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Land For Peace

Pursuit of the holy land
James Carroll / Jul 25, 2010
‘LAND For peace’’ was the early mantra of the Mideast peace process, and it was realized in Israel’s treaties with Egypt and Jordan. The formula has proven to be more problematic between Israel and Palestine because the disputed territory defines core identities of both peoples. Having accepted the principle, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a fellow Jew for whom any surrender of Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) violated the sacred trust given by God. Meanwhile, any Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as Israel involves a yielding of claims to ancestral property that was seized in war. The pulse of conflict over the land beats from the heart of Jerusalem — the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary — which both sides see as an exclusive locus of holiness.

Could negotiators in a renewed peace process ever step across the divide to see the story of the land from the other point of view? Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are usually understood in mainly modern terms, with roots in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the stand-out issue here goes far more deeply into the past than that. Below the glibly asserted claims and counter-claims, how does this “much too holy land,’’ as defeated mediators call it, actually feature in the history of the religions and the peoples? I write as an American Christian, from outside both traditions, yet this is how the matter seems to me.

Each people has a historic — but not exclusive — claim to the land of Israel/Palestine, with biblical sanctification of Jerusalem matched by the immediate Islamic impulse to go there because of its sacredness to Jews. The history of the city and the two faiths challenges preconceptions on both sides.

The Bible says that the Lord promised the land to Abraham as a sign of the Covenant (the sign of God’s prior covenant with Noah was a rainbow, which had the advantage of never actually touching the ground). Appealing to that promise, so the story goes, a band of Israelites, led by Joshua, invaded the land of the Canaanites, which many today see as a foreshadowing of a Zionist invasion of Palestine. Against that myth, scholars now tell us, it is likely that the Hebrews were themselves Canaanites, and the mass invasion was an invented account, perhaps based on the arrival of a small band of refugees from Egypt, intended to explain why Hebrew understandings of God differed from those of their fellow Canaanites. So much for one pillar of the contemporary conflict.

Today, certain Ultra-Orthodox Jews (like the murderer of Rabin) take the biblical narratives literally, as if the boundaries of Eretz Israel can be determined. (Biblical definitions are problematic. Exodus 23:31, for example, stakes a claim from Arabia and the Red Sea to the Euphrates, which flows through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.) Yet any conceivable land grant from heaven has less relevance than the actual experience of the ancient Hebrews, whose feelings for the land really began when they were kidnapped away from it by the Babylonians in the 7th century BC — eons after Abraham. Only as Judeans looked back on territory they had lost, centered in Jerusalem, did it take on transcendent significance. Their recognition of God as the author of their connection to the land was how they explained their inability to forget Jerusalem. When they returned to the place, they understood it differently, and it was then that what we call Judaism really began (only then, for example, did the Bible take form). Their longing for Jerusalem while exiled away from it made the Jews a people.

The Temple had been constructed in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant, but during the exile in Babylon that sacred object was lost. Upon returning, the Jews reconstituted the Temple, but from then on its Holy of Holies was empty. The central religious insight of Judaism from then on, as this Christian understands it, was that God’s presence was felt as a form of absence — just as the sacred character of the land had been only fully realized in exile from it. For Jews, this paradoxical pattern was made defining when, centuries later, the Romans, having destroyed the Temple, once more forced them into exile — an exile that would last until 1948. Through all of those centuries, just as in Babylon, the Jewish people continued to understand themselves in terms of the land from which they had been expelled. Absence was an intense form of presence. This history, more than any extrinsic divine mandate, made it the most natural thing in the world for 19th-century Zionists, seeking escape from European antisemitism, to turn their gaze back to Palestine. In fact, the Jewish gaze had never turned away.

The Palestinian experience importantly includes Christians, but Muslim history revolves around this land. Against those who claim that Islam’s connection to Jerusalem necessarily negates Judaism’s stands the story of Caliph Umar, Muhammad’s companion and second successor. No sooner had Arab tribalism yielded to the cohesive new movement based on the “oneness’’ of Allah than its gaze was drawn to Jerusalem. The Byzantine-controlled city was seen as sacred because it had been sacred to Jews. Within five years of the Prophet’s death in 632, Umar’s army took Jerusalem without any loss of life — a Muslim control that would last, except for an interlude during the Crusades, until the 20th century. From the effective beginning of Islam, Jerusalem was a pillar of its identity. Of tremendous relevance to today’s dispute is the fact that Umar’s first act was to formally welcome the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem. Umar ordered the repair of the still-ruined Jewish Temple Mount as the Jewish Temple Mount.

