single digits. Considering that the Israeli left polled 16% of the vote in the last elections, and the centrist Kadima party another 22% - higher, in fact, than Netanyahu's Likud - Obama's dismal numbers cannot be put down to simple partisanship. Israelis across the political spectrum are clearly convinced that Obama is indifferent and/or hostile to Israeli interests, sensibilities, and concerns.

 

It is worth pointing out that Israel was a problem for Obama almost from the beginning. During the 2008 campaign, much was made in Jewish circles of his political roots on the radical left; his friendships with Rashid Khalidi, a vitriolic partisan of the Palestinian cause, and the demented preacher Jeremiah Wright; and his sometimes ambivalent statements on the subject. In February 2008, for example, Obama remarked, "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you're anti-Israel," which is practically identical to the rhetoric employed by Israel Lobby conspiracy theorists. His statements on Jerusalem also proved decidedly bizarre, both pledging that it would remain united and asserting that this was an issue to be settled in future negotiations. While everyone is at least vaguely aware of the fact that American presidential candidates always make promises regarding Jerusalem which they have no intention of ever keeping, the suspicion among many was that the candidate was trying to solidify his American Jewish support while signaling his true intentions to his progressive base. When Obama began his administration by demanding that Israel freeze all settlement construction, including in Jerusalem, while asking nothing of the Arabs besides a vague call for "normalization," Obama's Jewish detractors believed that their suspicions had been confirmed.

 

These misgivings, however, were mainly those of pro-Israel American Jews. For the most part, the Israelis themselves adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward Obama, both during the campaign and after his election. On the day the returns came in, television and radio stations all over Jerusalem were tuned into the news; and several people spontaneously expressed their sentiments to me (as Israelis are notably wont to do). Overwhelmingly, they were surprisingly well aware of the historical significance of Obama's election in terms of America's long and tortured struggle with the issue of race, and expressed no hostility toward him. If this was the case in one of Israel's most politically right-wing cities, one can assume that similar attitudes prevailed in the rest of the country. Indeed, some on the Israeli left were positively enthusiastic about the new president.

 

While it is true that Israelis did not greet Obama's election with rapturous celebration, as many others did, it is easy to read too much into this. Israelis tend to be ambivalent about incoming US officials in general, especially when they are - as Obama was - relatively unknown quantities. It is also important to remember that, for much of the world, the president of the United States is largely an aesthetic experience. In the Middle East, however, the policies of the chief executive can have very serious and immediate real world consequences. As a result, Israelis on the whole tend to be more guarded and sober in their assessments. Moreover, a large part of Israelis' apprehension regarding Obama was the fear that he would end up in a clash with Benjamin Netanyahu, who seemed the likely winner of upcoming elections. This was not a judgment on Obama or Netanyahu per se, but rather the understandable desire to avoid a rift with the United States. And when the elections were held in February 2009, it was Tzipi Livni, whose campaign included the claim that she would work more easily with Obama than Netanyahu, who won the highest percentage of the vote; although due to the intricacies of the Israeli electoral system this did not allow her to form a government.

 

This indicates that Obama's call for a settlement freeze might not have had such disastrous consequences had it been handled differently. Israelis are divided on the issue of settlements, and had Obama proved flexible on Jerusalem and its nearby "consensus" settlements, which most Israelis consider essential to their security and want to retain in any peace agreement, some sort of modus vivendi might have been reached early enough to avoid a serious breach. In his insistence on a total freeze, however, Obama was demanding something that was both too much for most Israelis to swallow and Netanyahu simply could not deliver without destroying the coalition that kept him in government. Obama may have hoped for precisely that, believing that a new, more pliable government led by Livni would replace Netanyahu. If so, it was a horrendous miscalculation. Many Israelis did not vote for Netanyahu, but very few of them like to see their country pushed around.

 

Obama's reputation in Israel might have survived even this, however, had it not been for his much-hyped "speech to the Muslim world" delivered in Cairo on June 4. Taken as a whole, the speech was simply a craven embarrassment; but the references it made to Israel could not have been more alienating and insulting had they been calculated for the purpose. How Obama's speechwriters and advisors became convinced that equating the Holocaust with the Palestinian nakba (the word means "catastrophe," and Arabs use it to describe the establishment of Israel and its War of Independence in 1948), comparing Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to segregation in the United States, and pointing to the Jewish people's "tragic history" as the sole justification for Israel's existence would assuage Israeli concerns about the new administration must remain a question for history to answer. There is no doubt, however, that this single speech (which everyone in Israel watched) did more to demolish Obama's credibility in Israeli eyes than any of his demands on Netanyahu ever could have.

