I had expected to move today to issues other than the Boston terror attack. Barry Rubin, however, has written an excellent piece on this subject — “Who Will Keep More Muslim Teenagers from Becoming the Next Boston Terrorists?” I begin with this.
Since writing last, I’ve had correspondence with a couple of my readers regarding the concept of Islamists, jidhadists, radical Muslims vs. Muslims. They both objected, each in his own way, to my making a differentiation between the radicals and moderate Muslims, whom they claim do not exist, as Islam is a violent religion. Period.
Two readers out of thousands is a very small percentage. But it occurs to me that there may be other readers who did not write but entertain similar thoughts. And so I think it important to visit the issue here.
Not for a moment do I delude myself about the fact that radical Islam is predominant today. For the sake of the Western world, the danger it presents must be named, confronted and battled. I’m not shy about this. What is more, I know very well indeed that there are Muslims in the West who profess moderation but are fronts for the radical agenda. (CAIR in the US is a prime example.) I myself have argued with naive but well meaning people who were too eager to embrace such fronts, taking their declarations of moderation at face value.
What is more, I know about Islamic teachings regarding the infidel. And believe me, I do not take them lightly. How many times in the course of my work have I encountered the hadith (teaching): “and the tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.”
And yet, I also know Muslims who are moderate. Muslims who can be trusted. Muslims who do not internalize messages from their religion about killing non-believers and are not out to establish a world-wide caliphate. I can identify only a small number, but they are there. In many cases overwhelmed or threatened by the radicals, they maintain a low profile.
I think it’s important that the differentiation be made. First, because if we imagine we must do battle with the whole Islamic world, we are lost; to be effective we must focus on the true danger. And then, because it does injustice to those moderates who would live quietly.
Barry Rubin makes the differentiation: He argues that it’s important to “wage a real and serious battle within Islam.” He makes the case for countering the radical messages and talks in concrete terms about what needs to be done.
“…one could argue that there is no moderate—or at least no non-violent, non-revolutionary– Islam that can be developed. But that simply isn’t true. The works and the moderate individuals exist, but they are not given support, even in Western countries, nor do they have the resources to wage the battle. Everyone who ignorantly drones on about Islam being inevitably radical doesn’t know how hard Islamists have had to work for forty years or more to create what exists now, nor how many people who are Muslims oppose this movement in Iran, Arabic-speaking countries, Turkey, and other places…” (Emphasis added here and below)
“…in a bizarre manner Western societies favor the radicals, giving them good press and praise.
“…moderate Muslims are penalized and ignored.
“…the ability to critique precisely what is radical in Islam and what is wrong with Islamism is handicapped by the successful effort to brand any attempts at making such distinctions as ‘Islamophobia’ instead of a sensible fear of revolutionary Islamism.
“This, then, is the dilemma and why young people like the Tsarnaev brothers will be indoctrinated with extremist Islam with almost no alternative offered on the other side. If groups that are Muslim Brotherhood fronts are going to be treated by the American establishment as examples of normative, moderate Islam, what space is there for any real moderate Islam?
“If the enemy is not going to be defined as radical Islam or Islamism or some other phrase that identifies the issue, then how can anyone campaign against such doctrines?
“The West has paralyzed itself, and, ironically, the first people who are going to suffer are Muslims who are not Islamists and not radicals…”
Michael Mukasey, in his piece — “Make No Mistake, It Was Jihad” — in the Wall Street Journal makes a similar point:
“At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations [that’s CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism.”
This mindset is what led the jihad attack by Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood to be identified as “workplace violence…recall that the Army chief of staff at the time said the most tragic result of Fort Hood would be if it interfered with the Army’s diversity program.”
“…There are Muslim organizations in this country, such as the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, headed by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, that speak out bravely against that totalitarian ideology [the anti-American Brotherhood ideology that Mukasey describes]. They receive no shout-out at presidential speeches; no outreach is extended to them. (Emphasis added)
So there you have it. A moderate Muslim group that indeed does exist but is sidelined while the “sensitivities” of radical groups are responded to in a fashion that makes the differentiation impossible.
