Ending a Century of Palestinian Rejectionism

By Daniel Pipes for the Washington Times (Oct 28) — Palestinians are on the wrong track and will not get off it until the outside world demands better of them.

Hajj Amin al-Husseini inspecting Axis troops.

Hajj Amin al-Husseini inspecting Axis troops.

News comes every year or two of a campaign of violence spurred by Palestinian political and religious leaders spreading wild-eyed conspiracy theories (the favorite: Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is under threat). A spasm of unprovoked violence against Israelis then follows: rocket attacks from Gaza, car-rammings in Israel proper, stone-throwing in the West Bank, street stabbings in Jerusalem. Eventually the paroxysm peters out, only to start up again not too much later.

True, these bouts of violence bring some gains to the Palestinians; in the United Nations, in faculty lounges, and on the streets of Western cities they win support against Israel. Each round ends, however, with the Palestinians in a worse place in terms of dead and wounded, buildings destroyed and an economy in tatters.

Further, their immoral and barbaric actions harden Israeli opinion, making the prospect of concessions and compromise that much less likely. The cheery Israeli hopes of two decades ago for a “partner for peace” and a “New Middle East” long ago gave way to a despair of finding acceptance. As a result, security fences are going up all over, even in Jerusalem, to protect Israelis who increasingly believe that separation, not cooperation, is the way forward.

It may be exhilarating for Palestinians to watch UNESCO condemn Israel for this and that, as it just did, but its actions serve more as theater than as practical steps toward conflict resolution.

Whence comes this insistence on self-defeating tactics?

It dates back nearly a century, to the seminal years 1920-21. In April 1920, as a gesture to the Zionists, the British government created a region called “Palestine” designed to be the eventual “national home for the Jewish people”; then, in May 1921, it appointed Amin al-Husseini (1895-1974) as mufti of Jerusalem, a dreadful decision whose repercussions still reverberate today.

Husseini harbored a monstrous hostility toward Jews; as Klaus Gensicke puts it in his important 2007 study, The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis, Husseini’s “hatred of Jews knew no mercy and he always intervened with particular zeal whenever he feared that some of the Jews could escape annihilation.” Toward this end, he initiated an uncompromising campaign of rejectionism – the intent to eliminate every vestige of Jewish presence in Palestine – and used any and all tactics toward this foul end.

For example, he can be largely held responsibility for the Middle East’s endemic antisemitism, having spread the antisemitic forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the blood libel, and Holocaust denial throughout the region. His other legacies include making Jerusalem into the flashpoint it remains today; spreading many of the anti-Zionist conspiracy theories that afflict the Middle East; and being one of the first Islamists to call for jihad.

He encouraged and organized unprovoked violence against the British and the Jews, including a three-year long intifada in 1936-39. Then he worked with the Nazis, living in Germany during the war years, 1941-45, proving so useful that he earned an audience with Hitler. Nor was this a courtesy visit; as Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu correctly pointed out on Oct. 20, Husseini had a central role in formulating the Final Solution that led eventually to the murder of six million Jews.

Husseini tutored his then-young relative, the future Yasir Arafat, and Arafat faithfully carried out the mufti’s program for 35 years, after which his apparatchik Mahmoud Abbas keeps the legacy alive. In other words, Husseini’s rejectionism still dominates the Palestinian Authority. In addition, he spent the post-war years in Egypt, where he influenced the Muslim Brotherhood whose its Hamas spin-off also bears his hallmark rejectionism. Thus do both principal Palestinian movements pursue his murderous and self-defeating methods.

Only when the Palestinians emerge from the cloud of Husseini’s dark legacy can they begin to work with Israel rather than fight it; build their own polity, society, economy, and culture rather than try to destroy Israel’s; and become a positive influence rather than the nihilistic force of today.

And how will that happen? If the outside world, as symbolized by UNESCO, stops encouraging the Palestinians’ execrable behavior and impeding Israeli defenses against it. Only when Palestinians realize they will not be rewarded for homicidal conduct will they stop their campaign of violence and start to come to terms with the Jewish state.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.

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Erdoğan Leads Turkey to the Precipice

Erdoğan Pasha as imagined by The Economist.

Erdoğan Pasha as imagined by The Economist.

By Daniel Pipes for the Autralian — The Republic of Turkey is undergoing possibly its greatest crisis since the founding of the state nearly a century ago. Present trends suggest worse to come as a long-time Western ally evolves into a hostile dictatorship.

