Friday, April 26, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: The Cultural Crisis in the Arab and Islamic World

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

Anyone in the world who takes any interest in the news, whether from newspapers or the electronic media, can immediately discern the difference between what is happening in Europe and the United States versus what is happening in the Arab and Islamic world. In the Western countries, the news usually deals with the economic crisis, visiting leaders, natural disasters, traffic accidents, and criminal acts such as murder, burglary and violence. The perpetrators are usually people acting alone who commit the crimes out of criminal or personal motives, or inadvertently. Therefore, when a terror attack such as that which happened in Boston occurs, the Western media all become alarmed, and ask "why". Why, when three people are killed and about one hundred seventy are wounded in a terror attack, does the event dominate all the media for many days, while larger disasters - for example a bus falling over a cliff resulting in the death of tens of children - get much less coverage?

The answer is simple: When the incident in question is a "home-made" disaster, stemming from the Western way of life - for instance, traffic accidents, murder in a romantic framework or the death of Western soldiers in foreign countries - the media and the public ultimately accept that the disaster is difficult to prevent and is part of life, and return to the normal routine. On the other hand, a terror attack carried out by a Muslim immigrant is perceived in a totally different way: it is seen as a war waged by a foreign culture against the Western culture. Even if many people do not admit it, the sense in the United States after the attack in Boston is that "a foreign, alien culture is waging against us, using people who immigrated to our country, live among us, look like us, and sound like us but are actually totally different from us: they are Muslims". This perception turns all of the media's attention to the battlefield - the streets of Boston and its suburbs in the most recent case - so that we will be sure that the battle ends with the good guys winning and the bad guys losing. It is actually a war between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, us and them, our culture versus their culture and à la guerre comme à la guerre, as in war, we must win at any price, even if it costs a fortune and means confining the residents of Boston in their houses for a whole day, which normally would be totally unacceptable in the United States, the land of freedom. That's how it is in the West.

In the Arab world and in a not insignificant portion of the Islamic world, the news is something totally different. The routine coverage during the past two years is of civil wars that cause tens of thousands of fatalities, a ruler massacring his citizens, mass murder resulting from clashes between tribal, ethnic, religious or sectarian groups, massive terror attacks, millions of demoralized  and impoverished refugees, a severe economic crisis and political and economic corruption. Here, three fatalities and hundreds of wounded is the usual bloody toll occurring every few minutes and has become routine, almost "not news". When you compare the news in the West with the news in the Arab world you get the impression that you're dealing with two different planets, two civilizations that are polar opposites from each other: one specializing in development of life and prosperity, and the other dealing with the creation of death, suffering, blood and tears. Here too, the question arises: why is there such a great difference between the Western countries and the Arab world; what causes the Arab world and the Islamic part of the world to be a source of violence, mass murder and almost incessant suffering for whole populations.

Because of the constant crisis prevailing in the Arab world, many intellectuals are critical, especially those who have studied or lived in the West and know that it is possible to live otherwise. Each one of them places blame on a specific component of the Eastern culture - the belief in the life after death, submission to a cruel ruler, nullification of the individual versus group interests, condoning of violence and accepting it as legitimate. Arab intellectuals publish severe criticism about what is happening in their societies and about the attribute of their society that causes, in their opinion, the misfortunes that the Arab world suffers from. These days, the Internet serves as the marketplace where everyone can publish his thoughts.

Dr. Basil Hussein, an Iraqi who apparently lives in Northern Iraq, writes on the 10th of April this year in an article entitled "Indeed, we are a People of Blood":
"Go to the mosques, to the Shi'ite centers and to the monasteries, listen to the words of the speakers on the podiums, people who act as if G-d doesn't draw them near to him except with letters of blood, with words of blood, with expressions of blood, with prayers of blood. Their cries, their howls, their curses - all is blood and only blood. Some of their beards are colored with blood, with rivers of blood, instead of musk and amber."
About the disunity and sectarianism in the Arab world Dr. Basil Hussein writes:
"When I watch television, I see that the most common words are 'This one is Sunni and that one is Shi'ite", "this one is a Kurd and that one is an Arab', 'This one is Muslim and that one is Christian', 'this one is Druze and that one is Berber', 'This one is a Copt and that one is Nubian' (an African people that lives in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, M.K.) , 'this one has citizenship and that one does not', 'this on is a city dweller and that one is a Bedouin', 'this one is an infidel and that one is something else', 'this one is white and that one is black',"

