October 31, 2008
Statistical Analysis Refutes Cycle of Violence Analogy
A statistical analysis published in American Economic Review (Sept. 2008 edition) refutes the portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cycle of violence. Economists David A. Jaeger and M. Daniele Paserman used "daily frequency data to analyze the dynamics of violence during four years of the Second Intifada" from September 2000 to January 2005. The authors tested the evidence as to "whether the pattern of violence in the conflict should indeed be characterized as a cycle, in which violence by one party causes violence by the other party."
The authors found "there is little evidence to suggest that both sides of the conflict react in a regular and predictable way to violence against them. Rather we find that the direction of causality... runs only from violence committed by Palestinians to violence committed by Israelis, and not vice versa." They conclude "Overall we find strong evidence that the Israelis react in a significant and predictable way to Palestinian violence against them, but no evidence that the Palestinians react to Israeli violence. This stands in contrast to the popular notion that Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in a 'tit-for-tat' cycle of violence."
In explaning their results, the authors "suggest that the Palestinians may deliberately choose to randomize the timing of their response to Israeli violence...The effectiveness of terror attacks in disrupting day-to-day Israeli life is, almost by definition, greater if these attacks are unpredictable."
This study refutes the all too frequent depiction (see the screenshot promoting the PBS series above) of violence between Israelis and Palestinians as a cycle of violence and leads to a conclusion that Palestinian terrorist groups carry out acts of terrorism on their own timetable as a means to achieve political objectives and not as a response to Israeli actions.
October 28, 2008
Philippe Karsenty on the Mohammed Al Dura Hoax
In the wake of his victory in the French Appeals Court where he was vindicated of defamation charges against French public television, Philippe Karsenty speaks out in Middle East Quarterly about the Mohammed Al Dura hoax.
On what happened to Mohammed Al Dura:
MEQ: There are different theories about the fate of Muhammad al-Dura. Some say he was killed by the Palestinians, and others say he is alive at the end of the tape but are not clear if he is alive now. What is your version of the incident?
Karsenty: We shouldn't talk about theories but about facts and evidence. At the end of the France 2 film, the boy is not dead. He is raising his elbow and looking at the cameraman. These images are available on Richard Landes' website and on Youtube. If you look at the images, you will see that the boy is clearly not dead. There are no bullet wounds or blood. Those images were never broadcast in France, but they were shown in England on the BBC and in Arab countries. What amazes me is that nobody said, "Wait a minute. There is a problem here." It doesn't make sense. In a news report done one year after his son's alleged death, Dura's father says the first bullet hit his son on the right knee, but the tape shows not a single drop of blood there; it is ridiculous. Nothing makes sense in his version, but nobody wanted to look at the images.
On the importance of exposing the lies about Al Dura:
MEQ: After the lower court ruled against you—in part because the Israeli government did not come to your defense—the IDF wrote to Charles Enderlin requesting that he hand over the footage and saying that the court's statement was not an accurate reflection of the IDF position, and that they wanted to see the tapes. Was this a reaction to the court's decision or a 180-degree shift in Israel's public relations position?
Karsenty: We had been working desperately to get this letter from the IDF.
MEQ: What contributed to the change in Israeli governmental policy towards you?
Karsenty: When the government was fighting such a difficult campaign on the ground, it just wanted to put the Muhammad al-Dura affair behind it. But lies endure. If the good name of Israel is besmirched in this case, it will haunt the country for generations. Note that millions of people continue to believe in the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Muhammad al-Dura postage stamps already exist in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and Jordan. Squares in Morocco and Mali and streets in many cities are named for Dura. Daniel Pearl was beheaded with the image of Muhammad al-Dura behind him. We need to expose the Dura hoax now so our children needn't suffer for this lie.
October 27, 2008
Two paragraphs of trouble in The Washington Post
News briefs are by definition short items. But they can include large errors.
Take The Washington Post’s October 15 brief, “Syria: Lebanon Ties Restored.” The headline reads “Ties Restored,” when Syria and Lebanon never previously had diplomatic relations. Syrian political analyst Sami Moubayad, among others, has pointed out that since 1932 Damascus has viewed its tiny western neighbor as rightfully part of Syria. The headline should have read “Syria Finally Establishes Ties with Lebanon.”
The brief also asserted that “relations between the two Arab nations have been lopsided since the 1970s, when Syria sent its army into Lebanon and retained control for nearly thirty years.”Syria didn’t just “retain control,” it occupied Lebanon, infiltrated its military and security services, illegally arrested and deported Lebanese citizens and imprisoned them in Syria, and reportedly arranged the assassination of numerous Lebanese opposition figures.
