May 30, 2004

America’s Fragile Partnership with Saudi Arabia

Sand Trap: Inside the Mirage:

By Thomas W Lippman

Reviewed by Joshua Kurlantzick

For Americans, one of the most jarring revelations about the attacks of 9/11 was the fact that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis citizens, that is, of a supposed ally. Polls now show that over 70 percent of the public view Saudi Arabia as untrustworthy, with no small number considering the country an outright adversary. In Washington, politicians once eager for invitations to the Saudi embassy now dodge Prince Bandar, the kingdoms envoy, while energy experts contemplate alternatives to Saudi oil.

In Inside the Mirage, Thomas Lippman tries to put this increasingly tense relationship in historical perspective. A longtime Middle East bureau chief for the Washington Post, Lippman traces American involvement in Saudi Arabia back to its roots almost a century ago. Though the war on terror is not his subject—and barely registers in his account—he makes clear that, long before the unhappy events of 9/11, all was far from well in our dealings.

As Lippman explains, U.S. relations emerged largely by chance.
In 1911, ten soldiers loyal to Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, the founder of the ruling dynasty, were wounded in battle and ended up being treated by American missionary doctors. Ibn Saud never forgot the “infidel” foreigners who gave their help and “asked nothing in return.” A decade later, impressed by American technology, he gave the kingdom’s oil concession to Standard Oil of California; it began operating before World War II joining with other oil companies after the war to form ‘Aramco.

Over the next twenty years, thousands of American oil workers and their families arrived in Saudi Arabia. For the pioneers among them, life in the brutally hot desert was tough. Vehicles broke down in the sand, potable water had to be hauled in on donkey carts. As for cultural interaction, Americans were prohibited from dealing with Saudi women and also, to an extent, with Saudi men, out of fear on Ibn Saud's part that the sharing of technical information might lead to the spread of subversive political ideas.

By the 1960’s, U.S. know-how had helped the Saudis turn Bedouin villages into ‘Western-style towns. Aramco employees themselves lived in Levittown-like enclaves, in houses equipped with all the modern conveniences. As the wife of an American geologist told Lippman, she and her fami1y dinners of “wonderful filet mignon, butter beans, and Irish potatoes” and “the king picked up the grocery bill.” But Americans chafed at the restrictions placed on them by the ultraconservative religious establishment. For women confined to Western compounds and for Christians forced to connduct their religious services in secret, the material comforts of Saudi life were small compensation.

The American companies, foundations, and government officials active in the kingdom hoped that, with time and assistance, Saudi society could be transformed, brought into the modem world. Drawing on Aramco archives, Lippman describes the efforts of executives to find a core of young Saudis who might be trained in American work habits, “stuffed at breakneck speed with information, technology.” At the same time, the State Department and the Ford Foundation were busy instructing the royal family on how to set up formal government ministries—a radical break for a regime whose early kings kept the national treasury in trunks under their beds (a habit the Taliban would share with them).

This idealism faded quickly, however, during the oil boom of the 1970’s and the subsequent collapse of the Saudi economy in the 1980’s! and 90’s. Most American companies, Lippman shows, were unable to replace foreign workers with Saudis because few Saudis took the initiative to improve their own skills. As for the royal family, it refused to create a modem educational system, and skewed the nation’s economy to hinder entrepreneurs. Religious leaders even resisted American efforts to rid Saudi cities of malarial mosquitoes because the spraying would challenge “the inscrutable ways of Allah [as] manifested through the lowly fly.”

American officials soon resigned themselves to the kingdom’s backwardness and brutality. Lippman describes the case of Scott J. Nelson, a safety engineer at Bechtel, who in 1984 discovered fire hazards in a Saudi hospital. For this embarrassing revelation, the Saudi government locked Nelson up without a trial; in jail, he was beaten with bamboo canes and forced to live in his own filth—outrages greeted with silence by the U.S. embassy
(though Congress pressed for his release). Nor did American diplomats
protest when Saudi officials handed them copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or demanded that the U.S. not station Jews at its air base in Dhahran. Most fatefully, in hindsight, Washington said little as the Royal family tried to pacify its Islamic critics by funding “charities” meant to spread Wahhabism and terror to the far corners of the Muslim world.

Lippman is a skilled writer and reporter, and deftly captures the stark lives of the Americans who first ventured into this forbidding kingdom. His account is packed with details—stories culled from extensive interviews, records unearthed from obscure archives. Unfortunately, he too often fails to organize these reams of material to good effect, leaving readers to search on their own for larger themes.

Even cooperation during the first Gulf war, held up by many Saudi experts in the U.S. as a shining example of the “special relationship” between Riyadh and Washington, was in large part an illusion: Lippman shows how many members of the royal family resisted the use of Saudi territory by U.S. troops. After the war, moreover, when many American Arabists predicted we would see an opening in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh went back to business as usual, accommodating Islamic radicalism at home and promoting it abroad.

Though Lippman plainly knows and likes the people of Saudi Arabia, he offers no thoughts about why they have tolerated tyranny for so long. After all, other backward societies have remade themselves over the past half-century. In the 1950’s, Singapore was a malarial swamp with high infant mortality rates and a tiny educated elite. Even some of the Saudi kingdom’s oil-rich Arab neighbors, like Dubai, have embraced economic modernization.

Still less explicably, Lippman gives scant attention to the rise of al Qaeda and the growth of the Saudi underclass—developments that have made plain the danger of our longstanding indifference to the trajectory of Saudi society. Lippman simply does not seem to recognize how profoundly the U.S.-Saudi relationship has changed in the wake of 9/1l. Indeed, at this critical moment in America’s Middle East enterprise—a moment when the House of Saud is $200 billion in debt, when young Saudis are streaming into Iraq to fight coalition forces, and when Wahhabi clerics accuse the U.S. of conspiring with the Shia to destroy the Sunni world—he would seem to be guilty of believing in the mirage that his own book so ably dispels.

Joshua Kurlantzick is foreign editor of the New Republic
.

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May 25, 2004

PM Sharon’s Latest Preposterous Proposal

Caroline Glick The Jerusalem Post May 21, 2004
www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=10

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is now tentatively set to bring his "new
plan" for withdrawing IDF troops from the Gaza Strip and uprooting
Israeli settlements there and in Samaria to the cabinet for its approval
next Sunday. The new plan, we are told, is simply an incremental
variation on Sharon's previous plan which was overwhelmingly rejected by
Likud party members at the beginning of the month.

The new plan calls for IDF withdrawal from Gaza and uprooting of Israeli
communities in three stages with each distinct stage coming before the
cabinet for approval before implementation. Aside from this, the plan
also contains two additional novelties. The first is a call for amending
the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt to enable the Egyptian military, as
opposed to Egyptian border guards to deploy along the Egyptian side of
the border with Gaza. The second new component of the plan that the
prime minister's office is currently floating is the deployment of an
international force into Gaza. (Hard to believe this suicidal gesture - jsk)
From a domestic standpoint, what stands out about the new plan is its
author. Whereas authorship of the plan to unilaterally withdraw from
Gaza belonged to former Labor party leader Amram Mitzna, the new plan
comes straight from Yossi Beilin's drawing board. In crafting the Oslo
plan, Beilin came up with the idea of establishing a PLO state in Judea,
Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem on an incremental basis. So it was that
Israel first removed its troops from Gaza and Jericho and only later
from the other major cities and villages in Judea and Samaria. As well,
over the past two years, Beilin has been pushing the idea of bringing
foreign forces, including Arab armies, into the territories together
with his American supporter, former US ambassador Martin Indyk.

