Sunday, July 14, 2013

1948 as Jihad. By Benny Morris.

1948 as Jihad. By Benny Morris. Video. YIISHA, February 3, 2009. Vimeo. Text.

Benny Morris: “The 1948 War Was an Islamic Holy War.” Interview with Benny Morris by Amira Lamm. Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2010.

The New Historiography: Israel Confronts Its Past. By Benny Morris. Tikkun, November/December 1988.

The Past Is Not a Foreign Country: The Failure of Israel’s “New Historians” to Explain War and Peace. By Anita Shapira. The New Republic, November 29, 1999.

Eyeless in Zion: When Palestine First Exploded. By Anita Shapira. The New Republic, December 11, 2000. Review of Tom Segev, One Palestine Complete.

The Jihad That Wasn’t. By Yoav Gelber. Azure, No. 34 (Autumn 2008). Review of 1948: A History of the First Israeli-Arab War. By Benny Morris. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008.

Was 1948 a Jihad? Gelber reviews Morris. By Richard Landes. The Augean Stables, May 14, 2009.

On the meaning of “secular” in Arab discourse: Benny Morris and Palestinian identity. By Richard Landes. The Augean Stables, May 14, 2009.

Israel and Its Enemies: Peace Process or War Process? By Daniel Pipes. NJBR, July 2, 2013.

Benny Morris - 1948 as Jihad from ISGAP on Vimeo.

Arab Muslims Yearn for Lost Greatness. By David Ignatius and Hisham Melhem.

Symbol of a golden age. The Great Mosque of Cordoba. Wikimedia.

A Yearning for Lost Greatness. By David Ignatius. Real Clear Politics, July 14, 2013.

Syria’s clash with history. By Hisham Melhem. Al Arabiya, May 23, 2013.

Sectarian cancer festers in the Arab world. By Hisham Melhem. Al Arabiya, June 27, 2013.

Islam’s Hatred of the Non-Muslim. By David Bukay. Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2013.

What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East. By Aaron David Miller. NJBR, June 27, 2013.

Middle East Genocide. By Ralph Peters. NJBR, June 3, 2013.

The Arab Collapse. By Ralph Peters. NJBR, May 20, 2013.

A Christian Catastrophe. By Ralph Peters. NJBR, April 2, 2013.


Hisham Melhem, a prominent Lebanese journalist, recalls an emotional visit to the Great Mosque of Cordoba in southern Spain last May. With tears in his eyes, he found himself wondering how the Arab Muslim genius of a thousand years ago had veered in modern times toward such chaos and repression.
Melhem later wrote a column for the Beirut daily An Nahar describing his visit to the Andalusia region, “roaming as if . . . in a dream,” touching the pillars of the mosque in Cordoba and other magnificent remnants of a Muslim moment “characterized [by] confidence, courage, openness, tolerance and love of intellect, philosophy, arts, architecture and happiness on earth.”
What happened to this sublime culture? That question of lost greatness has vexed Arabs for centuries, and it was painfully visible last week as Egypt lurched forward into a new moment of bloodshed and political turmoil.
Egyptians yearn for the greatness of a past that produced the glorious pyramids and tombs of the pharaohs, and later made Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque the arbiter and guardian of Sunni Muslim theology. What Egyptians find in the present is a revolution that, over the past two years, has been devouring its children, secularist liberals and Muslim Brothers alike.
Talking about this unfolding tragedy in Egypt with my friend Melhem, I thought he was right to focus on the openness and tolerance of the Moorish kings of Andalusia. It was this sophistication that gave Cordoba its reputation as “the ornament of the world.” It wasn’t only Muslims who prospered in 9th-century Andalusia, but Jews and Christians as well.
Melhem contrasts this 9th-century tolerance with the “sectarian cancer” that today is eating Syria, Iraq and so many other Arab nations. He wrote in An Nahar: “Today’s Middle Eastern Muslims, with their narrow sectarian awareness, appear extremely far from the humane sources that under Islam made them the second civilization after the great Romans. They are so far from sources that granted the world a new language in intellect, art and commerce upon a universal vision supposedly based on logic and justice.”
The Cordoban spirit of pluralism was described by Maria Rosa Menocal in her 2003 book, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. She described how the Arab Muslim rulers of the time promoted a freedom of thought that, in addition to producing great art and the beginnings of modern mathematics and science, also allowed other religions to prosper.
This ethic of tolerance – so central to the zenith of Muslim culture – Is precisely what seems missing in so many Arab countries today. The political culture is broken. Politicians on all sides lack the confidence that allows compromise and moderation. Politics is a zero-sum game, and everything is a fight to the death, whether it’s in Cairo, Damascus, Tripoli or Baghdad.
Recent events in Egypt underline the problem: If it’s not the Islamic authoritarianism of the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s the repressive dictatorship of the military. There seems no middle ground.
You can glimpse the beginnings of a movement to build a Muslim political culture of tolerance that could support modern democratic societies. Asef Bayat, an Iranian-born professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, has been writing over the last decade about what he calls “post-Islamist” trends. He argued his case forcefully in a 2007 book called Making Islam Democratic.
Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish columnist and academic, argues for openness and tolerance in his 2011 book, Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. He explains: “I have become convinced that a fundamental need for the contemporary Muslim world is to embrace liberty – the liberty of individuals and communities, Muslims and non-Muslims, believers and unbelievers, women and men, ideas and opinions, markets and entrepreneurs.”
A Lebanese Muslim friend explained in a recent email that the guiding insight of this post-Islamist movement is that “bringing Islam down to the muck of daily life and its politics has proved extremely dangerous to the religion. . . . In order to save Islam, you have to elevate it again and protect it from the humanity that wheels and deals in its name.”
Arguing for tolerance and moderation at a time when Egyptians and Syrians are slaughtering each other may seem like folly, but it’s grounded in a practical reality. To rediscover the golden age symbolized by “Al-Andalus,” the Arab Muslim world must recapture the inclusive spirit that sustained Cordoba and Granada.
Otherwise, the broken political culture will not mend.