The crisis results primarily from the ambitions of one very capable and sinister individual, Turkey’s 61-year old president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A career politician who previously served four years as the mayor of Turkey’s megacity, Istanbul, and then eleven years as the country’s prime minister, he forwards two goals hitherto unknown in the republic: dictatorship and full application of the Shari’a, Islam’s law code.

During his first eight years of power, 2003-11, Erdoğan ruled with such finesse that one could only suspect these two aspirations; proof remained elusive. This author, for example, wrote an article in 2005 that weighed the contradictory evidence for and against Erdoğan being an Islamist. A combination of playing by the rules, caution in the Islamic arena, and economic success won Erdoğan’s party, Justice and Development (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), increasing percentages of the vote in parliamentary elections, going from 34 percent in 2002, to 46 percent in 2007, to 50 percent in 2011.

That 2011 election victory, his third in succession, gave Erdoğan the confidence finally to remove the armed forces from politics, where they had long served as Turkey’s ultimate power broker. Ironically, this change ended the increasing democratization of prior decades for his fully taking charge allowed Erdoğan to develop an oversized ego, to bare his fangs, flex his despotic muscles, and openly seek his twin objectives of tyranny and Shari’a.

Indeed, Erdoğan made his power felt in every domain after 2011. Banks provided loans to the businessmen who kicked back funds to the AKP. Hostile media found themselves subject to vast fines or physical assault. Ordinary citizens who criticized the leader found themselves facing lawsuits, fines, and jail. Politicians in competing parties faced dirty tricks. Like a latter-day sultan, Erdoğan openly flouted the law and intervened at will when and where he wished, inserting himself into legal proceedings, meddling in local decisions, and interfering with police investigations. For example, he responded to compelling raw evidence of his own and his family’s corruption by simply closing down the inquiry.

The Islamic order also took shape. School instruction became more Islamic even as Islamic schools proliferated, with the number of students in the latter jumping from 60,000 to 1,600,000, a 27-fold increase. Erdoğan instructed women to stay home and breed, demanding three children apiece from them. Burqas proliferated and hijabs became legal headgear in government buildings. Alcohol became harder to find and higher priced. More broadly, Erdoğan harked back to the piety of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), eroded the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Atatürk, and positioned himself as the anti-Atatürk.

Erdoğan also faced some serious problems after 2011. The China-like economic growth slowed down and debt spiraled upwards. A disastrously inept Syria policy contributed to the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of a hostile Kurdish autonomous area, and millions of unwelcome refugees flooding into Turkey. Foreign relations soured with nearly the entire neighborhood: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, and even (Turkish) northern Cyprus. Ties also went south with Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. Good relations were limited to Doha, Kuala Lumpur, and – until recently, as shown by the many indications of Turkish state support for the Islamic State – Raqqa.

When the Erdoğan era expires, the country will be much more divided than when it began in March 2003 between Turk and Kurd, Sunni and Alevi, pious and secular Sunnis, and rich and poor. It will contain millions of difficult to assimilate Syrian refugees and Kurdish areas declared independent of the state. It will be isolated internationally. It will contain a hollowed-out government structure. It will have lost the tradition of legal impartiality.

Erdoğan’s larger accomplishment will have been to reverse Atatürk’s Westernizing policies. Whereas Atatürk and several generations of leaders wanted Turkey to be in Europe, Erdoğan brought it thunderingly back to the Middle East and to the tyranny, corruption, female subjugation, and other hallmarks of a region in crisis. As Turks struggle over the years to undo this damage, they will have ample opportunity to ponder the many evils bequeathed them by Erdoğan.

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Ten Deadly Lies about Israel

By Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.

Politico Magazine (Oct 21) — As Israeli civilians are butchered by Palestinian terrorists, the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also being butchered by a campaign of vicious lies. Here are 10 of the most pernicious myths about the current attacks:

 

First: Israel is trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

False. Israel stringently maintains the status quo on the Temple Mount. Last year some 3.5 million Muslims visited the Temple Mount alongside some 200,000 Christians and 12,000 Jews. Only Muslims are allowed to pray on the Mount, and non-Muslims may visit only at specified times, which have not changed. Though the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site—where Solomon built his Temple some 3,000 years ago—Israel will not allow a change in the status quo. The ones trying to change the status quo are Palestinians, who are violently trying to prevent Jews and Christians from even visiting a site holy to all three faiths.

 

Second: Israel seeks to destroy al-Aqsa mosque.

