Archive for July, 2007

Talking to terrorists

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Honest Reporting has a piece today about “the recent spate of Hamas op-eds in mainstream newspapers, including the Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times”. This time the Washington Post has published an article by Hezbollah’s Sheik Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, in which he claims that the concept of Jihad in Islam is “no different than any human and civilized concept of self-defense”. In reality, Hezbollah has used the flimsiest of pretexts to disguise its aggression against Israel as self-defense.

The question which comes to my mind at this point is “why are Hamas and Hezbollah suddenly so popular in our media?” And the answer is that they have press agents that they are paying to make them popular.

There seems to be an ongoing attempt in the US to make these groups appear as moderate potential partners for negotiation. So-called ‘realists’ argue that the conflicts — both the narrow Israeli-Palestinian one and the broader confrontation between the West and radical Islam can’t be solved without talking to the Islamist organizations.

Nobody respectable has suggested (yet) that the US should talk to al-Qaeda. Most Americans would react to the idea with profound revulsion, understanding that there cannot be enough common ground to support negotiation with people whose goal is to kill many of us and create enough chaos to cause our society and nation to collapse.

Hezbollah and Hamas are perceived here as primarily enemies of Israel (although Hezbollah has certainly killed enough Americans), so many Americans ask “why not talk to them — it never hurts to talk”.

The problem with talking is twofold. First, negotiating confers legitimacy and status, regardless of whether there is anything to negotiate. Hamas and Hezbollah leaders should be treated as outlaws, not statesmen or diplomats. It’s almost as if the more murderous they are, the more respectable they are seen to be.

Second, negotiation is not talking about the weather. It’s a process of give and take, in which each side promises to make a concession in return for the other side’s giving something. This can only work if there is an intersection between both sides’ minimal acceptable outcomes. But there’s no intersection between “Israel exists” and “Israel doesn’t exist”. So a negotiation process cannot end the conflict.

Historically, US-mediated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians (for example) have resulted in US pressure on Israel to make concessions, and mostly — but not in every case — Israeli compliance. The Palestinians, on the other hand, generally did not comply. So when the negotiations broke down Israel was in a far worse position than before, not to mention the damage done by propaganda painting her as at fault.

There is plenty of reason, therefore, to not talk to organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, with whom there can be no intersection of interests. Unfortunately, the solution to the problems they pose must be a military one. The more concessions that they extract by diplomatic means, the more difficult will be the ultimate confrontation — which will come about regardless of diplomacy, negotiations, mediation, or whatever.

Hamas’ Abu Marzouk, Hezbollah’s Fadlallah and others may sound reasonable to those who do not know the history of the conflict or the true nature of the groups they represent. The NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. are not serving the cause of peace by giving them a platform from which to speak.

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Say goodbye to the Inquisition

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin has described the problem and the solution with great clarity:

To paraphrase Charles Dickens in the beginning of his Tale of Two Cities: These are the best of times, and the worst of times. On the one hand, after almost 2,000 years of exile and persecution, culminating in the Holocaust, we have returned to our homeland, to Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, to a Jewish army and a Jewish police force, and to the miracle of the ingathering of exiles, from the Ethiopian Beta Yisrael to the Indian Bnei Menashe.

But, on the other hand, we face the existential threat of Iran’s Ahmadinejad soon to be in control of atomic weaponry; we are threatened by Hamas in the South, and by Hizbullah in the North. Moreover, our staunchest ally, the United States of America, is being neutralized by what appears to be a hopeless imbroglio in Iraq. Europe is quickly becoming transformed into a pro-Muslim bastion, and Islam itself seems poised for world domination following a line of jihad-inspired Wahhabi fanaticism.

Yes, I truly have faith that to be alone with God is to be with a majority of One; but from a practical perspective, how can roughly 5.5 million Israelis plus another seven million Jews world-wide stand up to more than a billion Muslims?

Now it seems that thankfully God had provided the cure even before we diagnosed the disease. For the first time since the advent of Christianity, mainstream Christian leaders – Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant – have extended a hand to us Jews in friendship, a friendship with far-reaching theological and political ramifications.

And there are more than a billion Christians in the world. What is now happening on the worldwide geopolitical scene is much more than “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

In this case, the enemy (Christianity) of my enemy (radical Islam) is my cousin, if not my brother. After all, Christianity emerged from the matrix of Judaism, and the founder of Christianity was a Jewish teacher who – it would certainly appear from the Gospels – lived a Jewish life-style, replete with the Sabbath, festivals and kashrut. Hence there is every logical, historical and religious reason for there to be a rapprochement between us. — R. Shlomo Riskin, “In praise of Christian-Jewish interfaith dialogue” (the entire article is recommended).

It’s time to put the Inquisition behind us. There is simply no alternative.

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Keith Ellison, the Reichstag fire, and the Jews

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Rep. Keith Ellison (D. Minn.)You may remember the controversial remark recently made by Keith Ellison, our first Muslim congressperson:

“It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I’m not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box — dismiss you.” — Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Writing in Ha’aretz, Shmuel Rosner is mystified and bothered by the fact that Jewish organizations in particular are upset by Ellison’s remark (“Why did only Jews go after the Muslim congressman“):

Ellison wasn’t saying anything offensive specifically to Jews, but rather used a hideous comparison to describe the policies of the Bush administration. On some level, the fact that it was mainly Jewish organizations and Jewish leaders going after the Congressman after what he said is even more troubling than the speech itself.

Rosner suggests two possible explanations:

Explanation number 1: The Jewish community is more attuned to misspeak by a Muslim Congressman. The affair is yet another example of the rocky relations between Jews and Muslims. That’s the wrong conclusion.

