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Islam's deep theological structure includes themes that render the notion of "three Abrahamic faiths" ultimately misleading in understanding Islam's faith and practice particularly if this trope is understood in the popular imagination as a matter of three equivalent legs propping up a single monotheistic stool.
George Weigel: Contrary to long established opinion, Islam's deity, Allah, is not the God of the Bible certainly not the God Jews refer to by the Ineffable Name HaShem and designated by the Tetragrammaton YHVH.
The Zohar (87a) states: "Thou shalt have no other gods upon My face," meaning "Thou shalt even avoid conceiving Me in those aspects (faces) which form Ishmael's religion [i.e., Islam]."
Islam actually contradicts the Biblical conception of man's creation in the image of God. Thus, in 1985, Iran's delegate to the United Nations, Said Raja'i-Khorassani, declared that "the very concept of human rights was 'a Judeo-Christian invention' and inadmissible in Islam."
Although the Quran refers to Allah as the "compassionate," his most conspicuous function in that highly polemical work is to consign unbelievers to hell. To be sure, the Quran contains many verses that preach peace and tolerance, but more typical are verses that sanction war against non-believers.
George Weigel writes: "The notion that there are 'no innocents' [in Islam] that the enemy is 'guilty' simply by reason of drawing breath logically entails a strategy of open-ended mayhem based on the radical dehumanization of the 'other.'"
Weigel proceeds to cite Alain Besancon who takes us even further into the matter: "Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing among the list is 'father' i.e., a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relationship with men. If God is not our 'father,' then it is difficult to imagine the human person as having been made 'in the image of God.'"
Perhaps the most profound and disturbing insights into the nature of Islam appeared in an essay of Professor Kenneth Hart Green published in 2008. The essay discusses Emil Fackenheim's preoccupation with the awesome question of how a philosopher of the rank of Martin Heidegger could embrace Nazism, i.e., unmitigated evil. Green writes:
Were Fackenheim to have had the chance to reflect on Islamism ... with its tendency to embrace a Nazi-style anti-Semitism combined with a fanatically-obscurantist Holocaust denial [the case of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], he might have suggested that this is a perfect exemplification of "absolute idolatry," if not beyond it. For its intention is to present itself as God, or at least His immediate spokesman and mouthpiece, which makes it capable of justifying and sanctifying murder as good. As we have been so unfortunate as to witness, it produces both radical evil, and simultaneous unconscious denial of its evil, because as God (or His unmediated and unreconstructed representative), it can legitimately deny that what it is doing is evil. This is an original and unprecedented form of modern evil, and especially of religious abomination; it is beyond what one might call (in the language of Fackenheim) "absolute idolatry," and emerges as a true "monotheistic idolatry." This is the case because in its supposedly "religious" cause, it unapologetically and unselfconsciously embraces all the modern devices (ideology, technology, mass persuasion, etc.), and employs them to do its radical evil ...
To provide supportive evidence for this remarkable analysis, consider the following from Professor Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism: A History:
According to the Center for the Study of Political Islam, Muslims have slaughtered approximately 270 million people since Muhammad.
So much by way of an introduction to Hamas, whose Covenant declares: "The Prophet of Allah has said: The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight and kill the Jews." The Hamas Covenant regards "Death for the sake of Allah the loftiest of wishes." Indeed, the Quran exalts the Muslim who "slays and is slain" for Allah (Sura 9:111).
The Hamas Covenant continues: "It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Muslim generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis." The Covenant therefore enjoins upon Muslims the following oath: "I swear by the holder of Muhammad's soul that I would like to invade and be killed for the sake of Allah, then invade and be killed, and then invade again and be killed."
This is the enemy confronting Israel. The diabolical evil that animates this enemy is invading the democratic world, especially the United States. The trouble is that so many in this democratic world prefer to hate Israel than Evil.
Since President Barack Obama is committed to negotiating with Iran, and since Israel's government, whether led by Benjamin Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni, will be on the negotiating track with the Palestinian Authority (PA), it is of crucial importance to understand the differences between democratic and martial diplomacy, differences of which Israel's ruling elites seem to be ignorant. Here is how I discuss the subject in Sadat's Strategy (1978) updated twenty-years later in Jewish Statesmanship and now applied to current events.
Negotiation between democracies and dictatorships is rendered difficult by the basic differences in the political character of the two regimes. Diplomacy is not an ideologically neutral affair. How and why states negotiate their methods and objectives depend mainly on their principles of government. The diplomacy of a government based on freedom of discussion, pluralism and compromise will differ profoundly from the diplomacy of a government based on coercion, propaganda, and conformity.