False: Since reuniting Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has vigorously protected the holy sites of all faiths, including al-Aqsa. In the Middle East, where militant Islamists desecrate and destroy churches, synagogues, world heritage sites, as well as each other’s mosques, Israel is the only guarantor of Jerusalem’s holy places. Palestinians have been propagating the “al-Aqsa is in danger” myth since at least 1929, when the Palestinian icon, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, used it to inspire the massacre of Jews in Hebron and elsewhere. Nearly a century later, the mosque remains unharmed, but the lie persists.

 

Third: A recent surge in settlement construction has caused the current wave of violence.

False. Annual construction in the settlements has substantially decreased over the past 15 years. Under Prime Minister Ehud Barak (2000), 5,000 new units were built in the settlements; under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2001-05) an average of 1,881; under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (2005-08) 1,774. All three were hailed as peacemakers. What about under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2009-15)? Just 1,554. Some surge.

 

Fourth: President Abbas says that Israel “executed” the innocent Palestinian Ahmed Manasra.

False: Manasra is neither innocent nor dead. He stabbed a 13-year-old Jewish boy who was riding his bicycle. Manasra has been discharged from the same hospital where his victim continues to fight for his life.

 

Fifth: Israel uses excessive force in dealing with terrorist attacks.

False: Using force to stop an attack by a gun, knife, cleaver or ax-wielding terrorist is legitimate self-defense. Israeli police officers are subject to strict rules that govern the use of deadly force, which is permitted only in life-threatening situations. How would the American public expect its police to respond to terrorists stabbing passersby as well as police officers?

 

Sixth: The current violence is the result of stagnation in the peace process.

False: Israel experienced some of the worst terrorism in its history when the peace process was at its peak. The reason for Palestinian terrorism is neither progress nor stagnation in the peace process, but the desire of the terrorists to destroy Israel.

 

Seventh: President Abbas is a voice of moderation.

False: Abbas said on September 16 that he welcomes “every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.” Abbas has not condemned a single one of the 30 terror attacks on Israelis over the past month. He and his Fatah movement continue to use the Web and the airwaves to incite the Palestinians to even more violence.

 

Eighth: International action is required to enforce the status quo on the Temple Mount.

False. Israel enforces the status quo. The international community can help most effectively by telling the truth and affirming Israel’s proven commitment to maintaining the status quo. It can also help by holding Abbas accountable for his mendacious rhetoric regarding the Temple Mount.

 

Ninth: The reason the conflict and the violence persist is because the Palestinians don’t have a state.

False: The Palestinians have repeatedly refused to accept a nation-state for themselves if it means accepting a nation-state for the Jewish people alongside it. In 1937, the Palestinians rejected the Peel Commission report that called for two states for two peoples; in 1947, they rejected the U.N. partition plan that did the same. In 2000 at Camp David and again in 2008 the Palestinians rejected new proposals that would have created a Palestinian state. The Palestinians rejected peace both before and after the creation of Israel, before Israel gained control of the territories in 1967 and after Israel vacated Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians have always been more concerned with destroying the Jewish state than with creating a state of their own. The core of the conflict remains the persistent refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people in any borders.

 

Tenth: Palestinian terrorism is the consequence of Palestinian frustration.

False: Palestinian terrorism is the product of incitement, which inculcates a culture of hatred and violence in successive generations. The biggest frustration of the terrorists is that they have failed to destroy Israel. They will continue to be frustrated.

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Gaza cleric calls on Palestinians to stab Jews

Sheikh Muhammad Sallah, brandishing knife during Friday sermon, calls on young men in West Bank to form ‘stabbing squads’

A Gaza cleric calls on Palestinians to carry out more stabbing attacks against Jews, in a sermon on Friday, October 9, 2015, in a translation made available by MEMRI. Screenshot/ MEMRI)

A Gaza cleric calls on Palestinians to carry out more stabbing attacks against Jews, in a sermon on Friday, October 9, 2015, in a translation made available by MEMRI. Screenshot/ MEMRI)

The Times of Israel (Oct 12) — A Gaza-based cleric gave a sermon at a Rafah mosque this past Friday encouraging Palestinians to stab Jews amid a surging wave of terror that has seen near-daily stabbing attacks against Israelis since the beginning of this month.

Brandishing a knife of his own during the speech at the Al-Abrar Mosque, Sheikh Muhammad Sallah called on Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to “attack in threes and fours” and “cut them into body parts.”

“My brother in the West Bank: Stab! My brother is the West Bank: Stab the myths of the Talmud in their minds! My brother in the West Bank: Stab the myths about the temple in their hearts!” Sallah cries out while wielding the knife and making stabbing motions, according to a translation made available by the Middle East Media Research Institute which also provided a video of the sermon.