Mukasey makes yet other significant points. We waited for President Obama to say the “t” word — terrorism — he points out. And indeed while he was reluctant at first, it wasn’t long until he did. However, there was then “his vague musing on Friday about some unspecified agenda of the perpetrators, when by then there was no mystery: the agenda was jihad.” [There were, declared the president, “many unanswered questions” about what drove the suspects to violence.]
And so, still, an unwillingness to tie radical Islam to the violence. “We have heard not a word from those sources [who wield executive power] suggesting any need to understand and confront a totalitarian ideology that has existed since at least the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s.”
“Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the fifth person since 9/11 who has participated in terror attacks after questioning by the FBI.” (Emphasis added)
As a journalist, I exercise a self-restraint: In order to maintain a professional standard, I avoid inappropriate terminology. But I must say that Secretary of State John Kerry is trying that self-restraint. This is with regard to his comment, while in Turkey, on the Mavi Marmara incident:
“I know it’s an emotional issue with some people. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the incident we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them.”
“I mean, I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that.”
Mind-blowing, is it not? The people killed on the Mavi Mamara by Israeli commandos had terrorist associations and had deliberately and viciously attacked the Israelis, who then responded in self-defense. While those killed in Boston were innocents, whose lives were taken by terrorists.
And here Kerry is, empathizing with the families of terror-connected people. What an insult to Israel!
He was, it seems clear, attempting to play up to the Turks.
Let’s call him extremely obtuse where the nuances of a situation are concerned, and, in the end, just plain stupid.
Although some see it this way, I doubt that he was consciously trying to undercut Israel — he hadn’t thought that hard, or that deep. Besides, it would make little sense to undercut Israel when Hagel was in Jerusalem doing the opposite (see below).
His statement was made at a time when an Israeli delegation had come to negotiate compensation to be paid to Turkey for the lives of those killed on the Mavi Marmara, with Turkey demanding one million dollars for each of the nine dead, while Israel was offering one-tenth of that. Was he consciously attempting to “help” up the compensation terms — trying to show the Turks that he was their good buddy?
Reassuring, is it not, to know that US foreign affairs are being handled by such an astute individual?
One of the reasons Kerry was attempting to play to the Turks is because he was hoping to influence a decision Turkish PM Erdogan had made, to visit Gaza next month. This visit is considered potentially counterproductive to “jumpstarting the peace process,” and is being opposed by the PA’s Abbas.
The response to this request by Kerry? Said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who also serves as the government’s spokesman:
“Mr. Kerry’s statement … from a diplomatic perspective was objectionable, wrong and was incorrect.
“Only the Turkish government decides when and where the prime minister or any other Turkish official travels. An experienced foreign minister would not have done this. A foreign minister cannot and should not directly express to the media his personal opinions about our prime minister’s visit.”
“An experienced foreign minister would not have done this.” Kerry is over his head. And the Turks pull no punches.
Says commentator Ruthie Blum:
“Islamists view bowing down as a sign of weakness, and America keeps showing them that they are right to hold this view.”
Blum further suggests that the Israeli response to all of this may be tempered by the need for Turkish airspace in the event of an attack on Iran. In addition to which, attacking Kerry while Hagel was making nice here would likely not have been prudent. This entire situation is fraught with layer upon layer of complexity.
Erdogan is eager to go to Gaza at the time originally scheduled — late May, after visiting the White House –because it will be the third anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident. That ship, after all, had as its mission the breaking of the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.
As to the compensation negotiations, the Israeli delegation — headed by Security Council Head Ya’akov Amidror — left Turkey last night saying things had gone well. A joint text has been prepared but not yet released; the amount of compensation, which will be arrived at by a mutually agreed-up mechanism, has not yet been determined.
Families of the nine who had been killed are telling a different story, however. They say that their government didn’t consult them when agreeing to these negotiations. They don’t want compensation, which would not do justice to the memories of their “martyrs.” They want the end of the blockade of Gaza, which is what their loved ones gave their lives for. And they intend to continue to pursue legal proceedings against the Israeli military leaders who were involved.
While Kerry had gone to Turkey, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was here in Israel the last couple of days. What we are seeing seems a startling change in Hagel from what he has reflected in the past. I would say he’s doing his job as he should — taking orders from the commander-in-chief and representing a new US policy — or what appears to be a new policy.
