Sponsored and Endorsed by:
|Dr. David Bukay
|Political Science Department, the University of Haifa. Research Fellow, Ariel Center for Policy Research|
|Cultural Fallacies in Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism and Palestinian Radicalism
On September 11 2001, the New York Times published an article by his senior commentator, Thomas Friedman, stationed in Israel, in which he described the fears of terror there. At about that time the attack on the Twins towers and the Pentagon took place. Two days later, Friedman wrote another article, stating that the world is facing a "Third World War".
Indeed, the world is witnessing a new kind of world war. But it did not start on September 2001. Its marks were clear years ago, but the United States, under Clinton Administration did not want to sober up that the aggressiveness and fanaticism of the Islamic fundamentalism is an existentially lethal phenomenon. The reason for this is mainly psychological: we do not want to look into the threatening reality. Rather we prefer to live in a wishful thinking world. The West was busy with what Francis Fukuyama has called "the end of history" and "the end of Ideology", which means the march of victory of the West over Communism politically, and over Socialism economically. The Islamic fundamentalism was washed away from memory and sight.
In July 1993, Prof. Samuel Huntington wrote his insightful article about the clash of civilizations, in which he showed very keenly that Islam is in total confrontation with all other civilizations. In his book from 1996, he wrote, on page 258, that the "borders of Arabia are borders of blood". For that, Huntington was condemned as a racist and anti Islam and Arabs. But, was he? Or perhaps he forced us to look at something very deep, which we wanted very much to ignore? Was he racist, or were we all negligent, irresponsible, and hedonists?
The Middle East has the dubious honor of being the main location of states that support and sponsor international terrorism - in conformity with the American administration definition: 5 out of the 7 states are Arab and Muslim: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. Yet, an updated list would include four other: Saudi-Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Palestinian Authority. Saudi-Arabia is the most important of all. It is the crucial factor in international terrorism, by sponsoring and financing Islamic terrorist groups all over the world: from the Balkans to Chechnya, from the Philippines to America, and of course the many Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Moreover, 22 of the 41 terrorist organizations on the terrorism list are Arab and Islamic from the Middle East. And this does not include yet the many Palestinian terrorist organizations, under the support and auspices of the Palestinian Authority, which is the main source of de-stabilization in the Middle East, and at the same time is a pure terrorist entity, as much as Hizbullah and al-Qa`idah, and is the main location of executing total terrorism.
In my book to be published soon, I prove that Arafat is the master-mind, the Arch-terrorist, who is much more dangerous to the Middle East than bin Laden or Saddam-Hussein. He is the brain that operates the arm (the Palestinian Authority), which operates the fingers (the many Palestinian terrorist groups). The fingers differ in shape, in size, and in functions. They are Islamic, or Marxist, or nationalist groups. Yet, they are all belonging to the same arm, which is operated by the same mind.
The argument that we are seeking to make is that there exist a wide gaps between Western political culture and the Arab-Islamic political culture. These gaps are the basis for fallacies of thinking and distortion of perceptions that culminated in national disasters.
We would like to elaborate two cultural factors: the first, "the mirror image", denotes to the phenomenon, by which you look at your adversary and you see his conceptions and images as fitting yours. However, this is a profound fallacy, since what you see is the reflection of your own in the mirror. This is the most well-known march of folly of the West, and it is exemplified, unfortunately, in many ways in our day by day life.
One example stands clear: the Israeli Wise Men of Oslo, who view Arafat and the PLO leaders as wishing to reach peace accords as much as the Israelis; and who imagine that Arafat and the PLO leaders define the peace terms as much as the Israelis. Unfortunately, the Israeli Wise Men of Oslo do not want to sober-up that the Palestinians are totally different culturally - concerning the will, the definitions, and the terms of which to conclude peace, and that the Palestinian authority works relentlessly to demolish Israel in accordance of the "phased strategy".
The second factor is the politically correct approach, which defines direct speech as expressing exaggerated and one-sided positions. Yet, the problem is obvious: if you adopt the politically correct approach to the political level, you lose the ability to call a spade a spade, and you cannot correctly understand the severe situation and cope with it.
