Friday, March 16, 2012

Birds of a Feather

by Victor Volsky

Is Barack Hussein Obama a Muslim? Even if he were, it would hardly matter. For his policies are apparently animated by an ideology that, even though a polar opposite of militant Islam, is little different from it in terms of objectives and results.

One can understand why so many people believe that Obama might be a Muslim. After all, his first official phone call as U.S. President was to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, signaling the new administration's foreign policy priorities. His first foreign trip was to Egypt. His first major foreign policy initiative proclaimed in his June 2009 Cairo speech was an extended hand to the Muslim world.

And how about his close friendship with Rashid Khalidi, a PLO propagandist and former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat? His rhapsodic observation that the muezzin's call to prayer is the "prettiest" sound in creation? His beyond-ludicrous assertions that America is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world and that from the time of America's founding Muslims have enriched the American legacy? His sonorous proclamation in the Cairo speech that "Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance"? His frequent deeply reverential references to the "Holy Koran" (has he ever referred to the Bible as "Holy?")? His deep bow to the Saudi King?

Even his famous gaffe that the U.S. comprises 57 states may have been a Freudian slip suggesting that the entity he actually had on his mind was the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which indeed has 57 member-states. Sometimes his seemingly infinite affinity for all things Muslim goes to ridiculous lengths, as when he tasked NASA with a new mission of raising Muslims' self-esteem by pointing out their invaluable historical contribution to aerospace science (did he by any chance mean the magic carpet from the Arabian Nights?).

Add to that Obama's hostility to America's allies in the Middle East -- all those "Westernizing" Mubaraks, Salehs, and Kaddafis -- which is particularly striking compared to his humble, almost ingratiating attitude toward Islamic radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian ayatollahs. Why did he stay studiously aloof during the mass protests in Iran in the summer of 2009 when a mere gesture of moral support could have put a lot of pressure on the mullahs? Aside from Obama's overwhelming desire for negotiations with the Teheran regime in a delusional belief in his own magical powers of persuasion, was it because the protesters openly proclaimed their admiration for America? Under Obama, it is dangerous to be a friend of America; on the other hand, it is pretty safe to be her enemy.

But is such overt and boundless Islamophilia evidence of Islamic affiliation? Not necessarily. There is a more plausible explanation: Barack Obama is simply a far-left radical progressive, a member in good standing of a community whose ideology is not all that different from the Islamist worldview. This makes the two movements allies, as it were. Name just about any policy area, and everywhere the objectives of radical progressives and militant Muslims dovetail so closely as to be virtually indistinguishable.

At the root of such harmony of visions lies their shared visceral hatred for America.

Both Islamists and far-left radicals see the U.S. as the focus of all evil. Both believe that America must get her comeuppance. The Islamists call the U.S. the Great Satan, which is exactly what the radicals would call their country were they religiously inclined. But since they are not, they call America a greedy, imperialist aggressor and vicious oppressor, the paramount enemy of mankind.

Granted, there may be some divergence in the ultimate intentions of the two implacable enemies of America. The radicals want to destroy America so as to rebuild her in their own image, while the Islamists are intent on wiping her off the face of the earth. But that's a distinction without a difference.

How are the vehemently anti-American diatribes spouted by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose fiery sermons Barack Obama had absorbed for 20 years and whom Obama calls his "moral compass," different from the incandescent lava of hatred for all things American spewed forth by Wahhabi preachers during Friday prayers? Is there much difference between the Chicago pastor's furious scream "G-d damn America" and the frenzied Muslim rabble's chant "Death to America"?

Both Islamists and Western leftists view the third-world people as heroic martyrs and victims of American imperialism. Fittingly, many Democrats believe that 9/11 was an inside job. It's not only irrational hatred for George W. Bush that is behind this "theory," but also reluctance to blame the real culprits. Doing so would clash with the progressive view that the third world is pure as the driven snow. Thus, the left is virtually impelled to seek a way to exonerate the actual evildoers. But somebody must be blamed for that heinous act of mass terror. Enter George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Both Islamists and radical leftists demand a redistribution of the world's wealth from the industrial West to the impoverished third world. That underdeveloped countries dream of perpetual welfare is understandable. Lacking education, technical and managerial skills, or work ethic, handouts from the guilt-ridden Western suckers are their lifeline. And seeing how these benefactors cringe with embarrassment at their own riches, the third world has come to believe that tribute is its rightful due. Its attitude is like that of a panhandler: the more the mark is obsessed with guilt at the sight of the beggar's misery, the more impudent the latter turns. Pleading gives way to demands, begging to threats.

And the progressives want nothing more than to oblige. They seek to assuage their guilty consciences and experience a rush induced by the feeling of their moral superiority. They wallow in guilt, a source of acute pleasure because it allows them to separate themselves from the benighted masses, replete as these masses are with prejudices and bigotry, and preen as superior beings.

Islamists hate Christianity, and so do radical progressives, although the former hate a rival religion, while the latter despise religion as such. But progressives pay proper deference to Islam, because they view it as part of the culture of the oppressed (and also for fear of violent retribution, for which the adherents of the "religion of peace" are justly notorious). But the upshot is the same. The progressive left mercilessly ridicules Christianity at home while studiously turning a blind eye to the more vigorous forms of hatred for the Christian infidel, the burnings and killings, rife in Muslim countries.

Another point of agreement between the far left and radical Islam is their shared anti-Semitism and implacable hostility toward Israel. Is it a coincidence that Obama has demanded that Israel return to its 1967 borders, which would place her in a totally untenable position and which is exactly what the Palestinians want? Again, there is a slight divergence of ultimate goals between the two: the Islamists dream of destroying the Small Satan and exterminating all Jews, while the American radicals would be content to see Israel wiped off the map and its inhabitants (what's left of them, anyway) merely dispersed to all four corners of the world. But for practical purposes the Islamists and the radicals are allies, forming two prongs of a pincers squeezing Israel.

Actually, some Muslims are more ambiguous in their attitude toward the Jewish state. For all their bloodcurdling proclamations, the Arab rulers understand full well the utility of Israel as a safety valve for the frustration and anger of their restive populations. At heart, they are actually not so keen on Israel's destruction. As for the far left, it is uncompromising in its disdain for the only democracy and America's sole reliable ally in the Middle East. Which foreign leader is the one Obama hates and despises more than anybody else? Chávez? Assad? Ahmadinejad? No, it's Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu. Enough said.

The American left and the Middle East potentates also see eye to eye on the issue of America's dependence on imported oil. Obama's staunch refusal to develop America's abundant energy resources and the roadblocks he has been throwing in the path of the domestic oil industry are in perfect harmony with the policy objectives of the oil sheiks of Arabia, even though the two allies may be animated by different motives. The Arabs wish to keep America hooked forever on their oil by preventing the U.S. from developing her vast hydrocarbon resources. As for the home-grown radicals, they seek to impose their "green" agenda on their country, however impractical it may be. Different motivations but a happy marriage of tactics and policies, cementing America's dependence on Middle East oil.

Now imagine that an Islamist mole has been planted in the White House. Would he behave any differently from Obama? Maybe he would be more cautious for fear of being found out, but ultimately he would pursue exactly the same kind of policies. So is Obama a Muslim? Maybe he is, and maybe he isn't. But when all is said and done, it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference.

Victor Volsky


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

The Crisis In Syria – What Now?

by Joseph Klein

The United Nations Security Council held another inconclusive Middle East debate on March 12th, focusing largely on the continuing massacres in Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated, along with her counterparts from Russia, France, the United Kingdom and other members of the Security Council.

