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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 14, 2003

The Way Forward (Ted Belman)

The N Y Times published two articles Sunday presenting two different opinions summarized below.
Mid East Peace?: An Arab-Israeli pact must come first.
Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland and the author of "The Stakes: America and the Middle East: The Consequences of Power and the Choice for Peace," argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is indeed at the heart of the region's problems, that it is essential to the success of any American policy.

Mideast Peace?: The Key to Peace Is a Stable Gulf
Michael Scott Doran, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and assistant professor at Princeton University, disagrees. He argues that maintaining American predominance in the Persian Gulf, with its oil reserves and its strategic location — not settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is a prerequisite for stability.
Both of these learned professors, and the NYT, miss the core issue, the root cause if you will, of the conflict. In my opinion, the problem is Islam and its support for hatred of the West, America and Jews, and its call to Jihad against these enemies and its support and encouragement of terrorism. That is the cause of the instability in the world. Neither the US predominance in the ME or the resolution of the Arab Israeli conflict is going to change the ongoing radicalization of of Islam.
According to David Klinghoffer’s analysis in Jerusalem Post, March 19. (Titled “Read and Believe”)
The main thrust of Islam is to kill unbelievers, pagans and followers of other religions. Klinghoffer refers to Islam’s “fire breathing hostility” . . . “unremitting fury” . . . “pagan thrashing passages”. And provides some specific verses:

[…] these ordinances may be hard for Jews and Christians to swallow, as their Bibles contain no similar directives. But Muslims attending weekly prayers have come to expect these exhortations to obey Allah’s teaching. Unfortunately for non-Muslims, we must be punished for our unbelief by death at the hands of those “true believers”.
The hatred we see and read about in the Arab world and the terrorism we are subjected to is a product not of the Palestinian conflict but of the propaganda and incitement Arabs are subjected to in the Arab media and mosques. The only way to reduce both the hatred and the terror is to stop the propaganda and incitement.

Saudi Arabia, while housing US troops on its soil and cooperating to ensure stable oil prices, is nevertheless, funding the spread of Wahabbism, and its hateful messages, throughout the world. Would anyone suggest this would stop either because the US is predominant in the ME or the World or because a final agreement is signed by the Palestinians and the Israelis? Would anyone suggest that all the wars presently occurring at the margins of the Islamic world would stop because of either of these? I think not.

Would anyone suggest that American predominance in the ME, would result in the EU, Russia and China accepting such dominance even if the Palestine question is resolved? Europe has taken the side of the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, for two main reasons; to ward off Arab terrorism in Europe and to create a coalition against American hegemony. We saw just how far they were willing to go, in their efforts to thwart the US plans at the UN and even now with respect to US plans for Iraq.

The US continues to have to choose between unilateralism and multilateralism. Unilateralism allows it to do what it wants and thinks best, albeit with condemnation throughout the world. Whereas multilateralism prevents it from doing what it wants and thinks best, with endless wrangling and humiliation.

Multilateralism is essentially appeasement. The tail wags the dog. It is the basis of diplomacy and how the world usually works until conflicts cannot be finessed over and war results. Unilateralism is doing what you want, because you can and you think you are right.

Multilateralism maintains the status quo. Unilateralism changes the status quo. It can be revolutionary. The US was born in revolution and is comfortable with effecting change.

At this juncture in history the US wants change, so unilateralism is its only course. Their first order of business after Iraq is to put a stop to the spread of radical Islam which advocates holy war, terror and martyrdom.

During the sixties, when pan-Arabism was at its height under Nasser, one never heard of Islamists or radical Islam. Egypt, Syria and Iraq were secular socialist states. Pan- Arabism was their clarion call. The '67 war destroyed pan-Arabism and it its wake radical Islam developed and met its first success in Iran with the fall of the Shah in '79. In the same year, there was a riot and an attempted insurrection in Mecca. Saudi Arabia chose to work with the radical forces to protect its own position. Accordingly the deal that was made whereby Saudi Arabia would support and finance Wahabbism throughout the world. In the eighties, Iraq went to war against Iran, in part, to stop the Islamic revolution. Wahabbism, which preaches militant Islam, is well established now in Pakistan and was established in Afghanistan. Furthermore, militant Islam is growing in Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Its most recent success is in Turkey where the Islamists but not necessarly militant ones, recently won a majority. As a result, Arab societies throughout the world are being radicalized.

The fight against radical Islam and terror, includes forcing change on Syria, which is secular, and Iran, which is religious, both of whom use terrorism for their own purposes . It includes forcing Saudi Arabia to change its support for Wahabbism. Wahabbism is not the only strain of Islam and isn't accepted by all Muslim societies. There are other strains more conducive of harmony.

Some will argue that this is an impossible dream. If so, solving the Palestine question, is also a pipe dream.