The idea of amending the peace treaty with Egypt is bizarre on the face
of it. The current IDF operation in Rafah was necessitated by Egypt's
abject refusal or failure to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza through
subterranean tunnels burrowed across the Egypt-Gaza border. If Egypt
were upholding its commitments to Israel in the peace treaty, it would
have been actively and continuously working to prevent weapons flow from
its territory to Gaza. It has not.

It is argued that an amendment of the 1979 treaty to allow regular
Egyptian military units to deploy along the border will empower Egypt to
take action against the weapons smugglers. This is ridiculous. As it
stands the treaty enables Egyptian border guards to deploy along the
border and places no restrictions on the size of such a force. These
border guards can be armed with assault rifles for the dispatch of their
duties and there is no reason why such armaments would be insufficient
for stemming the arms trafficking.

More importantly, given the virulence of hatred of Israel in Egypt -
hatred that is encouraged by the Egyptian government - the long term
implications of an Israeli move to allow Egypt to deploy regular army
forces along the border could be disastrous. Indeed, rather than look to
Egypt for a solution to a problem it is largely responsible for
creating, Israel should be leading a diplomatic campaign against Egypt
to force it to act responsibly.

Up until this week when the idea of bringing foreign troops into Gaza in
the framework of an Israeli withdrawal was first introduced by the prime
minister's office, it had been the policy of all Israeli governments to
reject out of hand any thought of bringing in foreign troops aside
perhaps from US forces. This has been Israel's consistent policy because
the our successive governments have understood that the hostility
towards Israel in the international community - from the Arab world to
the EU to the UN to the international human rights organizations - is so
inbred that any foreign troop presence in the area would automatically
harm Israel's national interest of ensuring the security of its citizens
and the inviolability of its territory.

The understanding was that foreign troops in Judea, Samaria and Gaza
would not work to bring order and quell terrorism but would rather
protect terrorists operating in these areas from Israeli military
operations. This view was based not only on the knee-jerk anti-Israel
positions taken by these governments and international organizations but
also on Israel's experience with UN forces in southern Lebanon. There UN
peacekeepers allowed themselves to be exploited, repeatedly and
consistently by Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations that used UN
cover to commit terrorist attacks against Israel.

It should not be forgotten that almost a year after IDF soldiers Benny
Avraham, Omar Sawayid and Adi Avitan were kidnapped by Hizbullah in
October 2000, Israel discovered that the UN had been hiding information
about their abduction. Arguably in contravention of international law,
the UN had hidden from the IDF videotapes it had of the soldiers'
abduction as well as operational and personal effects of the soldiers.
The Hizbullah terrorists who carried out the kidnapping traveled in a
vehicle with UN plates and a UN flag. UN forces in Lebanon who found the
vehicle while its engine was still running, removed the equipment from
it, including several articles that were stained with blood.

After the information was revealed, the UN still insisted that Israel
could not analyze the blood samples but rather that the analysis would
have to be done by the World Health Organization. Until Israel
discovered this information the government and the IDF were operating
under the assumption that the soldiers were still alive. Early access to
the information could have given the IDF the opportunity to discover
that in fact the soldiers were murdered by their kidnappers.

The rationale for the current plan of bringing foreign troops into Gaza
is that the prime minister and his advisors are attempting to find a way
to negotiate the Gaza withdrawal with someone. In the absence of a
responsible Palestinian interlocutor, the thinking goes, Israel must
invent a partner with which it can implement the withdrawal plan from
Gaza. Indeed, although the full-blown campaign launched by the Israeli
media to delegitimize the results of the Likud vote has resulted in a
majority of public support now for a withdrawal from Gaza, the public is
still evenly split as to whether Israel can leave Gaza without handing
over its responsibility for security to a responsible party.

The hope no doubt is that if the international community has an active
role to play in Sharon's retreat plan, it will have a stake in the
plan's success. Yet the international community's reaction to this
week's IDF operation in Rafah has shown unequivocally that this hope is
based on absolutely nothing.

Even before Israel had committed its troops to Rafah, Amnesty
International had already accused Israel of committing war crimes in
destroying houses in Rafah along the border. Never mind that the claim
has no basis whatsoever in international law as states have a right to
view as military targets any structure that is used to conduct military
operations against it and these houses were used specifically for that
purpose. Amnesty's condemnation came without the organization even
bothering to check the facts. Just as was the case of the battle in
Jenin refugee camp in April 2002, Amnesty reached its conclusion without
launching an inquiry.

Amnesty's libelous attack on Israel was immediately picked up by media
organizations worldwide as well as by the UN and the EU. These then
repeated the condemnation of Israel verbatim. On Tuesday, no greater
moral authority than the Church of Sweden called for its members to wage
an economic boycott against Israel.

And it isn't that the UN and the EU, the media and the human rights
organizations do not know the truth. They do. They have all received
documented proof, not only from Israel but from their own people that
have shown them conclusively that the Palestinian Authority is a
terrorist organization and that its method of fighting Israel while
hiding behind civilians is by its very nature a war crime. They know
everything, but they do not care. They believe that their national and
institutional interests are best served by condemning Israel and
embracing Palestinian war crimes as justified.

In an attempt to get the foreign media to report what is actually
happening on the ground in Gaza, the IDF's spokesman's unit pleaded with
foreign news agencies to join IDF forces in their operations and see for
themselves. By mid-week, the IDF had to admit that the attempt was an
abject failure. Almost no one took them up on the offer. The foreign
media is not interested in showing the truth. They simply want to
criminalize Israel.

The most abject and obnoxious instance of this is the reaction to the
IDF's apparent inadvertent killing of five Palestinian gunmen and two
teenagers during a PA organized march towards IDF forces stationed in
Rafah on Wednesday. Without bothering to check the facts, just as was
the case in Jenin, the international media gushingly reported that IDF
troops had "massacred" Palestinian civilians in a peaceful march in
Gaza. The Palestinian press releases on the matter were indulgently
quoted as fact as news organization after new organization dismissed the
IDF's explanations as lies. In a matter of hours, the UN Security
Council passed a resolution condemning Israel and the US, due no doubt
to its current self-destructive wooing of the UN and France in Iraq
declined to veto the decision.

The sad and terrible thing about Sharon's newest plan is that he
actually thinks he needs a plan in the first place. If our experience
over the past 11 years has taught us anything, it is that no matter what
Israel proposes to do in the interest of peace and Palestinian
independence, it is always blamed when the Palestinians continue to make
war against us - regardless of the barbarism of their actions.

The simple truth of the matter was made clear this week by COS Lt. Gen.
Moshe Ya'alon. Speaking of the military necessity of the operation in
Gaza to the Knesset, Ya'alon said, "Only the IDF can secure Gaza." No
plan, no matter how new can change this basic truth.