Clinton called on Russia and China to support a Security Council resolution that placed the blame for the violence squarely on the shoulders of the Assad regime. She insisted that, as between the government and the opposition, Syrian President Assad’s forces must stop the firing first. Elaborating on a central theme of her Security Council speech, she told reporters afterwards:

The monopoly on deadly violence belongs to the Syrian regime, and there needs to be an end to the violence and the bloodshed in order to move into a political process. Now, of course, once the Syrian Government has acted, then we would expect others as well to cease the violence. But there cannot be an expectation for defenseless citizens in the face of artillery assaults to end their capacity to defend themselves before there’s a commitment by the Assad regime to do so… There must be a cessation of violence by the Syrian regime first and foremost. Then we can move toward asking others, who will no longer need to defend themselves because we will be in a political process, to end their own counter-violence.

French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Alain Juppé, agreed, telling reporters that one of his “red lines” in negotiating a new resolution was to make sure that the initiative for a cease fire must first come from the Assad regime. His other “red line” was that the resolution must include a clear reference to a political process that takes account of “the aspirations of the Syrian people to freedom and to democracy.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov agreed that there must be “an immediate end of violence” in Syria. However, he added that armed elements of the opposition in Syria – including elements said to be affiliated with al Qaeda – were also responsible for the violence and should cease their armed attacks in conjunction with the Assad regime. He supported a resolution by the Security Council, but one that did not impose “any prejudged solutions.”

Both Russia and China referred back to the Security Council resolution authorizing international military action in Libya to protect civilians, which they felt was exceeded by NATO in terms of the scope of the NATO bombings and the arming of some rebels in Libya. They had both abstained on the Libyan resolution, and vowed not to permit a repeat situation in Syria.

French Minister Juppé minced no words in criticizing Russia and China for their comparisons with the Libyan situation:

It is rather indecent to try to condemn this intervention and at the same time to block, to veto a resolution in Syria just at the moment when the regime is killing hundreds and hundreds of victims.

The back-and-forth at the UN took place against the backdrop of more killings in the city of Homs as well as in other parts of Syria. The United Nations estimates that 7,500 people have died so far in Syria, since the crackdown on protests began about a year ago. Valerie Amos, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator for Syria, expressed horror at the devastation she witnessed first-hand. “As fighting, shelling, and other violence intensifies in Idlib, Homs and other places in Syria, the risk of a grave humanitarian crisis grows,” she said. “I call on all Member States to continue to ensure that the humanitarian response and negotiations for humanitarian access are clearly separated from political discussions.”

An attempt by the UN-Arab League Special Envoy, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to persuade Assad to initiate an immediate ceasefire failed. Nevertheless, Annan – who once called Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “a man he could do business with” – remains optimistic.

Negotiations are underway behind the scenes for some sort of watered down Security Council resolution, which could end up finessing the timing of cessation of violence by each side, provide general support for the Arab League’s plan for transition towards a more inclusive government chosen by the Syrian people without specifically asking for Assad to step aside, and call for unrestricted access for international humanitarian workers to reach those in need of assistance. For any such resolution to pass, there will have to be a disavowal of any outside military intervention and no reference to the imposition of economic sanctions under UN auspices.

A resolution along these lines could have been passed five weeks ago if the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom had been willing to accept Russia’s trivial amendments to the resolution offered at that time. They refused, leading to the vetoes by Russia and China that Secretary of State Clinton and French Foreign Minister Juppé in particular have so strongly condemned.

If the U.S., France and the United Kingdom continue to insist on explicitly setting forth in the resolution the order in which the violence must stop, much less calling explicitly for Assad to step aside, the only possible resolution at all would be one focused on relieving the immediate humanitarian crisis and generally supporting Kofi Annan’s continued efforts at mediating a ceasefire.

When I asked William Hague MP, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether getting something on the record indicating the Security Council’s condemnation of what is currently occurring in Syria would be better than nothing at all, he responded with characteristic diplomatese:

These of course are the issues we are all considering and tackling now. I think it was very clear over the last few months, that the best plan on the table, the plan on the table, was that of the Arab League and they put forward a very good plan for the political process in Syria. That was one that we’ve been happy to support and continue to support. As you know, we’ve had a difference of view with Russia about that, and that was the real basis of the disagreement on the last Resolution, but we are considering all these issues in negotiations and will continue to do so.

While the UN Security Council has yet to pass even the mildest of resolutions regarding the violence in Syria, at the other end of the spectrum a major Syrian opposition exile group has increased its calls for international military action and arming of the rebels. Senator John McCain is pressing for the imposition of a no-fly zone. The Obama administration has wisely resisted these calls so far. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of the risks and complexities of military intervention, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria earlier this month.

The Obama administration should continue to stay out of this fight, even if, as was the case with Libya, the French, British and Arab League urge armed intervention. Our role should remain strictly humanitarian and diplomatic in nature.

The conventional wisdom is that Iran will be the big loser if Assad is overthrown. That may or may not be true, depending on who takes over. In the meantime, Iran’s full-blown support for the Assad regime is diverting valuable Iranian resources, such as some of its elite Revolutionary Guard forces. Iran is also demonstrating to its Arab neighbors that it is on the wrong of the “Arab Spring” freedom movement, causing a potentially serious rupture with its Hamas allies.

If and when Assad does eventually fall despite all of Iran’s backing, the humiliation that Iran may well suffer in squandered influence will be all the more satisfying. If Assad remains in power for the foreseeable future, Iran will continue to be diverted and will be further isolated, along with its client state, Syria, from the rest of the region. In the meantime, we must not lose sight of the far graver global security threat posed by Iran’s nuclear arms development program.

Joseph Klein


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Academic Integrity Dying on Harvard’s Ivy League Vine

by David Meir-Levi

On this past March 2nd and 3rd, Harvard University hosted the now infamous “One-State Solution” conference, recently analyzed and critiqued by the present writer. The character and content of the conference, described as an anti-Israel hate fest by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, generated considerable controversy, to which the Harvard Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood responded with a limp and lackadaisical cookie-cutter disclaimer:

“Let me emphasize that Harvard University and the Harvard Kennedy School in no way endorse or support the apparent position of the student organizers or any participants. We would never take a position on specific policy solutions to achieving peace in this region, and certainly would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.”

But wait! “…not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel?” How can Dean Ellwood make such a statement? Is he not aware of Harvard’s Middle East Outreach Center?

The center’s stated mission is to promote “a critical understanding of the diversity of the Middle East region;” but its activities and its director display a dogmatic adherence to the polemical, often counter-factual Palestinian version of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its director, Paul Beran, is an activist in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; and its reading list favors anti-Zionist writings of such polemicists as Edward Said and Ilan Pappe. It promotes the anti-Israel propaganda film “Occupation 101,” which features the one-sided and often mendacious rants of well known anti-Israel personalities such as Dr. Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk. Moreover, Center speakers on the Arab‑Israeli conflict have been accused of focusing singularly on a Palestinian perspective while dismissing or ignoring the Israeli position.

Beran promotes the BDS movement when he lectures, and has forged bonds between his outreach center and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an activist group designated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as one of the ten most anti-Israel organizations in the USA.

He has promoted the anti-Semitic lie of Jewish or Israeli control of the American Government, urged Harvard to consider former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz a war criminal, and when speaking to a Presbyterian audience compared Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank to the Roman occupation of Judea at the turn of the millennium, asking his Christian audience: “How would Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem with the now 25-foot high Separation Wall in their way?”

The Center’s activities[i] include educational outreach to local Boston high schools, and one of the texts used by the Center in high school outreach programs is The Arab World Studies Notebook, a seriously outdated text (last revised in 1998) which according to numerous studies[ii] is replete with factual errors and misrepresentations about Middle East history. It “….frequently steps over the line from teaching about (the Muslim) religion to….proselytizing for it,” and it uses polemical, one-sided language and even outright lies (such as falsely accusing Israeli soldiers of murdering Arab women and children in cold blood) to condemn Israel and depict it as a genocidal aggressor state, in order to generate anti-Israel sentiment in its high school audiences.

When challenged about the book’s egregious claim that indigenous North American Algonquins were converted to Islam by Muslim trans-oceanic voyagers to the New World five centuries before Columbus, the authors offered no defense or rebuttal. They quietly removed the passages from the textbook.

