Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Jihadists

“Know your enemy,” said the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, “and know yourself – that is the recipe for victory a hundred times over.”

Do we in the civilized world know ourselves?

There is no consensus on most of the big issues that confront us. For example, what is more important to us, individual rights or the protection of society? Or consider Syria today. Should defenceless civilians be sacrificed to the political self-interest of powerful nations? The UN Security Council requires unanimity before it sanctions action against a rogue state − which is a safeguard against arbitrary activity by a clique of nations, but a severe curtailment on effective action. Are we content with that balance?

As for knowing our enemy, we are even more deficient. That the civilised world in general, and Israel in particular, is confronted by loosely-knit world-wide Islamist terrorist groupings − jihadists − intent on disrupting and eventually destroying our way of life, to be replaced by an Islamic Caliphate, that much is widely recognised. What is less well known, perhaps, is that their origins and philosophy are intimately associated with Nazism in its most malignant anti-semitic manifestation.

In a recent article Professor David Patterson traces the modern jihadists’ virulent hatred of Jews, a prime element in their declared philosophy, to three founding fathers: Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, jihadist ideologue Sayyd Quth, and the leader of the Palestinian Arabs from 1920s to the 1940s, the Jerusalem mufti Hajj Amin Husseini.

Al-Banna was an open admirer of Hitler and Nazi methods of anti-semitic propaganda; modern jihadists take their lead from him and repeatedly quote the long-discredited forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as proof of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy, deny the Holocaust and blame the Jews for starting the Second World War.

As Patterson points out, the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg argued that Jews must be annihilated because all Jews were evil and were poisoning the Aryan race; Sayyd Quth followed the same line, giving it an Islamist twist. Jews, he held, were “by nature determined to fight God’s truth and sow corruption and confusion.” Just like the Nazis, the jihadists must eliminate this source of evil that threatens all humanity.

Patterson quotes a televised address, delivered in January 2009, by the Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yacoub.

“If the Jews left Palestine to us,” he said, “would we start loving them? Of course not… They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine… Our fighting with the Jews is eternal, and it will not end until the final battle…until not a single Jew remains on the face of the earth.”

Thus the Islamist message is that hatred of Jews and their extermination is obligatory for Muslims, as it was for Nazis.

Patterson says, and provides chapter and verse for doing so, that the jihadist who more than any other espoused the Nazis’ loathing of Jews, and their aim of exterminating them, was Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the one-time mufti of Jerusalem. “He who kills a Jew is assured of a place in the next world” was his rallying cry to the Arabs of Palestine in 1929, when they rose against the British mandate government and went on a frenzy of killing that left 133 Jews dead and many more wounded.

Just two months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Husseini − having established links with the Muslim Brotherhood − met the Nazi general consul in Jerusalem, Heinrich Wolff, and arranged for the Nazis to provide support for the Brotherhood. He later indicated that the Arab revolt that he instigated in 1936, starting with rioting against the Jews of Jaffa, was engineered with the help of the Nazis.

In October 1937, shortly after the Peel Commission had recommended partition as the best way to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict, Husseini had his first meeting with Adolf Eichmann and one of his colleagues in the Gestapo’s Department of Jewish Affairs.

He spent the next few years fomenting trouble, an effort that climaxed in May 1941 with his issuing a fatwa announcing a jihad against Britain and the Jews. By November that year he was in Germany, conferring with Hitler. Before the end of the year, Husseini again met Eichmann, now responsible for carrying out the “Final Solution”. Eichmann’s deputy later stated that the mufti was directly involved in its initiation and execution, and in advising Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and its architect.

On 2 November 1943, Husseini declared at a rally in the Luftwaffe Hall in Berlin, “The Germans know how to get rid of the Jews … They have definitely solved the Jewish problem. [This makes] our friendship with Germany… permanent and lasting…” In a series of broadcasts, he proclaimed that there are “considerable similarities between Islamic principles and those of National Socialism.” He enjoined Muslims to “kill the Jews wherever you find them.” As the war turned against Germany, Husseini began to fear that it might end before the extermination of the Jews could be accomplished. He wrote to Himmler twice, urging greater speed in completing the enterprise.

The modern jihadist movement has remained faithful to its origins. The 1968 final version of the Palestinian National Charter envisages no peaceful outcome to the struggle, but − turning facts on their heads − asserts that “claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history”. Jews not only have no place in Israel, but no place anywhere: “Israel is … the geographical base for world imperialism... Israel is a constant source of threat vis-à-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world.”

