The Inner Contradictions of Jihad

.....A news story appeared in the September 8, 2006, issue of the New York Times under the headline “Al Jazeera Shows Tape of bin Laden and Planners on 9/11.”  In it, we learn that Wail Alshehri, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, asked, “If jihad is not now an obligation, when will it be?” We are told that he was “speaking of attacks on Muslims in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Chechnya.” He apparently didn’t care that the United States had negotiated a truce in Bosnia and fought on the side of the Kosovars against Serbia. He didn’t object to the fact most of the attacks against Muslims in Afghanistan came from the Taliban, which was terrorizing Afghan citizens. Nor did he realize that if Russia and not America had attacked Muslims in Chechnya, it wasn’t America’s fault.
.....In other words, Al Jazeera released a tape in which the hijackers imply say that the 9/11 attacks were unjustified. They didn’t understand what this tape meant. But they understood perfectly well that the tape would increase their support among jihadists around the world, who also wouldn’t understand that the attacks were unjustified.
.....The example above illustrates the misreading of information. But one can also believe and exploit misinformation. The September 16, 2006, issue of the Economist includes a news story entitled “Milking the Holocaust” in which we learn that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wrote to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel telling her that the winners of World War II were keeping “a black cloud of humiliation and shame” hanging over Germany by doing Israel’s bidding and perpetuating the “myth” of the Holocaust. Ahmedinejad proposed that Iran and Germany work to set the world to rights against Israel, which Ahmedinejad described as “the greatest enemy of humanity.”
.....In the August 30, 2006, issue of the New York Sun, Steven Stalinsky gives us examples of Muslim writers who rejoiced after the events of 9/11 and then goes on to tell us of other Muslims nowadays who say that the Jews did it (“Arab Press Says Jews Perpetuated 9/11 Attacks,” August 30). For jihadists, there is no problem believing these contradictory explanations at the same time. Arabs, strengthened by their faith, learned how to fly and carried out these heroic suicide attacks, proving the depth of their faith. Jews, villains that they are, carried out these dastardly acts of destruction. For true believers, the heroism of the 9/11 pilots illustrates the glory of their cause, and the killing of 3000 people on 9/11 shows the perfidy of the Jews. There is no contradiction between these two scenarios for the faithful. A bit of information and a bit of disinformation that denies the truth of the information can both be believed at the same time.

.....A year ago, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel would withdraw from almost all of the West Bank. He was offering a gift to the Palestinians: a state of their own.
.....Europe reacted by calling Israel’s withdrawal a land grab. Israel was unilaterally redrawing the pre-1967 boundaries with Jordan, although keeping the boundary with Gaza, which had at that time been occupied by Egypt. Nobody seemed to remember or care that before 1967, the world had not recognized those boundaries.
.....The Palestinians reacted by voting Hamas into office. They chose a political party committed to the destruction of Israel. Perhaps they understood that Palestinian independence, now as before, can be achieved only with the Israelis, not against them. Accepting independence is a tacit recognition of Israel’s right to exist alongside a Palestinian state. They could not be bribed with independence. They wanted to do what they felt was virtuous, to die in a jihad while killing Israelis.
.....By voting for Hamas, Palestinians did not simply choose death over independence; they also accepted the likelihood that their lives would be limited by Islamic fundamentalism. Jihadists have taken over the government of Somalia. They have made it illegal to watch videos (reported in “Islamic militiamen arrest 60 for watching videos,” China Daily, July 20, 2006). China Daily does not tell us what sorts of videos these were, but reports that earlier, on July 4, “hard-line Islamic militia fighters shot and killed two people who were watching a World Cup football broadcast in central Somalia.” Is that what the Palestinians want? Probably not, but they will accept it in order to elect a party that won’t recognize Israel.
.....Way back in the days of Yasir Arafat, the Oslo Agreement was signed. It would have led Israel to accept Palestinian sovereignty if the Palestinians had allowed Israel to live in peace. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, seemed willing to abandon and endless war against Israel for the sake of a Palestinian state. His constituents, however, chose fanaticism over independence and voted Abbas’s party, Fatah, out of office.
.....Once Israel no longer controlled Gaza, rockets aimed at Israel were launched regularly. The goal, one has to assume, was to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state limited to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When the rockets produced only minor retaliations, tunnels to Israel were dug, soldiers were killed, and an Israeli hostage was captured.
.....In May of 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, leaving Hezbollah, the Party of God, in control of much of the area. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has launched raids on Israel. Nasrallah, the beneficiary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, spits on the ground when he says the Arabic word for “Jew” (reported by Pranay Gupte in the New York Sun, March 14, 2005). Nasrallah, like Hamas, is terrified of the idea of peace with Israel. While Israel was fighting Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israelis and began to hit northern Israel with rockets. Israel responded with force. The battle ended prematurely, before the destruction of Hezbollah, because President Bush and France’s President Chirac worked together to write Security Council Resolution 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities. For once, leftists did not criticize President Bush.
.....Hezbollah claimed victory despite its losses. Not everyone agreed. Amnesty International accused Hezbollah of “serious violations of international humanitarian law” and “deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects” (“Amnesty Says Hezbollah Committed War Crimes,” The New York Times, September 14, 2006). Amnesty International, to be sure, also condemned Israel, saying, “Its attacks also violated other rules of international law, including the prohibition on reprisal attacks on the civilian population.” But there is nothing unusual about a condemnation of Israel’s actions from an international organization. On the other hand, if an Arab terrorist group is condemned, it is big news. Nasrallah himself said that if he had known how big his losses would be, he wouldn’t have attacked Israel.