Seemingly delighted with the recent surge in stabbing attacks which have killed 4 Israelis and injured 31 in 17 separate assaults, Sallah encouraged the formation of “stabbing quads.”

“We don’t want just a single stabber. Oh young men of the West Bank: Attack in threes and fours. Some should restrain the victim, while others attack him with axes and butcher knives, he said.

“Do not fear what will be said about you. Oh men of the West Bank, next time, attack in a group of three, four, or five. Attack them in groups. Cut them into body parts,” he went on.

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Op-Ed: Solving the Middle East’s Problems

This article is a must read if you want to understand the sources of all the problems in the Middle East.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

IsraelNationalNews (Sep 13) — The world keeps asking itself why the Arab Spring was such a dismal failure, trying to get to the source of the region’s problems. The answer to this question is complex, because it includes different factors that influenced events at different periods and in different ways.

Still, one can say with certainty that the main source of all the troubles is the cornerstone of Middle Eastern culture, tribal loyalties, once necessary for survival in a vast dry and arid desert area spanning the Sahara in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Sinai Desert, and also the deserts of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. In the desert man must be part of a tribe in order to protect his water sources from other tribes who are also in need of water. That fact turns the “other” into an enemy, a threatening figure who is against “us” because he is not one of “us.”

It is always “us” and “them”, our group against all the others. every man loyal to his tribe to the death, to its customs and traditions and not to a state or the state’s laws and institutions. It is called “tribalism” and the Arab world still lives under the influence of this way of life.

The second problem, spawned by tribalism, is violence. Middle Eastern culture says that since the other is an enemy, he may try to kill me as soon as he gets near enough to take my water sources, so I have to get him before he gets me.

It follows that the first reaction to any problem that arises in the Middle East is violence, violence aimed to kill.

The third problem evolving from the ancient tribal culture is the Middle Eastern concept of honor. No Muslim will accept humiliation, and he who is humiliated will seek revenge against those who caused him shame – and that revenge means murder. A person is willing to murder members of his own household, his sister and even his mother, if they have brought shame upon him by acting too freely. Honor takes first place in relations between politicians and nations, is sometimes more important that development, economics and health.

The fourth problem, also a result of tribalism, is corruption. Appointing relatives to positions in a regime – nepotism – is considered a serious problem in the West, and there are laws, rules and bureaucratic procedures that are supposed to prevent its occurrence. In Middle Eastern culture, nepotism is the name of the game, both in the political and public spheres, because anyone in power has a basic distrust of anyone from another group. A leader will appoint his family, or members of another family with whom he has a pact of loyalty, to the positions under his patronage and if the relations between the families deteriorate, he will either fire them or make sure they resign..

The fifth problem is economic corruption.  A government official feels beholden financially to his family and tribe, not to the state and certainly not to other population groups in the country, so he allocates funds for investment in infrastructure in the area his tribe resides in or areas filled with his supporters. He does not allocate funds to groups that did not support him. As far as he is concerned, they can go to hell – or Europe – as they wish.

The sixth problem is the existence of a large number of ethnic groups in the Middle East: Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Berbers, Jews, Arameans, Persians, and more. Often the groups live in a state of ongoing friction, their relations marked by hostility rather than tranquillity. As a rule, they do not intermarry, and each group fiercely guards its dialect, customs and traditions. Each group delineates itself by defining its enemies. That is the source of the violence between the Arabs and the Kurds, the Turks and the Kurds, the Arabs and the Berbers – and let’s face it, the Arabs and everyone else.

The seventh problem is religion. Islam is the main religion of the Middle East, and Islamist extremists see members of other religions who live in their proximity as infidels deserving of death. This is the cause of the horrific violence of Islamists against Christians, Yazidis, Jews, Alawites, Zoroastrians, Bahais, Mandeans, Shabakists, Druze and atheists.

The eighth problem is the internecine sectarian conflict within Islam. In the middle of the seventh century, Islam split into two parts, the Sunnis and the Shiites. Their struggle is really about wresting control over Islam, but over time the struggle has assumed a religious cast with each side making use of Allah, the Qur’an, the Hadiths (Oral Law), Sharia, history and theology for its own ends, so that Sunni Islam is now quite different from Shia islam. There is a case for claiming that, similarities notwithstanding, they are two distinct religions. The two groups have  spent the centuries since the split massacring one another, with millions sacrificed  in this endless struggle, not a few during the 1980s war between Shiite Iran and Iraq, headed by a Sunni, Saddam Hussein.

