Friday, January 24, 2014

Mordechai Kedar: The Demise of the Arab Narrative

by Mordechai Kedar

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

Read the article en Español (translated by Shula Hamilton)

The Arab world is sinking in a swamp of blood, tears and fire before our very eyes, as their Middle Eastern culture pulls three hundred million Arabs, and many more Muslims who are not Arabs, into the depths of Hell

Arab intellectuals were exposed to the nationalist winds blowing across Europe since the middle of the nineteenth century. They studied them, embraced them and tried to apply them in the Middle Eastern countries. This is how the pan-Arab movements arose, which supported the establishment of one nation state from Morocco in the West to Iraq in the East, from Syria in the North to Yemen in the South. In parallel, British, French and Italian colonialism established local states that attempted to base their existence on the creation of a local consciousness in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, etc., at the expense of an inclusive Arab consciousness, which remained for the Arab League to implement. 

The positive image that the Soviet Union had in the middle of the twentieth century gave rise to the flowering of movements that were derived from it such as Gamal Abd al-Nassar's Arab Socialism and the Baath parties that ruled in Syria and Iraq. Others  were attracted by western liberalism and tried to imitate it, and there were still others, who, in contrast, adopted a monarchist model that was based on a local tradition and combined with a pseudo-western constitution.

The common thread connecting all of these ideologies was the fact that all of them represented an attempt to find new substance and modern meaning for the Arab collective that would replace its traditional substance, which was a combination between tribalism and Islam, the two principle components of collective consciousness of the Middle East. The basis for all of the new ideologies was the fact that they now related to a single Arab nation with unique characteristics that necessitated the adaption of western ideologies to the conditions of the Arab East.

Arab nationalism expressed by the Arab League and its institutions, including at the Arab Summit, turned out to be nothing more than a fig leaf to cover the naked factionalism that encumbered every collective action of the Arab countries

But over the years the actual result was a house of cards, hollow slogans and blighted ideas that never actually succeeded in creating a shared consciousness with a solid and generally accepted conceptual substance, which was expected to have settled in the hearts of the masses to  replace the strong, basic loyalty to tribal and religious tradition. We see the proof of this – in vivid red colors – over the course of the three last years, which brought about the collapse of the many empty ideas that had permeated the public sphere in recent decades.

The Arab nationalism expressed by the Arab League and its institutions, including at the Arab Summit, turned out to be nothing more than a fig leaf to cover the naked factionalism, scheming, vengeance seeking, hatred, jealousy and competitiveness that encumbered every collective action of the Arab countries. Arab solidarity turned out to be no more than a clichéd and meaningless slogan as Arab countries not only did not support each other when  attacked by foreigners but also fought against one another, in extreme contrast to the Arab League’s founding charter. During the past three years we have witnessed the overt military involvement of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other states in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. In some cases the foreign support was intended to strengthen the ruler and in some cases the support was intended for the rulers' opponents. In addition, there is the constant plotting of al-Jazeera, the Muslim Brotherhood’s channel, which broadcasts from Qatar, and the media jihad that it has been waging against Arab rulers since it began operating in late 1996. 

The man in the Arab street is sure beyond any doubt that the government of his country is corrupt and tainted and operates solely for the benefit of those on the state's payroll
The rulers, or more accurately: the dictators – from Gamal Abd al-Nassar to Saddam Hussein, from Qadhaffi to Asad the father as well as the son – have been slaughtering hundred of thousands of their own citizens, not those of other countries, during the past generation, in the name of nationalism and patriotic concern, of course, and no one even blinks. They have been acceptable guests in conventions, in conferences, in receptions and the corridors of power, and every politician wants to get into the picture with them. There were even some politicians among the Arab citizens of Israel who ran to Libya a few years ago to be photographed together with the mass murderer that ruled there for 42 years. Their behavior gives a bad name to the nationalism and patriotism that is trumpeted by their propaganda machines, and citizens in the street tired of them and the message that they were trying to convey.

The Arab citizen has an amazingly low level of confidence in his state compared with citizens of other countries in the world. The man in the Arab street is sure beyond any doubt that the government of his country is corrupt and tainted and operates solely for the benefit of those on the state's payroll, who exploit the office and authority for personal profit through graft and bribery. There is a general sense of despair in the Arab street because of the Arabs' inability to conduct an orderly, modern state with transparency of governance and economic fairness. The violence that the regimes in Arab states have been employing for decades alienates them from the majority of the population and creates deep-seated hostility between the regime and the citizens. Nevertheless, in parallel, there is also a sense that if the government did not employ violence, the Arab world would not be able to maintain an orderly and efficient system for any length of time.