Dr. Basil Hussein explains why the Arab world has become an ocean of blood in another article, that was published on the 20th of February this year entitled "A Society of Hatred":
"It is difficult to deny the fact that the level of hatred is increasing among Arab societies. Moreover, we have an industry that has turned hatred into an art. I was amazed, and it could be that many intelligent people were shocked together with me,  at the level of hatred, resentment and hostility which exists in the political, religious and cultural arenas and at all levels, so much so that moderation has become a fault, the voice of wisdom has become treason, excessive hatred has become a good thing and it has become desirable to trade in it."
Tarek Heggy, an Egyptian intellectual, wrote a penetrating article a number of years ago entitled " The Arab Mentality":
"In the process of the ten last years I have written many books and articles on the flaws of the Arab mentality, all of which are cultural flaws, which is to say, flaws that are acquired, from three main sources, which are: a general atmosphere of tyranny, a backward educational system and media that were created in the general atmosphere of tyranny to serve the goals of the tyrant. Some of the obvious flaws of the modern Arab mentality are:
  •     Limited tolerance of differing ideologies
  •     Low acceptance of ideological pluralism
  •     Limited acceptance of the "other"
  •     Inability to accept criticism, and it is rare that anyone engages in self-criticism
  •     Opinions that stem from a tribal or religious basis instead of from various ideologies
  •     A deep-seated feeling of inequality compared to others in achievements or in productivity, which is expressed in a feeling of strong and exaggerated honor. But this (exaggerated honor) is just respect based on words, rather than respect based on achievements.
  •     We are given to exaggerate in bragging about ourselves; we give to the heritage of the past greater weight than it actually had.
  •     We often exaggerate in speech in an effort to cover up for the outrageous lack of practical achievements. Sometimes this culture causes a situation where a person's words are more important than his deeds.
  •     We are inflicted with a limited ability to relate objectively and a tendency to personalize.
  •     An unhealthy nostalgia stirs within us for the past and a desire to return to it.
  •     The culture of compromise is unknown among us, there is no respect for it because we feel that compromise is a kind of defeat and loss.
  •     We believe in not relating to women with respect
  •     We are prisoners of mental patterns and stereotypes
  •     It is extremely common among us to believe that behind everything there is a plot and that the Arabs are always the victims of these plots of others.
  •     We do not understand the nature and essence of national identity - are we Arabs or Muslims, Asians, Africans or members of a Mediterranean culture?
  •     There is often a connection between the citizen and the ruler, based on exaggeration and imbuing the leader with a quality of holiness outwardly, with a general tendency to glorify people.
  •     There are many people who know very little of the world, its trends and the true balance of power.
  •     We have a limited ability to value the individual, and so the connections between us are, for the most part, connections of tribe, family, customs or nationality. Humanity is not held to be the most obvious and strongest common denominator.
  •     We often have a mentality of fanaticism that stems from a number of factors, chief among them are the Arab tribal mentality at various levels of severity.
  •     Because the Arab mentality is characterized by insufficient freedom and cooperation, there is reticence towards freedom and its mechanisms.
Any expert in Middle Eastern affairs can add additional flaws to this list. But all of these flaws are acquired flaws, and therefore they are given to change." 
This concludes the citation from the words of Tarek Heggy.

Women writers in the Arab world today focus more on the problems of women in a patriarchal, exploitative and violent society. The Saudi publicist Wajeha al-Huwaider suggests for Arab women to remain unmarried because men in the Arab world are not suitable to be life partners. Dr. Nawal al-Saadawi, an Egyptian physician, for many years has focused her criticism on the barbaric custom of female genital mutilation, neglect of women's health issues and exploitation of women in both the private and public spheres.

Most modern intellectuals in the Arab world conclude that the source of the problems that Eastern societies suffer from is within those societies themselves, and therefore the solution can and must come from within them. In the past it was more acceptable to blame the West, colonialism, the United States and of course, Israel, for every problem in the Arab and Islamic world, but the more severe the internal crisis in the Arab world becomes, the more the number of fatalities, wounded and Syrian refugees increases, the deeper the constitutional, economic, social and political crisis in the countries of the "Arab Spring", especially in Egypt, and the more the fear of the nuclear project of Iran, an Islamic country, increases, then the more the traditional tendency to blame Israel, the United states and the West for the troubles in the Arab and Islamic world  decreases.

Israel is perceived as an orderly country of a "normal" people, loving life, progress and development, the exact opposite of what is happening in the greater region within which it lives. And the sharper this perception is, the stronger and more intense the envy becomes. On the other side of the Atlantic there is another "normal" country, the United States, where another people lives, basing its existence on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The envy towards Israel and the United States that permeates the Arab and Islamic world becomes hatred directed against these two countries.  This is the source of the names "the Big Satan" and "the little Satan", which is how Iran, the regime of darkness and oppression, refers to them.

The terror aimed at buses, restaurants and hotels in Israel; trade centers, government centers and the marathon race in the United States, is a result of the envy of the Arab and Islamic societies, which are going through a deep crisis; it is envy that turns into hatred and terror.

They envy and hate the West not because of what the West does, but rather because of what the West is: a healthy, progressive and prosperous society, carefully supporting human rights and law and order, while the Arab and Muslim societies suffer from chronic illnesses expressed in violence, neglect, backwardness, dictatorships, corruption, illiteracy and terror. It is not I who say this but Dr. Basil Hussein, Tarek Heggy, Wajeha al-Huwaider, Nawal al-Saadawi and many, many others, including their friends who, each year, research the Arab world and publish the United Nations' Human Development Report, and understand where the problem lies but are powerless to redeem their societies, which are sinking into the fire, blood and tears of the cultural quagmire of their own making.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

Defense in the Age of Jihadist Terrorism

by Clifford D. May

Defense policies are not created in a vacuum. They are designed to meet threats. Over time, threats change in ways that are difficult to predict. In the past, America's enemies generally wore uniforms and confronted American soldiers on a foreign field of battle. Today, America's enemies may wear backward-facing baseball caps and attack marathon runners and the men, women and children cheering for them on a sunny April afternoon in New England. 