Caliphs after Umar would consistently demonstrate their Islamic piety by valorizing Jerusalem even more than Mecca or Medina. Myths would evolve to account for its Islamic significance. Al Aqsa Mosque, deliberately built by Umar at respectful remove from what he took to be the foundation rock of Judaism, became identified with the “farthest mosque’’ mentioned in the Qur’an. The Dome of the Rock, built a few decades later, enshrines the legendary site of Abraham’s sacrifice, but is understood as also sanctifying Mohammad’s ascent to heaven.

As Christian fantasies of Jerusalem defined Europe’s long war with Islam, an expressly Muslim spirituality of the holy city intensified. But looming across the ages is the fact that Islamic devotion to this place began as respect for Jewish devotion. In that foundation lies a permanent principle of mutual reconciliation.

Thus, the land claims of each party to the contemporary conflict are grounded in contingent history, not in timeless mandates. As Zionism (which began with a focus on the Mediterranean coast and the kibbutz-farms of Galilee) recovered the religious meaning of Jerusalem, and as Palestinian nationalism evolved out of pan-Arabic identity specifically in relationship to territory defined more by the British Mandate than indigenous traditions, the fluidity of historical change was on full display. In war, though, fluidity calcifies. Thus the messianic-minded ultra-Orthodox Jews of the settler movement assert that God’s ancient will trumps anything that has happened across 3,000 years, while irredentist Palestinians deny any Jewish precedence in Jerusalem or its Temple (“claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine,’’ as the 1968 PLO Charter puts it, “are incompatible with the facts of history’’).

This history shows that each people is profoundly tied to the land and its holy city. Jews are who they are because of the place. So are Palestinians. But the one constant defining that tie in both cases has been change. Indeed, history is its record. Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians must begin with the shared assumption that only change will make peace possible. The hope lies precisely there, because change, even of the most firmly held and apparently opposing convictions — embodied in contested land — is what made those convictions sacred in the first place. Now to change again.

James Carroll’s column appears regularly in the Globe. This is the second of six special columns, which will appear every other week. His new book, coming early in 2011, is “Jerusalem, Jerusalem: The Ancient City that Ignited the Modern World.’’

July 29, 2010 Posted by | culture, freedom, Israel, religion | | Leave a comment

Daniel Greenfield: Cameron’s Trip to Turkey

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cameron’s Despicable Toadying to Turkey

It is sadly unsurprising that Prime Minister Cameron’s highly publicized trip to Turkey went with no mention of that country’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide, and its suppression of Kurdish and Armenian minorities. Indeed when Turkish leader Erdogan discussed his threats of ethnically cleansing Armenians in the UK, Gordon Brown made no more comment on the matter than if Erdogan had been discussing his favorite television programs.

It is in keeping with that conspiracy of silence, that Cameron made no mention of the thousands of political prisoners in Turkish jails, there often for merely expressing an opinion at odds with the state, for singing a folk song, or delivering an official speech in Kurdish. Naturally Cameron did not think to raise the issue of Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament and a winner of the Sakharov Prize, who is still in jail today. Cameron could have at least raised the subject of Aysel Tuğluk, a member of the Turkish Human Rights Association, who was illegally stripped of her parliamentary immunity and sent to jail for handing out leaflets in the Kurdish language, and is now due to be sent to jail yet again.

But rather than standing up for human rights, Cameron instead pandered to the radical Islamists who were his hosts, by feeding their appetite for hate directed at Israel. And it did not begin or end with Israel.

Instead Cameron sold out the rest of Europe, declaring that he was “angry” at how long the negotiations to bring Turkey into the EU were taking, and declaring himself the “strongest possible advocate for EU membership”. He slammed France and implicitly Germany, for refusing to rush forward to support bringing Turkey into the EU. Cameron sided with Turkey, over France and Germany, betraying allies for enemies. And worse was yet to come.