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May 23, 2004

How about a change of pace – A Beautiful Love Story?

Redacted from an article by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin relative to the Bible portion of the week – Bamidbar (Numbers) 2 Sivan 5764 May 22, 2004

Efrat, Israel - The Scroll of Ruth contains one of the most idyllic stories in the Bible, a tale of “autumnal love” between a widow (Ruth) and a widower (Boaz), within the backdrop of Diaspora inter-marriage, conversion to Judaism, and the agricultural life in ancient Israel. The Rabbinic Sages ordained that we read this Scroll on Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, the anniversary of the Torah Revelation at Sinai and the celebration of the first fruits brought to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Boaz and Ruth are the great- grandparents of King David, the Psalm-singing military hero who united the tribes of Israel and first envisioned the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Ruth the Moabite is Jew by choice whose commitment to Torah Judaism makes her worthy of being the great grandmother of the prototype of the eventual Messiah-King..

The first chapter of the story spans the ten years that the family of Naomi is in Moab. Naomi and Ruth leave Moab and the Midrash (commentary by the Hebrew sages) tells us that Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem at the precise time of the funeral of Boaz’s wife.

Boaz died immediately after he impregnated Ruth and that is how the Rabbinic Sages discount for the fact that Boaz is not mentioned in the last verses of the Scroll (Ruth 4:14-22), which specifically deal with the birth of Oved, son, to Boaz and Ruth as well as father to Jesse.

The first chapter begins with a famine in Israel, and an important personage (Elimelekh) who leaves Bethlehem (literally the house of bread) with his wife and sons to seek greener pastures in the idolatrous Moab. As happened with Father Abraham, Diaspora living proved far more dangerous (Genesis 12:10-20). The two sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Hittite wives and since the children follow the religion of the mother, the Israelite line of Elimelekh and Naomi — seems to have ended! The father and his sons all die in Moab — their earlier spiritual demise expressing itself physically; Fortunately one daughter-in-law, Ruth, clings to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and converts to Judaism declaring:

(“Where you will go” — to Israel — “there shall I go, where you will lodge, there shall I lodge,” — maintaining the same sexual purity as you — “Your people shall be my people, your G-d my G-d” — Ruth 1:16), and returns to Bethlehem. Only now — in Israel — can eternal history begin, and so the next three chapters, and the next three months, are far more significant than the previous ten years, which had almost destroyed the family line.

The Commentary tells us that Boaz’s wife has died just as Naomi and Ruth return and that Boaz will die three months later. But death in itself is not tragic for Judaism: after all, every individual must die sooner or later. The only relevant question is to what extent the individual, when alive, participates in Jewish eternity. Naomi sends Ruth to glean the forgotten grain and harvest the produce in the corner of the field — agricultural provision that the Torah provides for the poor Israelites.

Divine Providence sent Ruth to Boaz’s field — and Boaz was a Kinsman of Elimelekh. Boaz seems to be attracted to this comely proselyte stranger and gives her his protection. Naomi understands that participation in Jewish eternity means having a child with Jewish parentage in Israel; she therefore instructs Ruth to wash and anoint herself, dress in special finery, visit the place on the threshing floor where Boaz will be spending the night at the height of the harvest season, and lie down at his feet. She also warns Ruth not to reveal who she is (Ruth 3:3,4). In effect, she is suggesting that Ruth tempt Boaz as Tamar had tempted Boaz’s forbear Judah generations earlier — and at least enter Jewish history by bearing his child (see Genesis, chapter 38).

Ruth senses that Boaz loves her — and so she holds out for higher stakes than a mere “one night stand.” She tells him exactly who she is, and she asks that he “redeem” her by marriage and by restoring to her Elimelekh’s previously sold homestead in Israel. Ruth understands that true eternity means bearing a child on your own piece of land in Israel — not in the sly, but as a respected wife and householder. Boaz complies, and Oved, the grandfather of King David, is born. Ruth’s commitment to Torah — the land of Torah, the laws of Torah, the loving-kindness of Torah, the modesty of Torah — catapults this convert into the center stage of Jewish eternity. Indeed, there is no book more fitting for the Festival of The First Fruits, Torah and Redemption than the Scroll of Ruth.

Shabbat Shalom.


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May 21, 2004

A profound commentary from a representative of the people of Judea and Samaria and a personal friend.


May. 8, 2004 21:53


Not every problem has a solution
By Yehudit Tayar

There are times when, as a parent, you look at your child knowing you are about to disappoint him or her; knowing that you are simply unable to solve every problem – or even provide good advice – all the time. This is realistic, since it is in the nature of life that not everything is dependent upon us to resolve. Why, then, does our government feel inadequate when it meets up with situations that are not in its power to resolve? The ongoing conflict with the Arabs is a situation that is not entirely in our hands.

Even the most pragmatic leadership cannot force a solution on the other side. What has not been done? What has not been offered to the so-called leadership of the Arab Muslims living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza? They have been given recognition, financial assistance, territorial control, weapons and autonomy in the areas handed over by Israel. Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with American backing, have signed a series of agreements over the past almost 11 years.

However, the painful and unfortunate truth is that only Israel has implemented these agreements. So why the pressure by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon? Why the relentless media pressure? Why this fixation that Sharon will succeed where everyone else failed? And why the continual capitulation to terrorism, the willingness to destroy successful Israeli civilian communities and uproot thousands of people, turning them into refugees, ripping society apart – for absolutely nothing except to reward the very terror we wish to avoid?

It is sad that the government, aided by the media, seems to depend on Israelis not remembering recent history. Then there is the mantra about root causes of terror. The media discusses the "psychology" behind the suicide murderers and those who brainwash, train, and send them out as emissaries of death. But what people are expected to forget is that all this did not begin after 1967 and the so-called occupation. What was the excuse for the murder and mutilation of men, women and children in the 1929 and 1936 massacres, before the establishment of the state? Were we occupiers then, too?

I DON'T buy the new philosophy of trying to fathom the reasons why a father would encourage his children to become suicide bombers. This gruesome concept – trying to "understand" the motivation of a murderer, indeed, a culture that encourage murderous acts – only gives credence to the murderers and their actions. It puts what they do within the bounds of acceptance of Israeli society.

When I hear that the Arabs feel oppressed or frustrated, when I hear this put forward as a justification for the continuous murder of innocent people, I cannot believe that supposedly intelligent, educated, morally ethical Jews could think along those lines. In a sense, they are condoning the killings. We who live in the communities of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are not the cause of either the friction between Arabs and Jews, or the cause of the violence. Our presence is a handy excuse for those who do not wish to admit that not everything is solvable, certainly not immediately and with no partner.

On the contrary, we who live in this region are, by our very presence, protecting the rest of the country. Remember, settlement was always the policy of our nation. Were it not for settlement the isolated outposts in the Negev and the Galilee would have never been established. Safed would have been abandoned, along with Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba. The media's (and government's) selective memory in this regard is tragic since our very existence in the Land of Israel is because of our unalienable right, our heritage as a Jewish people.