What happened in Boston last week was terrible and terrifying -- precisely the outcome terrorists seek to achieve. But it could have been worse. It was worse on Sept. 11, 2001, and it will be worse again if we let down our guard, if we stop taking the fight to those sworn to destroy us, if we refuse to understand who they are, what they believe and what they want. 

They have told us, over and over, that they are waging what they call a jihad. The policy of the current administration, and to a great extent the previous administration as well, has been to avoid such terminology. One notable exception: Just before she stepped down, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with rare candor: "We now face a spreading jihadist threat," she said. "We have to recognize this is a global movement."

Yet so many people -- in government, the media, academia -- refuse to believe this, or at least refuse to acknowledge it. I was on CSPAN's "Washington Journal" program this week debating Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project. She declared: "There is no global war ... There is no global jihadist movement."

About the massacre in Boston there is much we still do not know. But the evidence available so far can only lead to the conclusion that two young men from Chechnya committed an act of terrorism on American soil in support of what they believe is a global jihad.

Why could the bombing not have been a protest -- secular, with no Islamist roots -- against Russia's occupation of Chechnya and in favor of Chechen independence? Because then the target would have been Moscow, not Boston. 

Also: Last August, the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, reportedly linked on his YouTube page a video titled, "The Emergence of Prophesy: The Black Flags from Khorasan ." As my colleagues Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio pointed out, the video is based on the jihadist belief that in the Khorasan, an area of Central Asia, jihadists "will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant -- Israel, Syria, and Lebanon." 

The video features stirring music, fearless warriors and quotes from Islamic scripture. It highlights an ancient prophesy: One day, Allah will raise an army of "non-Arabs who will be greater riders and have better weapons than the Arabs." Chechens, of course, are not Arabs -- they are from the Caucasus, meaning that they are, literally, Caucasians.

The weapons used in Boston were improvised explosive devices, not very different from those used by self-proclaimed jihadists to kill American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is possible, although not very probable, that the Tsarnaev brothers learned to make these weapons from the Internet with no one instructing them. 

Terrible as the 9/11 and Boston attacks were, imagine a world in which jihadists had nuclear weapons. And soon they may: Jihadists rule Iran and they are likely to achieve "critical capacity" in about a year unless serious actions are taken -- presumably by the U.S. or Israel -- to prevent it. Would the Iranians ever give nuclear devices to such terrorist groups as Hezbollah and Hamas? Of course. Why not?

It is no simple matter to construct defense strategies and structures capable of discouraging and, eventually, defeating those who believe their mission -- mass murder -- is divinely ordained and endorsed. But that is what must be done. We are incurring enormous risks by not getting serious about it. As Hillary Clinton also said: "What we have to do is to recognize we are in for a long-term struggle here ... We've got to have a better strategy." 

Such a strategy would have more components than I have space to outline here. But a few points deserve emphasis:

Spending: By all means, the U.S. military should pursue efficiencies and prioritize. But now is no time to slash the defense budget.

Iran: No threat is more serious than that represented by Iran's theocrats. They believe they are waging a global revolution -- they regard nuclear weapons as essential to the outcome. The world's leading sponsors of terrorism, they also brutally oppress their own citizens -- which should indicate what they will do to you and me given a chance. If economic pressure and diplomacy continue to fail, more draconian measures must follow. 

North Kore: Kim Jong Un is a roaring mouse but he is demonstrating American impotence -- no doubt that is high on his to-do list. His bellicose rhetoric has prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to boost missile defenses on the West Coast, but it will require a much more comprehensive missile defense system to create the "nuclear umbrellathat President Ronald Reagan dreamed of and Clinton -- yes, again, Hillary Clinton -- promised. A complete halt to Western aid and trade with North Korea might force China's leaders to accept responsibility for the enfant terrible. 

Unconventional warfare: Jihadists at home and abroad should be made to continually look over their shoulders -- in that posture, it is more difficult to organize complicated, mass-casualty attacks. Drones have proved an effective tactic -- not strategy -- against terrorists and their masters in such remote and dangerous places as Waziristan and Yemen. The president should continue to use them, under defined rules and with congressional oversight.

Intelligence: To stay a step ahead of our enemies requires a steady flow of actionable intelligence. That, in turn, requires apprehending, not killing, terrorists whenever possible and interrogating them effectively. That has not been happening lately. Had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev been designated an "enemy combatant," as advocated by Senators Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham and others, it would have been possible to interrogate him extensively and perhaps obtain life-saving information about other terrorists and other plots. After that, he could have been transferred to the criminal justice system for trial. The Obama administration decided instead to tell Tsarnaev that he had "the right to remain silent." 

Toward the end of the Khorasan video, the narrator extols the glorious jihad that is to lead to the final triumph of Muslims over infidels. He declares: "No one can stop that jihad!" Actually, I believe America can, with the right defense strategies and structures. Seeing the threat through unclouded eyes would be the first step.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.


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

Common Sense About the Syrian Mess

by Barry Rubin

“I know what the world thinks of us, we are Communists, and of course I have said very clearly that we are not Communists; very clearly.”              –Fidel Castro, 1959
U.S. policy toward Syria has changed but it is too late. A senior State Department official said at the meeting just concluded of opposition groups: “We have to help the moderates, people like [Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army] Salim Idris….” This is what I proposed two years ago but I have to admit that I almost never saw anyone else who suggested that the strategy should be to help the non-Islamists with money, weapons, and diplomatic support.