Massachusetts education officials were shocked by the Center’s program and by its textbook, and denounced it as an attempt to foist a “manipulative” and “distorted” political agenda on unsuspecting teachers.

And “manipulative and distorted” don’t even begin to describe the Center’s programs on the Israel-Arab conflict. Director Beran’s anti-Israel animus is well documented, as is his wife’s, Hilary Rantisi, a Palestinian-American who serves as director of the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has been active with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a Palestinian Christian Arab group operating in the West Bank that preaches the demonization of Israel to Christian audiences world-wide and compares Israel’s defensive actions against Arab terrorism to Nazi Germany’s oppression and slaughter of Jews.

So it is not terribly surprising that the Center’s curriculum about the Arab-Israel conflict demonstrates extreme anti-Israel bias. Center presentations on this topic dismiss Arab religious antagonism toward Jews as irrelevant, and criticism of Arab terrorism as “unsophisticated.” Explanations about the core dynamics of the conflict consistently ignore Israel’s position and omit reference to Arab-initiated wars and terrorism to which Israel has responded defensively, making it look as though Israel’s military activities arise from aggressive conquest. In short, facts are compromised, misrepresentation predominates, and the curriculum reflects the Center’s commitment to advance an anti-Israel agenda rather than any sort of scholarly evaluation of the conflict.

This year’s sophomore is next year’s Senator. High School and college youth educated into a perception of Israel as a genocidal war-mongering rogue state are not likely to be supportive of Israel when they reach leadership positions as adults, in government, academia, or media. The Outreach Center’s activities create a clear and future danger to the state of Israel. Those same youth, educated into a perception of Israel’s Arab enemies as innocent, peace-loving victims of the Jewish State’s aggression may well be sympathetic to those innocent victims’ desire to eliminate Israel entirely.

So, contrary to Dean Ellwood’s flaccid rejoinder to critics of the “One-State Solution Conference,” not only is Harvard endorsing a “…policy that …could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel;” it has, for more than a decade, been funding and promoting and directing an organization espousing that very policy. The Center operates under Harvard’s aegis and uses Harvard’s name, and its activities support those who earnestly desire the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.


[ii] See, inter alia, and and and and and and and and and

David Meir-Levi writes and lectures on Middle East topics, until recently in the History Department of San Jose State University.


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The Israeli Leftist Diplomats Should Read

by Evelyn Gordon

If there’s one article I’d like every international diplomat to read today, it’s Carlo Strenger’s post on the Haaretz website. Strenger, a professor of psychology, is a lifelong leftist and dedicated advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But unlike many of his fellows, he refuses to shut his eyes to reality. Here’s his comment on the latest violence out of Gaza:

Most commentators assume that neither Hamas nor Israel is interested in further escalation of the hostilities that have been initiated by Islamic Jihad this time, ostensibly to jockey for position vis-à-vis Hamas … [But] Israelis, for very understandable reasons no longer care who is responsible for the violence. All they know is that, in the end, there will always be a Palestinian group that will initiate violence. As a result they say “why should we take the risk of retreating to the 1967 borders? Why should we rely on Palestinians to keep the peace? All we’ll get is rockets on Tel Aviv, Raanana and Kfar Saba. So the world won’t like us for the occupation; we can live with that, but not with rockets on our population centers.”

Strenger’s conclusion is that however sincerely committed to peace Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may be (and he credits Abbas with far more sincerity than most Israelis do), Israel won’t sign any agreement as long as major Palestinian players remain committed to violence: The risk of a pro-violence faction gaining control of the Palestinian state, whether through elections or by force, is too high. And he’s smart enough to realize that the kind of dodges now being mooted by parts of the Israeli left and the international community – like a Palestinian unity government in which Hamas authorizes Abbas to continue negotiating but refuses to recognize Israel itself, or Hamas’s offer of a “long-term truce” rather than full peace – won’t do:

Israelis will not move towards peace as long as Hamas, a central player and crucial part of Palestinian society will not endorse peace explicitly. No amount of playing games will do; nothing less than full recognition of Israel’s right to exist in safety and abolishing the [Hamas] Charter and excising its anti-Semitism as it stands completely; nothing less will do.

Strenger is certainly right as far as he goes, and anyone who supports a two-state solution should take his words to heart.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t go far enough. For as he himself wrote, even when Hamas isn’t interested in escalation, there’s always some “Palestinian group that will initiate violence” instead. And that means reforming Hamas, while necessary, isn’t sufficient: Pro-violence Palestinians will simply migrate to other groups, like Islamic Jihad.

What is needed, therefore, is a change in attitude among the Palestinian public. And that will never happen as long as even the “pro-peace” camp, aka Abbas and the PA, engages in relentless, vicious incitement against Israel: denying historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem; teaching children that pre-1967 Israel was “stolen” from the Palestinians, who will someday get it back; consistently promoting a vision of a world without Israel; and lionizing murderers.

Combatting Palestinian incitement and educating for peace is slow, unglamorous work; international peace conferences are much more exciting. But as Strenger noted, peace isn’t possible as long as “there will always be a Palestinian group that will initiate violence.” And only a fundamental change in Palestinian culture can change that.

Evelyn Gordon


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More U.N. Officials Step Up to Push Anti-Israel Smears and Pro-Hamas Propaganda

by Omri Ceren

UNRWA’s Chris Gunness has personally stepped up to fulfill his organization’s traditional role as a wartime propaganda outlet for Hamas, describing Israel’s self-defense operations as “sick sick sick.” The UN group routinely peddles anti-Israel falsehoods even during relatively quiet periods – e.g. their scapegoating Israel for UNRWA’s terror-promoting schools – but during conflicts their media manipulation becomes particularly shameless.

Now even non-UNRWA UN officials have taken to broadcasting false anti-Israel smears, per new information about a tweet that Alana first covered earlier this week. You’ll remember that Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of an injured Palestinian girl, with a caption asserting that the girl had been hit in an Israeli air strike. The photo spread like wildfire, garnering 300 retweets and becoming the day’s top “#Gaza” tweet.

The entire thing was a fabrication. The photo wasn’t taken this week and the girl wasn’t hurt by Israeli munitions. The picture was actually snapped by Reuters in 2006, and the girl had fallen off a swing. Honest Reporting ran down the original.

Now it turns out Badawi is an official at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), where she works as an Information and Media Coordinator. Again the story is on Honest Reporting, which has helpfully posted OCHA’s contact information in case you feel moved to protest how a UN media coordinator is using new media technology to spread lies.

Compared to Badawi’s hit-and-run resentment, or to the rants about the “big lies of Zionists” that other UNRWA officials are posting as blog comments, Gunness’s open gushing is almost refreshing. Not only is he a sort of happy pro-Hamas warrior, but viewed from a certain angle what he’s doing is admirably consistent with UNRWA’s historical behavior. As opposed to OCHA workers, who are neophytes on the institutionalized anti-Israel propaganda scene.

Omri Ceren


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The Middle East's Tribal DNA

by Philip Carl Salzman

Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2008, pp. 23-33

Conflicts within the Middle East cannot be separated from its peoples' culture. Seventh-century Arab tribal culture influenced Islam and its adherents' attitudes toward non-Muslims. Today, the embodiment of Arab culture and tribalism within Islam impacts everything from family relations, to governance, to conflict. While many diplomats and analysts view the Arab-Israeli dispute and conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim communities through the prism of political grievance, the roots of such conflicts lie as much in culture and Arab tribalism.

Tribalism and Predatory Expansion

Every human society must establish order if it is going to survive and prosper. Arab culture addresses security through "balanced opposition" in which everybody is a member of a nested set of kin groups, ranging from very small to very large. These groups are vested with responsibility for the defense of each member and responsible for harm any member does to outsiders. If there is a confrontation, families face families, lineage faces lineage, clan faces clan, tribe faces tribe, confederacy faces confederacy, sect faces sect, and the Islamic community faces the infidels. Deterrence lies in the balance between opponents. Any potential aggressor knows that his target is not solitary or meager but rather, at least in principle, a formidable formation much the same size as his.