Arafat declared that “the end of Israel is the goal of our struggle…Peace for us means the destruction of Israel and nothing else.” Following the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the United Nations recognised the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinians and granted it observer status. Subsequently PLO chief, Salah Khalaf, asserted: “an independent state on the West Bank and Gaza is the beginning of the final solution” – using the chilling Nazi code for the extermination of European Jewry. The phrase was echoed by Fatah leader Sakhr Habash, shortly after Israel left the Gaza Strip.

Hamas, which seized power in Gaza, is entirely rejectionist as far as any accommodation with Israel is concerned, and is involved in a power struggle with Fatah for the hearts and minds of Palestinians. Both need to assert and reassert their commitment to their jihadist origins, so as recently as August 2009 Fatah’s Sixth General Assembly asserted that “the struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated.” The Hamas charter expands on the theme of the God-approved duty of every Muslim to kill Jews. A good Muslim mother must prepare her children for the fighting that awaits them, for, as article 28 asserts: “The Zionist invasion of the world…[aims] at undermining societies, destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character, and annihilating Islam…Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people.”

Thus, as Professor Patterson concludes, Hamas, true to its core Nazi beliefs, asserts that “evil is rooted not only in the Jews, but in Judaism itself. The only way to liberate humanity is to cast the satanic Jew into hell − and, as the embodiment of God on earth, Hamas takes the lead in that endeavour. Hamas is humanity’s saviour.”

Patterson declares, not without reason, that by refusing to name the evil they confront, world leaders remain wilfully blind to it. Maintaining that the media are complicit in this, he castigates world leaders for refusing to refer to Islamist fascists as either Islamists or as fascists.

What does his analysis mean for the so-called “peace process”, currently frozen solid and immovable?

It does not mean that the world has to throw its hands in the air and declare that the search for an accommodation between Israel and the Palestinians is a pointless exercise. “Know your enemy”, just as “know yourself” is simply an essential precursor to successful action.

Published in the online Jerusalem Post today, Thursday 26 July 2012:

Monday, 23 July 2012

No One-State Solution

Pursue a left-wing agenda around the political race track long enough and you'll meet a right-wing agenda sprinting at you from the other direction.

Nazism and Bolshevism stood at opposite extremes of the political spectrum and their philosophies were poles apart, yet their regimes bore remarkable similarities to each other: smothering of dissension, persecution of political opponents, insistence that the state was more important than the individual, total disregard for the rule of law, rejection of religion, and so on.

The latest example of this political anomaly are ever-stronger calls from the left and right alike to reject the two-state solution to the perennial Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Partition of the Holy Land emerged formally in 1937 as the preferred way of healing the festering sore of the Arab-Jewish conflict. The British government had been mandated by the League of Nations to administer Palestine and implement its own objective as set out in the Balfour Declaration – namely to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

However, the mandate administration was finding it virtually impossible to keep the lid on the simmering pot of Arab resentment at the influx of Jews into Palestine. As a result, following the Arab revolt of 1936, the British government set up a commission under Lord Peel to examine the situation and come up with a solution. Partition was the central recommendation of the Peel Commission.

Ten years later, following World War II, the two-state concept was also the considered conclusion of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which recommended as much to the UN General Assembly in 1947.

On November 29 1947 the General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the partition plan. The Jewish Agency accepted the decision; the Arab states rejected it. It is on the record that, in October 2011, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, said that the Arab world had been wrong to do so. “It was our mistake,” Abbas said, in an interview on Israeli television.

Abbas, together with the majority of the world, has proclaimed the two-state solution as the holy grail of the peace process. It is the desired objective according to the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), and it was agreed upon in principle by both the government of Israel and the PA at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference. The rest of the non-Arab world would most likely give it their seal of approval as well.

For some time, it was only the extreme rejectionist elements within the Arab world that repudiated the concept entirely. As we know, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and related factions refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist at all. They set as their target the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Islamist Palestine, on the lines of the government established by Hamas after they seized power in Gaza.

More subtle forms of eliminating Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people have gradually emerged. Support among Palestinians for a one-state solution began to grow because it was claimed that their population growth rate would leave Palestinians as a majority in a single state. Then voices from the liberal left in the US, UK, and Israel itself began calling for a single state in Israel and the West Bank (possibly including Gaza), with citizenship and equal rights in the combined entity for all inhabitants of all three territories, without regard to ethnicity or religion.

These and related views formed the agenda of a much-discussed, and much-excoriated, One-State Conference held at the Harvard Kennedy School in May 2012. Panels examined the two-state approach, questioned how a one-state solution would work, and discussed obstacles to its realization.

What was certainly not considered, however, was the concept increasingly advocated by more extreme right-wing voices, both in the US and in Israel by newspaper columnists and bloggers: namely the annexation by Israel of the whole of the West Bank, and the establishment of one state – Israel – in the area.