One example may clarify our view: when the accusation arises that the Palestinian national movement is a Fascist group that sanctifies blood and death, that it is a Lynch society that sanctifies the suicide-bombers, the shuhadaa, the reaction is that it is exaggerated and extreme allegation. But is it? The reality is that you will not find those Palestinians that deny, let alone that act against, the horrible activities of the suicide-bombers.
In Western political culture it is neither perceived nor understood that the phenomenon of suicide bombers is Islamic in nature, that it is culturally deep-rooted in the hearts: from Pakistan to Chechnya, from Afghanistan to Lebanon, from the Balkans to the Palestinians. It is a social norm of behavior, a cultural reflection of society that sanctifies it as the most exalted form in the struggle against infidels, and it indicates, as they declare publicly, a "mentally healthy society".
Still, Western political culture refuses to comprehend that this is a much wider and deeper phenomenon than what we would like to believe. This is not a matter of few fanatics, and it is not a problem of minority of extremists - It is supported with much enthusiasm and praised by the majority of Arabs and Muslims all around the world.
These cultural fallacies - the mirror image, and the politically correct approach - are exacerbated by the globalization era, which considers a unified political world, and imagine that if we all wear the same fashionable cloths, and we all speak English, then we all are the same culturally; and our activities are aimed at the same political targets; and we all strive for the same political solutions; and we all have the same good intensions to end conflicts.
Yet, this is totally mistaken. We are totally not the same culturally, and we are not aimed at the same political targets and solutions. The situation in Iraq reveals the phenomenon of the deep cultural gaps, which is not understood in the West. While the United-States tries so hard to bring democratization to the Iraqi people, all they want is Islamic rule. Yet, Islam and democracy are totally incompatible, and are mutually inconclusive. The same applies to Modernity, which is perceived as a threat to Islamic civilization. Its permissiveness and materialism are disastrous, since it has placed man and the rule of reason at the center, instead of total submission and devotion to Allah.
Judeo-Christian culture internalizes the guilt (the Jewish version: "we have sinned, we have transgressed, we have committed crime," and all time seek the moral stock-taking. The Christian version is: "mea culpa"). Western political culture argues that one side cannot be completely right while the other is completely wrong. It tries to investigate the inner-soul, to understand the other side, and asks what is its responsibility?
In contrast, Arab Islamic political culture externalizes the guilt: Do I have a problem? You are guilty! The Arab-Muslims have no guilt remorse towards the outsiders, certainly not to share the guilt with them. They don't feel any shame towards the infidels. They don't blame themselves. They are always right.
One of the most well-known Western cultural fallacies is the view that education and prosperous economy Promote Democratization and prevent terrorism. Yet, it is difficult to internalize that all 57 states that are defined Arab and Islamic, are authoritarian regimes and their leaders are patrimonial. There is no democracy, no political liberalism, no civil rights, and no citizenship possessed by a sovereign "people".
The distorted perceptions in Western political culture claim that terrorism derives from economic distress and social despair. Removing poverty, hunger and misery, and providing education, will lead to economic prosperity that will put an end to terrorism.
This is exactly the "mirror image" which reflects Western reality. Misery and poverty lead to crime, but never to terrorism. A fanatic ideology and religious zealotry are the causes and motivations for terrorism. The famous researcher De Tocqueville, in his books on French and American revolutions, proved that violence of political revolutions breaks out precisely when economic improvement arrives. When you are hungry, you have no time to fight for values.
The Palestinian suicide bombers are the proof: From September 2000, until May 2003, 197 suicide bombers were sent on suicide actions, among them 35 women. Of all the 115 successful murders, 65% had university education, and 50% came from al-Najah University. They were not hungry or miserable. They were in total repulsion of Jews and Zionism, and motivated by dehumanization of Israeli existence.
The Palestinian uprisings in 1936-1939, in 1987, and in 2000, were erupted precisely when the economy was prosperous, and the standard of living of the inhabitants was very good proportionally. If you compare the Palestinian economic and social situation to that in most Arab states, it is much higher and better. The year 2000 was the best in the Palestinian economic history. Yet, under these circumstances Arafat had moved on with his total inhuman terrorism.