 

Israelis come in many political colors, but very few of them believe that if the Jews had not suffered a Holocaust, they would not deserve a state. Zionism predates the Holocaust, and it holds that the Jewish people have an inalienable right to self-determination in their homeland, regardless of their historical sufferings. In claiming otherwise, Obama revealed not only a glaring ignorance of Israeli history and sensibilities, but also the depressing tendency of many American liberals to reduce everything to do with Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish people to the Holocaust; as though several thousand years of Jewish civilization never occurred. Obama's remarks about segregation were perhaps less egregious, given that they had some precedent in the words of Condeleeza Rice; but they were disturbingly similar to the notorious 1975 UN resolution that declared Zionism a form of racism. By far the most damaging statement, however, was Obama's equation of the Holocaust with the nakba. It is true that 1948 was a catastrophe for the Palestinians, and many thousands of them were displaced - voluntarily and involuntarily - as a result of the war; but for many Jews (and many non-Jews) the equation of this to the Holocaust was not only morally appalling but served to minimize a genocide that is still within living memory, and did so in front of an audience that often claims it never happened at all.

 

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the speech, however, was that Obama clearly believed he was saying things about Israel that were positive. The impression he gave was of a man who was not merely spitting in Israeli faces, but chose to do so because he thought they would like it. In a certain sense, this was even worse than a speech that was forthrightly hostile, because it implied that Obama was perfectly capable of damaging Israel out of the belief that he was actually doing it "for your own good" – a signal that the new president of the United States simply had no idea what he was doing.

 

 

Benjamin Kerstein

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

 

Obama's plans to leverage Goldstone.

 

by  Anne Bayefsky

 

On September 29, Richard Goldstone presented his report on the Gaza conflict to an enraptured UN Human Rights Council. The Council, in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power, commissioned his report. Goldstone promoted his 575-page smear campaign against the State of Israel by parading his Jewishness and then analogizing his work to his prior efforts to combat apartheid.

At its core, the report repeats the ancient blood libel against the Jewish people. Or as Goldstone casts this abomination for a modern audience, Israel deliberately…terrorize[d] a civilian population;" Israeli "violence against civilians w[as] part of a deliberate policy."

The report claims to be a human rights document but never mentions the racist, genocidal intent of the enemy which Israel finally confronted after years of restraint. It invents laws of war which never mention the "right of self-defense," and it relies on testimonies from witnesses speaking under circumstances that gave rise to "a fear of reprisals" from Hamas should they have dared to tell the truth.

After the report was presented, the Council resembled an assemblage of vultures moving in on their prey. But instead of adopting a resolution intended to implement the report's recommendations, on October 1, the matter was tabled until the following Council session in March 2010.

Reports indicate that the American administration told the Palestinian Authority to back off. So the delay is not an indication that the hysterical Goldstone report went too far even for the UN. After all, this lead human rights body is populated by the likes of China and Saudi Arabia.

What is less clear, however, is what the breathing space will mean. Does President Obama plan to use the opportunity to extract concessions from Israel in exchange for putting the Goldstone report permanently to rest? Or does he appreciate that there can be no peace progress so long as Israel's alleged "peace" partners are bent on gutting its right of self-defense, and the phrase "living side-by-side in peace and security" is meant to apply to a party of one? Initial signs are worrying.

The Bush administration refused to lend the Human Rights Council any credibility. While aware of the fact that the Council had adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 UN member states combined, the Obama administration reversed course. The United States joined the Council and took its place as a full member for the first time at this latest session.

Given the Council's preoccupation with Israel, participating and lending it legitimacy handed the Obama administration new leverage - against its ally. In the past, Canada insisted that anti-Israel resolutions be brought to a vote, rather than railroaded through by "consensus," and courageously voted against.

But when the United States came on board, Canada rotated off the Council, thus creating a dynamic in which Israel became dependent on US proclivities.

The Goldstone report, however, has forced the Obama administration to recognize that the leverage over Israel presented by Council membership is not cost-free. No Israeli administration is going to take a seat at a negotiating table that its "peace partner" has festooned with a sword of Damocles.

So the report presents the president with a dilemma: how to avoid alienating his new friends in the Arab and Muslim world while keeping the peace process percolating? Moreover, sooner or later the Goldstone "rules" of engagement could well be turned against American action in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

The Obama administration needs to make a policy decision on the Goldstone report quickly. There are likely to be various attempts to insert references to the report at the UN General Assembly this fall.