Not only did Cameron ignore Turkey’s ongoing occupation of Cyprus, but he signed a strategic agreement with Turkey that calls for ending the “isolation” of the Turkish Cypriots by upholding their “right to representation” in the European Parliament, and promoting political and cultural contacts with the Turkish Cypriots. What that means is that Cameron committed himself to supporting Dervis Eroglu from the radical National Unity Party, which calls for Turkish annexation of occupied Cyprus. The strategic agreement signed by Cameron, moves the UK closer to recognizing the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, which currently only Turkey itself recognizes.

Again Cameron makes no criticism whatsoever of Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus. He does not mention the fact that he signed an agreement promoting the flow of goods from occupied Cyprus to the UK, while Turkey refuses to accept goods from Greek Cyprus. Of course not. No more than his predecessor was willing to.

Did Cameron do any of this out of principle? Nonsense. Cameron knows as well as anyone about Turkey’s state of domestic terror, its persecution of the political opposition, and how unworkable Turkish membership in the EU would be. Instead like Brown before him, Cameron pandered to the Turkish thug-in-chief for a few pounds, hoping to boost British exports to Turkey. In the hope of a few million pounds, Cameron betrayed fellow European nations, signed off on Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus, ignored the thousands of political prisoners in Turkish jails, and whitewashed Turkey’s real record on Islamic terrorism. And while he and his businessmen friends beamed and shook hands with Turkey’s chief terrorist– others were left to stand up against the violence and brutality of the Turkish regime on their own.

In his rambling speech, Cameron praised Turkey for fighting against terrorism. The reality however is that the only “terrorism” that Turkey fights against, is Kurdish guerrillas, from its large Kurdish minority who want to have their own state, or at least some basic human rights. And when Cameron shook hands with Erdogan, he was shaking hands with a man whose patron, Yassin Qadi, funneled millions of dollars to Al Queda, and whose own advisor, Cuneyt Zapsu, donated 300,000 dollars to Al Queda. Al Queda operates its magazine freely in Istanbul, which is convenient because Erdogan claims there’s no such thing as Islamic terrorism.

If Turkey, as Cameron says, is guarding the flank of Europe… then who in G-d’s name is guarding Europe from Turkey? Certainly not Cameron.

Cameron’s despicable toadying to Turkey’s Thug-in-Chief was one long collection of lies. In his speech, he claimed that “Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy”. Turkey’s democracy is such that its opposition is routinely jailed. Its human rights has sent 12 year olds to prison for singing folk songs. It has no concept of democracy or human rights. Its 10,000 political prisoners could testify to that. Almost a 1000 of them opposition politicians.

The sham continued as Cameron congratulated Turkey on “its efforts to achieve the ambition of zero problems with all its neighbours, including Iraq”. This after Turkish troops repeatedly invaded Iraq just just last month, murdering a 15 year old girl, among others. The Iraqi government protested, to no effect. Cameron, who is supposed to be committed to guaranteeing Iraq’s security, instead shamelessly praises the invaders. The only casualties he mentions are those of the Turkish invading forces, not their victims. Never their victims.

And so it goes. Cameron babbles on about Turkey’s religious tolerance, while the level of hateful incitement spirals out of control. He talks about the true tolerant Islam, to a man who was at one point imprisoned for his own Islamic radicalism. He takes up arms against all those damned obstructionists who are preventing a lovely regime like Erdogan’s Turkey from joining the EU. He vows to fight them everywhere, like a latter day Churchill, proclaiming not, “There will always be an England”, but rather, “There will always be a Turkey in the EU”.

If there was any Turk in that room who had the slightest respect for England before Cameron began to speak, it was sure to have vanished in a whiff of contempt. Cameron’s speech reminds one of English socialists visiting the Soviet Union and heaping praise on Stalin and the wonderful revolution, before going off to collect their blood money. And now Cameron has done them one better, demanding that a radical Islamist regime share open borders with the EU.

In a speech given while Erdogan prepares to round up political opponents before the election on fraudulent charges of “inciting” Kurdish riots– Cameron made only one criticism of human rights. Not of Turkey of course. Or of Erdogan, who has jailed about as many of his opponents as Saddam Hussein. No, Cameron courageously blasted Israel, for standing up to Erdogan’s IHH thugs, after they beat and stabbed Israeli soldiers inspecting their flotilla carrying aid to Hamas run Gaza.