Governmental use of violence exists at the national, state level as well as the municipal level. Organizations that are affiliated with the state – the military, police, ministries – suffer from similar ills. Rates of family violence are higher in the Middle East than in other areas of the world, and the Arab woman is more oppressed than any other in the world.

It seems that the particular interests of these countries prevailed over flimsy slogans of solidarity with the Palestinians.
Arab loyalty to the Palestinians has turned out to be nothing more than a meaningless slogan as well. What did the Arab countries do to lessen the suffering of the refugees of 1948 who were confined to “refugee camps”? The Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza keep their brothers in the refugee camps!! What have the Arab authorities done with the billions that they have received from the world for the refugees during 65 years? Where have all of the donations disappeared to, that the world has contributed to the refugees over the years? Didn’t Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan make peace with Israel without the Palestinian problem having been resolved? It seems that the particular interests of these countries prevailed over flimsy slogans of solidarity with the Palestinians. The events that have occurred in recent days in the Yarmouk Camp in Syria prove just how dear to the hearts of other Arabs the Palestinians actually are.

Even the Iranian threat, which has become increasingly significant lately as a result of the Geneva agreement, has not managed to unify the Arabs. Therefore, out of desperation they are developing relations with Israel behind the scenes, in the hope that perhaps Israel will rescue them from the Iranians. Hassan Nasrallah calls these Arabs “fake men”, and the Arab lexicon has no more denigrating label than this. 

More than a hundred million Arabs live far beneath the line of poverty and their lives are characterized by illness, ignorance and neglect. On the other hand a very narrow segment of Arabs live the luxurious lives of billionaires in the oil countries as well as in other places. Economic solidarity within the “Arab nation” approaches zero, and real concern for the poor, the orphan and the widow is almost non-existent. The absence of economic solidarity is the result of the weakening of social solidarity. Consideration for human values in the Arab world is extremely low, therefore the concern for quality of life is fairly limited.

Man has abandoned the station of leadership and Allah has entered with a Kalashnikov in his hand

During the past three years, as a result of the deterioration of modern ideologies and the weakening of the Arab regimes, the al-Qaeda vultures have begun to peck at the weak and diseased body of the Arab nation. Man has abandoned the station of leadership and Allah has entered with a Kalashnikov in his hand. Every place that a state ceases to function, terrorists arrive from all over the world to establish an “Islamic state” there. It is so in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen and in Sinai, in addition to Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The primary target for these agents of death is the Arab nation, and the number of Muslims that they have killed is much greater than the number of “infidels” that have been killed in the fire that they incite every place they can. Al-Qaeda has turned Allah into a battlefield warrior, and he fights against his Muslim believers.
The Arab world is sinking in a swamp of blood, tears and fire before our very eyes, as their Middle Eastern culture pulls three hundred million Arabs, and many more Muslims who are not Arabs, into the depths of Hell. If Israel announced today that she would open her gates wide to unlimited immigration of Arabs and Muslims, how many Arabs would rush to Israel, the Jewish, Zionist state, to find a new life?

A few years ago, one of the Egyptian newspapers said  that the Arab nation is a dead, frozen body in the morgue that no one has the courage to fill out a death certificate for. I leave it to my dear readers to decide how correct that journalist was. 


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 SallyZahav 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.

Shin Bet Foils Major al-Qaida Terror Plot against Israel

by Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

The Shin Bet says it has arrested three Palestinians who were planning to attack U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and International Convention Center in Jerusalem • Foreign terrorists were also to take part in attack.

The International Convention Center in Jerusalem
|Photo credit: Lior Mizrahi

Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff  


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

White House Version of Iran Nuke Deal Challenged by Tehran

by Rick Moran

Our fact-challenged White House continues to insist that it negotiated a good deal with Iran to contain its nuclear program.