The Post brief states that “ties unraveled when former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri was killed in a 2005 car bombing that many Lebanese blame on Syria.” Ties did not unravel, Syria’s military occupation did, in the face of mammoth Lebanese protests and international diplomatic pressure including a U.N. investigation that pointed to high-level Syrian culpability in Hariri’s murder.
The Post’s short item did not mention why Syria might be willing, suddenly, to recognize Lebanon. The Washington Times, running as a full article the wire service material apparently briefed by The Post, reported that “some observers say that Syria is more comfortable dealing with Lebanon now that its ally Hezbollah has gained veto power in a unity government that was formed in July” and now has “a president sympathetic to Syria.”
The day The Post carried its inadequate, even misleading brief on Lebanese-Syrian relations, The New York Times published a full-length article headlined “Up North, Hothouse of Tensions in Lebanon.” It reported that Syria and its radical Lebanese allies were trying to create an atmosphere of fear by engaging in terrorism ahead of parliamentary elections. According to The New York Times, though Syria withdrew its soldiers in 2005, it still retains armed allies in Lebanon among the Alawites, Lebanese security forces, and Hezbollah.
Post readers did catch up some when the paper ran, as a lead October 22 World News section article, “Lebanese City’s Strife Reflects 2 Conflicts; Tripoli Rocked by Internal Rifts and Mideast Proxy War.” Special correspondent Alia Ibrahim reported that Tripoli’s intermittent fight between Sunnis and Alawites “is fueled by Lebanon’s internal divisions and a slow-burning proxy war that involves Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.” Interesting and informative — though Syria is described gently as Lebanon’s “often meddlesome neighbor” and the Hariri and other recent assassination are not mentioned. In any case, a week after New York Times coverage. RS
October 21, 2008
Reality Starts to Penetrate
Christian suffering at the hands of the Muslim majority in the Middle East has been an open secret amongst putative supporters of tolerance and religous freedom in the United States. Journalists and peace activists know that Christians are a beleaguered and targeted minority in Muslim-majority countries throughout the Middle East, but for the most part, only a few people like Israeli researcher Justus Reid Weiner and Bat Ye'or (an Egyptian Jew thrust from her home in 1956) take up the cudgel on their behalf.
The testimony from Weiner and Ye'or has not gained much traction amongst the human rights and peace activists who focus on the Middle East, probably because they are noted Zionists who can be dismissed as trying to discredit Israel's adversaries. Given the anti-Zionist tendencies of the peace and human rights activists in the U.S., particularly in mainline Protestant churches, it's unrealistic to expect them to engage with the issues Ye'or and Weiner address in an honest manner.
Rabbi Stephen Wise ran into a similar problem when he tried to warn the American people about the suffering of Jews in Europe in 1942. In response to his testimony, Charles Clayton Morrison, editor of Christian Century, accused Wise of exagerating the problem and asked "whether any good purpose is served by the publication of such charges ..." Three years later, the magazine admitted the truth about the events Wise tried to describe.
To be fair, it's human nature for people to closely scrutinize evidence offered by people with differing ideological viewpoints, but at the end of the day, the evidence has to be treated on its own merits, not judged against a metric of ideological acceptability, as is with the case of Weiner and Ye'or's testimony and translations. Apparently, when a Zionist Jew hears a tree fall in the forest, it doesn't make a sound peace and human rights activists in the West want to hear.
But when Christians in the Middle East blame Israel for their suffering, it's a different story altogether. Then peace activists, clergy and journalists of all stripes -- religious and secular -- find their prophetic voices and complain to high heaven about the declining population of Christians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and how oppressive Israeli policies are driving them out.
It's an annual occurence. Just wait until until the last week of November or first week of December when journalists and peace activists will yet again, portray Christians in Bethlehem as undergoing the same type of suffering endured by Jesus, Mary and Joseph -- with Israel cast as ancient Rome. It happens every year.
This year, there's reason to think that somebody "gets it."
In an editorial published on Oct. 20, 2008, the Los Angeles Times described the status of Christians in the Middle East in straightforward terms. After detailing the exodus of Christians from Iraq as a result of violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists, the editorial states:
The religious cleansing of Christians in Iraq is part of a larger pattern in which a faith with origins in the Middle East is being driven out of its native region. From Iraq to Lebanon, which once claimed a Christian majority, to Bethlehem, the West Bank town revered as the birthplace of Jesus, intra-Muslim violence and the Arab-Israeli struggle have combined to persuade (and in some cases force) Christians to relocate to Europe or North America.