The ninth problem is the prevailing culture. Schematically, the Middle East’s population is made up of three cultural groups: the desert-dwellers, or Bedouin, the falakhim – farmers who live in villages – and the urban population dwelling in cities. These groups differ in many ways from one another and each is prone to stereotyping the others to the point where there is no way to get around their mutual preconceptions. The falakh hates the Bedouin for stealing the agricultural produce he reaps by the sweat of his brow. The Bedouin considers the falakhs and city dwellers inferior to him for giving up the original Arab desert way of life and becoming weak and lily-livered in mind and body. The city dwellers consider the Bedouin primitive desert people. Marriages between the groups are rare.

The tenth problem can be laid at the door of British, French and Italian colonialism. These powers drew borders that suited their interests but had no bearing on the sociological zones of the Middle East. This is how countries were formed with populations of all kinds of ethnic groups, tribes, religions and sects who had never had any connection with one another and certainly never saw themselves as members of the same nation. Although Syria has existed for decades (that verb should be in past tense) there was no national Syrian consciousness uniting its citizens. They remained Arabs, Kurds, Turkmans, Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Shia, Sunni, et al. Iraq also did not succeed in creating an Iraqi people despite great efforts expended on the part of the regime, and its citizens defined themselves as Kurds, Sunni, Christians, Yazidi, etc. The colonialists actually created what their citizens considered illegitimate countries foreign entities forced upon them by Christian European strangers who understood absolutely nothing about the Middle East.

The eleventh problem is the modern Arab regime. In each Arab country a minority group has gained control of the entire country and preserves its power by using a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm”, a drawn sword – and subterranean torture chambers.The Alawite minority in Syria, the Qaddafi tribe in Libya and the Hashemites of Jordan are all examples of small groups that control others with little legitimacy, if any.

The twelfth problem is Israel, a small country that was established as a result of the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI and the end of British colonialism, two world developments that made it possible for the Jews to return to the historical land of their birth after two thousand years of exile.

In general, Arabs and Muslims do not recognize the right of the Jewish people to its land, do not recognize Judaism as a living religion, and view the Jews as a collection of communities belonging to whatever country they are in and not as a people. The very existence of the state of Israel infuriates them, no matter what its size.

The rulers of the modern Arab states, with both ruler and state lacking legitimacy, were in dire need of an external enemy that would enable them to silence internal opposition and unite the people as one under their fraudulent flag. Israel was a unifying factor, an external enemy that served as the scapegoat upon which the masses could vent their rage. That is what is behind the constant hostility of the Arab media regarding Israel, and three generations of Arabs have been raised on this propaganda machine aimed solely at Israel. Their approach to Jews and Israelis is a direct consequence of this inciteful propaganda.

The thirteenth problem is oil. This important resource turned the Arab companies in the gulf to societies that sell a commodity, do not work, purchase but do not create, societies whose every possession stems not from ability, studying or work, but from what others – the Americans and the Europeans – found under their earth.  The biggest effort the men of the Gulf have to expend is the walk to the bank to deposit their checks. Easy money created a materialistic, hedonist society, busy with itself and with having fun, buying luxury cars, houses that strike you blind, designer clothing, watches that cost millions and designer jewellery, showing off in the media and buying every gadget that reaches the stores. Just opposite their palatial homes are tens of millions of Egyptians and other Arabs living in abject poverty, in unplanned neighborhoods, filled with the ignorant, unemployed and despairing poor. The gap between the wealth of the Gulf and the poverty in the Arab street is mind-boggling.

The fourteenth problem is the West’s meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, not in order to solve the region’s problems, but in order to promote its own interests. Oil, gas, arms sales, development contracts, purchases and  trade, all are intended to take advantage of the natural resources of the Middle East and of the cheap labor it offers in order to advance western economies. The countries of the West, the USSR and today’s Russia and China, protected and still protect non-legitimate Arab rulers, keeping them dependent on the West and the economic agreements signed with them.

Anyone who signs any kind of contract with an Arab ruler knows full well that this contract will be carried out at the price of the people who live – if you can call it living – under a cruel regime, but that doesn’t stop the money hungry Western countries. Since when did moral considerations ever move them?

The fifteenth problem is the existence of  al Jazeera, the Jihad website and network run by a terror state, Qatar. From the first day it hit the air in November 1996, al Jazeera spends its time unrestrainedly inciting against dictators, Israel, against the West and against the Western culture slowly finding its way into the airspace of Islamic countries.