.....Time and again, anti-Zionism has prevented the creation of a Palestinian state. The first time was on November 29, 1947. The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181, dividing Palestine into six areas, arranged in a checkerboard pattern, three of them having a Jewish majority, the other three with an Arab majority. The partition resolution, had it been accepted by both sides, would have created a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.
.....Representatives of the 600,000 Jews then living in Palestine accepted partition. The six Arab states in the UN at that time—Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen—rejected the resolution. Palestinian Arabs weren't asked. Would they have wanted a state in half of Palestine at that time? Their actions must speak in the absence of words. On November 30, the day after the UN vote, a bus in Palestine was fired on and five Jews were killed.
.....On May 14, 1948, Israel became independent. That night, Tel Aviv was bombed by Egyptian planes. Iraq (which doesn't even share a boundary with Israel), Syria, Lebanon and Transjordan joined the war. Israel, which a day earlier had had no government, no taxes, and no military conscription, won the war. Transjordan and Egypt won too. Transjordan acquired the West Bank, which is why it later changed its name to Jordan; Egypt gained the Gaza Strip. The question of Palestinian sovereignty did not arise. The Palestinian refugees who found themselves in Egypt (Gaza), Syria and Lebanon were neither granted citizenship in the states they had fled to nor recognized as Palestinian nationals.
.....Why did five Arab states invade Israel on May 15? They did not do it to gain territory, although Egypt and Transjordan did not offer to give up the land that had come into their possession during the war. They did not do it for the Palestinians; indeed, the Arab states, including oil-rich Saudi Arabia, did nothing to alleviate the plight of the refugees. Refugee camps have existed since 1948. The Arab world, with the assistance of the United Nations, acting with unprecedented cynicism, has kept these refugees homeless in order to delegitimize Israel.
.....The anti-Zionist cause is neither altruistic nor practical. There were no reasons of state security, nor were there anticipated economic advantages for the five Arab states that went to war in May of 1948. But actions have consequences. The 1948 invasion of Israel ended forever the possibility of an independent Arab state occupying an area as large as half the land of Palestine. Indeed, had there not been a Zionist movement, the question of Palestinian independence would never have arisen. What was true in 1947 is true now. To the extent that the Palestinians can achieve sovereignty, it can only be done with the Israelis, not against them.
.....A hatred as intense and violent as anti-Zionism is too strong to have a tangible, comprehensible reason. This passion has to take priority over the goal of creating and building a state. Hamas is not only violent, it is gratuitously violent. Its only conceivable victory is the death of Israeli citizens.
.....Hamas is not alone. A de facto Marxist-Islamic alliance has existed for 40 years, opposed to freedom and to Zionism. Freedom is incompatible with both Marxism. Crazies from around the world chose Israel as a target. Members of the Japanese Red Army Faction, on May 30, 1972, went to Israel so that they could achieve martyrdom while killing Jews. Seventeen of those killed were Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims, but that is beside the point. Half a world from Japan, here in the United States, the Nation of Islam (NOI) argues that the Jews are not Jews at all, thus denying their right to Israel. Cynthia Ozick, in Partisan Review (1994, p. 384), quotes Khalid Muhammed (a former national spokesman for the Nation of Islam, who died in 2001) as saying: "You know nothing about bathrooms and toilets and restrooms and sanitation systems. You did your Number One and your Number Two, your pee-pee and your doo-doo . . . right in the caves and hills of Europe. You slept in your urination and your defecation, generation after generation, for two thousand years. . . . You knocked animals in the heads with clubs and boulders and bricks . . . and all of you would just gum them and eat the fur, the filth, and suck the blood from the raw meat, and you still eat your meat raw, to this very day." Like all anti-Zionism, the NOI position has no content—other than racism.
.....Khalid Muhammed was not a head of state. Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, is president of Venezuela. On July 30, 2006, he was on his fifth visit to Iran, at which time he received Iran’s highest medal for supporting Tehran’s position on nuclear enrichment. President Ahmedinejad of Iran said that Chavez “is the one who has resisted imperialism for years and has defended the interests of his and other Latin American countries.”  It is hard to see how Venezuela is defending Latin American countries by supporting Iran’s nuclear policies. But Chavez went on to visit Syria on August 29, and said that “his government is united with Syria in strong opposition to the United States’ ‘imperialistic aggression’ in the Middle East” (reported in the Jerusalem Post online edition, August 30). If Chavez wanted to help Venezuela, he would not travel around the world insulting the United States. But leftists always put anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism above all other issues.

