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Squabbles and Issues and Real Meat to End With

One such recently: Morsi supporters reportedly chant “anti-Semitic” slogans at a University rally.

Anti-Semitism (ASism) is the canary in the cage. It is the marker of a State, a culture, a political creed, a religion and organisation, an individual who has lost contact with reality or who simply can’t cope with the challenges of life.  It signifies a retreat into irrationality. Sometimes it pays transient dividends as diversion or unifying force, but it rapidly becomes a crutch and then an impediment and then a millstone around the neck. It is not the only form of irrationality of course, but it is the most common and the most virulent.

When you see it, start to worry…not only about the Jewish targets but for those sinking into this particular form of social pathology. It almost always turns out badly for the perpetrators. In a remarkably foolish article in the Financial Mail (5 July), Ruan Jooste blames Palestinian poverty on “shackles” mainly imposed by Israel. A proper response is for another time,  but suffice it to note that Palestinian poverty, despite a copious flood of aid, is due to the dysfunctionality, corruption, and obsessive ASism of the Palestinians themselves – along with the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Iranians and every other collapsing, volatile, violence-plagued Middle Eastern and North African state.

But Jews themselves need to attain some balance. Don’t shy away from recognising anti-Semitism but don’t make it the organising principle of your life. Don’t see ASism in every innocent remark, every joke, every bit of ignorance or silly stereotyping.  There are different kinds of ASism and the differences are important. Many can be treated by setting the record straight and by behaving like a mensch with a sense of proportion. But genuine ASism should never be ignored. It is contagious and needs to be confronted.

I will end this with a quote by the Spanish journalist, Pilar Rahola i Martínez, courageous defender of Israel against the antisemitic, anti-Zionism of the Western Left  I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti-Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel . To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.”  I would also add it is our duty as well.

Another  avoidable squabble and moral: don’t bad-mouth your allies.

Disagree, yes. Criticise, yes. But don’t close the the door by personaL slander. I was sent such an attack by Michael Freund on David Harris,executive director of the American Jewish Committee. Harris wrote on 17 June “Minister Naftali’s remarks, rejecting outright the vision of two states for two peoples, are stunningly shortsighted,” … “Since he is a member of the current Israeli coalition government, it is important that his view be repudiated by the country’s top leaders.”

Was that a sensible comment? Possibly not, and perhaps it was undiplomatically phrased. But Harris has been a staunch and articulate defender of Israel for a long time and did not deserve the ad hominem nastiness of Michael Freund in the J Post. Freund needs to learn to disagree with his allies like a mensch.

So to end: Where do I stand on the two state solution?

I was always a suppporter for pragmatic reasons but the arguments seem to have become increasingly irrelevant as there is every indication that Abbas and Co. are trapped in the their own web (or narrative if you like). I feel that Netanyahu could be cleverer and show just how bankrupt the Palestinian position is with more subtle diplomacy, but that would have no effect on the basic dynamics.

I have seen a number of convincing arguments  as to why the 2-state outcome is currently an impossible dream but I have failed to encounter single convincing argument as to why it remains a feasible option. If anyone has such an argument which seriously addresses Palestinian intransigence, denialism, instability and incitement, the widely differing positions on refugees, Jerusalem and security, the volatile regional dynamics and Western Leftwing interference, please forward it to me.

So here are the views of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in an interview with Israel Hayom:

Israel Hayom: In your lectures you made numerous references to the situation in the Middle East. You claim that people in the West do not understand that what is taking place in the Middle East is not a dialogue.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: More than one issue is at stake here. Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian context, the main problem is that you may speak of a peace process, but what you get is a process, not peace. And why is this process so prolonged? Because for the Israelis this issue is a territorial problem. For the Palestinian negotiators, on the other hand, it is not a territorial problem but a religious and ethnic one, It is not only about Palestinians but about all Arabs. Most of all, it is a religious problem. From the perspective of the Arab leaders, reaching a two-state solution is to betray God, the Koran, the hadith and the tradition of Islam.


Israel Hayom: Even though they are portrayed as secular?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The presumption that the Palestinian negotiators are secular is not supported by facts. Were they secular, there would already be a settled territorial agreement of some kind. But there is no agreement as of today, because on one side it has become religious jihad of all or nothing, while on the other side it is still a territorial issue. Of course I know that there are Israelis who also perceive this as a religious problem; but their numbers pale in comparison to the Muslim side. Reaching a settlement that brings about two states is a religious betrayal — not only for the leadership but for most Muslims today. The West does not understand this.


Israel Hayom: Why? After the many years you have lived in the West, how can you explain this?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The conception of religion in the West in the 20th and 21st century differs from that of Middle Eastern Muslims. The West successfully separated religion and politics, but even in places in the West where there is no distinct separation, still the concept of God and religion, even in the 13th or 15th century, differs to the current reality in the Middle East. Islam is an Orthopraxy, Islam has a goal. So if you are a true Muslim, you must fight for that goal. You can achieve a temporary peace or truce, but it is not ultimate, not everlasting. It is not just about the territory. Because the territory does not belong to the people; it belongs to God. So for a Palestinian leader — even if he is secular, even an atheist — to leave the negotiating room with the announcement of a two-state solution would mean that he would be killed the minute he walks out.