Explanation number 2: The Jewish community is the gate-keeper for everything related to Nazi Germany. Again, this is even more troubling than Ellison’s words.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement saying: “Nazi Germany committed unprecedented crimes against Europe’s Jews and others. Invoking the Holocaust to make a point about the United States is unfounded, minimizes the evil of Nazism, and is an offense to its victims.” But Ellison wasn’t mentioning the holocaust specifically; he was talking about the burning of the Reichstag, and the imprisonment of political rivals (communists).

But neither of these is correct, and I’m surprised that Rosner missed explanation number 3:

The Reichstag fire was probably set by Marinus van der Lubbe, an admitted communist sympathizer (who was not at that time a member of the Communist Party), who was executed for the crime. Although Hitler tried to show that the fire was set as part of a wider plot involving the Communist Party, this is very doubtful. However, Hitler used this ‘plot’ as a pretext to issue a decree suspending most civil liberties in Germany.

It has been suggested that van der Lubbe was helped by Nazi agents provocateurs, or even that the Nazis set the fire themselves, although there is no definite proof. However — and this is the important point — this is very widely believed.

So most people will assume that Ellison is implying that the Bush Administration not only made use of 9/11, but were complicit in it, despite the creative ambiguity of the last sentence in the quotation.

This is a pretty outrageous statement, but what does it have to do with Jews?

Unfortunately, far too much. When I Google “Jews 9/11” I get 1.6 million hits; some of them debunk the conspiracy theories, but many (a large majority of the first few pages) assert that 9/11 was an inside job, variously involving the Bush Administration, Israel, the Mossad, the Elders of Zion, etc. Such theories are widespread throughout the world and the US. Jewish concern about 9/11 conspiracy theories is quite understandable.

So although we don’t know what Keith Ellison was thinking when he made his statement, we know that it lent support to some of the darkest corners of hatred out there (if you don’t believe me, go ahead and Google ‘Jews 9/11’).

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Hamas, Fatah murder majors fight at West Bank university

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

An Najah 'martyrs'An Najah University, in Schechem (Nablus) on the West Bank has always been a militant place, having had no less than 19 ‘martyr’ alumni (although I don’t know if they graduated before exploding). Recently there was some controversy when Manchester University in the UK “twinned” with An Najah.

An Najah was also in the news in 2001, when students created an ‘art’ exhibition which included a bloody replica of the bombed Sbarro pizza restaurant in which 15 people were killed and 130 injured.

Sbarro pizza replica

The exhibit’s main attraction was a room-sized re-enactment of the bombing at Sbarro. The installation featured broken furniture splattered with fake blood and human body parts as well as an idolized portrait of the suicide bomber holding a Koran and an automatic rifle. Also featured in the exhibition is a room with mannequins dressed as suicide bombers carrying automatic rifles in one hand and the Koran in the other, and aside another mannequin dressed up to resemble an Orthodox Jew with a taped voice quoting from the Muslim Hadith: “O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me. Come and kill him.” — Wikipedia

Yesterday Hamas and Fatah supporters among An Najah students lit into each other, bringing an immediate response from Fatah ‘security’ forces:

Three people were wounded by live fire, including one who was shot in the head and was in critical condition, doctors said. Others suffered beating injuries.

The clash began when Hamas supporters staged a sit-in on campus and raised their movement’s green flags. Fatah activists demanded that the Hamas flags be removed, and a fistfight erupted.

At some point, dozens of Palestinian security officers broke into the university and opened fire, the witnesses said. They were joined by about two dozen gunmen in civilian dress. — Jerusalem Post

The harsh response was undoubtedly intended to send a message to Hamas that agitation leading to a putsch in the West Bank, as happened in Gaza, won’t be tolerated. My feeling is that if there is an attempt to execute a coup, Fatah will need the help of the IDF to put it down.

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On dealing with Hamas

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

The Jerusalem Post reports:

In a report to be published on Tuesday, a subcommittee of the House of Lords’ European Union Committee said that the EU should avoid an “undesirably rigid” approach to dealing with Hamas that would risk undermining progress in building viable and democratic Palestinian institutions, a prerequisite, they say, for any peace settlement…

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs subcommittee, one of seven subcommittees of the European Union Committee, said that Hamas must be “clear on renouncing violence” and that while pressure should be put on the group to recognize Israel and accept previous agreements, “progress should not be scuppered because of this.”

Two things should be clear: first, recognition is not just a side issue, it is the issue. And second, Hamas will never agree to recognize Israel (other than in the trivial sense of admitting its physical existence).

Recognition is a big deal because it goes against both the general Arab narrative of the conflict, and the specific Islamic sensitivities of Hamas.

In the Arab narrative, the Jews have no legitimacy in the Middle East. They are no different than bandits that steal your horse. They showed up from Europe and took the Palestinians’ land. Recognition implies that they have a right — in some way, shape or form — to be there at all.

From an Islamic point of view, such as that of Hamas, the problem is multiplied. Not only are they bandits, they are not Muslims — so how can they be allowed to hold any Muslim land or rule over any Muslims?

Hamas is an organization that came into being specifically to fight the Jews, not to govern the Palestinians. Hamas simply exists for the sake of the jihad it believes is obligatory. Take away the jihad and Hamas vanishes.

So consider the three principles of the Road Map: Recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements (the Oslo accord, which implies an acceptance of Israel’s right to exist) are simply out of the question for Hamas, as the House of Lords seems to realize.

What about renunciation of violence?

Here there’s room for confusion, which Hamas wishes to exploit. Since ‘jihad’ for Hamas means armed struggle, and jihad is obligatory, there can be no permanent renunciation of violence. Hamas is prepared under some conditions to agree to a long-term but temporary truce, or hudna. Nevertheless, it is essential to a hudna that it is temporary.

Israel must not permit herself to be forced to make agreements with Hamas. There can be no real ground of agreement between to be and not to be.

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