Previously, the US had put considerable pressure on Israel not to attack Iran, and had sent high level personnel here to dissuade us from considering military action.
Now, on coming to Israel, Hagel said: “Israel is a sovereign nation…Israel will make the decision that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself.”
What is more, he signed on the dotted line with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for a deal that will not only give Israel a qualitative military edge in the region, but will accord Israel the right to buy armaments that were not available outside of the US until now — rendering an Israeli attack on Iran more feasible.
The two held a press conference yesterday (see picture), and from Ya’alon’s body language we might guess that things went well.
Hagel also met privately with PM Netanyahu this morning. At their press conference, Netanyahu thanked the Secretary for US support, saying:
“Iran’s attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons…is a challenge that Israel cannot accept, and as you and President Obama have repeatedly said, Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
In his response, Hagel said:
“Israel is a model for the world.”
Whoa. Absolutely true, but this from Hagel? Is the world listening? And more to the point, what is Hagel about here?
The new US policy? What it seems to be is this:
Obama now recognizes that negotiations (diplomacy) alone will not move Iran and that Netanyahu is right about the need for a credible military threat. But rather than making such a threat itself, the US is threatening Iran via Israel. What is more, the US seems to be working to ensure that if the threat does not work and an attack on Iran is necessary, that attack — by Israel, not the US — will be successful.
Thus acknowledgement of Israel’s “right” to attack in self-defense — a right we’ve always had but which until now Obama sought to curtail. And provision of cutting edge armaments — previously unavailable — that can make a difference.
However, there is a “but…” here.
A difference of opinion between Israel and the US regarding the right time to attack still exists. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, spelled it out thus:
“It’s all about timetables. If you say [as Israel does — this is Netanyahu’s red line] the goal is to halt Iran in the enrichment phase, you don’t have much time. If you are waiting for Iran to weaponize [the position the Obama administration has taken] maybe you can give it another year or more.”
And so we still must ask if those cutting edge armaments Israel will receive from the US will arrive in time for action to be taken in the enrichment phase? Or is Israel’s ability to act with greater effectiveness going to be curtailed until a later time?
What is more, as the NYTimes reported (emphasis added):
“…what the Israelis wanted most was a weapons system that is missing from the package: a giant bunker-busting bomb designed to penetrate earth and reinforced concrete to destroy deeply buried sites. According to both American and Israeli analysts, it is the only weapon that would have a chance of destroying the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment center at Fordow, which is buried more than 200 feet under a mountain outside the holy city of Qum.
“The weapon, called a Massive Ordnance Penetrator, weighs about 30,000 pounds — so much that Israel does not have any aircraft capable of carrying it. To do so, they would need a B-2 bomber, the stealth aircraft that the United States flew nonstop recently from Missouri to the Korean Peninsula to underscore to North Korea that it could reach their nuclear sites.
“The Obama administration has been reluctant to even discuss selling such capability to the Israelis…”
I’ve had my eye on those bunker busters for some time, and raised the issue of whether they would be provided to Israel when I wrote about this latest armaments deal.
Now I ask: What is Obama really all about?
Head of IDF Military Intelligence, Research Branch, Brig. Gen. ltay Baron, says that Assad’s troops have used lethal chemical weapons — mostly sarin gas — against armed rebels in the past weeks and is continuing to do so. The US and other nations are still saying they need to confirm this.
Baron, in a briefing to the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that the lack of an “appropriate international response” to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was “very worrying” and might give Assad the impression (dare I say the correct impression?) that there will be no consequences for what he’s doing.
Obama had said that use of WMD by Assad would be crossing a red line. Perhaps this position motivates the reluctance to acknowledge the evidence as firm.
Baron further said that 1,000 people were being killed in Syria every week. “There are more than 1000 tons of chemical weapons in Syria, plus missiles with warheads. It is a massive arsenal. The regime has already made use of some of these weapons….”
Baron noted, as did IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz recently, that Russia is exceedingly heavily involved in shoring up Assad. Gantz called this “strange.”
To be watched very very closely indeed. This is going on at our periphery and it’s a question of when and how the IDF will be involved.