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November 24, 2014 / 2 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Arab Islamist’

Understanding Our Global Misfortunes

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
            In some important respects, Iran is only a microcosm. Whatever happens next within that particularly troubled and troubling country, many of the deepest underlying problems and divisions will remain genuinely global.This is because revolution, despotism, war and terrorism are always generic issues in world politics. In the end – that is, civilizationally – they will need to be understood and confronted on a broadly international level.

 

            “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” observed the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and “everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”  Today’s simmering Iranian instability and belligerence are more a symptom of generic civilizational fragility than merely an isolated (albeit catastrophic) disease. Beneath the surface, all world politics readily reveal a distinctly common and malignant disorder. This is the seemingly irremediable incapacity of many human beings to find both meaning and identity within themselves, as individuals. 

 

            Iran is only a microcosm. From the beginning, all world affairs have been driven by some form or another of “tribal” conflict, by incessant and deadly struggles between more-or-less warring groups. Without a clear and persisting sense of an outsider, of an enemy, of an “other,” whole societies routinely feel lost in the world. Drawing self-worth from their membership in the state or the faith or the race – from what Freud had insightfully called the “primal horde” – these humans often cannot satisfy even the most minimal requirements of interpersonal coexistence.

 

            Every sham may have a patina. Our very obvious progress in the technical and scientific realms still has no real counterpart in basic human relations. Yes, of course, we can manufacture jet aircraft and send astronauts into space and even communicate by “twitter” (whatever that means; I’m not really sure), but before we are allowed to board commercial airline flights we must first take off our shoes. The point of such removal is certainly not to enhance our personal comfort, but rather to ensure that we won’t blow up the plane.

 

            What kind of world is this? Iran is only a microcosm. We humans surely want to be upbeat about the whole world. We are turned off by anyone who speaks candidly about life’s day-to-day vagaries, or about its simultaneously absent ecstasies. Whenever a friend or colleague is asked, “How are you?” the visceral answer must always be the same: “I’m great.” 

 

             What nonsense! In fact, there remains very great pain and loneliness throughout the world.  Further, in certain matters, nothing important ever really changes:plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. In the truly critical issues of mega-survival, we humans may now be living far more precariously than ever before. Of course, this is especially apparent to the always-imperiled people of Israel – imperiled because millions of mortal Arab/Islamist enemies are still guided by the thoroughly atavistic primal tribal dynamics of “the herd.”

 

             What a world! Iran is only a microcosm. The veneer of human civilization is still razor thin, particularly in large portions of the Arab/Islamist world.  However conversant with statistics and science, certain nations in our world can still glance smugly over mountains of fresh corpses, and announce without apology or embarrassment that “God Is Great!” Assorted mass societies greedily suck out the very marrow of human wisdom, reverence and compassion in a deeply misguided dash to “power.”  In the Middle East, among Israel’s existential foes, the ultimate form of sought-after power has absolutely nothing to do with land or territory. It has to do with something that can never be understood in Washington. It has to do with power over death.

 

            Globally, hope exists, to be sure, but it must now sing softly, in an undertone.  The “blood-dimmed tide” creates a deafening noise, but it is still possible to listen for transient sounds of grace and harmony.  We must all quickly learn to pay very close attention to our most intimate human feelings of empathy, anxiety, restlessness and desperation. These feelings are always determinative, and always – ultimately – universal.

 

             As Jews, we already understand that life on earth must ultimately be about the individual. In essence, therefore, we see that the time for “modernization,” “globalization,” “artificial intelligence” and “new information methodologies” is already over.  To survive together, all residents of this endangered planet must first rediscover an authentic human life that is detached from meaningless and corrosive distinctions (“us” and “them”), banal conformance, shallow optimism and contrived happiness. Only in this vital expression of an awakened human spirit may we finally learn that agony is more important than astronomy, that cries of despair are more serious than the disembodied powers of technology, and that our tears have a much greater significance than robotic smiles. “The man who laughs,” commented the poet Bertolt Brecht, “has simply not yet heard the horrible news.”