Al Jazeera’s stated objective is to destroy the modern Arab state and hand over the rule to the Muslim Brotherhood. This mixed salad of messages is wrapped in attractive clichés such as “opinon and other opinion” and is covered with a mask of openness and video editing. This channel brought the angry people out into the streets at the end of 2010 and all through 2011, setting the Arab world ablaze, but it does not know how to put out the fire. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social networks played an instrumental role that helped the public organize demonstrations, but the motivation came from al Jazeera‘s incitement.

The seething mass of problems that plague the Middle East have destroyed the region’s’ social, economic, political and normative infrastructure, leading to the waves of emigration to Europe that we are now witnessing. During the twentieth century, Europe tried to solve the myriad cultural problems that beset the Middle East by creating the Modern Arab State, cloning the Nation-State it had invented and that suited Europe’s cultural needs. The European-style Modern Arab State is a colossal failure, because the Arab population has a Middle Eastern culture, with problems that Europe knows nothing about – tribalism on the one hand, and violence, extremism and a lack of national consciousness on the other.

A striking example of an egregiously mistaken belief held by the West is the naïve and unfounded faith that democracy can flourish in the Middle East. Western democracy is based on a social order stemming from European culture: the belief in equality for all religions and ethnic groups, women’s liberation, minority rights and freedom of expression and thought. Add to that the right to choose alternative lifestyles, along with freedom of religion and from religion, a ban on violence and free elections and you have a list that is almost totally foreign to the Middle East. Most of these freedoms are opposed to the spirit of Islam or to tribal culture, but Middle Eastern societies hold “free” elections to create  the impression that they have become democracies, although they have not adopted any of the other characteristics of a democracy. Elections are an easily adopted mechanism, but the other elements of democracy are substantive and are therefore difficult, or impossible, to embed in the Middle East.

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Daniel Pipes: Middle East Provocations and Predictions

Daniel Pipes is known for accurately predicting events in the Middle East. If you want to truly understand what is happening and what is going to happen in the Middle East this article is a must read.

The Mackenzie Institute (Sep 9) — The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, and Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.

Iran

Iran is Topic No. 1 these days, especially since the nuclear deal the six great powers reached with its rulers in Vienna on July 14. The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” seeks to bring Tehran in from the cold, ending decades of hostility and inducing Iran to become a more normal state. In itself, this is an entirely worthy endeavor.

The problem lies in the execution, which has been execrable, rewarding an aggressive government with legitimacy and additional funding, not requiring serious safeguards on its nuclear arms program, and permitting that program in about a decade. The annals of diplomacy have never witnessed a comparable capitulation by great powers to an isolated, weak state.

The Iranian leadership has an apocalyptic mindset and preoccupation with the end of days that does not apply to the North Koreans, Stalin, Mao, the Pakistanis or anyone else. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i et al. have reason to use these weapons for reasons outside of the normal military concerns – to bring on the end of the world. This makes it especially urgent to stop them.

Economic sanctions, however, amount to a sideshow, even a distraction. The Iranian government compares to the North Korean in its absolute devotion to building these weapons and its readiness to do whatever it takes, whether mass starvation or some other calamity, to achieve them. Therefore, no matter how severely applied, the sanctions only make life more difficult for the Iranian leadership without actually stopping the nuclear buildup.

The only way to stop the buildup is through the use of force. I hope the Israeli government – the only one left that might take action – will undertake this dangerous and thankless job. It can do so through aerial bombardment, special operations, or nuclear weapons, with option #2 both the most attractive and the most difficult.

If the Israelis do not stop the bomb, a nuclear device in the hands of the mullahs will have terrifying consequences for the Middle East and beyond, including North America, where a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack must be considered possible.

To the contrary, if the Iranians do not deploy their new weapons, it is just possible that the increased contact with the outside world and the disruption caused by inconsistent Western policies will work to undermine the regime.

ISIS

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) is the topic that consumes the most attention other than Iran. I agree with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, that Iran is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS. But ISIS is also a thousand times more interesting. Plus, the Obama administration finds it a useful bogeyman to justify working with Tehran.

Emerging out of almost nowhere, the group has taken Islamic nostalgia to an unimagined extreme. The Saudis, the ayatollahs, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Shabaab each imposed its version of a medieval order. But ISIS went further, replicating as best it can a seventh-century Islamic environment, down to such specifics as public beheading and enslavement.