With our lack of understanding, our impatience, and our recklessness about whom we are dealing with, we have brought pain upon ourselves. Only fortitude, conviction and strength will eventually resolve this difficult and painful situation.We, the Jewish citizens of Israel living in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, have not lost direction. We remember our history. And we pray that those elected to protect us in our Land will finally do that.

The writer is a veteran spokesperson for the settlement movement.

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May 19, 2004

The Sacred Muslim Practice of Beheading

By Andrew G. Bottom
FrontPageMagazinecom May 13, 2004


Reactions to the grotesque jihadist decapitation of yet another "infidel Jew," Mr. Berg, make clear that our intelligentsia are either dangerously uninformed, or simply unwilling to come to terms with this ugly reality: such murders are consistent with sacred jihad practices, as well as Islamic attitudes towards all non-Muslim infidels, in particular, Jews, which date back to the 7th century, and the Prophet Muhammad's own example.

According to Muhammad’s sacralized biography by Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad himself sanctioned the massacre of the Qurayza, a vanquished Jewish tribe. He appointed an "arbiter" who soon rendered this concise verdict: the men were to be put to death, the women and children sold into slavery, the spoils to be divided among the Muslims.

Muhammad ratified this judgment stating that it was a decree of God pronounced from above the Seven Heavens. Thus some 600 to 900 men from the Qurayza were lead on Muhammad’s order to the Market of Medina. Trenches were dug and the men were beheaded, and their decapitated corpses buried in the trenches while Muhammad watched in attendance.

Women and children were sold into slavery, a number of them being distributed as gifts among Muhammad’s companions, and Muhammad chose one of the Qurayza women (Rayhana) for himself. The Qurayza’s property and other possessions (including weapons) were also divided up as additional "booty" among the Muslims, to support further jihad campaigns.

The classical Muslim jurist al-Mawardi (a Shafi’ite jurist, d. 1058) from Baghdad was a seminal, prolific scholar who lived during the so-called Islamic "Golden Age" of the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate. He wrote the following, based on widely accepted interpretations of the Qur'an and Sunna (i.e., the recorded words and deeds of Muhammad), regarding infidel prisoners of jihad campaigns: “As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them.

Allah, may he be exalted, says, 'When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks' (Qur'an sura 47, verse 4)”....Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah." [The Laws of Islamic Governance, trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192. Emphasis added.]Indeed such odious “rules” were iterated by all four classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence, across the vast Muslim empire.For centuries, from the Iberian peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, jihad campaigns waged by Muslim armies against infidel Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus, were punctuated by massacres, including mass throat slittings and beheadings.

During the period of “enlightened” Muslim rule, the Christians of Iberian Toledo, who had first submitted to their Arab Muslim invaders in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. In the harsh Muslim reprisal that ensued, Toledo was pillaged, and all the Christian notables had their throats cut.

On the Indian subcontinent, Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, who is revered as a paragon of Muslim tolerance by modern revisionist historians, recorded the following in his autobiographical “Baburnama,” about infidel prisoners of a jihad campaign:"Those who were brought in alive [having surrendered] were ordered beheaded, after which a tower of skulls was erected in the camp." [The Baburnama -Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, translated and edited by Wheeler M. Thacktson, Oxford University Press,1996, p. 188. Emphasis added.]

Recent jihad-inspired decapitations of infidels by Muslims have occurred across the globe- Christians in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nigeria; Hindu priests and "unveiled" Hindu women in Kashmir; Wall Street Journal reporter, and Jew, Daniel Pearl.

We should not be surprised that these contemporary paroxysms of jihad violence are accompanied by ritualized beheadings. Such gruesome acts are in fact sanctioned by core Islamic sacred texts, and classical Muslim jurisprudence. Empty claims that jihad decapitations are somehow "alien to true Islam," however well-intentioned, undermine serious efforts to reform and desacralize Islamic doctrine. This process will only begin with frank discussion, both between non-Muslims and Muslims, and within the Muslim community.

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School, and occasional contributor to Frontpage Magazine. He is the editor of a forthcoming essay collection entitled, "The Legacy of Jihad".

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 09:32 AM | Comments (141) | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

Re-birth of "Roadmap"

As to the “Roadmap” that, as a result of Israel’s strong actions defending itself, has had a re-birth with the Arabs, the European Union, the United Nations, the Russians – all great “friends” of Israel - and a misguided American State Dept.:

Background: Cabinet Decision Conditioned Road Map Action On Quiet
Aaron Lerner Date: 16 May 2004

When the Sharon cabinet accepted the Road Map on May 25, 2003, the
acceptance was made subject to Israel's 14 points.
The first point makes
"calm" a condition for the "commencement of" the Road Map. Point #2 makes
"the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement" a condition for
"progress within phases". [See text as appears on the Knesset website below]

Israel's Response to the Road Map [comments in original]
May 25, 2003

http://www.knesset.gov.il/process/docs/roadmap_response_eng.htm


1. Both at the commencement of and during the process, and as a condition to
its continuance, calm will be maintained. The Palestinians will dismantle
the existing security organizations and implement security reforms during
the course of which new organizations will be formed and act to combat
terror, violence and incitement (incitement must cease immediately and the
Palestinian Authority must educate for peace). These organizations will
engage in genuine prevention of terror and violence through arrests,
interrogations, prevention and the enforcement of the legal groundwork for
investigations, prosecution and punishment. In the first phase of the plan
and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will
complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad,
the Popular Front, the Democratic Front Al-Aqsa Brigades and other
apparatuses) and their infrastructure, collection of all illegal weapons and
their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area
and destroyed, cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside
the Palestinian Authority, activation of the full prevention apparatus and
cessation of incitement. There will be no progress to the second phase
without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the
war against terror. The security plans to be implemented are the Tenet and
Zinni plans. [As in the other mutual frameworks, the Roadmap will not state
that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians].

2. Full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for
progress within phases. The first condition for progress will be the
complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement. Progress between
phases will come only following the full implementation of the preceding
phase. Attention will be paid not to timelines, but to performance
benchmarks. (Timelines will serve only as reference points).

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
INTERNET ADDRESS: imra@netvision.net.il
Website: http://www.imra.org.il

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 05:07 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

Veteran Officers told Kerry to leave Vietnam

Couldn't take John's behavior, attitudes anymore

Posted: May 14, 2004, WorldNetDaily.com

Sen. John Kerry was told to leave Vietnam by three colleagues upset with his behavior and attitudes, according to a fellow swift-boat officer during the war. Thomas Wright says the misbehavior of the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate got to the point where his divisional commander no longer wanted Kerry in his boat group and re-assigned him.

Then Wright and like-minded boat officers took matters into their own hands, according to John B. Dwyer, a Vietnam veteran and military historian writing in the online magazine American Thinker. "When he got his third Purple Heart, three of us told him to leave," Wright said, according to Dwyer. "We knew how the system worked and we didn't want him in Coastal Division 11.