Balanced opposition is a "tribal" form of organization, a tribe being a regional organization of defense based on decentralization and self-help. Tribes operate differently from states, which are centralized, have political hierarchies, and have specialized institutions—such as courts, police, tax collectors, and an army—to maintain social control and defense.

Understanding the influence of tribalism upon the development of both Arab culture and, by extension, Islam, requires acknowledging the basic characteristics and dynamics of Middle Eastern tribalism. Part of any tribesman's job description is to maximize both the number of children and of livestock. There are practical reasons for this: First, children aid in labor. Nomadic pastoralism requires heavy physical work. Workers are needed to conduct many tasks simultaneously. Family members are more committed to common interests than individuals recruited for reciprocity or pay. Large families also enhance political stature. Because technology remains constant across tribal societies in any given area, the factor that determines military strength is how many fighters an individual can muster. The man who can call on five or six adult sons and a similar number of sons-in-law to support him is a force with which to reckon. Cultural values underline this emphasis on progeny. A man is not a man if he cannot produce children, and a woman is not really an adult if she does not become a mother.

Maximizing livestock possession is also important. Livestock generate income of offspring, products, and services. They produce milk and meat. Camels offer hair; sheep supply wool, and goats provide underwool, all of which can be spun into yarn or woven into bags and food covers, and goat hair can also be woven into sheets and used as tent roofs. Camels enable distance travel. Sold at market, they supply money to purchase goods not produced locally, such as firearms, brass household goods, tea, and sugar. Their sale also provides funds to buy agricultural land, peasant villages, and urban villas.[1]

There are also important social reasons to maximize livestock possessions. Upon marriage, the husband's family compensates the wife's kin with livestock. Any man with political aspirations should own animals. Slaughter of sheep or goats enables hospitality for guests.[2] Loan or grant of livestock can establish or reinforce alliances with other families and create useful obligations to be repaid in provision of labor or political support.

Tribal success, though, counted in increasing progeny and livestock, strains pasturage, water, and arable land. To accommodate enlarged populations, it becomes necessary to expand tribal resources through geographical expansion, often at the expense of neighboring populations. Alternatively, some tribes may capture herds and seize pastures and water resources through predatory raiding. Such a strategy often appeals to young tribesmen who see it as a quick way to independence and prominence.[3] Either way, tribesmen are ready to fight. Their tribal structure enhances feelings of unity and normalizes antipathy against outsiders. Challenging neighbors over territory and livestock not only feels natural and justified but is also desirable.

Raiding is the modus operandi of predatory expansion with the capture of livestock the first priority. Attacks on the human population tend to vary according to the cultural distance of the outsiders. Those close are treated with some consideration: Men are allowed to escape, and women are not harmed, nor is housing destroyed. Among Bedouin, women from other Bedouin groups are often left some mulch animals to support their children.[4] But resistance is met by force, and injuries or deaths lead to blood feuds. Tribes can respond to blood feuds with large parties bent on vengeance. Conflict can thus escalate to all-out battle. Losers can escape by retreat, taking their household and livestock with them. This leaves the territory open for occupation by the winners.

The concept of "honor" infuses raiding and predatory expansion. First, fulfillment of obligations according to the dictates of lineage solidarity achieves honor. Second, neutral mediators who resolve conflicts and restore peace among tribesmen win honor. Third, victory in conflicts between lineages in opposition brings honor. Violence against outsiders is a well-worn path for those seeking honor. Success brings honor. Winners gain; losers lose. Trying, short of success, counts for nothing. In Middle Eastern tribal culture, victims are despised, not celebrated.

Nothing is more common in the history of tribes in the Middle East and North Africa than battles between tribes, the displacement of one by another, and the pushing of losing tribes out of their territories. Sometimes, losing tribes became dependents of stronger tribes, allowing them to continue to access territory while, at other times, losing tribes retreated to peasant areas from where they were absorbed into the peasantry, and lost their tribal nature.[5]

While tribal organization facilitates the ability of Middle Easterners first to defend life and property and second to make a living through pastoralism, it also facilitates control over other people and their resources. The principle of alliance, with the closer against the more distant, applies both within and outside the tribe. Just as all members of a small lineage are obliged to unify and support the lineage against another lineage, all members of a tribe are expected to unify and support the tribe when it is in conflict with others. This does not mean that all members of the tribe line up in one gigantic regiment but rather that other members of the tribe see themselves as unified against outsiders and will provide material support if and when necessary. Tribal solidarity and balanced opposition remain powerful means of predatory expansion.[6]

Tribal Influence on the Rise of Islam

It is against this backdrop of tribal interaction that Muhammad's actions should be considered. Prior to Muhammad's ascendancy, the tribes of northern Arabia engaged in raiding and feuding, fighting among themselves for livestock, territory, and honor. Muhammad's genius was to unite the fissiparous, feuding Bedouin tribes into a cohesive polity. Just as he had provided a constitution of rules under which the people of Medina could live together, so he provided a constitution for all Arabs, which had the imprimatur not only of Muhammad but also of God. Submission—the root meaning of the Arabic term islam–to God and His rules, spelled out in the Qur'an, bound into solidarity Arabian tribesmen, who collectively became the umma, the community of believers.

Building on the tribal system, Muhammad framed an inclusive structure within which the tribes had a common, God-given identity as Muslims. This imbued the tribes with a common interest and common project. But unification was only possible by extending the basic tribal principle of balanced opposition. This Muhammad did by opposing the Muslim to the infidel, and the dar al-Islam, the land of Islam and peace, to the dar al-harb, the land of the infidels and conflict. He raised balanced opposition to a higher structural level as the new Muslim tribes unified in the face of the infidel enemy. Bedouin raiding became sanctified as an act of religious duty. With every successful battle against unbelievers, more Bedouin joined the umma. Once united, the Bedouin warriors turned outward, teaching the world the meaning of jihad, which some academics today say means only struggle but which, in the context of early Islamic writing and theological debates, was understood as holy war.

The Arabs, in lightning thrusts, challenged and beat the Byzantines to the north and the Persians to the east, both weakened by continuous wars with one another. These stunning successes were followed rapidly by conquests of Christian and Jewish populations in Egypt, Libya, and the Maghreb, and, in the east, central Asia and the Hindu population of northern India. Not content with these triumphs, Arab armies invaded and subdued much of Christian Spain and Portugal, and all of Sicily. Since the Roman Empire, the world had not seen such power and reach. Almost all fell before the blades of the Muslim armies.

Conquest of vast lands, large populations, and advanced civilizations is a bloody and brutal task. Most accounts of Islamic history glide over the conquests, as if they were friendly takeovers executed to everyone's satisfaction. Boston University anthropologist Charles Lindholm, for example, wrote, "The Muslim message of the equality of all believers struck a cord with the common people of the empires, who, theoretically at least, were liberated from their inferior status by the simple act of conversion. The rise of Islam was both an economic and social revolution, offering new wealth and freedom to the dominions it assimilated under the banner of a universal brotherhood guided by the message of the Prophet of Allah."[7] It may have been the best of all possible worlds, so long as one had not been one of the slain, enslaved, expropriated, suppressed, and degraded.

There are some accounts that address the Islamic conquests more frankly. Andrew Bostom, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University who edited a collection of primary source descriptions of jihad, provides lengthy quotes from major Islamic authorities, ancient and modern, verifying the obligation upon all Muslims to make holy war against infidels.[8]

The Arab and Islamic conquests were not unlike tribal raids against distant, unprotected peoples, but on a much larger scale. One of the main characteristics of the Arab empire was the enslavement of conquered peoples.[9] During conquest, men were commonly slaughtered while women and children were taken in slavery. Muslim invaders spared men who willingly converted but still enslaved their wives and children. In conquered regions, Muslim troops often took children from parents while along the periphery, it was normal to raid for slaves.