Unlike Castro, the Islamists in Syria never lied about their goals and ideologies. Now the Islamists are far more powerful and well-armed than anyone else, courtesy of U.S. policy. Oh, and there’s one more problem. Many or most of the Free Syrian Army’s troops, that is the supposed non- or anti-Islamist alternative, are also Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

So what’s there to do with revolutionary Islamists controlling Syria and sooner or later, though it might take a couple of years, taking over the whole country or at least gaining recognition as the legitimate government of Syria while the regime holds out in the northwest of the country?

That’s okay, says the main line of U.S. policy. We don’t care if they are America-hating fanatics who want to impose Sharia, suppress or even massacre Christians, and commit genocide against Jews. Just as long as they aren’t affiliated with al-Qaida.

Beyond this, there’s mostly wishful thinking. Compare these statements by a Turkish diplomat and a Saudi newspaper:
“Once Assad is gone, al-Qaeda won’t stay long in Syria.”

“We know that there are radical forces like [al-Qaida] but do not overestimate them.”

But it seems impossible to get the mainstream debate to recognize the fact that the problem is not merely al-Qaida but other radical Salafists and another Muslim Brotherhood government.
What kind of situation would another Egypt bring about in the Middle East?

hat will happen within Syria which historically is a far more radical entity (for historical, political culture, and geopolitical reasons) than Egypt?

What will be the fate of all those modern-oriented women, liberals, Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Kurds?

oing beyond the largely worthless current debate on Syria let’s look ahead into the seemingly inevitable future. We can reasonably assume that the Assad regime might last another year or two but it will either retreat to the Alawite areas by then or have fallen totally. There is by the way another possibility. Rebels make advances in Damascus, then use the opportunity to announce the establishment of a provisional government there. The United States and other countries then recognize it–despite Assad’s continuing hold on much of the country–as the legitimate government of Syria.

Whatever happens, there will be a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Syria and Obama will support it. The Salafis will not rule but they will kill people, intimidate non- or anti-Islamist forces, and probably be the main force in various local areas of the country.

Many conservatives and Republicans favor more intervention which means in practice working even harder to install an Islamist regime in Syria. That’s a terrible idea. With few exceptions they never seem to grasp the point about supporting the non-Islamist forces and not just the Syrian rebels in general as if they were glorious freedom fighters.
A few other people favor supporting the Assad dictatorship to keep the Islamists out of power. This is another terrible idea. Aside for morality and the impossibility of saving Assad, no Western country is going to adopt such a policy. Whatever its past, the Assad regime had in effect become an Islamist regime, a Shia Islamist regime, and its fall will weaken Iran and Hizballah.
The problem, of course, is that its fall will also strengthen  the Sunni Islamists. According to estimates by my colleague, Dr. Jonathan Spyer:
–Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, has about 6,000 fighters.
–The Syrian Islamic Front (dominated by Ahrar al-Sham) has about 13,000 fighters.
–The Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, which seems close to the Muslim Brotherhood, (including the Farouq Brigade of Homs; Suqour al-Sham of Idleb, and Tawhid Brigade of Aleppo) has about 40,000 fighters. It is not clear whether these groups are under the Brotherhood’s discipline. If they aren’t then the situation is even worse since that means the Salafist forces are stronger than they seem.
Even this numerical advantage understates the Brotherhood’s power because its political leadership is centralized while Jabhat al-Nusra is spread thinly across the country and the Syrian Islamic Front is a loose coalition of different Salafist groups.
But the Brotherhood won’t suppress even the most extremist ones, that is al-Qaida, as long as they don’t attack the new central government and don’t disrupt the country too much. The Brotherhood will let them attack, massacre, and bully the country’s Alawites, Christians, Druze, political moderates, and non-Islamist women.
The too-late proposed Western strategy is to strengthen non-Islamist forces in Syria and to create safe zones, for minorities and to keep out Salafists, near Syria’s borders. This looks good on paper but it won’t work for several reasons.
First, the non-Islamist forces are too weak to hold any territory. his might be influenced by the successful creation of such a zone for the Kurds in northern Iraq. Yet the Iraqi Kurds were a well-armed, coherent ethnic group that was sufficiently united and had favorable terrain. These conditions don’t apply to Syria, or at least only for Syrian Kurds and Druze, not for the Sunni Muslim majority or Christian minority. The setting up of safe zones on, say, the Jordanian and Israeli borders will simply be an attractive target for Salafists who will mobilize popular support by branding the “moderates” as the traitorous tools of infidels and attacking them. Non-Islamist forces are also at this point unreliable and some of those groups touted as “moderates” seem to be closer to the Brotherhood.
And then we will once again be told that the Islamists and lots of Muslims only hates the West because it invades their countries and intervenes against them. Incidentally, don’t be surprised when after the revolution the victorious Islamists will claim that the West was behind the old dictatorship–a lie–and that not giving the rebels even more weapons was a Western stab in the back that further merits hatred.
Given these realities, then, the task of Western policy will be based on the understanding that they will not be able to shape events in Syria. It could have been different if a proper policy had been followed earlier.
The best that can be done now would be to help Christians either to survive or flee; to assist Druze and Kurds protect themselves by strengthening the former’s militia and the latter’s autonomy; and even, as a purely humanitarian strategy if Assad has fallen, to help Alawite civilians not guilty of war crimes to escape.  Otherwise, thousands of people could be massacred.
There are other important issues that simply are not being fully discussed:
Will Western countries allow those in threat of being killed to be granted political asylum for thousands of Druze, Christians, Alawites, and moderate Sunni Arabs? Or will they insist that everything is great in Syria and even push back the refugees who have already left the country?
Will Western countries correct the disastrous policy toward Egypt and actually help moderate Sunni Arabs, or at least anti-Islamist Sunni Arabs, to organize for elections and political influence so that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists don’t steamroller over them?
Will Western countries give additional help to Israel, having helped to bring it a new and more energetic enemy on its border, or Jordan, a moderate regime that the West usually takes for granted?
Will Western countries do a better job than in Libya about collecting advanced weapons so they aren’t use for terrorism against Syria’s own people, a Syrian Kurdish autonomous zone, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq?
People will continue to debate increased Western intervention but–and U.S. policymakers now partly understand this–to deal with the strategic disaster that’s been created, in part by them.
If you are interested in reading more about Syria, you’re welcome to read m[Barry Rubin's] book The Truth About Syria online or download it for free.