This is news to the Iranians who are insisting that the deal did not put any restrictions on their program, and they certainly didn't agree to "dismantle" anything, as the White House claims.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration mischaracterizes concessions by his side in the six-month nuclear deal with Iran, telling CNN in an exclusive interview that "we did not agree to dismantle anything."
Zarif told CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto that terminology used by the White House to describe the agreement differed from the text agreed to by Iran and the other countries in the talks -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
"The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments" under the agreement that took effect Monday, Zarif said in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.
As part of the accord, Iran was required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that had been enriched to 20%, well above the 5% level needed for power generation but still below the level for developing a nuclear weapon.
n addition, the deal mandated that Iran halt all enrichment above 5% and "dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%," according to a White House fact sheet issued in November after the initial agreement was reached.
Zarif accused the Obama administration of creating a false impression with such language.
"The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again," he said, urging Sciutto to read the actual text of the agreement. "If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment."
He repeated that "we are not dismantling any centrifuges, we're not dismantling any equipment, we're simply not producing, not enriching over 5%."
"You don't need to over-emphasize it," Zarif said of the White House language. A separate summary sent out by the White House last week did not use the word dismantle.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Zarif's statement, saying the government will not destroy existing centrifuges. However, he added: "We are ready to provide confidence that there should be no concern about Iran's program."
Most diplomatic accords have gray areas that are open to interpretation by both sides. It is understood that each side agrees to disagree about what certain language actually means. These are usually minor points of contention, and not usually a major part of a deal.

But the White House prevarications on this deal are pretty shocking. Their interpretation seems geared more to public relations to sell the deal rather than to anything the Iranians actually agreed to. 

The largest discrepancy in mutual understanding is the apparent belief by the White House that Iran is going to "dismantle" some of its centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium to the 20% level. Iran denies this, which puts a whole new face on the treaty itself. There is also disagreement about whether the Iranians can continue to improve their centrifuges - making them more efficient, for example. This, too, the Iranians claim they are able to do despite White House statements to the contrary.

These are very serious discrepancies which call into question whether a permamnent agreement (this one only lasts 6 months) can be reached where both sides agree on the major points. As of now, the White House appears more eager to reach a deal for political purposes than inking an agreement that would severely restrict the Iranian efforts to build a nuclear bomb. 

Politics trumps policy.

Rick Moran


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Let the BDS Movement Be a Warning

by Dr. Ellen Wald

Last year, a tiny academic organization, the Association for Asian American Studies, voted in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.  Last month, a relatively small academic organization, the American Studies Association (ASA), adopted a similar resolution.  This month, one of the largest academic organizations in the humanities, the Modern Language Association (MLA), voted in favor of a resolution calling on the State Department to condemn Israel for supposedly restricting academics from traveling to the West Bank and debated, but did not vote on, a resolution expressing solidarity with the ASA and condemning “the attacks on the ASA” for its boycott.

In a rare moment of unity, both BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) supporters and their critics left satisfied with their accomplishments at the MLA’s annual meeting.  MLA members active in the BDS movement believe they have made significant progress and that a full-fledged boycott resolution will be adopted next year.  Meanwhile, the professors and organizations that oppose the BDS movement have been misguidedly patting themselves on the back for keeping the MLA from voting in favor of anything more serious.

It is dangerous to mistake the outcome of the MLA vote as a victory against BDS, and doing so reflects a limited understanding of the perverse bigotry and dishonesty of the BDS movement and the true nature of such radicalism in academia.  Rather than basking in the number of universities that came out against the ASA’s academic boycott and in favor of “academic freedom,” Jewish and pro-Israel groups should be preparing themselves for a long, protracted confrontation with academia that has been building for years.  Unfortunately, it is likely to become a much more intense fight before any real victory can be claimed.

The real problem with campaigns like those initiated by the BDS movement is not these boycotts themselves or the meaningless resolutions that academic organizations debate and pass.  BDS supporters in academia do not actually believe that boycotting Israeli scholars and institutions will directly affect the State of Israel on an international level.  They seek to vilify Israel and Jews in scholarship and education.  The goal is to make it acceptable and common to teach about Israel the same way students are taught about Nazism, Pol Pot, and the Jim Crow South.  It must be continuously repeated that the true basis for their complaint seems to be old-fashioned anti-Semitism.  We known this because the BDS movement is unable to explain why it singles out Israel, and Israel alone, for vilification.