 

             Iran is only microcosm. The true and persisting instabilities and barbarisms of life on earth can never be undone by improving global economics, by building larger missiles, by fashioning new international treaties, by spreading democracy or even by periodic revolutions.  We inevitably interrelated humans still lack a tolerable future not because we have been too slow to learn, but because too many among us have stubbornly failed to learn what is truly important.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton  (Ph.D., 1971) and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University.  Born in Switzerland at the end of World War II, he is the author of many books and articles dealing with world politics, law, literature and philosophy. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Well, Dear Candidates, Which Is It? A Tactical War On Terror, Or A Genuine Clash Of Civilizations?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

From a national survival standpoint, the candidate debates remain pretty much beside the point. Not a single presidential aspirant has answered (or even attempted to answer) a very important question: Are we Americans now involved in a merely tactical struggle against particular terror groups and individuals, or are we, instead, embroiled in something much larger? Should we now be focusing on assorted political, military and logistical issues (the effective position, more or less, of all candidates), or upon the much wider religious and cultural context from which our principal terror enemies are spawned?

These questions are politically sensitive, to be sure, but the answers will determine precisely which security measures we should adopt. Here are some preliminary answers: The roots of past and still-impending anti-American terror lie deeply embedded in civilizational hostility, in a partial but widespread Arab/Islamist hatred for Western values and post-Enlightenment modernity. This constructed and codified hatred extends primarily to Judaism, but also to certain parts of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Although it is true that the greatest portion of Arabs and Muslims strenuously reject terror violence as a means of fulfilling Islamic expectations, the remaining minority portion numbers in the tens of millions. Literally millions of Jihadists are still unhesitatingly prepared to enter “paradise” at a moment’s notice. For them, there can be nothing better than an obligatory “martyrdom.”

The current “War on Terror” should not be based solely upon the operational eradication of “extremists.” This is not a truly military matter. Rather, our war must be founded upon the grim but correct understanding that, for the most part, Arab/Islamist terror is simply the most visible and painful expression of an enraged civilization. Steeped in fundamental hatreds, this fragmented community is not coextensive with the entire Arab/Islamic world, but it does explicitly affirm a perilously primal union between violence and the sacred.

More than anything else, it is this portentous union that now threatens America. Our War on Terror must confront a far-reaching enemy effort to usher in a new Dark Ages. We must wage a genuinely civilizational struggle against a resurgent seventh-century medievalism that seeks to bring fear, paralysis and death to whole legions of “unbelievers.” In the next several years, a preferred terrorism tactic in this war is apt to involve chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons – a dire but informed prediction that should be more openly affirmed by all presidential contenders.

Our truest war is not against Osama Bin Laden or even those Arab/Islamic states that nurture and encourage his program for mass murder. Even if Bin Laden and every other identifiably major terrorist were apprehended and prosecuted in authoritative courts of justice, millions of others in the Arab/Islamist world would not cease their planning for an impassioned destruction of “infidels.” These millions, like the zealots who destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon, would not intend to do evil. On the contrary, they would mete out death to innocents for the sake of an imagined divine expectation, prodding the killing of Israelis, Americans and certain Europeans with steadfast conviction and pure heart.

Sanctified killers, these millions would generate an incessant search for more “Godless” victims. Though mired in blood, their search would be tranquil and self-assured, born of the altogether certain knowledge that its perpetrators were neither evil nor infamous, but “heroic.”

For our current enemies, terrorism is fundamentally an expression of religious sacrifice. For them, violence and the sacred are always inseparable. To understand the rationale and operation of planned terrorism it is first necessary to understand these particular conceptions of the sacred. Then, and only then, will it become clear that most Arab/Islamist terror is, at its core, a distinct manifestation of worship.