"Kerry didn't manipulate the system," he continued, "we did." Wright, who at times was officer-in-charge over Kerry, said he had occasion to observe Kerry's behavior and attitudes, and the circumstances surrounding his early departure from the war zone. Wright noted Kerry's chosen moniker for radio communications between the boats was "Boston Strangler."

The officer said he and most other swift-boat officers had two commandments: 1. Protect the crews. 2. Win. But working with "Boston Strangler" became problematical, he said, according to Dwyer. "I had a lot of trouble getting him to follow orders," Wright recalled. "He had a different view of leadership and operations. Those of us with direct experience working with Kerry found him difficult and oriented toward his personal, rather than unit goals and objectives."

Wright said he "believed that overall responsibility rested squarely on the shoulders of the OIC or OTC in a free-fire zone. You had to be right [before opening fire]." However, he continued, "Kerry seemed to believe there were no rules in a free-fire zone, and you were supposed to kill anyone. I didn't see it that way." The rules were vital, Wright emphasized, because it was important the enemy "understood that swift boats were a competent, effective force that could dominate his location." "You couldn't achieve that by indiscriminate use of weapons in free-fire zones," he said.

Wright referred to the three Purple Hearts awarded to Kerry, which allowed him to leave Vietnam for the U.S. "No one wanted a Purple Heart because it meant we had made a mistake," he said. "We made sure our crews were recognized, but no one took pride in a Purple Heart."

More than a dozen of Kerry's superior officers and colleagues during the war held a press conference May 4 in Washington to tell Americans the senator is unfit to be commander-in-chief of the United States.

Retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman, who headed Coastal Division 11, said Kerry was seen by colleagues as a self-serving, "loose cannon" who came only to launch a political career. Hoffman said Kerry "arrived in country with a strong anti-Vietnam War bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for his political future."

"He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment, often with disregard to specific tactical assignments," Hoffman said. "He was a loose cannon." Hoffman and his colleagues with the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are among more than 200 veterans who have signed a letter asking Kerry to authorize the Department of the Navy to release all of his military records, including health documents.

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May 12, 2004

A Shocking Summary of European Union Funding of Politicized Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO)

By IMRA – Independent Media Review and Analysis – Aaron and Joseph Lerner (www.imra.org.il)

- The EU, as well as individual member states, provides large funds to
numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are deeply involved in
political activities under the banner of humanitarian and human rights.
Despite the use of taxpayer funds, NGOs are generally not subject to the
norms of accountability and transparency, and constitute a significant
"democratic deficit".

- A major portion of this EU funding goes to NGOs that are active in the
Arab-Israeli conflict.

- The evidence demonstrates a clear and consistent bias in EU funding for
politicized NGOs that ignores the context of terrorism and conflict, and
are among the leaders in the demonization and delegitimation of Israel
(the "new anti-Semitism").

- The EU funds a number of self-proclaimed human rights organizations that
advocate the standard Palestinian position in the conflict with Israel,
and ignore the background of Palestinian violence and the context of
Israeli policies. When many EU funded NGOs mention terrorism, it is
marginalized, and not reflected in action items.

- In contrast to the Ford Foundation, which has suspended funding for some
NGOs involved in these activities, is investigating others, and has
appointed a special investigator for this issue, the EU and the European
governments continue to avoid this issue. (NGO Monitor 8 January 2004 -
www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/EUSpecialedition/euspecial-cont.htm)

- EU human rights NGOs have consistently ignored the issue of
anti-Semitism, including physical attacks, incitement, and hate
literature, such as the propagation of the "Protocols of the Elders of
Zion."

Illustrations:

- The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), linked to the
Euro-Mediterranean Project, is one of the leading promoters of political
attacks against Israel
. In October 2002 the EMHRN called for the 'total or
partial suspension of the EU Association Agreement with Israel." The
rationale given was "Israel's indiscriminate, excessive and
disproportionate use of force.... Willful killings, arbitrary executions
and targeted assassinations." By ignoring the campaign of mass terror to
which Israel was responding, and engaging in a highly partisan political
campaign, the EMHRN has violated the basic norms of human rights
organizations. For details and many other examples, see
www.ngo-monitor.org/archives/infofile.htm#euro

- The European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) provides EUR 553,132 to I'lam, which routinely violates its mission statement
promising "unbiased and democratic standards" to "empower the Palestinian
residents of Israel".
This organization uses highly biased and politicized
language regarding Israel, and its claims regarding the Israeli press are
extremely misleading. It is inappropriate for the EU to fund this highly
biased organization and its activities. (EU Funds for NGOs Misused - NGO
Monitor Sept. 2003 - www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n01/v2n01-2.htm) (In contrast, EIDHR does not fund any activities in Syria or Egypt.)

- EIDHR also funds Adalah, whose widely publicized reports consistently
use terms like "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" in reference to
Israeli responses to terrorism, and is a leading proponent of the
pro-Palestinian political agenda. (Adalah and the Impact of Legal-based
NGOs in the Arab-Israeli Conflict -www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n03/v2n03-1.htm) The organization was also prominent in drafting many of the accusations of 'apartheid' and 'institutional racism' in Israel for the NGO Declaration that was issued in parallel to the World Conference against Racism in Durban in September 2001. (www.ngo-monitor.org/issues/durban.htm)

- In 2004, EIDHR has designated 4 projects aimed at Israeli Arab citizens
and Palestinians, but notably, has no projects in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, or
Lebanon.

- The EU is a major source of funding for B'tselem, whose reports alleging
Israeli human rights abuses fail to consider the context of terrorism and
the need for effective responses. In addition, while claiming to be a
human rights organization, B'tselem devotes most of its activities and
resources to a specific political agenda, and is closely connected to the
most blatant anti-Israel political organizations such as PCHR and Miftah.
In this way, the EU is assisting in the exploitation of human rights
claims for highly partisan and political objectives. (B'tselem: The
Ambiguous Boundary between Public Education and Political Activism - NGO
Monitor Oct. 2003 - www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v2n02/v2n02-1.htm)
-

EU funding for UNRWA is often redirected to finance highly political
NGOs, such as Ard el Atfal and Ard Al Insan. This is a blatant violation
of UNRWA's mandate.

- The EU Commission Office in Israel and the Finnish Embassy have funded
(without public disclosure) Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, whose highly politicized and demonization activities and reports have led the Israeli Medical Association to end all cooperation.
(Physicians for Human Rights Color Pamphlet Contradicts its Own Mission Statement - NGO Monitor Jan. 2003 & Physicians for Human Rights - Israel: Exploiting Human Rights
for Political Goals - NGO Monitor April 2004.
- www.ngo monitor.org/editions/v1n01/v1n01-1.htm)

- The EU Commission Office in Israel has funded (without public
disclosure) the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, a highly
politicized anti-Israeli NGO, whose reports also ignore critical legal and
political contexts, and make claims that are unsupported or false
, as
detailed and analyzed in The Global Epidemic of Illegal Building and
Demolitions: Implications for Jerusalem (www.jcpa.org/jl/vp498.htm).##

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May 10, 2004

Israel's Peace Partners

Arutz Sheva News Service

Monday, May 10, 2004 / Iyar 19, 5764

TERRORISTS OPEN FIRE ON MEMORIAL CEREMONY
Palestinian terrorists, one of them apparently dressed as a woman, opened fire at hundreds of Jews who came to participate in a memorial ceremony for the Hatuel family in Gush Katif this evening. "Bullets whistled past our ears, and between our legs, and miraculously, no one was hurt," said Gaza Coast spokesman Eran Sternberg. IDF soldiers killed two of the attackers.

