Palestinian leaders must halt the hatred. By Andrea Levin. Boston Globe, August 8, 2013.
renewed negotiations get underway between Israelis and Palestinians, it’s vital
for the success of the endeavor to identify what went wrong in earlier
of State John Kerry wisely stressed in his July 30 briefing with Israeli and
Palestinian leaders the central aim of “ending the conflict” and he emphasized
as well the “end of claims” against Israel. These are basic tenets of any
rational definition of peace and would mean, finally, the end of the drive to
remove the Jewish state. They would mean genuine acceptance by Palestinian
Arabs of the sovereign rights of a Jewish nation in what is an overwhelmingly
the many previous signed agreements, hand shakes and photo ops, such acceptance
has been largely cosmetic. While Palestinian leaders have endorsed coexistence
in speeches for Western audiences, including at Washington think tanks and
international gatherings, too often for the audience that counts most —
Palestinian Arabs who live next door to Israel and who need to hear their
leaders’ clear affirmation of the legitimacy of the Jewish state — the message
has been the opposite.
the Palestinian leadership over the two decades since the signing of the
landmark Oslo Accords in 1993 has failed disastrously to prepare the
Palestinian people for peace with their Jewish neighbors.
before Oslo, there was no Palestinian-controlled TV to demonize Jews, but after
Israel’s ceding of territory and authority, official media outlets came into
existence that regularly glorify terrorist violence, deny Jewish ties to the
land of Israel, denigrate Jews in crude stereotypes, vow expulsion of the Jews
and claim all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to play a double game.
Thus on May 26, 2013, at the World Economic Forum, Abbas offered up the
familiar public rhetoric, declaring: “We don’t teach and we don’t educate our
children to hate or even discriminate against any religion, be it Judaism or
any other.” He said: “We strive to spread the culture of peace among our
for example, on July 3 another of hundreds of broadcasts on Palestinian
television directly controlled by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority featured young
girls reciting crude anti-Jewish bigotry:
who were brought up on spilling blood
have been condemned to humiliation and hardship.
of Zion, oh most evil among creations
barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs. (Palestinian Media Watch)
murderers of Jews are constantly extolled in what is cast as a fight to the
death with Israel. On May 9, 2013, for instance, a TV segment was devoted to
praising and thanking Abdallah Barghouti, currently serving 67 life sentences
for his participation in such terror attacks as the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing in
Jerusalem. In that attack families were singled out for particular slaughter
and included Malki Roth, a 15 year old who was lunching with her best friend.
They’re buried next to one another.
fabrications regarding Jewish history may seem to the uninitiated too ludicrous
to take seriously – the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, is said to have
no Jewish connection despite vast archeological, biblical and other evidence.
Jesus is said to be a Canaanite Palestinian teaching Islam, a claim that
repudiates Jewish and Christian history together. Moses is said to be Muslim.
Newspaper columns and broadcasts in official Palestinian media deny any ancient
Jewish ties to any of the land of Israel, relentlessly altering place names and
substituting Muslim ones. The ferocity of the campaigns in every aspect of
society, saturating Palestinians in false beliefs – and hatred – make the
prospects of normalization almost impossible to imagine. Indeed, the content of
the invective against Jews and Israel is so violent – one Gazan speaker urged
the harvesting of Jewish skulls – that many in the West seem prone to averting
their gaze from what is clearly genocidal rhetoric with vague claims that
progress in the peace talks will help do away with the unpleasantness.
cycle of indoctrination and violence cannot be broken without facing up to its
existence, to the need for Western media attention and, above all, to the
necessity for the Palestinians’ own leadership to halt the hatred and declare
clearly in Arabic to Arab audiences that Israel and its people have a rightful
place in the Middle East.
Egypt Blockades Gaza. Where Are the Flotillas? By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, August 9, 2013.
Peace is more than a piece of paper. By Emily Schrader. Jerusalem Post, August 10, 2013.