All civilizations hope for immortality. Political scientists may prefer to identify global power with guns, battleships and missiles, but the most sought after form of power in this world is always power over death. In essence, Arab/Islamist terrorism is a longstanding form of sacred violence oriented toward the sacrifice of both enemies and martyrs. It is through the presumably indispensable killing of Americans, Jews and many others that the “Holy Warrior” embarked upon Jihad can buy himself free from the unendurable penalty of dying.

It is only through such sacred killing, and not through compromise or diplomacy, that divine will can actually be done.

Forget the so-called “Road Map” or shortsighted plans for durable economic ties with Saudi Arabia. Everywhere in the Arab/Islamic world, America is routinely characterized as a pathology. A recent and very typical article from an Egyptian newspaper speaks characteristically of the U.S. as “the cancer, the malignant wound, in the body of Arabism, for which there is no cure but eradication.” Such inflammatory references are more than a vile metaphor. They are profoundly theological descriptions of a despised enemy that must be lanced, cut out, excised. Where this liquidation can be accomplished by self-sacrifice, possibly even terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, it would be life-affirming for the killers. Naturally, most Arab/Islamic governments and movements would deny this zero-sum, end-of-the-world thinking, but such denials would be dishonest.

The unvarnished truth of the terrorist threat to the United States and the West still remains widely misunderstood. We face suicidal mass killings with unconventional weapons in the future not because there exists a small number of insane terrorist murderers, but because we are embroiled – however unwittingly – in an authentic clash of civilizations. While we all wish it weren’t so, wishing will get us nowhere. Our only hope is to acknowledge the relentlessly bitter and primal source of our existential danger, and then proceed to fight the real war on terror from there.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, February 8, 2008.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism, war and international law. Among these was one of the earliest books on nuclear terrorism (Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat, Westview, 1979). Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

A Cartography Of Lunacy: Bush, Olmert And The Winding ‘Road Map’ To Nuclear War (Part I)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Back in August 2007, the Palestinian Authority (PA), Prime Minister Olmert’s “partner in peace,” named a soccer tournament after Ziyad Da’as, a Fatah-Tanzim terrorist who had been eliminated by Israel exactly five years earlier. The Palestinian Da’as was responsible for the heroic January 2002 attack in which gunmen opened fire with an M-16 at a Bat Mitzvah in Hadera, murdering six and seriously wounding thirty. With equal courage, he had also planned the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli civilians in Tulkarem in 2001.

Such grotesque stories of official PA honors bestowed upon Palestinian terrorists are quite common. In the matter of Ziyad Da’as, the PA shamelessly identified a repeat murderer of women and children “as one of the brave people of the Palestinian resistance.” The daily newspaper proudly carrying the story, Al Hayat Al Jadida, is an organ owned by the Palestinian Authority.

What’s wrong with this picture? For some reason, President Bush – indifferent to the PA’s true colors – continues to prod Prime Minister Olmert to follow the “Road Map.” Making matters even worse, Messrs. Bush and Olmert, unimpressed by history and indifferent to facts on the ground, now proceed smugly with their stillborn plan to aid one Palestinian terrorist group against another. Moreover, in a corollary policy of self-deception, they also supply even larger packages of military assistance to those very same Arab governments who mentor and sustain a broad spectrum of Islamist (anti-Israel/anti-U.S.) terrorists.

Are our governments in Washington and Jerusalem consciouslyself-destructive? In the sordid matter of arming Fatah against Hamas (some time ago, both Israel and the US were actually aiding assorted Islamist forces for presumed geopolitical benefit), it is manifestly a policy built upon sand. Yet, both governments accept the glaringly false presumption of a real difference between two murderous terror organizations.

On the somewhat related issue of arming Sunni Arab states against a Shiite Iran, the Bush policies are merely the latest example of a time-dishonored expression of American Realpolitik; that is, seeking some sort of tangible balance in regions of exceptional competition and conflict. Admittedly, the metaphor of equilibrium is neat and satisfying, but it bears no relation to the real world.