While the editorial offers an obligatory reference to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the piece ends with a call for Muslim leaders in the Middle East to protect Christians in the region:
... a vibrant Christian population has benefited predominantly Islamic countries, not least by building cultural, educational and political bridges to the West. Likewise, a thriving Christian community validates Israel's claim to be a state that, despite its Jewish character, respects the freedom and autonomy of other faiths.
Reversing the exodus of Christians from the Middle East will not be easy; it will require international pressure on Muslim-dominated regimes -- including Iraq's -- to deal justly with their Christian citizens.
This passage does two things that many journalists -- religious and secular -- are loathe to do: Acknowledge Israel's efforts to protect the rights of its religious minorities and hold Muslim leaders accountable for the safety of Christians in the countries they govern.
It gets even better. The editorial also acknowledges "opposition of Arab bishops to a Vatican Council declaration absolving Jews of collective responsibility for the death of Jesus."
This may seem like an obscure bit of history, but it's a crucial fact that has been largely ignored by people who invoke testimony about Israeli policies from groups like Sabeel and the Middle East Council of Churches. In Semites and Anti-Semites, Bernard Lewis provides detail about the successful efforts of Christian churches in the Middle East to convince the Second Vatican Council to soften its suppression of the deicide charge against the Jewish people. He also documents how several Muslim commentators -- who as a matter of doctrine deny that Christ was crucified -- encouraged the Vatican not to suppress the deicide charge against the Jewish people. For example, Jordanian Foreign Minister Qadri Tuqan argued that "history testifies to Jewish intentions of destroying Christ and Christianity."
Bernard Lewis writes that "it is strange that Muslim leaders should have concerned themselves so intimately with the council of a church which they do not accept, and the definition of a dogma they do not believe. Probably the best explanation was that given by the London Economist, which remarked that in the Arab view this was no time to be acquitting the Jews of anything."
Why is it important? Because as the Los Angeles Times editorial rightfully argues, Christian communities in the Middle East are a bridge to the West. Maybe it's about time that people start asking in which direction the traffic is flowing and what cargo is being conveyed.
What the Los Angeles Times has done is remarkable. It has called for the protection of the Christian minority in the Middle East without demonizing Israel, while at the same time acknowledging the anti-Israel attitudes within this community.
Christians in the Middle East do not need to be as pure as the driven snow to warrant protection from their governments and concern from people of good faith in the West. But journalists, peacemakers and activists in the U.S. need to understand that not everything groups like Sabeel and Middle East Council of Churches say about Israel can be taken at face value. Maybe the Los Angeles Times is ahead of the curve on this score.
- Dexter Van Zile
October 20, 2008
Pilar Rahola Speaks Out on European Anti-Israel Bias
Threats, slander and lost friends have not deterred Spanish-Catalan journalist Pilar Rahola from forcefully expressing her views about the anti-Israel media and academe in Spain and Europe, the link between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, the European left (of which she is a part), and more.
Her candor continues in a recent interview with Ha'aretz. An excerpt:
"I don't see myself as a defender of Israel," she points out, "but as a defender of the truth. I have a great deal of criticism of various decisions of the Israeli government. I don't like what Israel has done over the years. But there's a very big difference between rational criticism of the government, of various activities of the government, and unbridled and criminal attacks against Israel's very essence." ...
In the conflict in the Middle East ... most European intellectuals stop thinking and only repeat empty cliches. This anti-Israel bias of both the left and the media is a disguise for anti-Semitism. No other country is the target of such hatred and of such belligerent criticism. No other country receives repeated threats to its existence from other members of the United Nations, while the world remains silent. The reasons for that can be found in both distant and recent history. ...
... our deviant way of dealing with [guilt about the Spanish inquisition and the Holocaust] is to attack Israel, of all countries. Because the worse Israel is, the less guilty we are. The attacks against Israel are our way of clearing our conscience, and that's something I definitely can't accept. ...
Meanwhile, unfortunately, anyone who is not anti-Israel immediately becomes suspect.
You can read the entire fascinating interview here.