Israel Hayom: Many wise people come here advising us Israelis to act rationally. Do you think this dispute has anything to do with rationalism?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Europeans and Americans — and I do not refer merely to the leadership, but to people in general — when they have a problem, they think there must be some kind of compromise on the table. What they cannot accept is that one party would say “the only rational outcome is our complete victory.” If you put aside the Israeli-Palestinian situation, you see components of this culture in the events in Syria, in Lebanon. You’ve seen it with Mubarak. There is a winner and there is a loser. But there cannot be two winners.


Israel Hayom: So the proposal of compromise stems from naivety?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: You can give it any label you like. I have listened to someone like Tony Blair, I was in two or three conferences where he spoke, and he is not naïve anymore, he is not the same man he was ten years ago in regards to this conflict. More and more leaders see that this conflict is not going to be resolved Western-style, namely that all conflicts are resolvable and no-one leaves the table empty-handed. In a culture dictated by honor and shame – in addition to the religious issue – defeat of any kind, accepting a compromise, is to leave the room empty-handed. Compromise is loss in this culture. It is very hard to explain this to contemporary Westerners.


Israel Hayom: Many liberals around the world, who support the compromise solution, also tend to blame Israel.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Many liberals perceive Israel to be one of their kind; another liberal, white, rational state, etc. Therefore they expect you to approach matters the way they would. But then they approach the subject in the context of the U.S. or Europe, or some other Western system, where there is rule of law, arbiters, an ability to go to court in case of disagreement. There is a district court, a court of appeals, a supreme court, and once the judges have spoken their decision is final. You lose face, but you have to accept defeat. What these liberals do not understand is that we are speaking of a fundamentally different context, where such a judicial infrastructure does not exist, and those who aspire for it are a persecuted minority. And yet I am optimistic, after the Arab Spring. I see people, albeit few in number and very disorganized, but who do want that infrastructure where religion is put aside and where compromise becomes central. They just don’t know how to go about it. They lack the resources and the institutions to make that happen. But it is possible.


Israel Hayom: Your views are not prevalent within the liberal media or liberal intellectual elite. Have you encountered difficulties in delivering such ideas?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Among Western liberal elites there are those who have actual experience and those who have not. Those who have actual experience with any aspect of Islamic culture or religion, who have really given it their all to achieve some kind of compromise, come out — after years of endless abortive attempts — with a completely different perspective. Them I do not need to persuade. I mentioned earlier Tony Blair, the most-renowned liberal to change his perspective. He once believed that the ability to always find a compromise for whoever was in the negotiations room was an art. He no longer thinks this way. As we are dealing with a wholly different phenomenon, we need voices like his to educate liberal Westerners on why this is different. I think that whoever acts on the presumption that we are all the same and that we are able to solve this — is uninterested, indifferent, and inexperienced.


Israel Hayom: There is also a certain measure of idealism…

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Idealism is a good thing. But when idealism encounters reality, you must not try to manipulate it to fit your utopia. You have to take in the reality. 93,000 people have died in Syria because the fighting forces could not, cannot, and will not compromise. This toll is higher than all the fatalities on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! So, to go on and on about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my view is to take a tranquilizer or smoke pot. You do it just to feel better. You cannot face reality, so you just keep on harping about something that can make you feel better. One can also mention the number of people who died in Libya because Kaddafi and the opposition would not find the way to the negotiating table. This phenomenon is repeated throughout the region, not only today but throughout history. Reaching compromise is to lose face.


Israel Hayom: So do you think that talk about negotiations brought up by the Arab counterparts is a game, with no real intentions behind it? We know that right after the Oslo accords, Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa, comparing the Oslo accords to the hudaiba treaty by Muhammad with his enemies. In Israel, there were those who accepted this, as they said that Arafat had to resort to speaking two different languages, one for his people and one for us.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I hear this argument constantly, also in relation to the Turkey’s Erdogan and in regards to the Saudis. Do you know what is wrong with this argument? If you want peace and not merely a process, you must make peace with the people. The negotiators themselves are of no importance. They are a few individuals who may tomorrow be out of power or dead. You have to have peace with the people you are in conflict with, and as long as they do not want to hear a different tune, you will not have peace. Until the people at large are ready for that compromise, there is no compromise. This is true of the domestic politics of any nation or the external politics with foreign nations, for whom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is seen symbolically as the biggest icon of all foreign affairs relations with the Arab Islamic world. There has to be a change of attitude and a change in attitude within the culture and of culture, and I hope that we can see this.

I believe that true emancipation cannot exist without the freedom of the individual, without the individual’s space and voice. The fact that individualism is not given a chance in the Arab Muslim world is related to belonging and the collective. If you want to belong and be part of the collective you have to be a winner. If you are not, then you are a source of shame. So you have to ask yourself why the Syrian regime and its likes are incapable of putting an end to the bloodshed after killing ten, or 1,000, or 10,000 people. Why not? It is not caused by Israel, the Americans or any outsiders; it is part of the culture. And for the culture to grow out of such phenomena, change has to come from within.