Obama’s public condemnation of Israel
rapidly sent his entire first term down the wrong path for American supporters
Secretary of State John Kerry, obviously wiser than all the leaders of Israel
as well as every secretary of state who preceded him, is now overseeing the
resolution of the longest-running conflict on earth – the conflict between
Arabs and Jews. And he and the Obama administration appear quite certain that
peace is just around the corner.
unparalleled arrogance is nothing new. The Obama administration has repeatedly
strong-armed Israel from the start, perpetuating the myth, believed by many
European countries, that Israel takes unnecessary actions that harm the
prospects of peace with the “oppressed” Palestinians. Obama’s public
condemnation of Israel as one of his first actions as president rapidly sent
his entire first term down the wrong path for American supporters of Israel
(which happen to be most Americans). With every word he spoke, he seemed to
place all blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict squarely on Israel’s
shoulders, all the while ignoring the racist incitement, corruption and hypocrisy
from Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
March 2013, however, it almost seemed as if Obama had turned a new page with
Israel, visiting for the first time and delivering a rousing speech in support
of the Jewish state. But alas, with John Kerry as secretary of state, it seems
any improvement was fleeting and the administration is back to its old tricks:
Israel concedes, but not the Palestinians.
has Israel done to restart peace talks? In addition to setting no
preconditions, when the Obama administration wanted a settlement freeze, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conceded.
response? The Palestinians still refused to come to the negotiating table and
blamed Israel for not extending the settlement freeze.
Obama pressured Israel to negotiate with Hamas for a cease-fire during
Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel bit its tongue and negotiated – even taking
no action when rockets were repeatedly fired immediately preceding the
now, not only has the US government strong-armed Israel into releasing over 100
cold-blooded terrorists in order to appease the Palestinians, but it has
simultaneously ignored Abbas’ statement to the Egyptian press that Palestine
will be Judenrein. One can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if
Netanyahu had stated that no Arabs will live in the State of Israel.
stated on Tuesday that “two states deserve countries to call their own” and
that “the time has come for a lasting peace” – but Mr. Kerry, this is not what
lasting peace looks like. Lasting peace is two parties coming to the
negotiating table equally because they truly want to resolve this conflict. The
Palestinian Authority has made it abundantly clear that peace is not their
objective – so where is American pressure on the PA? The answer is that it’s
Americans place no pressure on the PA; this administration seems to have
achieved a level of willfully ignorant arrogance that allows it to believe it
doesn’t need to.
first example of this is illustrated by the Obama administration operating from
the false premise that if Israel surrenders sufficient territory, the
Palestinians will stop the conflict. History of course teaches exactly the
more, the PA can’t even control its own population, demonstrating time and time
again its ineptitude at enforcing existing peace agreements and preventing
the Obama administration seems to think that because Obama visited Israel and
showered Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres with praise, Israel will now do
this administration’s bidding, even making unprecedented concessions. This
proposition, both arrogant and naïve, relieves the Palestinians of virtually
any responsibility at all.
height of both naiveté and arrogance is that the Obama administration appears
to honestly believe that a peace agreement signed by the leaders of Israel and
the PA will actually bring peace. This is undoubtedly, and sadly, the most
dangerous aspect of Obama’s misguided hubris, and one need look no further than
Oslo for proof.
can only come when the people of Palestine learn to value individualism and
life, and have representation that believes in those same principles of
they have leaders who blame others for their shortcomings and demand the world
pay for their services because of irresponsible and corrupt leadership. Of
course, what Kerry and the Americans are missing, or refuse to accept, is that
the Palestinian leadership doesn’t want to stop the conflict.
addition to radical factions opposing the existence of a Jewish state in the
first place, the PA itself has no interest in resolving conflict because it’s
how its leaders prosper. At the end of the day, the PA could not enforce an
agreement even if one were to be reached. For the Obama administration to think
otherwise is dangerously imperious.
Kansas and Al Qaeda. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, August 10, 2013.
Arab Muslims Yearn for Lost Greatness. By David Ignatius and Hisham Melhem. NJBR, July 14, 2013.