On Revisionism of Muslim/Arab Anti-Semitism
In his review of the book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, Benny Morris discusses (among other things) the revisionist history that claims Jews in the Arab world were well-treated:
The story peddled by latter-day Arab propagandists (and reinforced by some Jewish scholars, who tended in decades past, sometimes for apologetic reasons of their own, to highlight the medieval “Golden Age” of Islamic Spanish Jewry)-that the Jewish minorities in the Muslim Arab countries before the advent of Zionism enjoyed a pleasant fraternal existence among the majority populations-has often been trotted out for the benefit of ignorant Westerners, to illustrate Muslim Arab tolerance of minorities and, politically, to promote plans for a multi-ethnic, one-state solution for Israel/Palestine.
It also has taken hold among Western intellectuals. ...
But this construct, in Bostom’s view (and in my own), is wholly false.
The entire review can be read in The New Republic, here.
To read about AP's revisionism on the treatment of Moroccan Jews, see here (and here). For BBC's whitewash on Iraqi Jewish history (which was eventually improved after a formal complaint was filed by CAMERA) see here.
October 14, 2008
Boston Arts Scene’s Palestinian Propaganda Festival
Palestinian films have falsely portrayed Israel as the culprit of the Palestinian refugee problem, portrayed terrorism as legitimate activity against Israel and miscast Israel’s security measures as “oppression.” What’s new is that these films have become wrapped in a cloak of heightened respectability thanks to the entanglement of established local entities as sponsors and presenters of Palestinian film festivals. The list of sponsors of the Boston Palestine Film Festival (Oct. 3-12) includes these members of the Boston area’s arts and academic communities: Department of Cinema Studies at Northeastern University, Coolidge Corner Theatre and Harvard Film Archive (HFA). The festival’s co-presenters are HFA and the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).
Are the sponsors and presenters not concerned about such warning signs as the presence of at least one obsessively anti-Israel festival advisory-board member (Leila Farsakh), or the formal honoring of the festival in May 2008 by the notoriously anti-Israel American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)?
Among the festival’s approximately 55 films screened at various locations, one featured film is "SlingShot Hip Hop", which “follows [some] young artists as they grapple with the day-to-day physical boundaries imposed by the occupation, not to mention the more subtle forms of division that conspire to restrict their lives … from internal checkpoints and the Separation Wall …" The other featured film, "Bab al-Shams: The Departure" (135 minutes, 2004), "spans five decades, starting in the years just before the Nakba (or 'Catastrophe') when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes and land."
Several of the films deal with the theme of the Palestinian view of Israeli security measures. In addition to "SlingShot," this is the theme of shorts such as "Bethlehem Checkpoint, 4am" (2007) and "A Day In Palestine" (2007). However, such films tend to expose only the pro-Palestinian propagandized view of Israel's security barrier and checkpoints. But these security measures have saved many Israeli lives as a result of the dramatic decrease in suicide bombings. These measures have saved the lives of many Palestinians as well, since they have eliminated the need for large scale Israeli incursions into the West Bank to root out terrorists, as in 2002.
The Boston area’s main newspaper chimed in with an article promoting the festival while failing to scrutinize the questionable validity of the festival’s focus, which falsely blames the Palestinian refugee problem on Israel.
Leslie Brokaw’s Sept. 28 Globe article, "Palestine festival’s date with history," said:
This year's focus is on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, which the festival describes as "the expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948." The expulsion occurred during the establishment of the state of Israel.
Clearly, Israel is cast as a villain in this festival but Ms. Brokaw’s article constitutes a disservice to Globe readers, not only by failing to provide the necessary context to enlighten readers as to what the “Nakba” was really all about, but even more egregiously, by reinforcing, in her own words, the focus’s falsity that the establishment of Israel caused “the expulsion” of Palestinians. There is not a word in the article about the fact that the vast majority of Palestinians who fled in 1948 did so of their own accord or due to pressure from Arab leaders and propagandists. Likewise, no mention is made of the massive 1948 expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. As has been extensively documented, the number of these Jewish refugees actually exceeded the number of 1948 Palestinian “Nakba” refugees.
Ms. Brokaw would do well to read any of several CAMERA Web site articles which provide a balanced perspective of the “Nakba” such as the postings of August 6, 2008 and March 13, 2007 and May 31, 2006.
October 13, 2008
Boston Globe Editorial Overlooks Palestinian Responsibilities
Today’s editorial in the Boston Globe (“Olmert Unbound,” 10/13/08) lauds outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for his opinions about what Israel should do to attain peace. In recent interviews with Israeli newspapers, Olmert argued that Israel should withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank, and that Jerusalem should be divided in some form or another.
The Globe, after stating that “Olmert’s remarks are worth heeding,” describes his trajectory as one “traced by other prominent figures, such as former prime minister Ariel Sharon and ... Tzipi Livni.” While encouraging, this pattern of “abandoning unrealizable fantasies ... may not be sufficient to produce the political will needed for a historic compromise with the Palestinians,” the editorial writer adds.