Barry Rubin


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

When Terrorists Fall Out You Know Jihad is Doomed

by Barry Rubin

picture by: artstuck
picture by: artstuck

One of the reasons why the Middle East situation is less fearsome than it might seem is that the radicals and terrorists are not united at all but battle among themselves for tactical, doctrinal, ethnic, and ambition-related reasons.

Despite their daily, bloodthirsty howls for Israel’s destruction, for example, three groups are at odds:

–The Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt wants to revolutionize the Middle East but is putting the priority on entrenching its power in Egypt itself, including dealing with economic and internal security problems. One of its difficulties is a terrorist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. While this includes cross-border attacks on Israel it also involves assaults on Egyptian soldiers, police stations, and other facilities.

–The Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip wants to revolutionize the Middle East and puts a high priority on genocide against Israel. But it has to balance backing Salafist and even al-Qaida groups with controlling the timing of its wars on Israel.

–The Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip and Sinai want to attack and wipe out Israel but some of them also want to overthrow the Brotherhood and institute an even more extremist regime in Egypt.

So here is the problem. What happens when Palestinian Salafist groups, including supporters of al-Qaida, want to attack Israel through Egyptian territory or to work with Egyptian Salafist groups to attack Egyptian soldiers or policemen?

Answer: Egypt doesn’t like it.

And Egypt blames Hamas. Why are you helping these people? Or why aren’t you suppressing them? We will let people attack Israel from our territory if and when we want to do so. And, yes, our intelligence does have evidence you are helping these anti-Egyptian forces.

For example, we saw that you weren’t interfering with the smuggling of material to make phony Egyptian army uniforms. Salafists can use these to attack Israel disguised as Egyptian soldiers, thus getting us into a shooting confrontation with Israel while we are trying to borrow money and keep the Americans happy. Or they can even pretend to be our men and kill Egyptians.

So why should we help you when you are helping those who attack us?

The latest event was the firing of two rockets from Egyptian territory against Eilat on April 17. A global jihad-affiliated network in the Gaza Strip calling itself the Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters of the Environs of Jerusalem claimed responsibility.  Their claimed motive was interesting: to protest two Palestinians killed in Tulkarm in a violent confrontation with Israeli security forces.

In other words, Palestinian Islamists are carrying out their war with Israel using Egyptian territory without permission.

The group’s statement also made the remarkable demand that “the sane members of Hamas” pressure the Hamas government in Gaza to stop trying to arrest its men.

So this is the chain of events:

Hamas must decide whether to allow al-Qaida affiliated or similar groups attack Israel from Egyptian soil. Even if it doesn’t mind their attacking Israel from Gaza, it needs to keep the Egyptians happy so that the Egypt-Gaza border is kept open for goods, including weapons.

But some Hamas men want instant all-out jihad against Israel.

Hamas must also decide whether to restrain these same groups from waging an Islamist revolution against the Islamist regime in Cairo. Again, perhaps some Hamas gunmen or officials think the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t going fast enough to turn Egypt into a Sharia state. That’s hard to believe, though. Perhaps more likely these Hamas officials are incompetent, bribed, or blackmailed.

At any rate, even though it was completely avoidable, then, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood regime is very angry at the Hamas Muslim Brotherhood regime. The relationship has been damaged and the Egyptians’ willingness to back up Hamas has been reduced.

Moreover, Israel has given Egypt permission–required under the peace treaty–to  move troops into the eastern Sinai to combat the terrorists. Let’s stop for a moment and realize that when Israel (which the Muslim Brotherhood wants to wipe off the map) cooperates with a radical Islamist regime in Egypt (run by the Brotherhood) to send soldiers to fight radical Islamist terrorists (who want to wipe out Israel and also attack Egypt) you know you are in the Middle East. And you know that the revolutionary Islamists are making major strategic mistakes.