Melhem (clash with history):

Andalusia’s Islam has a magnificence, majesty, fineness and sophistication never before witnessed in the Muslim world. What is left of the amazing Umayyad civilization that Abdelrahman al-Dakhil and his grandchildren established in Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla is enough to give people an idea of the enlightened world developed by a leading Arab minority (and a majority of Berbers) characterized with confidence, courage, openness, tolerance and love of intellect, philosophy, arts, architecture and happiness on earth.
Cordoba reached the peak of its glory during the era of Abdelrahman III, and it was called the Jewel of the World. Today’s Arabs appear extremely estranged from this world. Today’s Middle Eastern Muslims, with their narrow sectarian awareness, appear extremely far from the humane sources that under Islam made them the second civilization after the great Romans. They are so far from sources that granted the world a new language in intellect, art and commerce upon a universal vision supposedly based on logic and justice.
Observing what is left of this fine world, touching some of the columns in Cordoba’s magnificent mosque, walking in Sevilla’s castles, getting to know the areas of its Arab universities and roaming – yes, roaming as if you are in a dream – the castles’ hallways of Al-Qalaa al-Hamraa (the Red Castle) is to realize a majesty called Andalusia’s Islam. At the same time, it is also to feel the urge of writing an elegy or crying not over the ruins of Cordoba and Seville but over the ruins that the Umayyad grandchildren are piling up every day in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Hama.
The Syrians today are killing the inheritance that distinguished the Umayyad governance in the East and in Andalusia. They are killing the openness towards other cultures and religions and the desire to build a civilization that includes Muslims and others. Saqr Quraish and his grandchildren did not only “tolerate” the Jews or the Christians whom they militarily defeated but they also culturally and humanly interacted with them. Spain’s Jews were persecuted before the Umayyad era, and during the latter, they developed. After they mastered Arabic, they revived their language. Plenty of Spain’s Christians “Arabized” out of conviction.
Umayyads in Andalusia sought to overcome sects and sectarian struggles. Their world – at least in its aspirations – completely contradicts with the “sectarian wars” launched by Assad’s regime and its Shiite allies in Lebanon and Iran and which found their reflection in Al-Nusra Front and other extremist Sunni organizations.
In Cordoba, philosophers including Ibn Rushd and Ibn Maymun who are amongst the most prominent philosophers of the Middle Ages were born. Arabs and Jews are right when they say that the Jewish Ibn Maymun is one of them. What Ibn Rushd and Ibn Maymun had in common was their belief in rationalism. This belief is what subjected them to the intimidation of radical Muslims and thus forced them to flee Cordoba. Today, where do Arab rationalists escape to from the sectarian wars’ warlords and Islamist obscurantists?

Two Examples of the Arab Muslim Descent into Savagery: Aziz Salha (Ramallah, 2000) and Abu Sakkar (Syria, 2013).

The Ramallah lynching, October 12, 2000. Aziz Salha waves his bloody hands to a cheering crowd. Chris Gerald/AFP.

Face-to-face with Abu Sakkar, Syria’s “heart-eating cannibal.” By Paul Wood. BBC News Magazine, July 5, 2013.

Savage Online Videos Fuel Syria’s Descent Into Madness. By Aryn Baker. NJBR, May 16, 2013.

2000 Ramallah lynching. Wikipedia.

The Ramallah Lynching. Think-Israel, September/October 2010.

2 Palestinians charged with involvement in 2000 Ramallah lynching of IDF reservists. By Michal Shmulovich. The Times of Israel, August 9, 2012.

Outrage! Israel to Release Aziz Salha, Palestinian Who Ripped Israeli Soldier Apart! By Debbie Schlussel., October 17, 2011.

The “Palestinians.” By Yad Yamin. Facebook.

An Israeli Android phone App which will lead to the murder of Jews, chas veshalom! Reb Mordechai Writes, July 20, 2011. Includes discussion, pictures, and video of 2000 Ramallah lynching, and how the bloody hands of Ramallah have become a symbol of Palestinian pride.

Israel and Its Enemies: Peace Process or War Process? By Daniel Pipes. NJBR, July 2, 2013.