.....Israel, unlike America, has always been in danger of destruction. The amazing victories of the Sinai Campaign, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War against the armies of states much larger than Israel took place because nothing too serious went wrong. Israel is too small to be able to afford major errors. Israel, however, does not live by the sword. Whenever an opportunity for peace occurred, Israel seized it. Despite the fact that Israel’s enemies outnumber the Israelis by 1000 to one, despite the fact that Israel is the most hated nation on earth, Israel always takes risks for the sake of peace. Menachem Begin, elected as a hawk and often viewed as intransigent, negotiated a generous settlement with Egypt in which he ceded the Sinai Peninsula, bigger than Israel, with its oil wells and its strategic passes. It was a gamble that paid off—more or less. The state-controlled Egyptian press still uses inflammatory language to describe Israelis and Israeli policy.
.....The late Yitzhak Rabin, also elected as a hawk, although from the hawkish wing of a dovish party, embarked on his own generous program: the daring attempt to exchange land for peace with the Palestinian Authority. Rabin's boldness did not lead to long-term security; Arafat was either too much of an anti-Zionist himself or too frightened of being assassinated.
.....Israel's Arab citizens, a vulnerable minority if ever there was one, continued to live in peace—in a country at war—and enjoy as far as possible the benefits of democracy. Their position is not an enviable one; nevertheless, there is no other place where a minority ethnically related to an external enemy has experienced comparable security. Israel's suppression of the two Intifadas it has faced is generally described as ruthless and a failure, but it was the most restrained of all possible responses. And indeed it was not a failure, as is shown by Israel's continued existence.
.....The power of anti-Zionism has prevented Israel from ever having a seat on the Security Council. The International Red Cross did not admit Israel until this year, and still will not allow Israel to use the Star of David as a symbol in international operations.
..... Anti-Zionism hurts the Arab world as much as it hurts Israel. Jihadists, however, are totally selfless. They are willing to suffer, to pay any price, in order to act out their hatred for Israel. They are not merely evil; they are also the worst enemy of Palestinian statehood.

This essay appeared in the November/December 2006 issue of Midstream.