Whereas martial diplomacy regards negotiation between adversary states as a form of warfare pursued by other means, democratic diplomacy largely the product of commercial societies regards negotiation between adversaries as a means of conciliation requiring mutual concessions leading to lasting agreement and peace.
The methods of martial diplomacy resemble a military campaign or a series of maneuvers the ultimate goal of which is victory over the enemy if not his destruction. The purpose of negotiation is to outflank your enemy, to weaken him by all manner of attacks. If the opponent is a democracy, attempts will be made to manipulate public opinion through the media, the object being to undermine popular support for the government's negotiating position. Efforts will also be made to divide the government itself by subtle appeals to political factions and opposition leaders. The principle is divide and conquer.
While martial diplomacy attempts to disarm the adversary through guile and professions of peace, these attempts are punctuated by veiled or less-than-veiled threats of war. This use of cunning and intimidation by the martial school of diplomacy reflects the basic character of dictatorial regimes. Obviously, under such a system of negotiation, trust, fair-dealing and conciliation are not easy. A concession made, a treaty concluded, will be regarded not as a final settlement of a conflict, but evidence of weakness and retreat, an advantage which must soon be exploited in preparation of further advances and triumphs.
Here martial diplomacy is aided by the fact that democracies typically and ardently desire peace, and, even in the absence of pressure, will make gratuitous concessions to the extent of taking "risks for peace." Indeed, the very principle of compromise intrinsic to democracies renders them more yielding than dictatorships. Knowing this, the leader of a military regime will launch his diplomatic campaign from a negotiating position involving impossible demands from which he will hardly deviate. For example, the late Syrian dictator Hafez Assad insisted that Israel withdraw entirely from the Golan Heights before he would even consider signing a peace treaty!
The morality of martial diplomacy is quite simple: "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine or at least negotiable." In contrast, democratic diplomacy is based on the assumption that compromise with one's rival is generally more profitable than his total destruction. Negotiation is not merely a phase in a death-struggle, but an attempt to reach some durable and mutually satisfying agreement. The means used are not military tactics but the give and take of civilian or commercial intercourse. The problem is to find some middle ground between two negotiating positions which, when discovered, will reconcile their conflicting interests. And to find that middle ground, all that is required is goodwill, frank discussion, and compromise.
Because democracies are based on discussion, the general tendency of democratic diplomacy is to overestimate the ability of reason to produce confidence and lasting agreement the attitude of Barack Obama and his Middle East Envoy George Mitchell. This tendency of democratic diplomacy results in a number of errors when confronted by martial diplomacy.
First, there is the error of making gratuitous concessions, sometimes as gestures of goodwill. The hope is for "reciprocity," the mantra of Benjamin Netanyahu. But reciprocity is hardly to be expected from dictatorial regimes. As Henry Kissinger has written, anyone succeeding in the leadership struggles of such regimes "must be single minded, unemotional, dedicated, and, above all, motivated by enormous desire for power."
The inherent asymmetry between democratic and dictatorial regimes renders reciprocity dubious, and, in the case of Israel, impossible. For a democracy to yield territory, something tangible and irreversible, for nothing more substantial than a dictator's written and revocable promise of peace, is an absurd quid pro quo. Yet this defines the relation between Israel and the Palestine Authority, itself a military dictatorship.
The second error of democratic diplomacy is the prejudice that international conflict is caused primarily by lack of mutual understanding, the supposed root of mutual fear and suspicion. The assumption typical of the liberal democratic mind is that men are by nature benevolent, and that, through discussion, they will discover that what they have in common is more important than their differences.
Third, guided by that liberal prejudice, the democratic school of diplomacy tends to minimize conflicting ways of life or ideologies. In his July 1996 address before a joint session of Congress, then Prime Minister Netanyahu gratuitously denied any "clash of civilizations" between Israel and her Arab-Islamic neighbors. Such is the influence of democracy on the intellect that not only Netanyahu and Mitchell, but even political scientists tend to think that ideological conflicts can be overcome by "confidence building" measures, above all economic.
Such sentimental materialism is characteristic of bourgeois as well as socialist democracies preoccupied as they are with enjoyment of the present. Forgotten is the high degree of commercial (and cultural) intercourse between France and Germany before the Franco-Prussian War. Also forgotten is that Russia and Germany were the greatest trading partners before of the First and Second World Wars.
Unfortunately, history has little significance for democratic societies, whose politicians and diplomats are animated by election-oriented and short-term pragmatism. This Now mentality renders democrats impatient for results, and dictators know how to exploit this impatience.