The leaders of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups are members of middle-class and upper class. They have university education and many, with doctoral degrees, are physicians and engineers. They never declared that the reasons for their activity were poverty or ignorance. They speak of Western Crusaderism, which they want to expel, and of Israeli aggression which they aspire to destroy. They have no programs for social progress, or economic well being, or improving health, or broadening education to the masses.
The 19 murderers in the September 11 terrorist attack lived in the West, in economic well being, and had higher education. They were not poor or wretched. The leadership of al-Qa'idah prove this reality clearly. Bin Laden is a multi-millionaire with MA degree in public administration from the University of Jeddah. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a surgical physician, from upper class in Egypt. The same applies to other leaders. What motivated them is a profound hatred for all what Western culture stands for.
This is the reason why it is totally mistaken and useless to fix a profile of the suicide bomber. Everyone can be potentially suicide bomber: women, the elderly and children. Even a peaceful Muslim person, born and living in the West, if required, will perform atrocious suicide acts, in the name of Allah.
Western political culture needs to internalize how a peaceful Muslim community even in the West, becomes a politically fanatic violent. All is need is three ingredients: a central active mosque among the Islamic community; a preaching of an influential charismatic religious leader; and a monetary activity and religious volunteering for Islamic case (da`wah) - and the community is stirred up with extremism and pathos.
Our suggested strategy of fighting Islamic fundamentalism and Palestinian terrorism is based on the Biblical outlook: "Noah had built the ark before the Deluge". That is, it is necessary to prepare and get ready before the crisis begins. The second conception is the approach of Jewish Sages: "Think first before you act" ("סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה"). This means planning and readiness as a basis for successfully coping with problems. The third conception is the Jewish approach in the Mishnah, which was adopted by all nations: "he who comes to kill you – kill him beforehand" ("הבא להורגך – השכם להורגו"), which means act to eliminate your enemies before they execute their targets.
We need to internalize that fighting terrorism is a must. The terrorists have no basic human morality and no human values. They will not stop their atrocious deeds; they will not stop being terrorists. They are not soldiers; they are not freedom-fighters; and they do not deserve to be protected by the laws of nations. They should be eliminated; they deserve to be liquidated without hesitations, without concessions, and without provisions.
There are laws of war between states and nations, but Islamic and Palestinian terrorism, by its own definition and deeds, violets any basic human law and human morality. Therefore, fighting then can succeed only when it is executed by a strategy of initiation and not by a policy of retaliation. Moreover, Negotiations, mediation, and appeasement are not only futile and useless, but encouraging these deadly terrorists to continue with their evils deeds that threatens modern society.
Leaders and policy-makers in the West refuse to internalize what they clearly perceive: That the Islamic fundamentalism is a world-wide strategic threat, and that the battlefield we are facing with is horrible. Any scenario is possible, even the most imaginative and the most unbelievable: biological, chemical, and atomic warfare is potentially at the hands of few fanatics, which are determined to use it.
Leaders and policy-makers in the West refuse to comprehend, that the struggle is between two polar cultural concepts: a society that aspires to modernity, liberalism and human rights, against a society of religious extremism, totalitarianism of thought and tribal values.
Leaders and policy-makers in the West refuse to understand, that Islamic and Palestinian terrorism do not play by the rules of the game: They don't play according to the democratic rules of the game; They don't play according to the Western culture rules of the game; They don't play according to Jewish-Christian norms rules of the game; They are different culturally, and are totally devoted to implement their interpretation of Islamic religion on the infidels at large.
Leaders and policy-makers in the West refuse to grasp that the Islamic and Palestinian terrorism embodies the SARS decease: Suicide and Ruin Syndrome of democratic society. Until it is understood that this struggle is the war between the Son of Light against the Sons of Darkness, that they represent the invasion of the Huns, in order to destroy modern culture - the world will continue to face an existential more growing threat.
Leaders and policy-makers in the West must learn that the use of military power against these brutal and vicious Islamic and Palestinian terrorists is crucial to be fought. Western political culture is characterized by Complacency and serenity. It tends to ignore threats and oblivion of hazards. It wakes-up only after disasters are here. But, if we will not sober-up if we will not fight for our modern democratic society by a strategy of initiation, with the cooperation of the free world – they will win over, by bringing their past into the future of our humanity.