Bostom and other scholars provide historical accounts of such jihad.[10] One Greek Christian account describes the Arab invasion of Egypt as "merciless and brutal." Not only did the Muslim invaders slay the commander of the Byzantine troops and his companions, but they also put to the sword all who surrendered including old men, babes, or women.[11] Similar slaughters occurred across Palestine and Cyprus. Muslim troops were particularly brutal toward non-Muslim religious institutions. During the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, many Christian monks were put to death. One Muslim historian estimated that Arab armies destroyed 30,000 churches throughout Egypt, Syria, and other central lands.[12] An Armenian historian reported that, following a rebellion in 703, General Muhammad bin Marwan invaded the province, massacring and enslaving the populace. He wrote a letter to the nobility, giving guarantees of safety in return for surrender. They surrendered, at which point the Arab invaders shut them in churches and burned them alive.[13]

While writers today depict the Muslim civilization in medieval Spain as tolerant, a Grenadan Muslim general from the late thirteenth century wrote that "it is permissible to set fire to the lands of the enemy, his stores of grain, his beasts of burden, if it is not possible for the Muslims to take possession of them." He further advised razing cities and doing everything to ruin non-Muslims.[14] Muslim generals instituted similar practices in Afghanistan and India.

Tribesmen can treat non-members with disdain. Tribal identity coalesces in opposition to the "other." Common Muslim attitudes toward non-Muslims reflect the influence of these tribal values. The historical evidence for the degradation of Christian and Jewish dhimmi [subjugated religious minority] in Muslim lands is overwhelming, both in quantity and near unanimity in substance. Much is documented in Bat Ye'or's Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide.[15] In eleventh-century Al-Andalus, for example, Abu Ishaq, a well-known Arab poet and jurist of the day, expressed outrage at the presence of a Jewish minister in the court of the ruler of Granada. He argued that the Muslim leaders should "[p]ut [the Jews] back where they belong and reduce them to the lowest of the low … Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them." Soon after his call, local residents slaughtered approximately 5,000 Grenadan Jews.[16] Such sentiments were not exceptions limited in time and scope. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat spoke in closely parallel terms to Abu Ishaq's when, on April 25, 1972, he declared, "[The Jews] shall return and be as the Qur'an said of them: ‘condemned to humiliation and misery.' … We shall send them back to their former status."[17]

Arab Muslims frequently subjugated their non-Muslim brethren across the width and breadth of the Muslim world. The Spaniard Badia y Leblich traveled in Morocco at the end of the nineteenth century as a Muslim named Ali Bey and reported the Jews there to be "in the most abject state of slavery."[18] William Shaler, the U.S. consul in Algiers from 1816 to 1828, described the Jews of Algiers to be "a most oppressed people," not even permitted to resist any violence from a Muslim and subject to conscription for hard labor without notice.[19] Contemporaneous chroniclers describe the Jews of Tunis and Benghazi similarly.[20]

Such treatment is rooted in the Muslim belief that Islam was God's word and God's way and any other religion or belief was false. Muslims believe Judaism and Christianity to be superseded by Islam. All non-Muslims were infidels who should be subject to Islam. Jews and Christians were to be allowed to live as inferiors and subordinates, dhimmis, but with obligatory, legally-mandated humiliation; other infidels, such as Hindus and pagans, could choose between conversion to Islam and death although, in practice, many Muslim conquerors preferred to derive economic benefit from their enslavement.

The theological foundation of the Arab empire was the supremacy of Islam and the obligation of each Muslim to advance its domination.[21] The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is thus defined by Islamic doctrine as one of superiority versus inferiority and of endless conflict until the successful conquest of the non-Muslims.

Islam also reflects tribal notions of honor with regard to women. Within the Arab tribal society in which Muhammad was born, women's reproductive capacity was necessary for lineage strength. The ability of the lineage to allocate women where needed most for strategic purposes, whether endogamously to contribute to the number of offspring or exogamously to establish or maintain an alliance, required obedience. The close attention of community members to the sexual behavior of women reflects not only a concern for fulfilling community norms but also a keen self-interest in rank competition and the way different groups may rise or fall.

But have Muslims carried down views expressed in the fourteenth century C.E. to the present day? Here anthropologists contribute to the discussion. E. E. Evans-Pritchard, later professor of social anthropology at Oxford University, had close contact with the Bedouin of Libya during World War II. In his studies of eastern Libya encapsulated in The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, he observed that the Bedouin saw it as their special religious responsibility to carry out holy war, jihad, leaving others to pray and study the Qur'an.[22] When the Italians invaded Libya early in the twentieth century, the Bedouin of Cyrenaica were unwilling to accept Italians as rulers under any terms, no matter how generous. Although the Bedouin were heavily outgunned, they chose to fight for decades until they were virtually exterminated.

From a political point of view, Islam raised tribal society to a higher, more inclusive level of integration. But it was not able to replace the central principle of tribal political organization. Framing Muslims in opposition to the infidel preserved the balanced opposition. As with tribal lineage, affiliation and loyalty became defined by opposition.

The basic tribal framework of "us versus them" remains in Islam. The conception "my group, right or wrong" does not exist because the question of right or wrong never comes up. Allegiance is to "my group," period, full stop, always defined against "the other." An overarching, universalistic, inclusive constitution is not possible. Islam is not a constant referent but rather, like every level of tribal political organization, is contingent. People act politically as Muslims only when in opposition to infidels. Among Muslims, people will mobilize on a sectarian basis, as Sunni versus Shi‘a. Among Sunni, people will mobilize as the Karim tribe versus the Mahmud tribe; within the Karim tribe, people will mobilize according to whom they find themselves in opposition to: tribal section versus tribal section; lineage versus lineage, and so on.

The structural fissiparousness of the tribal order makes societal cohesion difficult. Affiliation places people and groups in opposition to one another. There is no universal reference that can include all parties. Oppositionalism then becomes the cultural imperative. While the tribal system based on balanced opposition effectively supports decentralized nomads, it inhibits societal integration and precludes civil peace based on settlement of disputes through legal judgment at the local level.

Islam's Bloody Borders

What does this mean today? The tribal notion of balanced opposition has profound implications on modern conflict. The Arab-Israeli debate is polarized and almost every "fact" contested by the other side. Too often, though, Western academics, journalists, and policymakers focus on the debate without reference to how Arab culture shapes and impacts the conflict.

Any outside observer without any prior knowledge of the Arab-Israeli conflict would find the unrelenting rejection by Arabs of Israel to be confusing. It would be difficult to fathom why Arabs who currently struggle to get along with one another would not look with enthusiasm to neighbors who could and would assist them in bettering their circumstances. The Arab situation, compared to Israel's, is bleak. In all spheres of life except for religion, Arab society and culture has declined in importance and influence. In global competition with other societies and cultures, Arabs have for centuries been losers. Israel, on the other hand, is a parliamentary democracy with established civil liberties. It is perhaps the most multiracial and multicultural state in the world, gathering as it has Jews from all corners of the world. It has also accepted and, albeit imperfectly, incorporated a substantial population of Arab Bedouin and Palestinian Arabs, both Muslim and Christian. Israeli science and technology makes major contributions to medicine and high technology. IBM and Intel each have three research and development centers in Israel while Microsoft and Cisco Systems have built their only non-U.S. facilities there. Motorola has its largest research and development site in Israel. Israelis are close cousins of the Arabs. Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic languages. And, even religiously, Jews are a fellow "people of the book."

Rather than accept any Israeli contribution—even Arab countries at peace with Israel refuse, for example, to accept disaster relief from the Jewish state—the Arab rejection of Israel is close to absolute. Four factors contribute to Arab rejectionism: (1) conflicting material interests, (2) use of Israel as an external enemy by Arab leaders to diffuse internal discontent, (3) Arab organizational principles based on opposition, and (4) the challenged honor of the Arabs. These last two factors are perhaps the most important. Not by coincidence, they derive from Arab tribal culture and are now incorporated as general principles in Arab cultures.