Parallel situations—albeit based on the very intense Sunni-Shia Islamist battle—are creating splits in Lebanon and increased Sunni Muslim antagonism against Hizballah and Iran generally because the latter back the current regime in Syria. Some time ago, Egypt also arrested a number of alleged Hizballah agents in Cairo accusing that group of planning attacks on Egypt. And for more on the Sunni-Shia battle among Islamists see here.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article saying that while the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood hated al-Qaida and saw it as a competitor, the two groups had a lot of parallel ideas. Of course, they don’t agree on a strategy of direct attacks on the United States. The official Brotherhood website, partly misreading my point, did a very polite critique of my article trying to distance itself from al-Qaida.

The response was restrained back then since it was on the English-language propaganda site trying to convince the West that the Brotherhood was moderate. But when you are trying to put down the non-Islamist opposition and land an almost $6 billion IMF loan it’s easy to throw out a few soothing words. Al-Qaida attacks on Egypt and Israel make that game more difficult.

In Egypt now there are four Islamist parties: Brotherhood, Salafist willing to work with the Brotherhood, Salafist critical that the Brotherhood isn’t going fast enough, “moderate” Islamists. Of course, all of them are pushing in the same direction and will cooperate much of the time. A lot of the debate is simply over how fast to convert Egypt into a radical, repressive Sharia state. But at least it makes their task harder.

All of these maneuvers are important and undercut the Islamist revolutionary movement. With Western policy being so confused, ineffective, and ignorant the divisions among enemies may be the best thing going.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at


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

Analysis: Hezbollah Drone a Dangerous Publicity Stunt

by Yaakov Lappin

Sending a drone into Israeli air space is meant to remind the Lebanese public that Hezbollah is still defined by its jihad against Israel and not by its large-scale and bloody involvement in the Syrian civil war.

IAF shoots down UAV that entered Israeli airspace
IAF shoots down UAV that entered Israeli airspace  
Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office
Hezbollah’s attempt – likely Iranian-backed – to fly a drone into Israeli air space on Thursday is a dangerous publicity stunt designed to distract attention from its large-scale and bloody involvement in the Syrian civil war.

As the Shi’ite terror organization sends more and more fighters to kill Sunni Syrian rebels, and to try and save the regime of Bashar Assad, it is struggling to justify its involvement to Sunni Lebanese, who are growing increasingly outraged and are openly challenging Hezbollah’s role in their country and the region. Sending a drone into Israeli air space is meant to remind the Lebanese public that Hezbollah is still defined by its jihad against Israel.
Despite being an exercise in PR, the drone incident remains a serious provocation – an attempted breach of Israeli air space near Haifa, home to sensitive petrochemical plants that Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to target.

The air force’s swift reaction represents a significant improvement from the October drone infiltration, when Hezbollah managed to fly a drone deep into Israeli territory, before it was shot down. The lessons of last year’s incident have been learned well, judging by the early detection and interception of the hostile craft on Thursday.

The navy will now begin the tedious task of hunting for the drone’s pieces in the Mediterranean Sea, and the IDF will seek to answer questions such as: What type of drone was involved? Did it managed to record video footage, and could it transmit any of that footage to a base station in Lebanon in real time? The drone is only the most recent and visible aspect of a covert war raging between Iran and Hezbollah on one side, and Israel on the other.

Hezbollah agents, together with Iranian Quds Force members, continue trying to attack Israeli civilians and state targets overseas.

On occasion, there are unexplained blasts at Hezbollah weapons storage areas in southern Lebanon, as occurred last December, when a mysterious explosion tore through a suspected Hezbollah weapons depot at Tair Harfa in southern Lebanon.

Further away, Iran’s nuclear centrifuges continue to spin. All of these arenas – Lebanon, Syria, Iran (and Gaza) are interlinked.

These are tense times, and any miscalculated step can trigger a wider confrontation.

Yaakov Lappin


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Call It What It Is: Islamic Terrorism

by Christine Williams

Despite these recent attacks on innocent civilians, excuses were made that blamed the victims and exonerated the perpetrators.
A growing problem, the radicalization of Muslim youth, all too often gets brushed off as a Western problem: specifically, being racist toward Muslims, and making them feel alienated and angry .

Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP] have thwarted a terrorism plot – one that enlisted the help of Al Qaeda in Iran -- to derail a VIA Rail passenger train. A combined effort between the RCMP, Toronto and Montreal Police and the FBI lead to the arrest of two men on terrorism charges: 35 year old Raed Jaser of Toronto and 30 year old Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal. This news comes on the heels of the double bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170. Among the dead was an 8 year old boy.

Meanwhile an international manhunt is underway for a fourth young man in London, Ontario wanted for questioning in the terrorist attack on an Algerian gas plant back in January. Libyan born Mujahid Enderi, who goes by the name of Ryan, is being investigated by authorities, along with three Londoners – Aaron Yoon, Ali Medlej and Xristos Katsiroubas – also implicated in the terror attack. The latter two, both age 24, were among the 29 militants killed in the four-day siege and hostage-taking in Algeria that claimed the lives of 37 hostages.

In yet another case, Somali and Canadian security forces are now probing whether or not a former York University student was part of a team of suicide bombers last Sunday who stormed a courthouse in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, killing and injuring dozens. A separate car bomb targeted Turkish aid workers. Mahad Ali Dhore grew up and studied in the greater Toronto area and is reportedly one of the nine Al Shabab militants involved in the well planned attack.