Kan. — I’ve spent the last few months filming a Showtime documentary about how
climate and environmental stresses helped trigger the Arab awakening. It’s been
a fascinating journey because it forced me to look at the Middle East through
the lens of Arab environmentalists instead of politicians. When you do that,
you see the problems and solutions very differently. Environmentalists always
start by thinking about the health of the “commons” — the shared air, soil,
forests and water — that are the basis of all life, which, if not preserved,
will undermine the whole society. The notion that securing the interests of any
single group — Shiite or Sunni, Christian or Muslim, secular or Islamist — over
the health of the commons is nuts to them. It’s as laughable as pictures of
gun-toting fighters strutting on the rubble of broken buildings in Aleppo or
Benghazi, claiming “victory,” only to discover that they’ve “won” a country
with eroding soil, degrading forests, scarce water, shrinking jobs — a
film crew came to look at the connection between the drought in Kansas and the
rise in global food prices that helped to fuel the Arab uprisings. But I
stumbled upon another powerful environmental insight here: the parallel between
how fossil fuels are being used to power monoculture farms in the Middle West
and how fossil fuels are being used to power wars to create monoculture
societies in the Middle East. And why both are really unhealthy for their
teacher here was Wes Jackson, the MacArthur award winner, based in Salina,
where he founded The Land Institute. Jackson’s philosophy is that the prairie
was a diverse wilderness, with a complex ecosystem that supported all kinds of
wildlife, not to mention American Indians — until the Europeans arrived, plowed
it up and covered it with single-species crop farms, mostly wheat, corn, or
soybeans. Jackson’s goal is to restore the function of the diverse polyculture
prairie ecosystem and rescue it from the single-species, annual monoculture
farming, which is exhausting the soil, the source of all prairie life. “We have
to stop treating soil like dirt,” he says.
knows this has to be economically viable. That’s why his goal is to prove that
species of wheat and other grains that scientists at The Land Institute are
developing can be grown as perennials with deep roots — so you would not need
to regularly till the soil or plant seeds. The way to do that, he believes, is
by growing mixtures of those perennial grains, which will mimic the prairie and
naturally provide the nutrients and pesticides. The need for
fossil-fuel-powered tractors and fertilizers would be much reduced, with the
sun’s energy making up the difference. That would be so much better for the
soil and the climate, since most soil carbon would not be released.
monocultures are much more susceptible to disease and require much more fossil
fuel energy — plows, fertilizer, pesticides — to maintain. Perennial
polycultures, by contrast, notes Jackson, provide species diversity, which
provides chemical diversity, which provides much more natural resistance and
“can substitute for the fossil fuels and chemicals that we’ve not evolved
maintains some original prairie vegetation. As we walk through it, he explains:
This is nature’s own “tree of life.” This prairie, like a forest, “features
material recycling, runs on sunlight, and does not have an epidemic that wipes
it all out. You know during the Dust Bowl years of the ’30s, the crops died,
but the prairie survived.” Then he points to his experimental perennial grain
crops: “That’s the tree of knowledge.” Our challenge, and it will take years,
he notes, is to find a way to blend the tree of life with the tree of knowledge
to develop domestic prairies that could have high-yielding fields planted once
every several years, whose crops would only need harvesting and species
diversity could “take care of insects, pathogens and fertility.”
that brings us back to the Middle East. Al Qaeda often says that if the Muslim
world wants to restore its strength, it needs to go back to the “pure” days of
Islam, when it was a monoculture unsullied by foreign influences. In fact, the
“Golden Age” of the Arab/Muslim world was when it became a polyculture between
the 8th and 13th centuries. Of that era, Wikipedia says, “During this period
the Arab world became an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine
and education. . . .” It was “a collection of cultures, which put together,
synthesized and significantly advanced the knowledge gained from the ancient
Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine and Phoenician
going on in the Arab world today is a relentless push, also funded by fossil
fuels, for more monocultures. It’s Al Qaeda trying to “purify” the Arabian
Peninsula. It’s Shiites and Sunnis, funded by oil money, trying to purge each
other in Iraq and Syria. It’s Alexandria, Egypt, once a great melting pot of
Greeks, Italians, Jews, Christians, Arabs and Muslims, now a city dominated by
the Muslim Brotherhood, with most non-Muslims gone. It makes these societies
much less able to spark new ideas and much more susceptible to diseased
conspiracy theories and extreme ideologies. To be blunt, this evolution of
Arab/Muslim polycultures into monocultures is a disaster.