The piece ends with the following thesis: “Olmert was speaking about realities Israelis need to confront. What Israelis need most of all, however, is a leader who can act on those truths.”
It’s a odd prescription.
Has the editorial board forgotten that an Israeli leader did in fact attempt to act on what the Globe considers to be “truths?” Has it forgotten that Yasser Arafat could have had nearly 100 percent of the land Jordan lost in 1967, sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem, and financial support from Europe, America, and international financial institutions, but in a final blunder turned to armed struggle instead of accepting Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton’s peace proposals? Arafat could have hardly expect to receive better terms for a negotiated agreement than those on offer by Bill Clinton, and accepted by Ehud Barak, in late 2000.
Absent from the editorial is any clue that the Palestinians and their leaders, too, must make compromises if any deal is to be struck.
Indeed, perhaps what “Israelis need most of all” isn’t “a leader who can act on [Olmert’s] truths,” as the Globe describes it, but rather a Palestinian leadership with the desire and, more importantly, the ability to promote similar “truths” on the Palestinian side.
Would it not benefit the cause of peace for the Palestinians to acknowledge that Israel cannot be transformed by millions of returning refugees? Currently, many Palestinians, with the encouragement of their leaders in Gaza and the West Bank, continue to cling to the unrealizable fantasy of a “right of return” for the descendants of Palestinian refugees.
And what about anti-peace agitation from political Islamists — pressure not only from the Palestinian group Hamas but from as far away as Iran, which was exerted on Palestinian negotiators during negotiations in 2000, and is perhaps even stronger with today’s more powerful versions of Hamas and Iran?
These key points are all tied to a larger concept that must be understood by anyone who hopes to understand the difficulties in achieving Middle East peace: The Palestinians — even more than the Israelis — must take important strides toward compromise, and need leadership that will act in constructive ways. It is the Palestinian side that is in part led by Hamas, an extremist organization that repeatedly announces it will never accept Israel’s existence, and in part by Fatah, which rarely if ever tells its people what they need to hear, perhaps most importantly that Palestinian refugees and their descendants will not be able to flood Israel and achieve the Jewish state’s end through demographics.
The Globe editorial board need not take my word for any of the above. The bolded passages above, which highlight the fact that Israelis (and also Palestinians) need change from the Palestinians, come directly from that newspaper’s editorials about the Mideast conflict from the past few years. One can only hope that they still remember — and will remind readers — this side of the peace equation.
October 12, 2008
Media Gobbles Up PCHR Falsehood
October 08, 2008
Iranian Dissident: It's Not Just Ahmadinejad
In an analysis published in the November/December 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs, Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji cautions against focusing exclusively on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when discussing his country's problems:
Blaming the country's main problems on Ahmadinejad not only overstates his influence; it inaccurately suggests that Iran's problems will go away when he does. More likely, especially regarding matters such as Iran's foreign policy, the situation will remain much the same as long as the structure of power that supports the supreme leader remains unchanged.
You can find more of Ganji's views in his analysis, "The Latter-Day Sultan: Power and Politics in Iran," which can be read here.
October 05, 2008
French Investigate Al Dura
October 03, 2008
'It’s terrorism, not war,' judge tells PLO
U.S. District Judge George Daniels reaffirmed that terrorism is one thing, acts of war another. In doing so, he rejected a claim by the Palestinian Liberation Organization that attacking civilians was legitimate “military” activity.
According to an Associated Press report (“NY judge: PLO can’t disguise terror as war,” washingtonpost.com, Sept. 30, 2008), Daniels ruled that a 2004 lawsuit seeking up to $3 billion on behalf of victims and their families can go to trial. The judge “rejected the PLO’s argument that two machine-gun attacks and five bombings” in Israel between January 2001 and February 2004 were not terrorism but acts of war. The Jerusalem-area assaults “killed 33 people and wounded hundreds, including scores of U.S. citizens,” AP reported.
Daniels stressed that the definition of terrorism, a crime under international law, encompassed attacks targeting “public places — not military or government personnel or interests.” He noted that the PLO’s use of bombs on city streets, at a crowded bus stop, in a passenger-filled civilian bus and a cafeteria at Hebrew University were intended “to cause far-reaching devastation upon the masses,” revealing a “merciless capability of indiscriminately killing and maiming untold numbers in heavily populated civilians areas.”