Cameron blasted the response of Israeli soldiers who fired back after they Turkish Islamist thugs tried to murder them, as “completely unacceptable” and called Gaza, a “prison camp”. He demanded a “swift, transparent and rigorous” inquiry. No such demand was of course issued to his hosts for their 10,000 political prisoners, their illegal invasion of Iraq and murder of civilians– or that Armenian genocide matter. Of course no inquiries are demanded there.

Let us be clear what Cameron has done. He has sold out Europe and the free world by signing on the dotted of an agreement which explicitly trades English support for EU membership for increased exports. This is about money, pure and simple. There are no principles of any kind here. And what does Europe get out of all this? Here is a brief preview of coming attractions;

It is mainly young people who take to the streets, with Turkish flags in their hands, whistles in their mouths and hatred in their eyes.

“We have waited long enough,” reads one poster. “Allah wants this war,” is the message on another.

European tolerance Islamized Turkey. The pandering of unprincipled leaders like Cameron will take it to the brink and beyond.
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July 28, 2010 Posted by | Britain, freedom, global, Israel, London, politics, Prime Minister | | 1 Comment

Incompatibility of Islam and the West by: Daniel Greenfield

Mohammed’s Ghost and the Incompatibility of Islam and the West

A clash of civilizations is at the heart of it a clash of allegiances, for a civilization is defined by its pattern of allegiances. Therefore the clash between Islam and the West, is also the clash between what we give allegiance to and what they give allegiance to. It is also one of the best demonstrations of why Islam is incompatible with Western democracies.

Western nations expect Muslim immigrants to live by a code that separates civil and religious laws. The Western system assumes that Muslims will accept a division between the political and the religion, relegating religion to the mosque, while otherwise being Englishmen, Frenchmen and Americans. This concept however is innately foreign to the Muslim mind.

Nationalism in the Muslim world remains a far weaker force than religion and tribal kinship. That is why the post-Saddam Iraq so easily unwound into extended bloody bouts between Sunnis and Shiites. Most Muslim nations are in any case artificial, Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, the Kingdom of Jordan and their like were the products or the afterbirth of European colonialism. Their rulers may cultivate nationalism, but such nationalism is only skin deep.

That is why when Israelis point out that Palestine is an artificial entity, the average Arab will only shrug. He knows quite well that just about any country in the Muslim world is an artificial entity, a set of borders drawn out by England or France or a UN mediator with an ancient name thrown into the bargain. The Muslim has only a short term national history, often under Western backed dictators, or a very long one to the romanticized glory days of ancient history. He does not care nearly as much for his nations, as he does for his religion.

Mohammed’s real achievement was to take the Arab tribal system and transcend it with a higher identity, that of Muslim. The resulting wave of bloody conquests would not have been possible without that Muslim identity. And that is the problem now facing the West.

Nationalism among Muslims is a very shallow thing at best, as Iraq has shown. And that nationalism is primarily based on tribal kinship. Yet Western countries seriously expect to convince their Muslim immigrants to give equal weight to being French, English or Dutch or American, as to being Muslim. The idea is all the more absurd, because tribal kinship, the family relationships that underlie political loyalties in the Muslim world, are absent here. Muslim immigrants have no familial ties to the political structures of Western countries. Which means that the prospects of expecting them to identity with those countries are virtually nil.

In trying to integrate Muslim immigrants, Western countries find themselves pitted against the Mohammed’s Ghost. Mohammed’s supreme idea was that Islam demanded complete submission, transcending all tribal and political bonds. Our supreme idea is that political representation allows law to coexist with human freedom.

The two supreme ideas of Islam and the West are naturally incompatible. Muslims view all political laws as corrupt and Allah’s law alone as transcendent. The West preserves political and civil rights by separating civil and religious laws into separate spheres. That is not a compromise that Muslims can truly understand or respect. For all intents and purposes, both sides are speaking different political languages that represent two radically different viewpoints.