They know that democratic leaders have a personal political interest in the appearance of successful negotiations. Dictators can violate agreements confident that a democratic prime minister will be reluctant to admit any failure in his own diplomatic achievements. Has Ehud Olmert or Shimon Peres admit that Oslo was a mistake?
Last, and perhaps the most serious error and weakness of democratic diplomacy, is that it makes too sharp a distinction between peace and war; that is, it fails to take seriously the mentioned fact that for martial diplomacy peace is war pursued by other means. Stated another way, to men of goodwill, unrelenting malevolence is incomprehensible. Hardly any politician or political scientist in the democratic world take's Islam's murderous hatred of "infidels" seriously to the extent of offering a comprehensive plan of action to overcome a totalitarian ideology more dangerous than Nazism.
Political scientists fail to emphasize that whenever a democracy and a dictatorship negotiate publicly as equals, the dictatorship gains enormously. Such negotiation places them on the same moral level. This moral equivalence corrupts public opinion in the democratic world, already mired in the university-bred doctrine of moral relativism. Consider the case of Israel.
Israeli politicians Left and Right actually degrade Israel by seeking or conducting negotiations with Arab regimes whose media (especially Egypt's) vilify Jews and Israel. To demand the cessation of this anti-Semitism as a precondition of negotiation would enhance Israel's honor, a crucial element given the overweening pride of Arabs.
Moreover, negotiation with Arab autocrats conveys the impression they are no less disposed to candor and peace than Israelis, and that agreements reached with these autocrats will bind their successors which is sheer nonsense. On the other hand, for Israeli prime ministers to be candid about the bellicose and devious character of Arab regimes is to preclude negotiation something beyond the mentality of democratic politicians, who must bow to the idol of peace.
This is not to suggest that Israeli politicians are truthful. Back in 1976, when I asked a political adviser to Shimon Peres what is Israel's major problem, he said and these are his exact words: "We can't lie as well as the Arabs." Since then I have learned that, on the issue of peace, Israel's ruling elites lie and not only to their fellow-citizens far more than Arab rulers lie to their own people.
The defeat of Hamas, if realized, will not end Israel's existential problem. If the Palestinian Authority regains control of Gaza, will be followed by a major U.S.-led effort to establishe a Palestinian state encompassing Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish people. Not only President Bush and his successor Barak Obama, but also the Olmert-Livni-Barak government are committed to this end. As predicted in the Zohar (Exodus 7b), certain kinds of Jews are primed to betray the Land and people of Israel.
We waited nineteen centuries for this land, and this land waited for us. This land is ours, and again the nations want to rob us of this land! To rob us of this land, a fictitious people has been fabricated an assortment of Arab clans and tribes that call themselves "Palestinians" and so they are called by the nations. An ethnic and historical lie has become a murderous media truth.
These self-styled "Palestinians," who have no language or culture of their own, have unwittingly named themselves after the extinct Philistines pagans! And while they claim the Land of Israel as their own, these neo-pagans are oblivious of the fact that the name "Philistines" is derived from a Hebrew word that means and stamps them as "trespassers" or "invaders." By their self-chosen name these Arabs give the lie to their claim to the Land of Israel!
These Arabs are fragments of the Sunni Muslim majority that dominates the Middle East. They wear the veneer of monotheism that Muhammad borrowed from the Jews; but beneath the surface one sees not a love of life but a pathological love of death. That Arabs and Muslims use women and children as human shields and as human bombs means that Islam has never transcended its pagan origin.
In the conflict between Israel and Islam, more significant than the "clash of civilizations" famously described by Samuel Huntington is a clash of monotheisms, one genuine, brilliant with life, the other fictitious, dismal as death. Hence, to call that conflict a "clash of civilizations" omits its most important dimension. On the other hand, since Huntington was a cultural relativist, it probably never occurred to him that Islamdom falls short of being a civilization.
Philosopher Lee Harris, who rejects cultural relativism, deems Islam an "enemy of civilization." By civilization he means a standard that can be applied across cultures and history. Civilization requires three basic ingredients: (1) the co-operation of individuals pursuing their own interests, (2) the ability to tolerate or socialize with one's neighbors, and (3) a hatred of violence.
These prerequisites are lacking in Islam. What is remarkable is that Syrian-born Wafa Sultan, a psychiatrist now living in the United States, boldly denies that Islam is a civilization.
But let us learn about this subject from the late professor Yehoshafat Harkabi, a student of Arab-Islamic culture who served as head of Israeli military intelligence and who was also a confidant of Shimon Peres. Harkabi is especially relevant because he was a self-professed relativist who advocated the establishment of a "Palestinian" state.