Rejecting the Palestinian claim, the judge asserted that such actions “upon non-combative civilians, who were allegedly simply going about their everyday lives, do not constitute acts of war.” Rather, they meet the legal definition of “international terrorism.”
The suit, AP reported, was brought under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991, “which provides U.S. residents, their survivors and heirs civil remedies in U.S. courts if they are injured by international terrorism.” Judge Daniels also rejected the PLO claim it was entitled to sovereign immunity as if it were a national entity.
The court’s legal clarity should help reinforce the journalistic principle of describing actors and actions by their proper names. Terrorists are not soldiers, and terrorism is neither warfare nor legitimate “resistance.” It’s a violent crime. And terrorist are not to be camouflaged or excused by their self-descriptions or apologias — militants, fighters, martyrs and so on — but accurately labeled as criminals. That the AP dispatch appeared on washingtonpost.com may be ironic, The Post commonly avoiding both the legal and journalistic definition of terrorism in reporting such acts by Arabs against Israelis, but it is regardless a valuable reminder. -- RS
October 02, 2008
Rutten: We Ignore Iran at Our Peril
Thumbs up to Tim Rutten for pointing out in an Oct 1, 2008 Los Angeles Times Op-Ed that "Ahmadinejad's evil words aren't just talk; Threats by Iran's president are not empty rhetoric; he means what he says, and we ignore him at our peril." Rutten also excoriated the media for ignoring Ahmadinejad's hateful rant at the United Nations.
Comments on Rutten's informative essay can be sent to the LA Times: email@example.com
From the Los Angeles Times
Ahmadinejad's evil words aren't just talk;
Threats by Iran's president are not empty rhetoric; he means what he says, and we ignore him at our peril.
October 1, 2008
We Americans are accustomed to regarding political rhetoric much as Dr. Johnson did epitaphs. "They are not," he wrote, "given under oath."
In other words, we don't expect public men or women to speak the truth from public platforms. When it comes to our own parochial affairs, there's probably a bit of weary realism in that. However, this casual expectation of rhetorical hypocrisy has inhibited from the start our ability to recognize and deal with the threat posed by Islamist radicalism.
Time and again, the spokesmen for these movements have told the world precisely what they intend. Time and again, the scant handful of Americans who bothered to take notice have dismissed what was said as the product of political alienation, as the consequence of economic marginalization, as a hangover of post-colonial insecurity or as tactical bluster.
No. These people mean exactly what they say, and they mean it for precisely the reasons they say they do. They genuinely believe in the extreme and often heretical variants of Islam to which they cleave, that faith guides their actions, and their public statements are expressions of that faith.
Time and again, though, we willfully have blinded ourselves to this fact, partly because modern minds balk at accepting what is essentially medieval reasoning at face value, and partly because it's the conveniently amicable thing do to.
That, plus the simultaneity of a national election and Wall Street crisis, account in large part for the silence that greeted last week's abominable speech by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the United Nations. In the course of a characteristically rambling diatribe, Ahmadinejad, one of the world's great public anti-Semites, had this to say:
"The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner. It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential or premier nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support.
"This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will."
There's a temptation to dismiss all this as simply "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" nonsense. But consider this other statement of Ahmadinejad's, made in a TV address in 2006: "Zionists and their protectors are the most detested people in all of humanity, and the hatred is increasing every day. ... The worse their crimes, the quicker they will fall."
Or perhaps this, from 2005: "Israel must be wiped off the map. ... The establishment of a Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world."
By "world oppressor," Ahmadinejad means the United States. He happens to belong to a Shiite sect that believes it can hasten the coming of the Mahdi, the Islamic savior, by the creation of chaos in the world. And like his brethren among the Sunni jihadists, he means what he says.
Mary Halbeck, one of the West's foremost scholars of jihadism and its religious origins, describes Islamist extremists as "committed to the destruction of the entire secular world because they believe this is a necessary first step to create an Islamic utopia on Earth." Their "view of the enemies of Islam means that their depiction in the Koran and hadith [commentaries on the Koran] is valid today in every detail. The Jews in particular have specific negative characteristics. ... They are notorious for their betrayal and treachery; they have incurred God's curse and wrath; they were changed into monkeys and pigs."
This is what the men who brought the hell of 9/11 to America believed. This is what Ahmadinejad believes and what he simply awaits the opportunity to act on.
When the delegates to the U.N. General Assembly applauded Ahmadinejad's speech last week, and the American media passed over it in silence, this is the sentiment to which they gave their respective explicit and tacit approval.
Shame on them; shame on us.