Despite these recent acts of terrorism against innocent citizens, excuses were made that blamed the victims and exonerated the perpetrators.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw strongly suggested that America is partly to blame for the Boston bombings because the young Muslim men involved may have felt "alienated" and angry over U.S. drone strikes on "innocent civilians" in Muslim countries abroad.

New Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau said, "there is no question that this happened because of someone who feels completely excluded, someone who feels completely at war with innocence, at war with society."

Geraldo Rivera tweeted, "regrets to my Muslim brothers/sisters. We know how Boston will aggravate life's friction—Now's the time for patience pride & understanding."

Blaming America and appealing to a presumed guilt will not solve the problem of Muslim radicals wishing to infiltrate, dominate, Islamize and kill Western citizens. Their Wahhabi ideology is influencing Muslim youths in the West, who are being taught to hate and wage jihad on Western soil. Such messages are being promulgated through a high percentage of mosques, training manuals and radical mentors online and through al Qaeda camps overseas, with the complicity of a media that justifies and enables these acts.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon , "The Internet is a prime example of how terrorists can behave in a truly transnational way; in response, states need to think and function in an equally transnational manner." The internet is a powerful tool in promoting propaganda; financing terror; efforts to recruit and radicalize; and the execution of strategies, attacks and cyber-attacks.

In addition, the fact that a Canadian citizen with dual citizenship, living in Lebanon, was involved in a bus bombing involving Hezbollah in Bulgaria last year raises greater concern about Canadians traveling overseas to carry out terrorism acts. Last year The Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is aware of between 45 to 60 Canadians (most in their early twenties) having travelled or attempted to travel to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia to join al Qaeda-affiliated organizations to execute terrorism-related activities. Some of them have returned to Canada after full terrorism training, or even after having executed terrorism acts abroad.

Infiltration strategies present yet another terrorist front. According to Iranian activist and translator Shabnam Assadollahi, Iran has been engaged in infiltration strategies that began in the early 1990s when its former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, came into power with the goal of spreading terrorism abroad. Not long ago, Assadollahi blew the cover of Hamid Mohammadi, an Iranian official working as Cultural Counselor to the Embassy in Canada, through the translation of an interview in Farsi that revealed Iran was using its embassy in Canada to mobilize loyalists of the Islamic Republic of Iran to infiltrate the Canadian government and attack the United States.

Assadollahi warns that immigration is a serious issue, particularly for multicultural Canada. He suggests that a first step is understanding the nature of terrorist regimes and how they use infiltration to achieve their goals.

The West is falling short in understanding the layers and complexity of the problem of Muslim radicalization. A Government of Canada report on "Radicalization of Homegrown Violent Extremists" states that terrorism is not a new tactic, and points out that Sunni Islamist extremism poses the "leading threat to Canada's national security," which has proven to be "adaptable and resilient." It also pinpoints Canada as a target for attacks; identifies the radicalization of the homegrown Toronto 18 and goes on to explain the propaganda drives, the raising of funds and the establishing of connections with extremists in Canada, as well as the efforts that enabled them to travel to foreign conflict zones.

As former US Republican Representative Allen West said, referring to the Boston Marathon bombings, "The terrorist attack in Boston and evolving events indicate we have a domestic radical Islamic terror problem in America." He went on to advise: "No more excuses. No more apologies. We are in a war of ideological wills and we shall prevail."

Racism is a separate phenomenon. Both Canada and the U.S. would do well to abandon the self-guilt rhetoric and pay attention to the reality at hand. It would help if they recognized that the problem is not with Western citizens making Muslims feel unwelcome, or with angering them through foreign policy. We need to accept that the problem arises out of Islamic extremism that fuels victimology while teaching a vitriolic hatred of Jews, Christians, Hindus, all infidels, and the West.

Christine Williams


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

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad: A Moderate?

by David Bedein


Former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, who recently resigned, is being eulogized as the last great hope of moderation for the Palestinian Authority.

The time has come to question such a characterization of Fayyad.

A case in point: In May 2009, our agency, the Center for Near East Policy Research, facilitated an informal briefing for staffers of the Middle East Subcommittee of the US Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives on the subject of the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA education. Journalist and scholar Dr. Arnon Groiss, who regularly translates new PA textbooks used in Palestinian Authority and UNRWA education, was featured at this briefing.

These translations can be easily perused on the net here and here.

Dr. Groiss updated Congress on the content of the new PA texts, which:
  • Deny the historical and religious presence of Jews in Palestine;
  • Fail to recognize the State of Israel;
  • Demonize Jews and Israel;
  • Assign blame for the conflict exclusively on Israel, totally absolving Palestinians; and
  • Stress the idea of a violent struggle of liberation rather than a peaceful settlement.
In August 2009, a delegation of fifty members from both sides of the aisle of the US House of Representatives met with Salam Fayyad when he was appointed prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Several members of Congress raised the issue of the Palestinian Authority schoolbooks with Fayyad, who assured the delegation that the school books would be changed for the new school year, which was just about to begin.

Hearing the report from the congressional delegation, our agency immediately dispatched a reporter to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority Education Minister Lamis Al Alami to ask her about the PA curriculum for the new semester.