In his book Arab Attitudes to Israel, Harkabi describes Islam as a "combatant," "expansionist," and "authoritarian" creed. "The idea of jihad," he writes, "is fundamental in Islam," so that "hatred," "hostility," and "conflict" are endemic to Arab culture."
Harkabi unabashedly admits that "the use of falsehood" and "distortions of the truth" are typical of Arab political life. He goes so far as to suggest that mendacity is "second nature" to the Arabs, that one may rightly regard "falsehood as an expression of [Arab] national character." He quotes the liberated Arab-born sociologist Sonia Hamady, who said "Lying is a widespread habit among the Arabs, and they have a low idea of truth" something to be borne in mind while hearing Arab spokesmen comment on the war in Gaza.
Their notorious mendacity did not prevent Harkabi from advocating negotiations with Arabs. Nor did it prevent him from deeming them worthy of having a state on Israel's doorstep. This absurdity or pathological mentality is typical of academics and democrats tainted by cultural relativism, a doctrine that permeates every level of education in the West the same relativism that has emasculated Europe and facilitated its Arab invasion. By the way, Harkabi dedicated his book to Jews and Arabs alike a revealing example of moral equivalence between Jews famous for teaching the dignity of human life and Arabs famous for producing the suicide bomber.
Have you ever wondered about the land-deprived Arabs committed to Israel's destruction? The 21 Arab League countries together have 500 times more territory than Israel. How they hunger for this land of the Jewish people! How the very meaning of their lives or the status of their religion depends on their possession of this strip of land that G-d promised the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! How they can't cease dreaming of Jerusalem's Temple Mount from which Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven. Give them the Temple Mount and Muslims everywhere will be inflamed with victory. Nothing will dampen their ambition to conquer the world. Daniel Pipes estimates that at least 300 million millions support Jihad!
In this connection, note that Arab and Muslim countries possess 1.3 times more land than the entire continent of Europe and 1.5 times more land than the United States. Their 5,282,000 square miles of territory constitutes one-eighth of the earth's land surface! Yes, but these land-starved worshippers must also have the land of the Jewish people. For this sliver of land, "infidel" Jews are promised "peace."
Poor, wretched Arabs! Whereas these bellicose Arabs have no peace of their own to give Israel, peace-loving Jews have no land they can safely and rightly give Arabs. Nevertheless, diplomats, tainted by relativism, see no reason why six million Jews, surrounded by 250 million Muslims, should oppose a "two-state" solution to the conflict. How unreal and smug are these mirror-imaging experts! How they ignore the ugly truth about the Arab-Islamic world, where the masses live in abject poverty while their rulers wallow in oriental luxury.
Aren't you tired of peace plans, whether proposed by Arabs, Americans, or Jews? Sparsely populated and oil-rich Saudi Arabia stockpiles weapons of war far exceeding the arsenals of nations like England and France. Yes, and the Saudis purchase these weapons from peace-preaching America, whose entertainment media exult in a constant display of brutal violence!
Nevertheless, fools and scoundrels promise prosperity and peace to the entire Middle East if only Israel expels 280,000 Jews from Judea and Samaria. As if any Arab dictatorship could survive its own people's prosperity! It is precisely by keeping their people at a subsistence level that dictators retain their power. This simple fact is ignored by Israelis who believe economics is the key to peace in the Middle East, and that economics trumps fourteen centuries of Islam and Islamic imperialism. And these Israelis are called "realists"!
Among these "realists" one finds timid, tired, and transitory Jews who will be satisfied if only the nations allow them a little strip of land on which to pursue their mundane and fleeting existence. The idea of undertaking a sustained intellectual offensive against Jihadism has never occurred to these "realists."
Leaving this more ambitious goal aside, I want to stress that the survival of the Jewish people depends on their fidelity to the Land of Israel. This land Judea and Samaria and above all Jerusalem is inseparable from the noblest ideas of our prophets and rabbis. Without this land the historical memory and national identity of the Jewish people will evaporate.
In the final analysis, however, to retain the Land of Israel the
Jews must put God of Israel back into the domain of statecraft. Only
then will they be able to overcome the demonic and totalitarian
religion that threatens Western civilization.
Prof. Paul Eidelberg is a political scientist, author and lecturer. He is the founder and President, Foundation for Constitutional Democracy, a Jerusalem-based think tank for improving Israel's system of governance. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parts of this article were published as separate essays and are available on Professor Eidelberg's website: http://www.pauleidelberg.com/. Part II is the edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, January 26, 2009. Part iii: is the edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, January 5, 2009, Israel National Radio.
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