This effort has provoked two opposite responses among Muslims. One is favorable, as manifested by Muslims coming from Tunisia and the West, attracted moth-like to an incandescently pure vision of Islam. The other, more important, response is negative. The great majority of Muslims, not to speak of non-Muslims, are alienated by the violent and flamboyant ISIS phenomenon. In the long term, ISIS will harm the Islamist movement (the one aspiring to apply Islamic law in its entirety) and even Islam itself, as Muslims in large numbers abominate ISIS.

One thing about ISIS will likely last, however: the notion of the caliphate. The last caliph who actually gave orders ruled in the 940s. That’s the 940s, not the 1940s, over a thousand years ago. The reappearance of an executive caliph after centuries of figurehead caliphs has prompted considerable excitement among Islamists. In Western terms, it’s like someone reviving the Roman Empire with a piece of territory in Europe; that would get everybody’s attention. I predict the caliphate will have a lasting and negative impact.

Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds

In certain circles, Syria and Iraq have come to be known as Suraqiya, joining their names together as the border has collapsed and they have each simultaneously been divided into three main regions: a Shiite-oriented central government, a Sunni Arab rebellion, and a Kurdish part that wants out.

This is a positive development; there’s nothing sacred about the British-French Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which created these two polities. Quite the contrary, that accord has proven an abject failure; conjure up the names of Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein to remember why. These miserable states exist for the benefit of their monstrous leaders who proceed to murder their own subjects. So, let them fracture into threes, improving matters for the locals and the outside world.

As Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis fight Iranian-backed Shi’i jihadis in Suraqiya, the West should stand back from the fighting. Neither side deserves support; this is not our fight. Indeed, these two evil forces at each others’ throats means they have less opportunity to aggress on the rest of the world. If we do wish to help, it should be directed first to the many victims of the civil war; if we want to be strategic, help the losing side (so neither side wins).

As for the massive flow of refugees from Syria: Western governments should not take in large numbers but instead pressure Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle Eastern states to offer sanctuary. Why should the Saudis be exempt from the refugee flow, especially when their country has many advantages over, say, Sweden: linguistic, cultural, and religious compatibility, as well as proximity and a similar climate.

The rapid emergence of a Kurdish polity in Iraq, followed by one in Syria, as well as a new assertiveness in Turkey and rumblings in Iran are a positive sign. Kurds have proven themselves to be responsible in a way that none of their neighbors have. I say this as someone who, 25 years ago, opposed Kurdish autonomy. Let us help the Kurds who are as close to an ally as we have in the Muslim Middle East. Not just separate Kurdish units should come into existence but also a unified Kurdistan made up from parts of all four countries. That this harms the territorial integrity of those states does not present a problem, as not one of them works well as presently constituted.

Turkey

Erdoğan Pasha as imagined by The Economist.

Erdoğan Pasha as imagined by The Economist.

The June 2015 election turned out not so well for the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), the party that’s single-handedly been ruling Turkey since 2002. It’s an Islamist party but more importantly of late, it is the party of tyranny. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, its dominant figure, does as he wishes, gaining undue influence over the banks, the media, the schools, the courts, law enforcement, the intelligence services, and the military. He overrides customs, rules, regulations, and even the constitution in the block-by-block building of a one-man rule. He’s the Middle Eastern version of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

For the most part, Erdoğan has played by democratic rules, via elections and parliament, which has served him well. But the June election could spell the end of his self-restraint. Long ago, when mayor of Istanbul, he signaled that he ultimately does not accept the verdict of elections, stating that democracy is like a bus: “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.” He has now reached that destination and appears ready to step off. He has initiated hostilities against the Kurdish PKK group as an ugly electoral tactic (to win over Turkish nationalists); he might go so far as to start a war between now and the Nov. 1 snap elections, taking advantage of a constitutional provision deferring elections in time of war.

Accordingly, the June electoral setback will not prove much of an obstacle to Erdoğan, whose path to tyranny remains open.

Erdoğan’s undoing will likely not be domestic, nor will it concern a relative triviality like votes; it will be foreign and concern larger issues. Precisely because he has done so well domestically, he believes himself a master politician on the global stage and pursues a foreign policy as aggressive as his domestic one. But, after some initial successes of the “Zero problems with neighbors” policy, Turkey’s international standing lies in tatters. Ankara has bad relations or major problems with nearly every neighbor: Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Greek Cyprus, Turkish Cyprus, and Greece, as well as the United States and China. Some foreign escapade will likely be Erdoğan’s undoing.

Israel

In November 2000, Ehud Barak said that Israel resembles “a villa located in a jungle.” I love that expression; and how much truer it is today, with ISIS on Israel’s Syrian and Sinai borders, Lebanon and Jordan groaning under unsustainable refugee influxes, the West Bank in anarchy, and Gaza approaching the same?