Searching for dynamic equilibrium in Middle Eastern politics will inevitably spawn catastrophic failure. This is now especially evident when we consider the profoundly destabilizing prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons development. Taken together with the U.S.-supported birthing of “Palestine,” this increasingly probable impact will produce various force multipliers with distinctly negative synergies for both Israel and the United States.

What is really going on here? Bowing to the president of the United States, the Olmert government now fully intends to conform to the prescribed Road Map. These partisans of a starkly delusionary diplomacy still believe, contrary to all ascertainable evidence and to all recent history, that a process of unilateral dismemberment (former Prime Minister Sharon called it “disengagement;” current Prime Minister Olmert calls it “realignment”) can somehow bring mutually gainful resolution to the longstanding dispute between Israel and its enemies.

Why such blinders? What these national leaders steadfastly refuse to recognize is that the now-unavoidable civilizational struggle against Arab/Islamic “genociders” has almost nothing to do with territory. Rather, it has to do with an irreconcilable configuration of foes that seeks not land, but religious hegemony. From the standpoint of the PA or any of its kindred states and movements, there can simply be no Jewish state in the midst of the dar al-Islam, the world of Islam. Never. Period.

Ultimately, all Jihadists seek something far more personal and far more elusive than land. They seek the ultimate form of power. They seek immortality.

On its face, all world politics is a struggle for power. But in this interminable struggle, there can be no greater power than the power over death. The core dispute with the Palestinians, therefore, will never be about any sort of political compromise. It will always be about G-d

From 1948 to the present, the Arab/Islamist world’s existential opposition to Israel has stemmed from a deeply doctrinal hatred of a Jewish state in the region of Islam – indeed, of any Jewish state that dares to take hold in the “dar al-Islam.”

Even now, this manifestly obvious observation seemingly needs to be re-stated. After all, if Arab/Islamist opposition to Israel were only about West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza, why were there so many Arab terrorist attacks against Jews between 1948 and 1967? At that time, these disputed territories were still in Arab hands. What exactly were these terrorists seeking to “liberate” before there were any “Israel-occupied territories?”

The Palestine Liberation Organization was first formed in 1964, three years before the Six-Day War. What precisely was the PLO seeking to “liberate”?

For that substantial portion of the Arab/Islamic world that remains fully dedicated to Israel’s annihilation, an inventive cartography is merely part of a much wider strategy of genocide – a term that is used here in the literal, jurisprudential sense; that is, the explicit meaning codified at the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Unambiguously, the Road Map is merely the latest diplomatic routing to Jewish extinction in the Middle East. First fashioned by the so-called “Quartet” (the U.S., Russia, EU and UN), it is accepted by many others only on an understanding of Israel as the individual Jew in macrocosm.

To be sure, in the generally acknowledged Arab/Islamist view, Israel is always the singular Jew writ large. The Jewish State must thereforealways be loathed. Significantly, this insidious view is a far cry from the wishful vision of the supporters of the Oslo/Road Map/Disengagement/Realignment. For these more “optimistic” archeologists of Jewish and American ruins-in-the-making, Israel should be pleased that it is despised only because it is an “occupier.”

What can possibly sustain such “optimism?” We don’t hear any such territorial explanations of Arab/Islamist hatred from within elements of the Arab/Islamist world. On the contrary, each and every Israeli, every young Jewish infant and child as well as every uniformed soldier, is hated in the Arab/Islamic world because he is a Jew. That is the whole story – the whole indisputable story.

An authoritative expression of this mainstream Islamist view was clarified in an important article in Al-Ahram. Here, the religiously prominent Dr. Lufti Abd al-Azim wrote straightforwardly and unhesitatingly: “The first thing we have to make clear is that, no distinction must be made between the Jew and the Israeli…. The Jew is a Jew, through the millennia…. in spurning all moral values, devouring the living and drinking his blood for the sake of a few coins. The Jew, the merchant of Venice, does not differ from the killer of Deir Yasin or the killer of the camps. They are equal examples of human degradation. Let us therefore put aside such distinctions and talk about Jews.”