In pouring scorn on the two-state solution, some columnists point to the declared desire of most Muslim and Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, to see Israel eliminated from the map of the Middle East − as if that in itself were sufficient to damn any such enterprise and to justify Israel defying the world. It is not. Both sides of the dispute may dream their dreams − the Israeli right, perhaps of acquiring sovereignty over the whole of biblical Greater Israel; the Palestinians of eventually gaining sovereignty “from the river to the sea."

The purpose of negotiation is to achieve a compromise that both sides can live with. Advocates of Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria seem blind to the impracticality of what they advocate, to say nothing of the totally negative effect its application would have on Israel’s relations with the rest of the world. Uncommitted world opinion would never endorse a land-grab like this. If anything were to push Israel into the status so ardently desired by its worst enemies – a pariah state – this version of the one-state solution would achieve it.

Of course the other side − the so-called “liberal” one state − would eliminate Israel altogether as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Hobson’s choice. The answer? Neither the one nor the other, but the two-state solution, doggedly pursued and carefully negotiated, with adequate safeguards guaranteeing Israel’s security.

Published in the on-line Jerusalem Post today, Monday 23 July 2012:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Hamas in Sinai

Since Operation Cast Lead − Israel’s military incursion into Hamas-occupied Gaza, which ended in January 2009 – Hamas has, in the words of the English poet Alexander Pope, been “willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.” Or at least it has been prepared to embark on truces, formal or informal, aimed at restricting its own rocket attacks. Hamas has also attempted − unsuccessfully − to control fanatic Islamist elements within Gaza that have continued indiscriminately to launch rockets at Israeli civilians.

The Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) presidential victory in Egypt has altered the balance of self-interest – as perceived by Hamas and other jihadist elements. Regardless of the results of the re-run parliamentary elections in Egypt, or the eventual extent of the newly-elected president’s powers, the MB has clearly proved that it has a substantial popular mandate. Its success has, overall, emboldened Hamas not only within the Gaza Strip, but in Sinai as well.

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt saw Israel vacate and demilitarize the Sinai – which IDF forces had over-run during the conflict. Since then, the Sinai, which shares a 165-mile border with Israel, has served as an important territorial buffer between the two countries.

On June 18, two gunmen infiltrated Israel from the Sinai and killed an Israeli civilian working on the construction of a border fence. The two gunmen were later killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces. Media reports indicated that the gunmen had received helped from within Gaza. Subsequently, four other militants were killed during two Israeli air strikes into Gaza. Hamas responded by launching rockets at southern Israel. From June 18 to 24 over 150 medium-range rockets, mortar shells and long-range Grad-model Katyushas rockets were fired at southern Israeli communities.

After three days of fighting, however, Hamas’s military wing – the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades – announced that it was willing to accept an Egyptian-brokered truce. Hamas, for the time being, does not see a major escalation of conflict with Israel to be in its best interests.

From the time Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2006, the Sinai became the main smuggling route for weapons, people, and goods into and out of Gaza.

The interregnum following Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution and the subsequent weakening of authority in Cairo opened the large, sparsely populated desert peninsula of Sinai for armed Palestinian groups and global jihadists to mix with Bedouins who were disgruntled with the central Egyptian regime. The fall of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, and the political upheavals that followed, have led to a dramatic decline in security in the Sinai. This security decline has led to attacks on the pipeline transporting natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, the kidnapping of foreign tourists, and assaults against police stations. The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), tasked with monitoring the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, have also come under attack.

We can only speculate as to the extent of Hamas' involvement in these activities. However, Israel, as a matter of policy, holds Hamas responsible for any hostile activity emanating from within the Gaza Strip – where Hamas is the de facto ruling authority.

Consequently, Israel is investing in a sophisticated fence that will run the length of its border with Egypt to help prevent cross-border attacks and, incidentally, the infiltration of illegal African migrants. Israel is also deploying more Iron Dome missile defense batteries to intercept rockets fired from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai.

The latest round of fighting further illustrates the threat of global jihadi groups in the Sinai. These groups can be linked to like-minded groups in the Gaza Strip, which are nominally under the control of Hamas. These armed groups are exploiting both the weakness of the regime in Cairo and Israel’s reluctance to take military action against them in Egyptian territory – for fear of further eroding Egypt-Israel relations.

Increased lawlessness in the Sinai could trigger conflict between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip – a conflict that will undoubtedly attract Hamas.

If fighting were to erupt in the Sinai, a new area of instability could develop in an already highly unstable region – a new area ripe for exploitation by groups who thrive on destabilization in pursuit of their own self-interests. Chief among these groups is Hamas.

