Saturday, September 16, 2006

16-Sep-06: Peace: What Will It Take?

Don't be misled by the title. The subject of what it will take to create a state of peace between the Arabs and Israel is too large, too complicated for this blog.

To be clear: this is not because we don't want peace, but because peace is a complicated thing, built on a myriad of changed relationships and conditions.

No, this blog is to briefly showcase a bleak, very black-and-white viewpoint. Not ours, but that of a noted veteran expert on Islam, Prof. Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Speaking at last week's conference on countering terrorism at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, Sharon said: "There is no possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians whatsoever - ever." He's especially troubled by the role of Mahmoud Ahmadinijad ... and throws some light on what the role of a religious lunatic at the head of a major country can mean for everyone else.

Very briefly, some other points made in Prof. Sharon's analysis:
  • "The root of the problem between us and the Arab world is Islam. Islam is not only a religion. It is a culture, politics, a state. Islam is everything. It has been like this, and it will be like this for the foreseeable future. Islam is a messianic religion. From the very beginning, it talked about the end of the world."
  • From his study of Iranian culture, literature, newspapers and broadcasts and from interviews with major players in the Islamic regime, Sharon concludes that a deep belief in a Shiite messiah is at the root of Iran’s nuclear project.
  • “What today moves the Iranian government, its prime minister Ahmedinijad, is first and foremost the wish to bring about the Twelfth Imam, also known as the Mahdi. They truly believe that the Shiite messiah, the Twelfth Imam is here, and that he will reveal himself… What moves the Iranian government and leadership today is first and foremost the wish to bring about the Twelfth Imam."
  • Western officials fail to grasp that the Arab and Islamic world truly see Israel’s establishment as a “reversal of history” and are therefore unable to ever accept peaceful relations with it.
  • From Moslems’ perspective, “Islamic territory was taken away from Islam by Jews. You know by now that this can never be accepted, not even one meter. So everyone who thinks Tel Aviv is safe is making a grave mistake. Territory which at one time was dominated by Islamic rule, now has become non-Moslem. Non-Moslems are independent of Islamic rule and Jews have created their own independent state. It is anathema. Worse, Israel, a non-Moslem state, is ruling over Moslems. It is unthinkable that non-Moslems should rule over Moslems.
  • The power of the ayatollahs in Iran comes from the grassroots and popular belief that they can contact the Mahdi. Everybody believes. How will they bring him? By an apocalypse. He (the Mahdi) needs a war. He cannot come into this world without an Armageddon. He wants an Armageddon. The earlier we understand, the better. Ahmadinejad wants nuclear weapons for this.
  • Israel is a side issue for Iran. Iran is using Israel as a means to enter the Islamic world, to dominate it. "But they cannot bluff the Saudis, the Wahabbis. The Shi'ites (Iran) are hated by the Sunnis. The Saudis are far more apprehensive of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran than Israel."
  • What is the difference between Judaism, Christianity and Islam? Judaism speaks about national salvation: at the end of the story, when the world becomes a better place, Israel will be in its own land, ruled by its own king and serving G-d. Christianity speaks about the idea that every single person in the world can be saved from his sins, while Islam speaks about ruling the world. I can quote here in Arabic, but there is no point in quoting Arabic, so let me quote a verse in English: ‘Allah sent Mohammed with the true religion so that it should rule over all the religions.’"
  • "The idea, then, is not that the whole world would necessarily become Moslem at this time, but that the whole world would be subdued under the rule of Islam... This is why [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad seeks nuclear weapons,” Prof. Sharon is quoted as saying. “The faster we realize this, the better.
  • The Iranian government is seeking nuclear weapons in order to bring about an apocalypse.
We're not in favor of simplistic analysis or of paying attention to pooled ignorance. Political life in most places is filled to overflowing with both.

On the other hand, ignoring, ostrich-like, what's happening in the Islamic and Arab worlds, and in Iran, and shutting out the shrieks of hatred - the calls to wipe Israel off the map, the rising mass-hysteria for war and global domination - that emanate from those places are among the most foolish and irresponsible things that politicians can do.

Some politicians do, however, get it.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a rising Adolf Hitler with his stand on Iran's nuclear programme, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said [in April 2006]. Merkel said the threat of Iran's nuclear ambitions is similar to Germany's Nazi regime, adding that the world must act now to prevent it building an atomic bomb. "In the early 1930s when National Socialism (Nazism) was on the rise, there were many who said 'It's only rhetoric - don't get excited'," she told a forum of world leaders. Iran "has blatantly crossed the red line", she said. "We must prevent Iran from developing its nuclear programme... A president who questions Israel's right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany."
It's far from clear that the German leader's plain-spoken words stand a chance of being heeded. And just as doubtful that the real significance of the hateful, deadly malevolence emanating from Teheran is being understood in all the places it needs to be understood.

An additional morsel of food for thought - a quotation of Adolf Hitler from 1922: "Once the hatred and the battle against the Jews have been really stirred up, their resistance will necessarily crumble in the shortest possible time. They are totally defenseless, and no one will stand up to protect them."

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