First, it is vital to recognize the extent to which we are losing the battle in the classrooms in an array of disciplines, many of which have nothing to do with the Middle East or the history of Israel.  In fact, BDS supporters are much closer to their goal than non-academics realize.  The MLA panel called “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine,” should provide a much needed wake-up.  The MLA’s annual conference is not a gathering of specialized scholars to present works-in-progress.  It is a major gathering where hundreds of graduate students interview for a chance at the elusive tenure track jobs, hopeful scholars pitch new books to publishers, emerging trends in scholarship are featured, and education policies are debated.  The fact that a mainstream conference hosted a panel with the sole purpose of vilifying Israel already demonstrates the influence exerted by the BDS movement in the humanities.  The existence of this panel alone discourages any dissent amongst already cautious academics, particularly amongst those seeking jobs or tenure.

Vilification of Israel begins, however, in the college classroom where students of the humanities and social sciences are introduced to ideas like “settler colonialism,” “cultural imperialism,” “post-colonial theory,” and “western neo-imperialism.”  These methodological tenets, derived from the work of scholars like Edward Said, Michel Foucault, and Antonio Gramsci, blame so-called imperial powers (mostly Western) for physical, mental, cultural, economic, intellectual, environmental, and political wrongs done to indigenous (mostly non-Western) peoples.  These post-modern methodologies have completely captured the intellectual development of subjects like area studies, women and gender studies, ethnic studies, global studies, and development studies, and are de rigueur in more traditional departments such as history, English, comparative literature, politics, and anthropology.

In the bubble we call higher education, the intellectual world-view and the political world-view are one, and this methodology is easily transformed into radical political ideologies that cultivate movements like BDS.  Professors prime students for BDS ideology by employing neo-colonial analyses in their courses.  They introduce the demonization of the West and Israel through these post-modern methodologies.  An example is BDS supporter Samer Ali who has inelegantly stated that “most states … didn’t have the right to exist because of genocide/forced labor at their founding such as those in the Americas and Israel is among them because of its massacres of indigenous populations.”  By attaching their opinion of Israel to these en-vogue post-modern methodologies, academics are able to attack Israel from almost anywhere in the university course catalogue.  For a student, the indoctrination can be as simple as taking a course on the literature of indigenous peoples or the economic development of the “global south” (i.e. Third World).

The instruction continues in the professor’s office, where students looking for guidance, follow their teachers’ directions to textbooks, articles, and sources deeply biased against Jews and Israel.  Undergraduates lack the techniques to recognize the biases these scholars promote, especially when the professor intentionally neglects to even balance these sources with those from another perspective.  The result is a generation of students who consider Hanan Ashrawi an unbiased source of information on the Oslo negotiations and believe that the Dreyfus Affair was the only expression of anti-Semitism in the nineteenth century, both real examples I have witnessed.

It gets worse.  Secondary schools pick up the scholarship produced under this rubric.  Teachers with little expertise in the Middle East, deliberately or unknowingly, use sources with biased information.  They attend seminars from Middle East Studies outreach centers at universities that are often funded by Saudi Arabia and headed by BDS supporters (like Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies) and bring back textbooks, lesson plans, and curricula that not only misstate facts, but teach students the same biases coming out of the academy, such as the books published by James Gelvin, a professor at UCLA and another BDS supporter.

This dishonest and hateful scholarship and education seeps into policy and the media.  Honesty in education is vital, not only for the sake of a good education, but for the sake of preserving a proud national conscience and a responsible citizenry.  Therefore, rather than celebrate a stalemate at the MLA, it is time to acknowledge the extent of academic bias and damaged caused by it.  This issue should concern not only supporters of Israel, but also those who support academic honesty, oppose bigotry, and are concerned about the future of our civic society.

We’ve become complacent and allowed the umbrella term of “academic freedom” to cover hatred, dishonestly, irresponsible indoctrination, and the miseducation of our students.  There is room for disagreement in the humanities and social sciences, but “academic freedom” should not mean that we fund and give a podium to individuals to spout their falsehoods and hatred.  I’ve heard that once there was a time in academia when scholars followed their sources to reveal the truth rather than molded evidence to fit a pre-conceived political ideology.  The success of the BDS movement at the ASA and MLA conferences is a sign that the tolerance of hatred has gone on too long.  The bigots need to be uncovered, dishonest scholarship refuted as lies, and false education revealed.

Dr. Ellen Wald


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