Published in the online Jerusalem Post Magazine today, 17 July:

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Sovereign Palestine …

…could be celebrating its 12th anniversary

Shakespeare, as ever, puts the thought most felicitously:
                       "There is a tide in the affairs of men,
                         Which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune:
                         Omitted, all the voyage of their life
                         Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

On 11 July 2000 Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat met at Camp David under the chairmanship of the United States president, Bill Clinton. Their purpose: to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians – a so-called final status settlement. The summit ended on 25 July. If the negotiations had proved successful, we might be marking 25 July 2012 as the twelfth anniversary of the founding of an independent, sovereign Palestine.

What sort of Palestine would it have been?

No official records exist of the final position of the two parties, and the unofficial accounts differ in important respects. So some guesswork and a little creative imagination is called for.

To start with, we must assume that an agreement would have been on the basis of the final set of recommendations that the Clinton team put together, following the formal conclusion of the Camp David meeting. The three leaders met again in the White House that December, and once more in Taba in January, and the plan (known as the “Clinton Parameters”) was formally put to them. Israel accepted it in principle, the Palestinians did not. Let us suppose that they had done so.

If they had, sovereign Palestine would now control 97 per cent of the West Bank plus a Gaza Strip larger by roughly a third, to compensate for the 3 per cent of the West Bank annexed by Israel. Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements on the West Bank, all of which would have passed into Palestinian hands, and Palestinian territory on the West Bank would be contiguous, with no cantons. The West Bank would be linked with Gaza by both an elevated highway and an elevated railroad running through the Negev.

Sovereign Palestine would have as its capital a new municipality – Al Quds. The boundaries of Jerusalem would have been re-drawn, and Al-Quds would incorporate the Arab neighbourhoods that had previously been inside Jerusalem's boundaries. It would also encompass adjacent regions such as Abu Dis, el-Azaria, Beit Jala, Anata and A-Ram. The Palestinian state would have religious autonomy over the Temple Mount. The Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City would also be autonomous, though remaining under formal Israeli sovereignty,

The new Palestine would by now have become home to many hundreds of thousands of refugees, all of whom would have the right of return to the Palestinian state. Those returning would have received reparations from a $30 billion international fund set up specifically to compensate them.

How different might the events of the past twelve years have been? Let’s speculate.

There would, of course, have been no second intifada – which means there would have been no sudden increase in terrorist attacks inside Israel, and therefore no need for Israel’s security wall or fence.

Yasser Arafat maintained a firm grip on Palestinian politics. What he said for Arab consumption differed pretty radically from his public utterances in English or his stance on the world stage. Hamas would have had little incentive to set itself up against an Arafat-approved settlement, because the organisation would have been fully aware of his real agenda. For example, Arafat had told an Arab audience in Stockholm in 1996, ‘We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion… We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.’

Arafat’s colleague Faisal al-Husseini was even more explicit. He described the Oslo process as a ‘Trojan Horse’ designed to promote the strategic goal of ‘Palestine from the river to the sea’, that is, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean − in short, replacing Israel with Palestine.

So there would have been no take-over of Gaza by Hamas, no indiscriminate firing of rockets on Israeli citizens, no Israeli response in the form of Operation Cast Lead, and no naval blockade of Gaza by Israel. Accordingly, there would have been no “freedom flotilla”, and no Mavi Marmara incident – no death of nine Turkish citizens, and perhaps no freezing of Turkish-Israeli relations in consequence.

There would, of course, have been no need for any ill-fated attempt to secure recognition by the United Nations for a sovereign Palestine, for by now Palestine would have long been a fully-fledged, and no doubt active, member of the United Nations. Palestine would have followed Serbia into membership (they joined in November 2000), and beaten East Timor (September 2002).

Would the new sovereign Palestine have become a base for terrorist attacks on Israel, in pursuit of Arafat’s stated long-term aim – or would shorter-term political and economic realities have exerted their logic? Would self-interest have dictated that the fledgling State co-operate industrially, commercially, economically, financially, militarily, even culturally, as closely as possible with its nearest, flourishing neighbour? By now, would Palestine be thriving under mutually advantageous treaties not only with Israel, but perhaps also with Jordan and Egypt? In fact, would a sovereign Palestine by now be cultivating a prospering economy and be well on the way to becoming part of the developed world? Who may say? But it is a scenario as likely as any other.