Goldstone himself can be expected to continue seeking the limelight. In September, he made the unprecedented move of commandeering the UN Headquarters' press room in New York to release his report, even though it had been authorized by a Geneva institution and was due to be considered shortly. Having made recommendations to continue the witch hunt, including at the Security Council, Goldstone is very likely to attempt to turn the report's "implementation" into a permanent meal ticket.

The president, therefore, should be under no illusions. Waxing eloquent about multilateral engagement will not make the report and its progeny all go away - if that was ever his game plan.

Unfortunately, it appears that the president may have a different agenda. Speaking at the Council in the presence of Goldstone, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner said that the United States was ready "to engage in discussion of this report," and the US takes Goldstone's allegations against Israel "seriously." Posner was well aware that the report found that violence against Palestinian civilians was part of a deliberate Israeli policy, and yet could only manage to respond: "The report makes negative inferences about the intentions of Israeli officials… on the basis of a limited factual record." The only problem with referring the allegations to the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court, according to Posner, was that "then the role of the Human Rights Council would be dramatically different."

In language similar to Goldstone's trashing of the Israeli judicial system, Posner asked the Council to adopt a resolution telling "Israel to investigate and address allegations through a credible domestic process." It therefore appears that the Goldstone report will continue to fester and that administration officials may be preparing to use its threatened revival as a bargaining chip.

Now is the time for concerned Americans and members of Congress to demand that this scandalous report be buried permanently and immediately, and that it not become a weapon in behind-the-scenes struggles between Israel and the United States on vital issues. The right of every democracy to defend itself against a fanatical enemy who is prepared to put its own people in harm's way depends on it.


Anne Bayefsky is a professor at Touro College, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the editor of EYEontheUN.org

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

 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Suicide Bombing as Worship - Part I

by Denis MacEoin

1st part of 2

Dimensions of Jihad

Many motives are cited for suicide bombings, from religious sanctification to revenge for Western foreign policy to hatred of Israel, but one thing ties them together: the boast that Muslims love death, whereas their enemies love life. From killing the infidel enemy through suicide attacks, to allowing the subordinate female to participate in suicide attacks, a pattern emerges. And just as honor killings are a perversion of the most basic of human ties, so love for martyrdom takes societies into a direct relationship with the darkest side of human nature. In trying to explain this, it may be feasible to identify routes to a possible solution.

 

Origins

Since the 1980s, killing oneself deliberately has become the most popular method of attacking and killing one's enemies in countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, in territories such as Chechnya or the West Bank and Gaza, and even in Western countries such as the United States and Great Britain. It was a real-life Shi'i fanatic, a thirteen-year-old boy called Hossein Fahmideh, who set things moving in 1981 when he died with a grenade in his hand, throwing himself under a tank during the Iran-Iraq war. He was followed by thousands of young Iranians carrying "keys to paradise," who walked and ran across minefields, ripping their bodies apart for God and the Islamic regime.[1] Two years later, the first suicide attack occurred against a Western target when a bomber drove a vehicle packed with explosives into the lobby of the American embassy in Beirut. Apart from himself, he killed 63 people: 32 Lebanese, 17 Americans, and 14 visitors. Iran denied all involvement in the attack, but its protégé, Hezbollah, soon claimed responsibility, and it was subsequently established that the killings had been approved and financed by senior Iranian officials. The Iranian role in many subsequent suicide bombings has been crucial, given the existence of a clerical elite that inherited a deeply-embedded Shi'i cult of martyrdom, whose traditions of flagellation, public weeping, passion plays, martyrdom sermons, and hagiographies of martyrs were pushed into overdrive after the revolution of 1979.

 

An Islamic Paradox

By 2008, 1,121 suicide bombers had carried out attacks in Iraq, killing on a massive scale. With the exception of Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tigers used the tactic, suicide bombing has become an almost exclusively Islamic phenomenon. Whether religiously observant or driven by other motives, the bombers have been Muslims, regardless of their country of origin. Even Muslims raised and educated in non-Muslim countries (like Britain's 7/7 bombers) and exposed to cultures without overt jihadi propaganda have put on explosive belts and gone to their deaths in order to kill nonbelievers. Apart from their Islamic roots, these terrorists display a wide range of characteristics. Many have been young men, some of whom were mentally disabled, while others were very bright, some uneducated, others university graduates; a growing number are women, mostly young, some old, some virgins, others pregnant or mothers. Many have belonged to terrorist groups such as Hamas and have been indoctrinated in Islamist thought, anti-Semitism, or general hatred of the West. Others have been volunteers seeking to expiate sins or retrieve the honor of their families.