We asked her about changes in the curriculum. Al Alami answered that she was under strict orders from Fayyad not to change anything in the curriculum.

Yet you would not be surprised by Fayyad’s real educational policy if you were to read Fayyad’s position paper for a future Palestinian state, available on the net here.

In that position paper, Fayyad spelled out his platform, in clear terms and in English.

Every embassy, consulate, and news outlet in the Middle East received a copy of Fayyad’s platform, entitled “Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State: Program of the Thirteenth Government.”

In his platform, Fayyad asserted that “Jerusalem” will be the Palestinian capital of the Palestinian state – with no mention of “East Jerusalem.”

In case anyone was wondering if Fayyad had made a typographical error by not mentioning “east” Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, Fayyad repeated — ten times — that he meant Jerusalem —  all of Jerusalem.

Fayyad left nothing to the imagination, and wrote that the Palestinian state will “Protect Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Palestinian state,” because Fayyad asserted that:
“Jerusalem is our people’s religious, cultural, economic and political center. It is the Flower of Cities and Capital of Capitals. It cannot be anything but the eternal capital of the future Palestinian state. Jerusalem.”
Fayyad went on to claim that Jerusalem “is under threat” and that:
“the occupying authority is implementing a systematic plan to alter the city’s landmarks and its geographical and demographic character in order to forcibly create facts on the ground, ultimately separating it from its Palestinian surroundings and eradicating its Arab Palestinian heritage.”
Fayyad further claimed that:
“Palestinian life in Jerusalem is under daily attack through systematic violations perpetrated by the occupation regime” and that “It is the right and the duty of all Palestinians to protect their land, reject the occupation and defy its measures,” adding that the Palestinian state “bears special responsibility for nurturing our people’s ability to persevere and protect their homeland.”
Fayyad added that the Palestinian government will maintain its:
“unreserved commitment to defending the Arab character and status of Jerusalem…. The Government will continue to do all that is possible to achieve this goal. The Government will work with all organizations to preserve the landmarks of Jerusalem and its Arab Palestinian heritage, develop the city, and secure its contiguity with its Palestinian surroundings.”
Fayyad framed Jerusalem as an illegal settlement, postulating that:
“the occupying authority is pursuing its intensive settlement policy in and around Jerusalem…The occupation regime has shut down our national institutions, neglected the development of Palestinian life, continued to demolish and evacuate Palestinian homes, and restricted access to sacred Christian and Islamic sites.”
Fayyad went on to present a practical plan to Arabize Jerusalem, by “Maintaining Jerusalem as a top priority on the Government’s agenda” and highlighting “its predicament in the media.”

Fayyad reassured his readers that a future Palestinian state would not be satisfied with Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza as the national home for Palestinians, and says that the Palestinian government will continue to advocate for “Palestinian refugees in accordance with relevant international resolutions, and UN General Assembly Resolution 194 in particular,” which mandates that Palestinian refugees and their descendants have a right to return to the homes and villages that Palestinians left during the 1948 war and its aftermath.

Fayyad reminded Palestinians that:
“the refugee issue will remain under the jurisdiction of the PLO, through its Department of Refugees’ Affairs…in a manner that does not exempt the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) from its responsibilities.”
In Fayyad’s view, UNRWA will therefore continue to confine Palestinian refugees and their descendants to the indignity of refugee camps, under the premise and promise of the “right of return.”

Meanwhile, Fayyad expressed full support for Palestinians who have been convicted of murder and attempted murder, saying that “the state also has an enduring obligation to care and provide for the martyrs, prisoners, orphans and all those harmed in the Palestinian struggle for independence.”

Fayyad expressed a point of view indicating he could not understand why Palestinians convicted of capital crimes should be jailed.

Fayyad proclaimed that “the continued detention of thousands of Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention camps in violation of international law and basic human rights, is of great concern to all Palestinians” and declared that “Securing the freedom of all these heroic prisoners is an utmost Palestinian priority and it is a fundamental duty all Palestinians feel to honor their great sacrifices and end their suffering.”

Fayyad also asserted that the PLO has signed “all provisions of agreements … with Israel,” yet forgot to mention that the PLO never ratified the signed agreements with Israel. On October 6, 1993, the now defunct Mapam newspaper Al HaMishmar’s correspondent in Tunis revealed that the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat could not get a quorum for the PLO executive to ratify the Oslo Accords that Arafat had signed with Rabin on the White House lawn.

Fayyad’s view of justice was clearly presented in his position paper when he stated that “All Palestinians are equal before the law.” Simply put, anyone who is not a Palestinian is therefore not equal.

Fayyad also proclaimed that a future Palestinian State will be an Islamic state and that it will:
“promote awareness and understanding of the Islamic religion and culture and disseminate the concept of tolerance in the religion through developing and implementing programs of Shari’a education as derived from the science of the Holy Qur’an and Prophet’s heritage.”
In sum, Fayyad concluded with a demand for a Palestinian state in the next two years, along the parameters that he has outlined, with an Palestinian state that will have all of Jerusalem as its capital, in an Islamic Sharia state that will campaign for all convicts to be freed and for all refugees to return to the homes and villages that they left in 1948.

Was Fayyad a voice of reform and moderation?

Think again.

David Bedein


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