Conflicts in material interest—such as over land and water—are important, but they are common whenever people live together. Seldom do they become intractable. Arab rulers' diversion of internal discontent outward toward Israel is also important. But it is the balanced opposition drawn from tribalism that impacts enmity more. The Arab saying, "Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the world," holds true. Take for example the situation of Libya in the years prior to World War I: Prior to the Italian invasion of Libya in 1911, Arab Bedouin there fought Turkish overlords. But, rather than stay neutral or join the Italians, the Bedouin instead sided with their co-religionists against the Italians. For much the same reason, Arabs will unite in enmity to any non-Arab, let alone non-Muslim. In the conflict with Israel, the most basic Arab social principle is solidarity with the closer in opposition to the distant. "Right" and "wrong" are correlated with "my group" (always right) and "the other group" (always wrong). The underlying morality is that one must strive always to advantage one's own group and to disadvantage the other group.

For Arab Muslims confronting Jews, the opposition is between the dar al-Islam, the land of Islam, and the dar al-harb, the land of the infidels. The Muslim is obliged to advance God's true way, Islam, in the face of the ignominy of the Jew's false religion. Islamic doctrine holds that all non-Muslims, whether Christian or Jewish dhimmi or infidel pagans, must be subordinate to Muslims. Jews under Qur'anic doctrine are inferior by virtue of their false religion and must not be allowed to be equal to Muslims. For Muslim Arabs, the conceit of Jews establishing their own state, Israel, and on territory conquered by Muslims and, since Muhammad, under Muslim control is outrageous and intolerable. As Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University and an expert on Arab politics explains, "Underneath the modern cover there remained the older realities of sects, ethnicity, and the call of the clans."[23] There is no way, in this structure, to reach beyond the Arab versus Israeli and Muslim versus Jew opposition to establish a common interest, short of an unimagined attack on both Arabs and Israelis by some group more distant. In this oppositional framework, it is impossible to seek or see common interests or common possibilities. Israel will always be the distant "other" to be disadvantaged and, if possible, conquered.

A corollary principle, also with roots in Arab tribalism, is honor. Arab honor consists of the warrior's success in confrontations against outsiders. Only the victorious have honor. The more vanquished are the defeated, the greater is the victor's honor. As Ajami observes, in the Arab world, "triumph rarely comes with mercy or moderation."[24] Arabs are taught, and many have taken to heart, that honor is more important than wealth, fame, love, or even death. Imbued with such a sense, today's Arab finds himself in an untenable situation: Juxtaposing their recent history to the years of glory under Muhammad, Arabs can see only defeat visited upon defeat. First there was the breakdown of Arab solidarity and fighting among the Arabs themselves, then the Turkish Ottomans conquered the region. The decline and fall of the Ottomans led to conquest and occupation of almost all Arab lands by the Christians of Europe. Even their successful anti-colonial struggles turned into empty victories with Arab populations subject to power-hungry rulers, sadistic despots, or religious fanatics.

What honor can be found in defeat and oppression? And what self-respect can Arabs find without honor? In a world of defeat and failure, honor can be found only in resistance. Arab self-respect demands honor be vindicated through standing and fighting, no matter what the cost. In a 2006 interview, Pierre Heumann, a journalist with the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, asked Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh whether enmity toward Israel is motivated by self-esteem. Sheikh explained, "Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab."[25] Lebanese poet Khalil Hawi echoes a similar theme in his 1979 volume Wounded Thunder in which he laments the failure of the Arabs to defeat Israel. "How heavy is the shame," Hawi asks. "Do I bear it alone?"[26]

These four factors—the defense of honor, segmentary opposition, transference of discontent outward, and conflicting material interests—militate in favor of alienation between the Arabs and Israel and the tenacious rejectionism of the Arabs. The two cultural factors—honor and opposition—are influences deeply embedded in Arab character. What appears to be reasonable to Westerners will not appear reasonable to Arabs. Such is the power of culture.

The conflict between Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Jews, is not the only major conflict between Muslims and others. On the contrary, military contests along the borders of lands dominated by Muslims are pervasive. Samuel Huntington, a Harvard political scientist, observed, "The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts … have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims. While at the macro or global level of world politics, the primary clash of civilizations is between the West and the rest, at the micro or local level it is between Islam and the others."[27] Among the conflicts enumerated by Huntington are the Bosnians versus the Serbs, the Turks versus the Greeks, Turks versus Armenians, Azerbaijanis versus Armenians, Tatars versus Russians, Afghans and Tajiks versus Russians, Uighurs versus Han Chinese, Pakistanis versus Indians, Sudanese Arabs versus southern Sudanese Christians and animists, and northern Muslim Nigerians versus southern Christian Nigerians.

Indeed, everywhere along the perimeter of the Muslim-ruled bloc, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. Muslims may only comprise one-fifth of the world's population, but in this decade and the last, they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization.


Muslim Middle Eastern countries, from Morocco to Iran, are dictatorships. None are ranked free, and some, such as Egypt, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, are ranked not free, the lowest category.[28] The propensity of Arab states and Iran to dictatorship also has roots in tribal culture. There is an inherent conflict between peasants and nomads. Peasants are sedentary, tied to their land, water, and crops while tribesmen are nomadic, moving around remote regions. Peasants tend to be densely concentrated in water-rich areas around rivers or irrigation systems while pastoral tribesmen, in contrast, are spread thinly across plains, deserts, and mountains.

To state leaders, cultivators are vulnerable and rewarding targets who cannot escape without sacrificing their means of making a living. In comparison to peasant cultivators, pastoral nomads are much less vulnerable than cultivators to state importunity. Both their main capital resource, livestock, and their household shelter are mobile. While farming follows a rigid schedule of planting and exploitation, nomadism requires constant decisions and initiative, which instill willfulness and independence. Mobility and guerilla prowess make tribesmen less vulnerable than peasants to state control.

States struggle to impose effective control over the nomads. State authorities do not, however, always take a modest, compromising attitude in dealing with tribes. The Ottomans tended to be a bit more stringent in their own heartland. If tribes in Anatolia were deemed to be too independent, the government responded rigorously. Ottoman authorities forcibly settled unruly tribes and, in the 1920s and 1930s, Reza Shah subjected and forcibly settled in villages Iran's nomadic tribes—the Qashqai and Basseri of the southwest, the Lurs of the west, the Kurds of the northwest, the Turkmen of the northeast, and the Baluch of the southeast.[29] When occupying British officials deposed Reza Shah in 1941, many of the tribesmen reverted to nomadism.

In order for states to retain control over and exploit the production of their subjects, they must transform tribesmen into peasants. Governments cannot extract taxes and recruit soldiers from tribesmen, but they can do so from sedentary populations. Peasants are socially fragmented because the state has monopolized responsibility for collective action. Fast forward to the modern day. This tribal dynamic leads to dictatorship. Dictatorship occurs in one of two ways: In some societies, political leaders must use repression to stymie the centrifugal force inherent in tribalism. In countries, though, such as Libya or some Persian Gulf emirates, tribes are encapsulated in the national government. Tribal leadership morphs into the governing structure. Tribal notables become regional if not national elites. Either way, a rigid governing structure takes root.


What part does tribal organization and culture play in contemporary Middle Eastern life? Is it possible to say that tribes in the Middle East are primarily of historical interest with little influence in modern Middle Eastern societies, at least outside the state? After all, in the Middle East, there are established state organizations with governments, bureaucracies, police, courts, armies, and political parties. If Middle Eastern states are developed countries with modern institutions, then it might be easy to assume that the influence of tribes and tribal life and culture is minimal or nonexistent. It would then follow that the argument that Middle Eastern culture is imbued with tribal culture and organization and that balanced opposition underlies many aspects of contemporary Middle Eastern life must be heavily discounted or rejected altogether. Middle Eastern societies are not "modern," however, in the sense that European and American societies are. The tribal spirit holds sway. Its influence upon Islam permeates even the most cosmopolitan Arab states even if the tribal influences enshrined in the religion espoused or revealed by Muhammad are, almost fourteen centuries later, forgotten. Indeed, had Islam, whatever its many dimensions and complexities, not incorporated the balanced opposition structure of the tribal society that it sought to overlay, it is doubtful whether it could have been as accepted and successful as it was.