In response to the attack, IDF bulldozers have, since this morning, been demolishing 13 houses owned by Arabs that have been used as cover for terrorist attacks along the Kisufim Route into Gush Katif. The residents have long demanded such an action, which was stopped by past Supreme Court rulings.

"It was a humiliating experience for Jews who come to remember a slaughtered family to have to crouch and lie down while terrorists shoot wildly around," said David Hatuel afterward yesterday's attack. "Why can't the army protect a road just a few kilometers long? The houses that line the road must be torn down!" Hatuel lost his pregnant wife and their four daughters, aged 2-11, a week ago when Palestinian terrorists shot and killed them at point-blank range on the Kisufim entrance road to Gush Katif.

The ceremony began at 5:30 PM, at the site where the five were murdered. Aware of the dangers, the army provided extra security and decided to allow the memorial to take place. Gaza Coast Regional Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, Mayor Avner Shimoni and youth director Amatzia Yechieli addressed the crowd.

Several minutes after the end of the ceremony, in the midst of the afternoon Mincha prayer, shots rang out - from two sides: Dir el Balah to the northwest, and Khan Yunis to the south. The participants immediately fell to the ground , trying to find protected spots behind cars and the like, and the local security coordinators on hand returned fire. At the same time, the soldiers in the area opened massive fire towards the spot where the shots originated, in order to silence the attackers and enable the civilians to be evacuated.

Some 40 minutes later, the local council's bulletproof buses arrived; some of them positioned themselves to protect the participants, while the others began the evacuation. Women and children were taken first, followed by the men, to nearby Kisufim Checkpoint. The private cars in which the participants arrived remained along the road, and were to remain there until the army completes combing the area for additional terrorists.

Shortly after the incident began, IDF forces identified an armed terrorist in an abandoned building along the road. An IDF tank fired a shell, killing two terrorists. A third one is suspected to have taken part in the attack as well.

Mayor Shimoni pointed an accusatory finger at the Supreme Court, which has not allowed the army to raze all the buildings along the route. "The Supreme Court's hands are not clean," he said, "as it does not allow the IDF to provide full security for the country's citizens."

Israel Radio correspondent Nissim Keinan noted last night that the shots from the buildings are a nightly affair.

"We wish to make it clear over and over that the houses positioned along the Kisufim Route present a concrete danger to all those who travel on this, the only road to Gush Katif," writes Moti Sender of katif.net. "The Supreme Court decision protecting 'innocent' Palestinians that does not allow the razing of the structures along the road was made by the same judges who do not care about their brothers who live in Gush Katif and who don't try to protect them."

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May 09, 2004

Dangerous Lack of Intellectual Diversity on College Campuses


The Washington Times April 25, 2004

For all the agony and lawsuits about diversity among student enrollments, there has been a shameful silence about the lack of intellectual diversity within college faculties. Consider a 2001 Frank Luntz Research Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC) survey of Ivy League professors, which found that O percent identified themselves as conservative! At Harvard, Democratic professors outnumbered Republican professors m economics, political science and sociology departments by 50-2, according to a 2001 American Enterprise Institute survey.

At Stanford, it was 151-17; at Davidson College in North Carolina 10-1 This lack of diversity has real consequences on quality education, academic discourse and academic freedom itself A course description at the University of California Berkeley (100 Democrats, 9 - Republicans, according to a CSPC study) stated that “conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections.

When a student at a Colorado school wrote an essay on why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal, instead of why George W Bush was, as her professor asked, she received a failing grade. Of course, most students would simply accept the status quo in fear of the opprobrium they could face. After all, when the chairman of Duke’s philosophy department says that his university (95 Democrats, 15 Republicans) doesn’t hire more conservative professors because, as John Stuart Mill said, ‘stupid people are generally conservative. ’ Why shouldn’t a student stay quiet?

Which is why we are more than encouraged to hear that the Academic Bill of Rights (ABR) campaign is gaining serious momentum on campuses all across the country. Last year conservative activist David Horowitz founded Students for Academic Freedom (SAE) and launched his campaign aimed at the ambitious goal of eradicating political abuse on college campuses.

To this end, he drafted the Academic Bill of Rights that codifies principles of academic freedom by emphasizing the value of “intellectual diversity” and “the rights of students to not be indoctrinated or otherwise assaulted by political propagandists in the classroom or any educational setting.” Rather than fairly debate the issue, many university administrators and faculties attacked the ABR as an attempt to impose hiring quotas for conservative professors. But quotas play no role in Mr. Horowitz’s original draft, nor in the subsequent variations drafted by student senates and state and federal lawmakers. In fact, the ABR states that faculty luring practices must in no way be based on political affiliation.

Mr. Horowitz is surprised by the positive reaction his campaign has generated, and frankly, so are we. In less than a year SAP boasts 133 member campus organizations (most created entirely by the students themselves), legislative resolutions in eight states and a resolution in the U.S House introduced by Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican. On March 19 in Colorado, an agreement was reached between ABR bill-drafter state Rep. Shawn Mitchell and state university presidents promising steps the universities would take to implement the ABR if Mr. Mitchell would pull the bill. On March 24, the Georgia state Senate passed its own version of the ABR by a 41-5 vote. According to Mr. Horowitz, legislation wasn’t his original intent, but he’s happy to see lawmakers across the nation finally recognize a decades-old problem that, before now, was showing no signs of abating.

The issue here is balance. We think that a campus dominated by conservatives and inimical to liberals would contradict the tenets of academic freedom every bit as much as the reverse situation today. More importantly we applaud those students, liberal and conservative, who have aligned themselves in the cause of serving their own education.

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May 07, 2004

Evangelical Christians Disappointed at Israeli Self-destruction

From: International Jerusalem Post, May, 2004

Evangelical Christians may be “very disappointed” In Israel’s leaders if the country withdraws from part of the Land of Israel, but will not turn their back on Israel or the Jews, two leading figures in Christian-Jewish relations said last Sunday. Jan Willem Van der Hoeven, director of the International Christian Zionist Center in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, both took issue with comments made by Herbert Zweibon, chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel.

Zweibon, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, warned of a possible Evangelical anti-Semitic backlash if Israel withdraws from the territories. Zweibon’s group, which has ties with the US evangelica1 community, is fiercely opposed to a two-state solution. “Backlash is the wrong word,” said Van der Hoevein, ’We will weep, weep at the stupidity of the Israelis.” Van der Hoeven, a long-time leader of the evangelical community here, said that the withdrawal in Lebanon created a Hizbullah state in South Lebanon, and predicted that withdrawal from Gaza will create a Hamas state there as well.