diversity and tolerance were once native plants in the Middle East — the way
the polyculture prairie was in the Middle West. Neither ecosystem will be
healthy without restoring its diversity.
Arabs can’t blame America for all the world’s problems. By Hussein Ibish. The National (UAE), August 11, 2013.
a ubiquitous feature of contemporary Arab political culture, arises from an
insidious and deeply- ingrained concept: the myth of American omnipotence.
the will of the United States becomes the default explanation for everything
that happens in the Middle East, particularly when people don't like it.
the omnipotent occupies a unique position in the moral economy of contemporary
Arab political thought: it is always blamed for whatever people don’t like, but
rarely gets credit for anything that most in the Arab world find good.
events in Egypt are only the most striking and current demonstrations of this
very long-standing pattern.
of the former Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, are convinced that the United
States was directly responsible for his removal from office.
opponents believe, perhaps even more strongly, that Washington had put Mr Morsi
into power and wanted to keep him there.
Egyptian media has been full of the most bizarre theories, from both sides,
about various supposed conspiracies hatched by US Ambassador to Egypt Anne
the only thing Egyptians now agree upon is that whatever it is they don’t like,
it must be the fault of the United States.
same kind of assumptions apply in Syria. Last year I took part in a televised
debate, on an Arabic TV outlet, along with three Syrians.
first, a Salafist, argued that the Americans wanted to keep the Syrian
president, Bashar Al Assad, in power, and that this was at the behest of
Israel, because the Israelis feared the “Islamic Awakening.”
second, a nationalist, agreed that the US did indeed want Mr Al Assad to stay
in power, but for a different reason: because he had cooperative relations with
third Syrian participant in the broadcast, a regime stooge, insisted on the
contrary that there was an American plot to overthrow Mr. Al Assad, because he
was the leader of “resistance” against Israel.
did it happen that the United States has become this “great Satan” that is said
to deserve, and that gets, the blame for all bad things?
western Islamophobia, the pervasive anti-Americanism we see has been fuelled by
centuries of rivalry between Muslims and the Christian West. Arabs feel, and
for good reason, that they have in many ways been mistreated by the colonialist
decades of nationalistic, religious, xenophobic and chauvinistic propaganda
have entrenched anti-American narratives. After all, since the 1950s, the US
has been the primary regional power in the Middle East and has acted like it,
with all the regional resentment that naturally follows.
underlying, latent theme actually seems to be a profound sense of unrequited
course anti-Americanism is consciously and cynically abused in much Arab
political rhetoric. But it’s so pervasive and visceral that it most closely
resembles the rage of a jilted romantic partner.
America so inexplicably biased towards Israel? Why are their policies always so
unfair? Since America is omnipotent, and bad things keep happening, why does
the US do them?
while Arabs rail against the United States, they indisputably love its culture
and products. They fight for visas, and to send their children to US
universities. Even Islamists like Mr Morsi studied and taught in California.
sensibilities about international relations are defined by a profound sense of
disempowerment, which is even stronger when contrasted with the illusion of
American omnipotence. These fantasies feed each other in a neurotic vicious
American influence around the world is palpably waning, absurdities – such as
the idea that the recent abdication of the Emir of Qatar was, for some reason, “ordered”
by Washington – remain common.
look radically different from DC, where a new and uncharacteristic sense of
helplessness has taken root in the aftermath of the Iraq fiasco, the Afghan
failure and the fiscal calamity.