[1] Fredrick Barth, Nomads of South Persia (Oslo: Oslo University Press, 1961), pp. 98, 104-11.
[2] William Lancaster, The Rwala Bedouin Today (Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland, 1997).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Louise Sweet, "Camel Raiding of North Arabian Bedouin: A Mechanism of Ecological Adaption," American Anthropologist, 67 (1965): 1132-50; William Irons, "Livestock Raiding among Pastoralists: An Adaptive Interpretation," Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, 50 (1965): 393-414; Lancaster, The Rwala Bedouin Today, p. 141.
[5] E.E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1949); Emrys L. Peters, The Bedouin of Cyrenaica: Studies in Personal and Corporate Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
[6] Marshall Sahlins, "The Segmentary Lineage: An Organization of Predatory Expansion," American Anthropologist, 63 (1961): 322-43.
[7] See, for example, Charles Lindholm, The Islamic Middle East, rev. ed. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002), p. 79.
[8] "Part 3: Muslim Theologians and Jurists on Jihad: Classical Writings," in Andrew Bostom, ed., The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2005), pp. 141-248.
[9] Andrew Bostom, "Part 2: Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude—A Survey," in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 86-93.
[10] "Part 6: Jihad in the Near East, Europe, and Asia Minor and on the Indian Subcontinent," pp. 383-528, "Part 7: Jihad Slavery," pp. 529-88, "Part 8: Muslim and Non-Muslim Chronicles and Eyewitness Accounts of Jihad Campaigns," pp. 589-674, in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad; P.M. Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, and Bernard Lewis, eds. The Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970); David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).
[11] Demetrios Constantelos, "Greek Christian and Other Accounts of the Muslim Conquests of the Near East," in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, p. 390.
[12] Ibid., p. 393.
[13] Aram Ter-Ghevondian, "The Armenian Rebellion of 703 against the Caliphate," in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, p. 412.
[14] C.E. Dufourcq, "The Days of Razzia and Invasion," in Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, pp. 419-20.
[15] Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002.
[16] David G. Littman and Bat Ye'or, "Protected Peoples under Islam," in Robert Spencer, ed., The Myth of Islamic Tolerance (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2005), p. 93.
[17] The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 24, 1995.
[18] Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, quoted in Littman and Ye'or, "Protected Peoples under Islam," p. 99.
[19] An 1826 report by Shaler, quoted in Littman and Ye'or, "Protected Peoples under Islam," p. 101.
[20] Littman and Ye'or, "Protected Peoples under Islam," p. 102.
[21] Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), pp. 40-1.
[22] Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, p. 63.
[23] Fouad Ajami, The Dream Palace of the Arabs (New York: Vintage, 1999), p. 155.
[24] Ibid., p. 134.
[25] Pierre Heumann, "An Interview with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh," World Politics Review, Dec. 7, 2006.
[26] Ajami, The Dream Palace of the Arabs, p. 97.
[27] Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1996), pp. 254-8.
[28] "2007 Subscores," Freedom in the World (Washington, D.C.: Freedom House, 2007), accessed Sept. 28, 2007.
[29] Hassan Arfa, Under Five Shahs (London: John Murray, 1965), p. 253-7.

Philip Carl Salzman is the author of Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2007), on which this excerpt is based.


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

Under Oath, Alamoudi Ties MAS To Brotherhood

by IPT News

The Muslim American Society (MAS) was created as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, and continues to serve that function today, a man who once was one of the most influential Muslim political leaders testified in a Virginia courtroom Wednesday.

"Everyone knows that MAS is the Muslim Brotherhood," Abdurrahman Alamoudi told federal investigators in a January interview from a federal correctional facility. On the witness stand, Alamoudi claimed not to remember everything he said, but accepted that he had made the statement after government lawyers showed him records of the interview.

Alamoudi promised "to testify truthfully and completely at any grand juries, trials or other proceedings in the United States" as part of a 2004 guilty plea. He admitted engaging in illegal transactions with Libya and facilitating a Libyan plot to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

His testimony Wednesday came as part of a civil suit brought by Jamal Abusamhadaneh against the government demanding he be naturalized as an American citizen. His application was denied after officials learned he lied about being associated with the Muslim American Society, failing to disclose the association on his naturalization application. In a subsequent interview, an immigration official further pressed him to reveal his connection to MAS or the Brotherhood, but he repeatedly denied ties to each.

Alamoudi, who had signed a work visa for Abusamhadaneh, was the original source for information about the plaintiff's Brotherhood ties. Abusamhadaneh claims he was following the advice of his attorney at the time, Ashraf Nubani, who told him affiliations with religious organizations do not need to be disclosed to the government. He also says he never was a dues paying MAS member, although he acknowledges attending many of the organization's events.

Nubani testified that neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor MAS were political organizations, so he didn't think his client had any reason to disclose such ties, were they to exist. Rather, he claimed that both organizations were simply non-violent religious organizations that believed "Islam should not be confined to one aspect of life" and "in Islam church and state aren't separate."

Alamoudi at times appeared reluctant to answer questions during his testimony, despite his cooperation pledge. Last summer, a judge reduced his 23-year prison sentence by six years, apparently due to cooperation Alamoudi previously provided. Court papers related to that sentencing reduction remain under seal.

He nodded and waved at members of the Muslim community in the courtroom gallery who were supporting Abusamhadaneh. As he left the courtroom, he called out "As-Salaam Aleikum," or "Peace be unto you." Some in the gallery responded, "Wa-Alaikum-Salaam," or "Wa-Alaikum-Salaam."

His disclosure about MAS is not new. Some MAS officials admitted as much in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article. And prosecutors wrote in 2008 that "MAS was founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America."

In the Hamas-support prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, investigators found a telephone book listing the names and numbers of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in the United States. "Members of the Board of Directors" appeared on the first page with 15 names. Among those names are Ahmad Elkadi, Jamal Badawi, and Omar Soubani: MAS's founding incorporators.

But Alamoudi's testimony is significant because he acknowledges being part of the Brotherhood and was active when MAS was formed in 1993. In addition, MAS officials have claimed that they may have had roots in the Brotherhood, but those dissipated over time.

It is believed to be his first courtroom testimony since promising to cooperate, although he was brought to Tampa in 2005 during the prosecution of Palestinian Islamic Jihad board member Sami Al-Arian. Alamoudi was not called during the case.

He apparently told prosecutors that Al-Arian's prominent role in Islamic Jihad was common knowledge in Islamist circles.

Alamoudi led the American Muslim Council and enjoyed political clout that led him to be courted by Democrats and Republicans in Washington, including the White House. But his support for jihad was on public display in 2000. During a rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, he defiantly expressed his support for Hamas and Hizballah.

Four years earlier, he told a conference that Arabs in the United States should not pray for Allah to destroy the country. Rather, they needed to be less confrontational. "There is nowhere for Muslims to be violent in America, no where at all. We have other means to do it. You can be violent anywhere else but in America."

IPT News


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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sovereignty and Suzerainty in The Israel-U.S. Relationship

by Herbert I. London

The recent Obama-Netanyahu conclave has evoked much media speculation: Will Israel act unilaterally to attack Iran's nuclear facilities? Does the Obama administration really have Israel's back as the president indicated? And where is that "red line," the point at which an attack must occur to prevent an Iran with "secure" nuclear weapons? Despite all the diplomatic bonhomie and announcements of solidarity, questions with uncomfortable implications remain.