Thinking about it, one’s over-riding feeling must surely be a sense of the pity of it all. Consider all the avoidable death and destruction over the past twelve years, both Palestinian and Israeli. And what a wasted opportunity. So felicitous a concatenation of circumstances from the Palestinian point of view is unlikely to present itself again in the foreseeable future, The political wheel has turned. The second intifada, Hamas’s seizure of power in Gaza, internal Palestinian rivalries, even the popular triumphs of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – all have resulted in a political atmosphere quite different from the heady days of 2000.

So we are unable to wish a sovereign Palestine “Happy 12th Anniversary”. Twelve years ago the Palestinian leadership, not for the first time, signally failed to recognize that “tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” But the future need not be quite as bleak as Shakespeare predicts. Tides have a habit of turning. Let us hope that, next time, those in charge of Palestinian affairs have the courage to seize the opportunity before it is, yet again, too late.

Published in the online Jerusalem Post today, 12 July 2012:

Friday, 6 July 2012

Should Israel Annex the West Bank?

In politics, the so-called unimaginable can always be imagined; the unthinkable can always be thought.

Next Thursday, 12 July, perhaps as a riposte to the One-State Conference held at the Harvard Kennedy School in May 2012, a conference concerned with applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) is due to take place in Israel. An impressive list of right-wing Israeli speakers, including several Knesset members, has been lined up to discuss the issue from a wide range of angles. The location selected is, somewhat provocatively perhaps, the Machpela Visitors Centre in Hebron.

The Harvard event envisaged the State of Israel being submerged into a new sovereign entity including the West Bank and Gaza, with equal rights for all its citizens. Right-wing voices within Israel − and some elsewhere as well − are becoming increasingly bold in proposing a quite different one-state solution to the perennial Israel-Palestine dispute. They are, quite simply, advocating the annexation by Israel of the whole of the West Bank, ignoring or discounting or downgrading the likely effects of such action.

Speakers at next Thursday’s conference are due, among other matters, to advocate no further concessions by Israel in pursuit of Palestinian involvement in a renewed peace process, to assert Israel’s ancient and biblically-based claim on Judea and Samaria, to set out a programme for extending Israel’s sovereignty over those areas, to explain the legal aspects of such action, to assess the balance of profit and loss of doing so, and to propose ways of winning over public opinion to support such a policy.

Advocates of such political action have in common so blinkered a world view that they see before them only their desired objective, and cannot – or choose not to − appreciate the disastrous consequences of what they are proposing.

Not that their ultimate purpose is necessarily unworthy. Most advocates of this version of the one-state solution are concerned very largely with Israel’s security – indeed, in some respects, its very survival. They point to Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, and Hezbollah’s subsequent launching of Katyusha rockets into northern Israeli towns, together with their continued attacks on Israeli troops positioned beyond the agreed boundary. They see that the result of Israel withdrawing totally from the Gaza Strip in 2005 − undertaken in the expectation of a democratic Palestinian government taking over − was almost immediately undermined by a bloody fratricidal coup organised by Hamas against the Fatah-led Palestinian administration. The result: a veritable torrent of rockets from Gaza rained down indiscriminately on Israeli citizens, until Israel undertook its military incursion into Gaza in 2009.

They see that the founding documents of virtually every Palestinian political organisation includes the aspiration of eliminating Israel altogether from the Middle East. And they fear that the establishment of a sovereign Palestine on the West Bank could result in a new Gaza – a terrorist take-over, and this time within easy striking distance of major Israeli towns and cities, including Tel Aviv.

All of which may partly explain what they propose and why they propose it, but certainly cannot condone the politically disastrous effects.

World opinion in general could surely never accede to, or endorse, a land-grab of this sort by Israel, nor the flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords − officially signed on behalf of Israel by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres − that it would represent. Israel would have de-legitimised herself, would be roundly condemned by friend and foe alike, and would have laid herself open to punitive economic, commercial and financial sanctions, if nothing worse.

It is no secret that an ideal Middle East, from the Muslim point of view, would contain no Jewish state. Many Arab politicians cling to this aspiration to retain their appeal to the hotter-heads among their followers. Polls of Palestinian opinion, however, reveal a quite different picture. The majority of Palestinians now accept that Israel is here to stay, and yearn for a happy, peaceful, reasonably prosperous life for themselves and their families. In a recent poll conducted in the West Bank and Gaza, only 13.5 per cent of those questioned thought that “violent action” was the best way to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian State. No less than 84.4 per cent of those questioned thought that when their children were their own age there would “definitely”, “possibly” or “likely” be peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The effect on the Arab world in general, and Palestinian opinion in particular, of removing forever the hope of an eventual sovereign Palestine, would be a recipe for a “1984” scenario of constant, unending conflict in the region, with no hope of resolution. This is certainly not the future that most Israelis or Palestinians want.