In addition, he said a future withdrawal from the West Bank will usher In a Fatah Tanzim terror state there as well. “The result of the famous wisdom of the Jewish intellect will be that they will surround themselves with three terrorist states,” he said. “There will not be a backlash; we are just shocked”

Van der Hoeven also said that he is “amazed” at how Israel treats its Christian supporters “I was on a political television program recently, and two left wingers attacked me. I said, ‘You are a sick nation. You run after your enemies, you give them everything - a Nobel Prize, your cities, a state on your land And when you have friends, you treat them like dirt’ You are an amazing people” Van der Hoeven also said he was astonished to hear at a Likud meeting last week that Israel will not destroy the settlements it evacuates from Gaza, as it did with the northern Sinai settlements in the early 1980s, but will rather turn them over to the Palestinians!

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May 05, 2004

National Public Radio (NPR) Again Perverts Killing of Israelis

From: CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting)

In perhaps the most distorted coverage of the brutal murder of a pregnant Israeli mother and her four young daughters, NPR's Julie McCarthy today blamed the victims for their own slaughter. In the atrocity yesterday, the gunmen reportedly targeted the family's car from 20 yards away. When 34-year-old Tali, a social worker who was in her last trimester of pregnancy, lost control of the vehicle, the Palestinian terrorists approached the vehicle and executed Tali and her daughters -- Hila, 11; Hadar, 9; Roni, 7 and Merav, 2 --one by one at close range. According to press reports, the younger children were still strapped into their car seats, the car was blood-soaked, and it took the ZAKA recovery crew a long time to extract all of the bullets and collect the body parts.

Julie McCarthy's egregious statement on "Morning Edition" today came at the end of a report about Ariel Sharon's referendum loss on his "disengagement" plan. McCarthy reported: "The settlers rallied support saying Israel was withdrawing under fire. But there was ample evidence yesterday to show that their continued presence in Gaza is provoking bloodshed. Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian gunmen after the men ambushed a mother and her four small daughters outside the Gaza settlement of Gush Katif. The family was shot and killed on their way to the Israeli city of Ashkelon where they intended to campaign against Ariel Sharon and his plan to uproot them from Gaza. Julie McCarthy, NPR news, Jerusalem."

BLAMING THE VICTIM
McCarthy's editorializing that the Jewish community's "continued presence in Gaza is provoking bloodshed" is consistent with the Palestinian Authority view that the killing of settlers is a natural and legitimate outgrowth of the fact that Jews dare to inhabit territory that the Palestinians claim as their own. According to Ha'aretz, "A senior Palestinian source said he thought there was no chance the Palestinian Authority would express reservations, since every settler was considered an integral part of the occupation against which action must be taken" (Danny Rubinstein, 5/3/04).

Of course, though, there is no justification whatsoever within international law that justifies the killing of civilians simply because they live in territory which others claim as their own. Unfortunately, McCarthy's report suggests justification where there is none.

REVERSING CAUSE AND EFFECT
McCarthy further distorts the killing of the Hatuel family members by reversing the chronology of events. She states: "Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian gunmen after the men ambushed a mother and her four small daughters outside the Gaza settlement of Gush Katif." Why is the Israeli response mentioned before the Palestinian murder? The result is that the defensive Israeli action is amplified while the Palestinians' barbarous act is de-emphasized.

SOFT-PEDALLING THE MURDER
McCarthy's sanitized description of the Hatuels' murder employs equivalent language to describe Israel's shooting of murderers and the murderers' butchering of young children and their mother. Thus, "Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian gunmen," "the men ambushed a mother and her four small daughters," and "the family was shot and killed." From these indistinguishable descriptions, listeners would have no clue as to the brutality of the execution of a mother and four children whose bodies were riddled by dozens of bullets shot at point blank range.

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May 03, 2004

Rare insight into the Arab world

Israeli Arab Intellectual and Poet on Illiteracy in the Arab World discusses, "Backward-Looking" Islam, and the Complex of Arab Secularists

In an interview with the Jerusalem weekly Kol Hair on the occasion of the publication of his first book of poetry in Hebrew, Salman Masalha, an Israeli Arab intellectual and poet, speaks of what he sees as the problem of illiteracy, and thus thought, in the Arab world, of the fixation with the past in the Arab world, of the importance of educating women, and of the role of doubting and asking questions in the development of society and culture.

Masalha, who refused to serve in the Israeli military, holds an MA and Ph.D in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, and taught in the Arab Literature Department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The following are excerpts from the interview:

(1) Illiteracy in the Arab World is Over 80%

Salman Masalha: "There's a serious problem today with the Arab youth, in expressing themselves in Arabic."

Question: "Why?"

Salman Masalha: "Because of the language, that great rift between colloquial and literary Arabic. In order to explain a complex idea, you need high language, not the language of the souq. You can't express a complicated idea using the language of the souq. If you take young people, let's say eighth-grade Arab [children], and their French, or Jewish Israeli, counterparts, you will discover the discrepancy in self-expression. Because he does not know the language of thought, the Arab pupil runs into a big problem. Thus it is in the entire Arab world.

"The Arab world does not read. According to various reports, the Arab world is largely illiterate. Illiteracy in the Arab world is not 50% like it says in the reports. I say that it is over 80%. Practically speaking, even those defined as not illiterate because they completed eight years of schooling, I consider illiterate. In this century, anyone who finishes elementary school can't really read.

"A book selling 5,000 copies across the Arab world is a rare achievement. The average book published in Israel sells more copies than a successful book in the entire Arab world. This also has to do with the economic situation. Reading books is a privilege for people who have spare time and money. The poverty that sweeps the Arab world leaves the individual struggling for survival his whole life. How is he supposed to read a book? He must bring food for his children, his family."

Question: "So why not switch the approach and start writing in colloquial [Arabic]?"

Salman Masalha: "Impossible. We don't talk about theater, films, or television series. It's impossible to write research [about] art or history in the colloquial. You need the literary [language]."

Question: "Is the situation of the Arabs in Israel any different?"

Salman Masalha: "I think it's similar. There are 200 readers, no more, among Israel's Arabs."

Question: "Do you mean readers of poetry?"

Salman Masalha: "Poetry and literature and all languages. No more than 200 readers. Also, high-school literature teachers don't read books, and thus they create another generation and yet another generation of ignorant pupils."

Question: "But there are more than 200 writers."

Salman Masalha: "Of course there are more writers than readers. There are more than 200 poets alone, according to what I see in the Arabic press. The literary sections [in the press] are so ridiculous it's unbelievable. The texts and poems published in the Arabic press are on the level of children, not particularly developed."

Question: "How do you explain this?"

Salman Masalha: "Some of the newspapers are party [papers], and there they publish things by anyone who supports the party, regardless of what he writes. The editors don't care. And there are of course the commercial papers, and there's not much to say about them. Today there is only Masharif, which has a kind of editing [that is] open to the world of Arab and Hebrew literature, and only there is there any kind of editing, so that not every text gets in. Regarding what happens in the rest of the so-called newspapers, irresponsible editors and gangs of the infantile are in charge."

Question: "What about publishers?"

Salman Masalha: "In Israel there are no Arabic-language publishers. The more serious problem is that there are no bookstores. I am not talking about libraries, but bookstores. In Nazareth, there is one bookstore, and even there the selection is very limited. You go to Cairo and bring back sacks of books without even thinking.