The regionally and Islamically revered Dr. Abd al-Azim is hardly alone in this position. A current Egyptian textbook on ARAB ISLAMIC HISTORY – widely used in teacher training colleges – expresses the following revealing sentiments:”The Jews are always the same, every time and everywhere. They will not live save in darkness. They contrive their evils clandestinely. They fight only when they are hidden, because they are cowards…. The Prophet enlightened us about the right way to treat them, and succeeded finally in crushing the plots that they had planned. We today must follow this way and purify Palestine from their filth.”

Some April 2006 postings from the Muslim Brotherhood Children’s Website (based in Egypt, a country “at peace” with Israel) are also worth mentioning:

“Did you know that the Jews murdered 25 of the Prophets of Allah, and that their black history is full of crimes of murder and corruption?”

“Did you know that the criminal Jews frequently revile and curse our Lord?”

“Did you know that the Jews made several attempts to murder our beloved Prophet, but that Allah the Omnipotent saved him from their plot?”

“Did you know that the corruption and deviance widespread in the world today are the result of activity and planning by the Jews, who are interested in leading people astray, away from the path of Allah?”

“Did you know that the Jews who occupy our land and our holy places in beloved Palestine are planning to occupy the rest of the Muslim countries and to establish a Greater Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile, and that they are interested in excavating in the tomb of our beloved Prophet?”

“Did you know that today the Jews are inciting the entire world against Islam and the Muslims, on the pretext of the war against terror?”

How, then, shall we understand current advocates of peace in the Middle East through further diplomatic negotiations? Some supporters of the Road Map and its attendant disengagements and realignments base their position on the Palestinian claim to territories (Judea/Samaria/Gaza). Leaving aside the very questionable nature of the underlying demographic argument (e.g., the commonly stated and unsupported assertion that current Palestinians are descended directly from the ancient Canaanites), these supporters conveniently ignore the continuous Jewish presence in these lands.

They also ignore that more than one million Palestinians are now full citizens of Israel, enjoying substantially more legal rights (especially women) than do their counterparts in the Arab/Islamic world. Also generally forgotten, is that 900,000 Jews were slaughtered or expelled from Muslim area states after 1948 – states that even today deny Jews any parallel rights of dignity or nationality. Yet, it is the Palestinians – not the Israelis – who cling relentlessly to the grotesque idea of Jihad.

The “sacred” struggle to evict “The Jews” from “all of Palestine” (that is, from Israel as well as from Judea/Samaria/Gaza) is driven by high expectations of Holy War. According to certain Islamic orthodoxy, the Prophet is said to have predicted a final war to annihilate the Jews. Mohammed, it is reported, had stated: “The hour (i.e., salvation) will not come until you fight against the Jews; and the stone would say, `O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me: come and kill him.’”

Israel’s Peace Process supporters, in advancing Palestinian “legal” claims, forget that the PLO once urged Saddam Hussein to launch annihilatory attacks upon Israeli noncombatants during the 1991 Gulf War. Then, Yassir Arafat had enthusiastically embraced Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, openly sending units of the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) to join in the inter-Arab killing, rape and torture of Kuwaitis. Following the Iraqi aggression, Arafat and the PLO supported Saddam’s Baghdad in many different ways. At the Cairo Summit of August 10, 1990, Arafat tried to deflect attention from the barbarous invasion toward the crises in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Abdul Abbas sent his own paramilitary forces into the occupied state to help “police” the sheikhdom. So, too, did the PFLP’s George Habash and the DFLP’s Nayef Hawatmeh. At the time, Mohammed Milhem, senior aide to Arafat, publicly threatened Fatah-led terrorism “everywhere” in support of Iraq. This is the very same Fatah that Israel and the United States now arm and support – the same “moderate” Fatah.

Copyright© The Jewish Press, November 30, 2007. All rights reserved

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli and US counter-terrorism and nuclear security policies. Chair of Project Daniel, he is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and the author of ten major books dealing with international relations and international law.

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