looks at Syria and incorrectly sees no good options. It thinks that it has
virtually no influence in Egypt. Even in its most familiar territory, the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, US policymakers feel that they are at the
mercy of the domestic politics and caprices of Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
US feeling of impotence, or at least risk-aversion, is just as exaggerated as
are Arab delusions about US omnipotence. There is much the US can do to help
its friends in the Arab world, if only it would. But there is a persistent,
crippling reticence to support those who share American goals or values,
particularly if they are not fully trusted by Israel.
anti-Americanism rests on two pillars: disillusionment and perceived betrayal
by an ideal, combined with a wild overestimation of US power. Arabs therefore
oscillate between yearning for American leadership and resenting American
the ubiquitous negative Arab sentiments towards the United States with the Arab
world's almost total lack of interest in the role of Russia. Yet if there is an
external power up to no good in the Middle East, it is Russia. Its support for
the Syrian dictatorship has helped kill at least 100,000 people in the past two
and a half years.
there is no unrequited love affair with Russia, and so no sense of betrayal, no
feeling of an abandoned ideal or a love-hate neurosis. That Russia does what’s
in its interest is simply accepted with a shrug. The dearth of outrage about
Russia’s Syrian role, and of conspiracy theories about the Kremlin’s
machinations, reveals Arab anti-Americanism to be a collective neurotic
symptom, fundamentally disconnected from reality.
Stop blaming Israel for every grievance in the Middle East. By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The Independent, May 2, 2011.
came the Arab spring (followed, in some lands, by the harshest of winters) and
now Hamas and Fatah have signed a deal for unity. Naturally, Israel is as
panicked as are Arab despots by the shifts and quakes, the shaking ground
beneath their boots. Israel depended on an everlasting, adamantine status quo.
Nothing will ever be as it has been. Successive Israeli governments and their
global cheerleaders and backers across the world are guilty of crimes against
the humanity and rights of the Palestinian people, they who were made to pay
for the European Holocaust. Hitler’s unspeakable annihilation project can’t be
laid to rest and shouldn’t. But excruciating historical experiences do not
entitle a nation to grab land, to humiliate, to destroy the livelihoods of
others and to expect no censure; in effect to be above international law.
I am as
pro-Palestinian as the next leftie and try to do my bit; to speak up against
repressive Israeli policies and acts, which is never easy, as many of us have
had to learn. We go to protests against the collective punishments meted out in
Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine and on Arab citizens of Israel; others lobby
influential people; the brave ones go on flotillas, and the less brave but
committed refuse to buy Hass avocadoes and instead purchase olive oil from the
West Bank. All of us need to stop and think, to use this moment of upheaval to
scrutinise ourselves and our habituated responses to the Middle East.
many years now, British and American Zionists have complained that progressives
pick on Israel, expect higher standards from that government and most
iniquitously, that any criticism of their land is in effect a lightly disguised
and now approved expression of anti-Semitism. Using a combination of guilt,
suggestion and aggression they have managed to, if not suppress, certainly
inhibit fair and free debates on the Zionist nation. Think of it as global
super injunction. The unreasonable, absolutist supporters of Israel include
some crazies but are mostly highly educated, talented professionals and fierce
advocates of free speech. These days they are heeded less and so are getting
more strident. But what if some of their complaints are valid and justifiable?
Do I dare think that, and then say it? And if I do, is that a betrayal of a
thoughts have been spooling round and round in my head this last month. As
Gaddafi systematically massacres his people and the country descends into civil
war, as armies slaughter civilians in Yemen and Bahrain, now Syria, I ask why
good people have focused only on Palestine/Israel for more than half a century
and not attended to the brutality and oppression endemic in the Islamic states.
Is it OK for dictators to do what they wish within their own borders to crush
democratic demands? I think not, and strongly. No flotillas for their victims?