Israel Hayom: If so, do negotiations have any meaning when we talk about peace while the Palestinian Authority use anti-Israeli school books, which do not even mention Israel by name in their geographical maps?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Not now. Not as long as a majority of the people do not want peace. An Arab leader who genuinely wants peace has to convince the Arab people first, must get their endorsement and then go and get peace. That is why the first thing that needs to be worked out is not so much the relationship with Israel but changing the culture, Islamic and Arab. This process does not depend on you, though you can help it, facilitate it, be a catalyst; but it does not depend on you, on America or the rest of the world.


Israel Hayom: In reference to Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” theory, is there any sense that Europe is awakening to the threat it faces? We have a feeling that Israel is a scapegoat of sorts for the rest of the world. Do you not think that Europe is overcome by a quiet conquest of the Muslims there?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Yes, but it is no longer quiet, ever since 9/11 and the terrorist plots. Because the countries of Europe and the U.S. are democracies, their citizens enjoy freedom of speech. The more we listen, the more discernible is the extreme cultural divergence between the civilizations, as Huntington claims. One must first face it before blaming Israel or scapegoating others, otherwise things will not change. And the Europeans are waking up to this. I visited Israel for the first time in 1998 or 1999, and saw people in uniform with guns in buses, in the market, on the streets. My European friend who came with me found this so strange. You would never find this in Holland. Now all airports in Europe and the U.S. have security men, all wielding machine guns, just like I saw in Israel have security men, all wielding machine guns, just like I saw in Israel at the time. After the Boston marathon bombings, I think that on the Fourth of July this year there will be more security than spectators. So, as these liberal Western democracies are beginning to face the same challenges as Israel, or at least a tiny fraction of them – you see attitudes changing.


Israel Hayom: Do you perceive attitudes changing towards Israel? An understanding of Israel?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Well, some people get hardened. I do not understand Stephen Hawking’s refusal to come to Israel. There is a boycott on Israel by the intellectuals. Yet, the people in Boston are the most liberal in the United States, maybe short of San Francisco, and they were really quite happy with people in uniform patrolling the streets, which compromises their civil liberties. But people would rather face reality than lose limbs.


Israel Hayom: What would you like to say to the readers of Israel Hayom?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Exactly what I say in my lectures. You have to be a realist and acknowledge that Israel is not the problem, though neither is it the solution. I also speak of the signs of hope, of [Muslim] women who aspire to improve their lives, of homosexuals, of religious minorities. If anyone in Israel, including ordinary people, wants to be an activist, they need to forge relationships with those individuals in the Middle East who have developed something closer to what the Israelis want.


Israel Hayom: And you think that it will be a huge mistake to give away territory before a cultural change occurs?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I will just say that Israel is not the problem nor is it the solution. Even if you give up all the land, it will not solve any of the problems in the Middle East. It will not obliterate despotism, it will not liberate women, it will not help religious minorities. It won’t bring peace to anyone. Even if Israel does not give up an inch of land — the result will be the same. If you want a process, continue the way you are. If you want real, lasting peace, then things have to change first within the Arab Muslim individual, family, school, streets, education, and politics. It is not an Israeli problem. You must learn to take advantage of opportunities. Due to technology, things can develop quickly. Look at the Iranians; what took the Iranians thirty years could take the Egyptians five or ten.


Israel Hayom: To become secular?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: No, just for the majority of the people to stand up to Shariah. This is what I want to say about Muslims in general: Muslims want Shariah until they have it…For cultural change to transpire we need one hundred years and more to pass. You can pick any number you want. I am speaking of a lengthy, bloody period. But it is going to change.

So now you have something really meaty to chew on. Lets hear from you





2 responses to “Squabbles and Issues and Real Meat to End With

  1. Mike Berger July 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Syd I agree with you about “liberalism” though so long as it doesn’t become a new dogmatic ideology not subject to modification according to context. Re ASism – yes states may collapse without ASism and some states do harbour ASism without collapsing. But, especially in the post-WW2 context, big upsurges in ASism are generally portents of social pathology and thus bad news to those states so afflicted.


  2. Syd Kaye July 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    “….suffice it to note that Palestinian poverty, despite a copious flood of aid, is due to the dysfunctionality, corruption, and obsessive ASism of the Palestinians themselves – along with the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Iranians and every other collapsing, volatile, violence-plagued Middle Eastern and North African state…”
    I agree with the above except to say that Anti-Semitism is the cause of backwardness in these states only in that it is part of a general anti-liberalism in these states . For instance anti-Semitic European states do not collapse and African states which are not particularly anti-Semitic also do.
    The notion that liberalism is just one of many cultures all of which are different but equal is banded about by modern philosophers like Bhikhu Paresh and notably many of our local commentators , who think liberal is a swear word and that African cultural values ( such as respecting the Big Man regardless or allowing “traditional leaders” to treat their “subjects” as serfs) are equal to those of western liberalism. There should be no politically correct debate about this. They are just wrong.
    If those Arab states you mention could modernise their thinking by jumping 1200 years forward and backward African ones by say 200 years , there may be a chance of them developing.


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