U.S. officials made it clear that President Obama will not go beyond the broad policy enunciated in the past: that the United States is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy and sanctions and, as a last resort, force. Here too equivocation prevails. Secretary of Defense Panetta has indicated a reluctance to apply military force in this matter, and questioned the effectiveness of an Israeli strike, a position adopted by others in the administration.

By contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated unequivocally that his primary responsibility as Israel's political leader is to ensure that this Jewish state survives and remains the master of its own fate. But the U.S. holds many high cards in this poker hand. Several officials already suggested that should an unauthorized attack occur, the U.S. would not replenish the ordnance and advanced military technology Israel needs to maintain its superior military position in the Middle East.

These strains in the relationship may not seem apparent at the moment, but the difference in perspective will emerge on the political front in the next few months, if not sooner.

Even the U.N. – notably hostile to Israel – voiced concern that Tehran "might" be developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently restated its concern that Tehran has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be weaponized.

The threat and the ominous effects of an air attack against Iran, however, is the pull and tug of sovereignty versus suzerainty. Is Israel an independent nation free of American influence? Does the president of the U.S. have a veto over Israeli military actions? Or is Israel free of outside influences, a state enjoined by what it believes to be its self interest?

At the moment, both sides hedge. Israel wants U.S. support, but if it launches an attack the Prime Minister will provide only 24 hours of prior notice. The Obama administration seemingly fears an Israeli assault, particularly the blowback from across the Arab world, but it is obvious that the United States cannot prevent this decision from being made. This is not a test of wills, but rather a test of interests and strategic perspective.

On at least one matter, there appears to be consensus: containment, of the kind that seemingly worked during the Cold War, is not applicable in this scenario, albeit that may be the United States' default position. But it is clear, even to the bureaucrats in Foggy Bottom, that an Iranian nuclear weapon has political as well as military consequences. U.S. interests across the Middle East would be imperiled by the Persian bomb. Moreover, it is also clear that a "Japanese solution," in which Iran has enough fissionable material to produce several bombs and ICBM's to deliver them but doesn't bring the two together, is not acceptable. Presumably, with the right applications, the ICBM's could be weaponized in relatively short order -- and every nation in the Middle East will find out what is in that Iranian tent.

Clearly it is better to see Israel and the U.S. move closer on this strategic issue than they were previously, but there is a nagging feeling that President Obama will say whatever is necessary to forge ties to Jewish wealth and the Jewish Democratic voting bloc. Does he mean what he says? Based on past public commentary, the jury is skeptically out. The next months, however, could shape the future of global affairs for decades.

Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Books).


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How to Get Elected in the Palestinian Territories

by Ibrahim Sayyed

In our Palestinian culture, it is much more important if one "graduates" from an Israeli prison than from the most prestigious university in the world.

It is not clear at this stage when and if new presidential and parliamentary elections will ever be held in the Palestinian territories: The two major Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, have yet to end their power struggle and agree on the formation of a Palestinian unity government that would pave the way for long overdue elections.

But if anyone is hoping that the elections will see the rise of moderate and charismatic leaders to power, then he is living in an illusion. In our Palestinian culture, it is more important if one "graduates" from an Israeli prison than from the most prestigious university in the world.

In our society, people like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad do not get many votes because they did not spend time in an Israeli prison. Fayyad's chances of winning would be higher if he had killed a Jew or sent his son to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel.

The number of years one spends in Israeli prison can even be a major factor in getting a job or a military rank in the Palestinian Authority. Many of the Palestinian "colonels" and "generals" earned their ranks not by attending military academies, but by spending years in Israeli prison for their involvement in violence.

PLO Chirman Yasser Arafat would choose his security chiefs and top aide according to the number of years they had spent in prison or the number of Israelis they had killed. "You spent 20 years in prison? Then you get the rank of colonel!" Arafat would say. "You carried out an attack in which three Jews were killed? You are a general!"

Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan, the two former security chiefs who served under Arafat, were appointed thanks to their having spent time in Israeli prison, not because of their qualifications, and the reason some Palestinians have begun talking about jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti -- who is serving five life sentences for his role in shooting attacks that killed a number of Israelis during the Second Intifada -- as the leading candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas.

Marwan Barghouti is therefore widely respected by Palestinians because of his role in the "Revolution."

A man like Fayyad, who studied in Texas and did not spend one day in an Israeli prison, stands no chance at the ballot box against people like Barghouti -- the by-product of what happens when the Palestinian Authority leadership praises prisoners and terrorists as heroes.

The Palestinian prisoners who were released in the Gilad Schalit prisoner agreement last October have already been offered thousands of dollars as well as apartments by both Palestinian governments: the one in the West Bank and the one in the Gaza Strip.

And it should not come as a surprise if some of these ex-prisoners, many of whom have Jewish blood on their hands, will be enthusiastically elected in the next round of Palestinian elections.

The Palestinians have raised an entire generation of glorification of suicide bombers and terrorists -- the direct result of decades of incitement and indoctrination, to which Palestinians are exposed at a very early age.

Under such circumstances, is it even a good idea at all to hold new elections in the Palestinian territories?

Ibrahim Sayyed


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Saudi Grand Mufti Calls for "Destruction of All Churches in Region"

by Raymond Ibrahim

According to several Arabic news sources, last Monday, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."

The Grand Mufti made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait: a Kuwaiti parliament member recently called for the "removal" of churches (he later "clarified" by saying he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait), and the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia's position on churches.

Accordingly, the Grand Mufti "stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it."

As with many grand muftis before him, the Sheikh based his proclamation on the famous tradition, or hadith, wherein the prophet of Islam declared on his deathbed that "There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula," which has always been interpreted to mean that only Islam can be practiced in the region.

While the facts of this account speak for themselves, consider further:

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah is not just some random Muslim hating on churches. He is the Grand Mufti of the nation that brought Islam to the world. Moreover, he is the President of the Supreme Council of Ulema [Islamic scholars] and Chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas. Accordingly, when it comes to what Islam teaches, his words are immensely authoritative.

Considering the hysteria that besets the West whenever non-authoritative individuals offend Islam—for instance, a fringe, unknown pastor—imagine what would happen if a Christian counterpart to the Grand Mufti, say the Pope, were to declare that all mosques in Italy must be destroyed; imagine the nonstop Western media frenzy that would erupt, all the shrill screams of "intolerance" and "bigot," demands for apologies if not resignation, nonstop handwringing by sensitive politicians, and worse.

Yet the Grand Mufti—the highest Islamic law authority of our "friend-and-ally" Saudi Arabia—gets a free pass when he incites Muslims to destroy churches, not that any extra incitement is needed (nary a month goes by without several churches being bombed and destroyed throughout the Islamic world). In fact, at the time of this writing, I have not seen this story, already some three days old, translated on any English news source, though "newsworthy" stories are often translated in mere hours.

Likewise, consider the significance of the Grand Mufti's rationale for destroying churches: it is simply based on a hadith. But when non-Muslims evoke hadiths—this one or the countless others that incite violence and intolerance against the "infidel"—they are accused of being "Islamophobes," of intentionally slandering and misrepresenting Islam, of being obstacles on the road to "dialogue," and so forth.

Which leads to perhaps the most important point: Islam's teachings are so easily ascertained; there is no mystery in determining what is "right" and "wrong" in Islam. The Grand Mufti based his fatwa on a canonical hadith, which Muslims and (informed) non-Muslims know is part of Islam's sources of jurisprudence (or usul al-fiqh). And yet the West—with all its institutions of higher learning, including governmental agencies dealing with cultural and religious questions—is still thoroughly "confused" as to what Islam teaches.

All of this is nothing short of a scandal—a reminder of just how deep the mainstream media, academia, and most politicians have their collective heads thrust in the sand.

Meanwhile, here is the latest piece of evidence of just how bad churches have it in the Muslim world, for those who care to know.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Source: Jihad Watch;

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