One fact that is kept tightly sealed and buried is this: More Muslims are
killed by their brethren in religious and power struggles than are killed by
foreign powers and that, as far as I can ascertain is true even after the war
on Iraq. It could be that some of the relentless focus on Israel does indeed
rise out of a deep stream of anti-Semitism. It is also a useful displacement
week I drove past the Syrian Embassy – where I know and like some individuals –
and there were a handful of protesters outside, looking hopeless and pathetic.
No massive demos pass outside the grand Saudi or Bahraini sites in London
either while boys are being hanged in Bahrain for daring to dissent. Why the
double standards? We have an obligation to judge all governments and rulers by
the same universal values, to listen to Zionists who complain of unfair
treatment and open our minds as we enter a new era in the Middle East.
nuanced analyses by thoughtful Jewish thinkers has been illuminating. Change is
in the air. On the website of the Union of Jewish Students you can find, for
example, the text of a speech by Mike Davis at the Herzliya conference: “[the
unfolding events] show that the world can change with alarming speed and that
our basic assumptions can be overturned in the blink of an eye. They and the
reactions of the West demonstrate the potency and very real nature of the
security challenges faced by Israel at this juncture in history. . . .” Davis
goes on to tackle the “line between criticism of Israel and delegitimisation.” “Not
every criticism of Israel is delegitimisation. Not even every untrue or unfair
criticism of Israel is delegitimisation. In fact, the link between ‘criticism’
and ‘delegitimisation’ is sometimes overstated, damaging the credibility of our
responses . . . If the Israeli government had internalised and prioritised the
threats to its legitimacy then perhaps it would have understood the need to be
seen to be doing everything possible to break the deadlock. We control the
land. We hold the people. It is up to us. We need to accept that burden.”
Muslims need to accept our burdens too. Whilst still holding Israel to account,
we must stop dumping blame on it for all Middle Eastern grievances. The same
happened to South Africa under apartheid. It was necessary for the world to
come together and help topple that loathsome, racist regime. What was never
right was that the worst African dictators were allowed to get away with more
violence and viciousness against their citizens while sounding off about evil
South Africa. It’s always the same. Humans easily excuse themselves and their
own for foul acts they condemn in their enemies.
mulishness and narrow-sightedness of the most unrelenting Zionists is today
almost matched by the mulishness and narrow-sightedness of their unrelenting
counterparts, anti-Zionist activists. I am not abandoning my total support for
Palestinian nationhood and right of return, and here renew my vow to that
cause. But that struggle is only one in the big fight for freedom in the Middle
East. It is no longer morally justifiable for activists to target only Israel
and either ignore or find excuses for corrupt, murderous Arab despots. That
kind of selectivity discredits pro-Palestinian campaigners and dishonours the
principles of equality and human rights. It has enabled hideous Arab ruling
clans to carry on disgracefully for too long.
In Muslim lands there was a dream of democracy. But now it has died. By Yasmin Alibhai Brown. The Independent, August 9, 2013.
hurts to write this essay when Muslims are celebrating Eid after Ramadan.
Summertime fasts are tough – 19 hours without water, other fluids or food. It
tests personal strength and faith. Fasters are also supposed to give more to
the needy. This is a time to feel good about being a Muslim.
meant to reflect too on the religion itself – its significance and future. When
I do that, the tranquillity and joy of Ramadan soon dissipate and I fill up
with guilt, shame and anxiety. Muslims try so hard to live a good life, yet
round the world the most horrific violence is perpetrated by Muslims, most
often against fellow believers. Promises of democracy fade faster than a summer
tan; freedoms are snatched, liberties crushed, equality excised from the official
vocabulary. Misery, misery everywhere. Worldwide, Muslims are dying to be free,
to live in just and fair societies. The Arab Spring was real and authentic, a
surge to claim human rights and remake ossified nations that were ruled by
dictators. The world was caught up in that extraordinary moment. What happened
Tunisia, where it all started, two popular secular leaders, Chokri Belaid and
Mohamed Brahmi, have been assassinated this year and people are afraid and on
the streets again. Back in 2011, a young Egyptian vet told a reporter: “We are
sick of the military council which is using the same tools as Mubarak.” Now the
military is back and posing as a liberationist army. Before the coup, Egypt’s
Muslim Brotherhood, once elected, instantly turned authoritarian. Assad, the
butcher of Syria, smiled winningly during Eid prayers, a smile that said he was
quashing the very idea of democracy by any means necessary. Massacres and
torture are normalised in that wretched country from where millions of refugees
are fleeing to Jordan.