Everyone knows about Israel’s high-tech capabilities and military prowess. But much more about it is impressive bordering on extraordinary.

Demography: The entire modern, industrial world from South Korea to Sweden is unable to replace itself demographically, with the single, outstanding exception of Israel. Societies need roughly 2.1 children per woman to sustain their populations. Iceland, France, and Ireland come in just below that level, but then the numbers descend down to Hong Kong with its 1.1 children per woman, or just over half of what’s necessary for a country to survive long term. Well, Israel is at 3.0. Yes, the Arabs and the Haredim partly explain that high number, but it also depends on secular Tel Aviv residents. It’s nearly unprecedented development for a modern country to have more children over time.

Energy: Everyone knows the old quip about Moses taking a wrong turn on leaving Egypt. Well no, it turns out he didn’t. Israel has as large an energy reserve as—get this—Saudi Arabia. Now, this resource is not as accessible, so it’s far more expensive and complex to exploit than Arabia’s enormous and shallow pools of oil, but it’s there and Israelis will someday extract it.

Illegal immigration: This is a brewing crisis for Europe, especially in summertime, when the Mediterranean and the Balkans become highways from the Middle East. Israel is the one Western country that has handled this problem by building fences that give control over borders.

Water: Twenty years ago, like everyone else in the Middle East, the Israelis suffered from water shortages. They then solved this problem through conservation, drip agriculture, new methods of desalination, and intensive recycling. One statistic: Spain is the country with the second-highest percentage of recycling, around 18 percent. Israel does the most recycling, at 90 percent, five times more than Spain. Israel’s now so awash in water that it exports some to neighbors.

In all, Israel’s doing exceptionally well. Of course, it is under the threat of weapons of mass destruction and the delegitimization process. But it has a record of accomplishment that I believe will see it through these challenges.

Islamist Ideology: Three Types

Islamists can be broken down into three main forces:

Shiite revolutionaries: Spearheaded by the Iranian regime, they are on the warpath, relying on Tehran’s help, apocalyptic ideology, subversion, and (eventually) nuclear weaponry. They want to overturn the existing world order and replace it with the Islamic one envisioned by Ayatollah Khomeini. The revolutionaries’ strength lies in their determination; their weakness lies in their minority status, for Shiites make up just 10 percent or so of the total Muslim population and further divide into multiple sub-groups such as the Fivers, Seveners, and Twelvers.

Sunni revisionists: They deploy varied tactics in the common effort to overthrow the existing order. At one extreme stand the crazies – ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Shabaab, and the Taliban, hate-filled, violent, and yet more revolutionary than their Shiite counterparts. The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates (such as President Erdoğan of Turkey) fill the middle ground, using violence only when deemed necessary but preferring to work through the system. Soft Islamists like Fethullah Gülen, Pennsylvania’s Turkish preacher living in self-exile, forward their vision through education and commerce and work strictly within the system, but whose goals, despite their mild tactics, are no less ambitious.

Sunni status-quo maintainers: The Saudi state heads a bloc of governments (GCC members, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco), only some of which are Islamist, that wish to hold onto what they have and fend off the revolutionaries and revisionists.

Islamist Tactics: Violent vs. Lawful

Violent Islamists, Shiite and Sunni alike, are doomed. Their attacks on fellow Muslims alienate coreligionists. They challenge non-Muslims in precisely those areas where the latter are strongest; the combined might of the military, law enforcement, and the intelligence services can crush any Islamist uprising.

Islamist violence is counterproductive. Its drumbeat quality teaches and moves public opinion. Murderous assaults move opinion, not the analysts, the media, or politicians. An incident like the Charlie Hebdomassacre in Paris moves voters over to anti-Islamic parties. Blood in the streets teaches. It’s education by murder.

In contrast, lawful Islamists working within the system are very dangerous. They are seen as respectable, appearing on television, appearing as lawyers in courtrooms, and teaching classes. Western governments mistakenly treat them as allies against the crazies. My rule of thumb: The less violent the Islamist, the more dangerous.

Therefore, were I an Islamist strategist, I’d say, “Work through the system. Cut the violence except on those rare occasions when it intimidates and helps reach the goal.” In fact, the Islamists are not doing this, to their detriment. They are making a major mistake, to our benefit.

Islamism in Decline?

The Islamist movement could be on the way down due to infighting and unpopularity…

Click here for full article.