Yet suicide bombing involves a paradox within Islam. On the one hand, laws relating to jihad unambiguously state that fighters must not take the lives of noncombatants, such as women, children, the sick, or the elderly. At the same time, anyone who dies while fighting non-Muslims is considered a martyr and guaranteed the highest rank in paradise. How do Islamists get round this problem? Some may shut their eyes and get on with it, but others come face to face with the paradox by dividing the problem into bite-size pieces. Clerics sanctify the bombers in their sermons, organizations including Hamas and Islamic Jihad identify and celebrate them as fighters in the jihad, and foreign donors provide aid that is siphoned off to the families of the martyrs.[2]

Whatever the private motivation of the suicide bomber, his or her action is rooted in much broader national, communal or, above all, religious demands, pressures, and desires. These range from religious convictions and edicts to concepts of holy war and martyrdom to conflicts over issues of shame and honor to social constructs of sexuality. Most importantly, the bombings have nothing to do with suicide. Nor are they described as such by those who send the bombers out and those who immolate themselves. To make it easier to understand what modern Islamist suicide bombing is about, we need to examine its historical background, its religious/nationalist role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and its psychological and cultural roots in the Arab and Islamic interpretation of women, sexuality, shame, and honor.

 

World of the Martyr

In a speech at his headquarters in Ramallah on December 18, 2001, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat proclaimed he was willing to sacrifice seventy martyrs to bring about the death of a single Israeli. [3] His audience replied "Millions of martyrs are already marching to Jerusalem." They meant suicide bombers, of course. But nobody present used the term, since that is not how Arabic speakers refer to them.

Preeminently, the bombers are referred to as "martyrs" (shuhada', sing. shahid) or "those who sacrifice themselves" (fida'iyun, sing. fida'i). These men and women—most in their teens and early twenties[4]—"die a martyr's death" or "blow themselves up" or carry out "martyrdom operations" ('amaliyat istishhadiya). They do not commit suicide for suicide is a sin.[5] But killing oneself in order to harm non-Muslims is an act of deep piety. This seeming contradiction has been examined by Daniel Pipes. "The Qur'an," he writes, "does tell Muslims, 'Do not kill yourselves' and warns that those who disobey will be 'cast into the fire.' The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that a suicide cannot go to paradise. Islamic laws oppose the practice." [6] He then points out that the prohibition against killing oneself has, in fact, been very effective, as is evidenced by the rarity of suicide in Muslim countries. There is, however, another side to this story, in that the same action, when performed as a means of furthering jihad, elevates the individual to the rank of martyr.

There have been such martyrs in Islam almost from the founding of the religion. Whereas Christian and Jewish martyrs without exception passively accepted death for their faith, most Muslim martyrs have given up their lives fighting as combatants in the holy war.[7] Even Sufis, members of the mystical fraternities in Islam, have embarked on jihad as individuals and groups. The warrior monk is a common figure in pre-modern Islam, and jihad scholar Michael Bonner has drawn attention to the important role played in war by religious leaders and scholars as preachers and as fighters.[8]

The figure of the martyr as a holy warrior (mujahid) who dies in battle and goes on to reap a heavenly reward above that of ordinary mortals is of central importance in the earliest period of Islam. Its ideal type is the fighter who engages in an action called inghimas, throwing himself recklessly at the enemy, even if he should be one man against a thousand. Doing this was seen as legitimate because the mujahid was seeking martyrdom and did not need permission from the leader of his army or unit.[9] Its legitimacy, even today, is derived from the fact that Muhammad himself often sent out individual fighters as "military expeditions" in and of themselves.[10] In the modern period, some scholars have argued that there is a close connection between inghimas and suicide bombing: "If, by immersing himself into enemy ranks, a fighter brings about his own death, such self-sacrifice is legally [in terms of Shari'a law] the same as bringing about his own death by his own hand. In this respect there is no legal difference between the direct hand of the self-detonating suicide fighter and the proxy hand of the outnumbered fighter entering the fray alone."[11] Gibril Haddad, a hard-line Wahhabi sheikh, writes that inghimas "must not be viewed as reckless self-destruction but as the highest valor and courage. More than that, as Abu Ayyub [a companion of Muhammad] indicated with his tafsir [interpretation] of al-Baqara 195 [Qur'an 2:195] before entering the fray at Constantinople and fighting to the death, they viewed inghimas as life itself."[12]