it appears, is the easy answer for all Muslim problems. Look at Lebanon, Iraq
and Pakistan – and in countries where Muslims share the land with others. In
northern Nigeria, where Christian-Muslim enmity goes deep, Boko Haram bombs and
slays Christians in order to provoke a religious war. In Libya, chaos grows and
vendettas never stop. Saif al-Islam goes on trial in a lawless country.
month, in one day alone in Iraq, more than 50 people were killed. Minority
Muslim communities in Pakistan are routinely murdered, as are girls and women
for daring to get a life. That letter from the Taliban headman to Malala
Yousafzai revealed how millions think out there. A bomb hidden in a cemetery in
Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan, killed seven women and seven children who had
come out to celebrate Eid.
Turkish state was the great white hope (pardon the phrase) of the Islamic
world. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a temperate, Islamicist
politician who took care of his people, improved the economy and seemed
inclusive and respectful of all views. Then he showed his true colours.
Secularists and environmentalists who came out to protect an Istanbul park from
development and vent other grievances have been savagely put down. A wedding
party in the park was tear gassed. Now dozens of secular army chiefs, academics
and journalists have been imprisoned for life for a “deep plot” against the
state. Turkey already imprisons more journalists than any other country. Those
who wanted to keep Turkey out of the European Union for the wrong reasons can
now argue rightly that the leadership barely understands the basic principles
of freedom and democracy.
find oppression and tyrannical leaders in non-Muslim countries too – in Russia,
Zimbabwe and China, for example. But these places are not indicative of a
pattern, a widespread cultural sickness. One finds that pattern, that sickness,
in large parts of the Muslim world. In a tweet, I wondered why Muslims the
world over were so destructive and self-destructive, which led to many
responses on the web and in the post. Some were from the usual bigots, as well
as the educated followers of the atheist ayatollah Richard Dawkins – buzzing
and stinging like late-summer wasps, asking to be swatted. The most moving were
outpourings from good Muslims themselves.
an Egyptian woman I befriended in Cairo just after the fall of Mubarak, wrote:
“You remember Yasmeen [sic], you were with us during Eid and we were so happy.
You gave me a shawl and I gave you perfume. I was thinking Egypt is free, Egypt
is free. It is not. I went to the square with other free Egyptians and three
times, men tried to touch me badly, push me, one pulled my blouse up and pushed
me to the ground. My country is now in the biggest prison. Muslims will never
be free. They don’t know what to do with freedom. We can only have dictators.
Pray for me sister and my country.”
she right – that Muslims can be controlled only by dictators? No. She is
completely wrong. Some of the most ardent campaigners for democracy I know are
Egyptian, Algerian, Libyan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian. Duplicitous
American and European governments prefer Muslim dictatorships (like Bahrain and
Saudi Arabia) to messy elections, and will never do anything about Israel’s
ambitions and illegal operations. But these democrats want in their lands the
democratic entitlements of Muslims in Europe and North America. Alas, after
this summer – in which brutality has been the habitual mark of leaders as well
as citizens – that energy, zeal and optimism seem to be weakening. A new
realism is blowing in.
are becoming more self-critical, and about time too. Some now believe this is
our dark age, when rage rules and there is no place for the intellect,
humanity, love, civic responsibility and co-operation that were all part of our
great civilisations of the past. In response to my tweet, Ahmad, an Independent
reader, sent me a short story (not for publication) in which a suicide bomber
leaves a note saying: “Guns and bombs have killed Islam. I die. There is no
hope.” But there is hope. There must be.