Anti-Semitic Hatred for Kids . . . and Adults. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, July 8, 2013.

Army Rule Will Never Produce Arab Democracy. By Nabila Ramdani.

Army rule will never produce Arab democracy. By Nabila Ramdani. Al Arabiya, July 14, 2013.

The Struggle for Egypt: Mubarakism Without Mubarak. By Joseph Massad. CounterPunch, July 12, 2013.


There is something macabre about the public relations stunts being organised by the Egyptian Army as it tries to manipulate democracy to its own ends. Considering that those demonstrating against the July 3rd coup d’├ętat were mown down by gunfire and others beaten before being imprisoned, was it really appropriate for military aircraft to trail national flags and paint red-white-and- black smoke hearts in the Cairo skyline?
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the 58-year-old former intelligence chief now in charge of his country’s mighty war machine certainly thinks so. All of his speeches are about putting “the people” first. His over-riding message is that President Mohammed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, was by no means the popular choice to be head of state, and that trust in a disciplined force of armed men is the only guaranteed route to justice and freedom. Or, as the chants echoing around the carefully orchestrated el-Sissi press conferences put it: “The Army and the people are one hand.”
Warped logic
It is a warped logic, but one which has characterized the rule of almost every failed Arab nation in recent years. Dictators like Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq spent most of their time in uniform, while those still struggling for survival, like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, also insist that their misrule is delivered at gun point. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leader for 30 years before being brought down by the Arab Spring in 2011, always considered himself first and foremost a career officer who commanded the Egyptian Air Force in the mid-1970s.
What single-minded individuals like this really decide is that their will is paramount, and that they are perfectly qualified to take all the decisions. In other words, they act exactly like military commanders are expected to act: not by negotiating, but by giving orders. None of history’s decisive battles were won by collective decisions, nor by any kind of conciliation at all – they were won by a ruthless form of command which effectively ignored anybody else’s opinions beyond those in charge. This is the difference between dictatorship and democracy.
A dark comedy
Such facts make a mockery of the Egyptian Army’s claim that it did not stage a coup earlier this month, and that it is merely safeguarding democracy. Of course it staged a coup – it removed an elected leader and replaced him with its own interim president. Whatever you think about Mursi’ year in power, he had more of a mandate than the tanks and soldiers which moved on him. Arguing that Mursi was becoming “too authoritarian” – as el-Sissi has – is the stuff of dark comedy. You cannot get more authoritarian than an Army assuming absolute control of a country.
Mursi, his former ministers and Muslim Brotherhood activists who have been rounded up in their hundreds, are now facing prison or worse, while ordinary people daring to take to the streets to try and save their revolution will suffer similar fates. Forget airborne stunts, this is what armies really do.
With all this in mind, it is surely the job of anybody striving to establish democracy in the Arab World to look beyond the gold braid and high-peaked caps favored by military types. Enlightened politicians in the Middle East and North Africa must, as a priority, ensure that the Army is an arm of the state, and not a state within a state.
“Who guards the guards?” is a conundrum as old as Egypt itself, but the country currently has an urgent need to answer this question before it plunges into civil war. El-Sissi was until a few weeks ago expected to be utterly loyal to Mursi, but has proved to be anything but. A fledgling political system has crumbled in the face of persecution of Mursi and his supporters, and even el-Sissi’s claims that new elections will restore democracy sound woefully hollow.
What most Egyptians fear is that a “democratic” government will be manufactured by the officers who ultimately control it. If this pattern continues – as it has done for far too long throughout the Arab World – then hopes of genuine popular representation and fair governance will remain just that.

Ramdani is right that military rule will not lead to democracy. But then again neither would the rule of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Elections do not a democracy make. They have to be the last step in a process of building a civil society based on the rule of law. Egypt’s secular liberals are weak, disorganized, and pretty much a joke at the moment. Sadly the only real forces at play in Egypt and the rest of the Arab/Muslim worlds are the Islamists and the military. Until the liberals can get their act together and build public support and start the long and difficult work of building the habits and institutions of self-government and the civil society, the military is the lesser of the two evils.

Israel Nears Point of No Return on Two-State Solution. By Yuval Diskin.

Israel nears point of no return on two-state solution. By Yuval Diskin. Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2013.

Former Shin Bet chief calls on Netanyahu to “overcome fears”; fears Mideast conflict is taking a back seat in Israeli public interest.

Naftali Bennett: No Palestinian murderers should be freed. By Lahav Harkov. Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2013.

Nablus mayor: If talks fail, Palestinians will take to streets. Jerusalem Post, July 13, 2013.

Ghassan Shaka’a warns that the lack of progress on the peace front is boosting Hamas’ popularity in the West Bank.

Jordan Pays the Price for Egypt’s Troubles. By Walter Russell Mead.

Jordan Pays the Price for Egypt’s Troubles. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, July 14, 2013.

Misrepresenting American Jewry. By Caroline B. Glick.

Misrepresenting American Jewry. By Caroline B. Glick. Jerusalem Post, July 11, 2013.