This again is a clear echo of the Islamist saying that Muslims "love death" whereas non-Muslims love life. This conceit seems to have begun during the great Arab conquests of the seventh century. In 633, just one year after the death of Muhammad, the Muslim general Khalid ibn al-Walid had entered Iraq in the first phase of the conquest of the Iranian Sassanid empire. Writing to Hormuz, the Persian governor of a frontier district, Dast Maysan, Walid proclaimed: "Submit to Islam and be safe. Or agree to the payment of the jizya [tax], and you and your people will be under our protection, else you will have only yourself to blame for the consequences, for I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life."[13]

It is a long journey from 633 to the modern era, but Walid's boast still resonates in Islamist circles today. On May 25, 2001, the mufti of Jerusalem and "Palestine," Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, stated: "We tell [our enemies]: As much as you love life—the Muslim loves death and martyrdom. There is a great difference between him who loves the hereafter and him who loves this world. The Muslim loves death and [strives for] martyrdom."[14] Sabri is not alone. Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah, has spoken in similar terms. In 2004, he said: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life, and we love death."[15] Others have spoken in much the same vein.[16] It is clear that the distinction is always religiously based and that Jewish love of life is transformed from a healthy and spiritual thing to an attitude to be disparaged.

This fixation with death as a state superior to life combines with martyrdom ideation to create the suicide bomber as someone who passes beyond traditional themes of death at the hands of the enemy to bring death to himself and the enemy in a single moment. In this unconventional form of fighting, the bomber no longer respects legal rulings that commit the mujahid to killing only enemy troops but makes death itself the arbiter of who should die or not. The innocent are not innocent; Muslim radicals are on record stating that non-Muslims are, by definition, not innocent.[17] The self-immolation of the martyr makes death universal. Yet the modern martyr is still deeply rooted in traditional typology.

 

Muhammad's Sayings and Actions

The Qur'an contains numerous exhortations to violent action[18] and promises a divine reward for those who die fighting in God's path, but it does not make martyrdom into the religious goal it soon became. It is in the literature of Muhammad's sayings and doings that warfare and martyrdom are emphasized together.

Both the Hadiththe vast corpus of "eyewitness" statements about what Muhammad did or said, second in holiness only to the Qur'an—and the earliest writings featuring the biography of Muhammad and his companions display a significant concern with fighting. The Hadith compilations invariably have a section entitled "The Book of Jihad," in which snippets from actual combat with non-Muslims jostle with instructions on how to wage war. The books of biography are originally called Kitab al-Maghazi,[19] the Book of Raids, meaning the raids and battles in which Muhammad was personally involved or which he ordered carried out. In other words, we are in a realm far less abstract than that of the Qur'an, on a landscape in which real men fought in real encounters with real enemies.

This is the world of the martyr, the ever-present battlefield in Muhammad's lifetime and in the years that followed when Arab armies clashed with their Byzantine, Persian, and other foes across North Africa, the Middle East, and far beyond. The warrior-martyr is born on these battlefields and in the martial deeds of Muhammad, not in the text of the Qur'an. The Qur'an prescribes violence against nonbelievers and sets jihad in motion, providing a context for the holy warrior; but that warrior only becomes flesh when riding out to battle beside Muhammad, and only takes on the mantle of martyrdom in death at the hands of the infidel and in the words of the prophet that confer that status on him and those that come in his train.

We read in the Sahih Muslim, one of the two most sacred texts after the Qur'an, of fighters picking up their swords and wading into battle:

The tradition has been narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah b. Qais. He heard it from his father who, while facing the enemy, reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Surely, the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords. A man in a shabby condition got up and said; Abu Musa, did you hear the Messenger of Allah say this? He said: Yes. (The narrator said): He returned to his friends and said his farewells. Then he broke the sheath of his sword, threw it away, advanced with his sword towards the enemy and fought with it until he was slain.[20]

This behavior is very different from that of the Norse berserkers,[21] who entered battle in a rage, foaming at the mouth and laying waste everyone in their path. The mujahid in this and other hadith reaches a decision based on confirmation of Muhammad's promise of paradise. This echoes the cool, almost detached manner with which the modern suicide bomber goes to work. He or she may make a video in advance, in which a reasoned statement of justification and intent is provided for posterity. The sword has become a suicide belt, but the fighter is still a martyr. A famous hadith proclaims that "Paradise lies beneath the shades of swords" (al-Bukhari 4:73). Today, it lies beneath the shades of suicide belts.

Denis MacEoin

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