Our relationships with Muslim countries are based on tribal ties. When we ask one Muslim country to side with us against another Muslim country, we try to outweigh religious ties with tribal ones, something that naturally touches off a domestic backlash from the general Muslim population. The leaders of the Arab world generally understand the necessity of driving out a Saddam or opposing Iran’s nuclear development program, in their own self-interest. But tribal bonds within a country are narrow because only a small portion of the population has direct ties to the government, religious ones however are very wide because most of the population is Muslim.

The same problem recurs in the West with Muslim immigrants, except this time our political system, to which they have no allegiance, is pitted against the network of Mosques and their various Imams and religious leaders. It’s no surprise that the West will always lose their showdown for the hearts and minds.

The problem is simple enough. The West provides opportunities for Muslims in the West to find jobs, homes, schools and everything that’s considered part of the good life. It assumes that this will produce a natural loyalty. That assumption, like many others, is dead wrong. Political tribalism in the Muslim world ladles out employment and other opportunities based on familial connections and as a reward for loyalty. We “give away” the currency of political tribalism, and in turn wind up treated with contempt by the people we’ve given everything to, with no loyalty asked for in return.

Yet even were we to do things the way they’re done in the Third World, it would only make a limited difference. To give up our political system for political tribalism would only further diminish us, and it would not deal with the problem of Mohammed’s Ghost. The Islamic Will to Power is rooted in embracing the “transcendence” of Mohammed’s perfect law, over the corrupt political laws of governments. Since we cannot declare our political laws to be religious, not without creating our own Mohammeds’, and we cannot sell the freedoms that we have already given away to win their tribal loyalty, the problem remains an irresolvable one.

And each time we insist that there is no contradiction between being a Muslim and being a Frenchmen, a Brit or an America– we make it that much worse. For Islam insists that there is a contradiction, even as we insist that there is none. Having given up our claim, the Western Muslim naturally moves to appease the cleric by resolving any contradictions between Islam and Western society; in Islam’s favor. And thus the moderate Muslim becomes a Jihadist enabler, if not a Jihadist himself.

Given enough centuries of residence, the problem might resolve itself. If Islam did not insist on conquering infidels by the sword, but merely on separatism, the problem would be mainly a social one. If Muslims were not swiftly moving from minorities to majorities across Europe, there might still be time. Unfortunately there is very little time left before Europe becomes Eurabia, and much of the rest of the world will follow. The toxic combination of Saudi wealth, a booming birth rate, a decaying West and the industrialized secularism of the First World colliding with the fanatical determinism of the Muslim world, leaves only two ways for this clash of civilizations to end.

One idea, one way of life must win. The other must lose. The great question being decided now in our words and deeds, is which will stand and which will fall.

July 23, 2010 Posted by | culture, global, Israel, religion, social | | Leave a comment

Washington Post What Does the MSA Intend?

What exactly does the Muslim Students Association stand for? Can we take the stated intent of the group at face value, or is there something more sinister behind the MSA?
In May, there was an interesting and disturbing exchange between members of the MSA and writer David Horowitz at the University of California at San Diego. (It was caught on tape and can be viewed online.) Mr. Horowitz was there to counter the MSA’s Israeli Apartheid Week. Given that the MSA members at such rallies have a tendency to display signs that are favorable to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, it’s no wonder Mr. Horowitz felt the need to hold a counterpoint discussion.
During his speech, a Muslim woman wearing a kafiya stood up and challenged the assertions of ties between the MSA and al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Mr. Horowitz asked her if she would denounce Hamas, which she refused to do. Next he asked her whether she was for or against Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s statement that all Jews should gather in Israel so they would be easier for Hezbollah to hunt down, and she answered, “For it.”
What is going on on our college and university campuses? How can any school or the media remain silent in the face of this sort of event? Is our government aware of the danger posed by the MSA, which serves as a potential fifth column of anti-Semitic, genocidal and terrorist support? If so, what does it plan to do about it?
Royal Oak, Mich.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | culture, Israel, politics, religion | | Leave a comment

The Flotilla and the Exodus – A Soldier’s Mother – Blogs – Israel National News

The Flotilla and the Exodus – A Soldier’s Mother – Blogs – Israel National News

June 22, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, Israel | | Leave a comment