"The only way for the Arab living here who is interested in following literature in the Arab world is the Internet, and for that you need people who are interested and know how to obtain this information. There are some good sites through which you can follow literature in the Arab world and get updated on publications."

The Arabs "Need to Bring in Western Culture"

Masalha, who was born in a Druze village in the Galilee, lives today in west Jerusalem. He is critical of Israeli Arab MPs such as Ahmad Tibi and 'Azmi Bishara who live in east Jerusalem and pay for their housing with their Knesset housing allowances.

Salman Masalha: "What's the difference between them and a settler? In my view, everything done beyond the 1967 lines was done by the force of the occupation. Everything. From A to Z."

"If your position is that there must be two countries for two peoples, you cannot be part of the occupation and live in the occupied territories, or even live in an Arab neighborhood. As far as I'm concerned, there is no difference between an Israeli Arab who lives in an Arab neighborhood and a settler."

Question: "Did you have problems in Jewish neighborhoods?"

Salman Masalha: "I personally have never had a problem. That doesn't mean that others don't have problems of this kind, but no problems happened to me, and I don't have the energy now to invent a story so as to say that I am a discriminated-against Arab. Life in the city is different than life in the Arab town. Ultimately, we live in apartheid. There is separation between Jews and Arabs - [Jews] in their towns and [Arabs] in theirs. Among the Arabs in Israel, there is a very big problem when addressing the concept of homeland. The homeland in effect becomes the village in which you were born - and more accurately, an [area within a] small radius in the village in which you were born. A homeland that forms circles of extended family or the tribe, then the neighborhood, then the village. There is no transition at all from place to place. Five kilometers from Magar [where I was born], I'm already regarded as a stranger, a refugee."

Masalha does not visit the village of his birth often, and when he looks on Arab society in Israel he sees a sad reality: "What is happening to the Arabs in Israel is a process similar to that which happened to the Oriental [Jews in Israel]. They live in an ostensibly Western country, adopt all kinds of garbage from Western culture, and are alienated from their [own] culture. They grasp only the margins of Western culture. In such a situation, every society crumbles, and then the law of the jungle rules. Crime and force rule in all Arab villages in Israel. There is a need to bring in Western culture, not only its margins; Western culture that is founded upon the drive of curiosity, the desire to truly develop, to ask..."

Previous Islamic Periods Showed Greater Openness Than Today

Question: "Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems to me that the poetry of the Abbasid period showed greater openness, enlightenment, and even reference to human rights than what Islam permits today."

Salman Masalha: "This is true. A strong culture permits diversity; a strong culture permits freedom of thought, deviation from the framework. When the Abbasid period was at its height, it became a culture of self-confidence. When there is confidence like this, you permit space and freedom. Lack of self-confidence leads to the lowest cultural point, from all aspects - human rights, women's rights. In the Arab empire, there was more freedom than in the Arab world today."

Question: "Then what do those who call for a return to Islam want - the height of culture and freedom?"

Salman Masalha: "Not at all. The perception today is like that at the beginning of Islam. Actually, Islam tried to unite the Arab tribes in the Arabian Peninsula. The Islamists see the Arab world according to what I read in the scriptures, as if today it is like the Jahaliya, the period of benightedness that preceded Islam. These Islamist movements are trying to revive Islam by uniting in the framework of an Islamic nation. Was it really like that? [The Third Caliph] Muhammad Othman bin 'Affan was murdered and thrown onto the dung heap. Three days he lay there, and a dog ate his foot. This is the golden age to which they want to return?

"There's something in the Islamic perception that drives you crazy, and that is the looking only backwards, not to the future. If the golden age was in the past, your entire vision is rearwards. This causes deterioration. In our mentality as Arabs, there is a poisonous formula that can lead to nothing good at all. There is a need for change in this programming. There is a disk in the Arab mind that must be replaced with another disk, and only this way can change come."

"The Woman is the Solution"

Question: "How is it possible to change?"

Salman Masalha: "First of all, separation of religion and state. [Then] war on ignorance, opening up to the world and to [other] cultures. The Islamic motto of 'Islam is the solution' must be replaced by 'the woman is the solution.' Women must be educated, encouraged, and enlightened. In a home with an educated and productive wife, the children will grow up to be educated and productive. A large part of the backwardness and tragedy of the Arab world lies in its abhorrent treatment of women.

"Islam is in my view a prescription for going back in time, to the pre-Islamic period of benightedness. The solution is to build a liberal and democratic society that places the individual in the center, and more than anything the woman at the heart of this center.

"We Arabs have a problem with self-sarcasm. We do not know how to laugh at ourselves. This is part of our problem. There are many taboos, almost [as powerful as] the living word of God, that must not be transgressed. There is no Arab satire, for example. In [satiric] Arab writing, it is rare to find anything interesting, except perhaps by Emil Habibi. We take the world very seriously."

Israeli Arabs Are More Free Than Anyone in the Arab World

Question: "And this restricts your writing?"

Salman Masalha: "The Arab newspapers do not publish erotica, criticism of Islam, or intimate revelations, not even political expose. For example, there are no new Arab historians. Everything is 'establishment' in the Arab world. We never ask ourselves the real questions. Doubting does not exist. No one doubts the Qur'an.

"Doubt is an essential part of the development of society and of culture. It is of this programming I speak, and of the need to replace it. To begin, for once, to ask about and talk about the most essential things in our lives, in order to find solutions or ways to change this sad reality.

"We here [in Israel], with all our problems, and all the complexity of our situation, know deep inside that we are free, I mean, as far as thinking goes, and as far as the possibility of writing goes. We are freer to think than anyone in the Arab world."

Question: "What about Arab secularism?"

Salman Masalha: "I don't know whether it is possible even to talk about Arab secularism. Is there really any such thing?...

"The problem in the Arab world, as in Israel, is that the so-called secular movements suffer from feelings of inferiority in the face of religion. In the Arab world, anyone who opposes the existing regimes sees one way [out], and that is the mosques, because of the inferiority of these regimes in the face of Islam. [But] my secular values are no less supreme [than religious values]. Secular people must not feel inferior. The whole thing must be turned upside down."

Question: "But there is no other way. Democracy is not an alternative for the average Arab."

Salman Masalha: "This is the greatest betrayal of the intellectual Arabs. Those who dare flee to America or Europe, because they cannot create and write in their own societies. Others, according to reports that are beginning to be published, received over the years envelopes full of dinars from Saddam Hussein. Intellectuals of this kind are the root of the problem.

"Today anyone who may not even have finished elementary school can grow a beard and become an authority and a source of power. People don’t know the history of Islam. The moment you have some creation that is absolute truth, it has a representative on earth - and go argue with him. There's no arguing with faith. Therefore, the war on fundamentalism cannot come out of ignorance; it must come out of knowledge - and the Arab world today, as it is, is a world of ignorance.

"What do they have to be proud of? All of Arab history is built on war crimes. There is practically not a single Muslim caliph who was not murdered. I am proud to say that I am a pagan Arab, thank God."

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