“Then what is the matter with them that they turn away from admonition éas if they were affrighted Asses fleeing from a Lion?”
The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 74, Al-Muddaththir, verses 49-51
The Islamic resistance movement recently announced it would suspend all attacks against Israel within the 1948 borders. According to newspaper reports, the permanent representative in Gaza said the cease-fire declaration resulted from a meeting between movement leaders and representatives of the Palestinian Authority. The newspapers are saying that the cease é fire was agreed upon in an effort to maintain Palestinian national unity.
Middle East watchers like myself are pleased to hear that the Islamic movement has decided to take itself seriously. Its politics had, until now, seemingly taken a back seat to its military operations, even though military operations alone would not have led the resistance movement into recognizable leadership positions, which is where many of us hope that Islamic movement activities will in due course lead. Yet the circumstances under which they agreed to cease fire, and the message being sent to the belligerent occupier Israel, who literally bombed its way into what it no doubt believes is a pretty good negotiating position, is worrying. The contradiction in the terms, “bombing” and “negotiations” is indicative of the current problem.
The method by which Israel is forcing Palestinians back to the peace process is wrong and should be an embarrassment to a world of supposedly civilized people who exchanged clubs and spears for law centuries ago. The long-term repercussions of this attempted repeat of 1948 and 1967 Israeli expansion will not likely serve Israel’s purpose. Attempted Israeli redeployment in those areas formerly under the PA’s supervision, further exposes Israel’s real aim, which is not visible as peace. If peace was desired, Israel has at its disposal the political and diplomatic means to bring hostilities to an end through diplomacy, rather than violence and land reacquisition. The Mitchell Plan, which was originally rejected by Israel, though flawed in its inability to propose a workable solution to the real problems, leaving us to contend with Oslo, is at least seriously attempting to end settlement building, a primary barrier to peace. The Plan also recognizes the significance of the Fourth Geneva Convention within the territories seized in 1967, two important first steps towards redefining the rules of the conflict, and ending the fait accompli sought by Israel through illegal settlement building, and its exclusive claim to needed security and rights to self defense. Unfortunately the United States has failed to take serious steps on this end to bolster the Plan’s commitment to end illegal settlement building, which is funded mostly by right-wing Jewish organizations in the United States. Orlando Sentinel columnist Charley Reese, in his 1994 article, ” Israel’s problems include right-wing Jewish Organizations in the U.S.,” quoted Tsadok Yecheskeli, a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, who said, “there is a concern that settler groups use this money for indiscriminate attacks on Palestinians, and possibly even Israeli soldiers.” Reese says in the article that a far greater threat to peace than Islamic militants comes from “charitable, tax exempt foundations in the United States that funnel money to organizations representing Israeli settlements.” If the U.S. wants to put some teeth into its peacemaking efforts, its seems reasonable and fair that just as it closed Muslim charities accused of funding terrorism, steps should be taken to end U.S. Zionist’s financial support for settlements and the militant settlers movement.
Unfortunately there is little that one can do to change the fact that again, at least for now, “might makes right” has won out over diplomacy and international law in Palestine. This appears to suit the rest of the world just fine, since we presently have no other truth to take the place of this persistent falsehood. Although Islam does not have a monopoly on truth, there having been prophets sent prior to Muhammad (saws) with God’s message, the Islamic truth is relevant, yet, as it turns out, it is still taking a serious beating as commentators from almost every perspective continue attempts to somehow link Islamic political idealism with terrorism. The contemporary beating began in earnest many years ago, maybe as far back as the early 1900’s when the Islamic Caliphate was destroyed and Islamic authority in the Muslim world was succeeded by nationalism. Today we are feeling the repercussions of the fall of the Caliphate in that any and every one who would like to enjoy legitimacy in the Muslim world is able to fashion concepts, implement programs and take actions under the banner of Islam, even if their actions and ideals are far from anything Islamic. There is no internationally authoritative Islamic voice, or entity that is able to sanction or to denounce these types of charades, nor is there an international Islamic authority that is able to negotiate on behalf of Muslims, or of answering the questions that are being put forward, as non Muslims and Muslims seek at least to hear the true Islamic message, its political ideals and mandated approaches to the myriad of challenges facing not only Muslims, but the entire world. The Islamic message to humanity, and its perspective on the affairs of human beings has been largely co-opted and forged into nationalistic presentations that serve the interests of small groups and nations, often in contravention of the greater good. If there were an Islamic authority with international influence and authority similar to the Pope’s, it would be much easier for information to flow between the people, world governments and an international representative Islamic leadership. Having successfully carved the Muslim world into secular nation/states, and replacing Islam with nationalism, the British succeeded in perhaps the single most devastating blow to Islam in modern history. Today we see and feel the affects of the destruction of the Islamic Caliphate, and wonder what part of the strategy to eliminate Islam in total is couched in calls for the elimination of the Islamic movement in Palestine?
In its bid to eliminate the Islamic movement Israel reduced Arafat to little more than a puppet in the eyes of the entire world, stripping him of any semblance of authority, or honor, let alone loyalty to his people or their cause. This caused Arafat, like an affrighted ass fleeing a lion, to duck under the skirts of nationalist leaders in the Muslim world, whose lust for power is only equaled by their hatred of Islam. After leading many young men to death through his inflammatory and provocative anti-Israel rhetoric, he saved himself and his career by calling for an end to what last month he called resistance and self-defense, and last week he gratuitously called violence. It was sufficient to call for a cease-fire without characterizing resistance as “violence.” The use of the term was to portray the Islamic movement as extreme, violent and illegal, and to portray himself as “moderate” and a victim, like Israel, of an Islamic movement hell bent on violence. It is seldom mentioned in discussions regarding the Islamic movement in Palestine, that its leadership consist of PhD’s, mostly from Western institutions, that are not savages, or illiterate buffoons seeking to impose Islam on people, and much more qualified to lead their people to peace than many others. If they were as portrayed by the media, they would receive the same support from the West that the Taliban received just five years ago, just long enough for them to significantly damage the public perception of Islam and Islamic government.
Many of us remember that just prior to Arafat’s original election as President of the PA, he not only closed the offices of the Islamic movement’s charities, he rounded up activists, detained them in prisons without charge, and tortured them for information that was shared with Israel. As Israel uses its muscle to break Arafat, and haul him out before the eyes of the public, broken, full of apology and excuses for his corruption and collaboration, the people remember that neither peace, nor anything else of substance came from his previous exercises in humility, and penitence, and they know that nothing of substance is likely to come from them now.
There are those who will no doubt argue that Arafat had no choice accept to save his people by calling for an end to violence. Only time will tell if that’s what he accomplished. Israeli’s have continued to kill Palestinians, and even claim that after Arafat’s contrition, along with Islamic movement announcements that it will end military operations, that enough has not been done to eliminate the Islamic movement, and so the excuse for continued assaults on the movement remain in play. This brings to mind a quote from the diary of Israel’s first Foreign Minister, Moshe Sharett, who wrote in 1955 ” the question of peace is non-existent. [The state] must calculate its steps narrow mindedly and live on its sword. It must see the sword as the main, if not the only instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Towards this end it may, -no-it must- invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation and revenge.”
The Mitchell Plan is at best a short-term solution to the crisis in Palestine, which is fed by poverty, corruption, and lawlessness, yet so far as its closes the door to excuses for further Israeli aggression and expansion, it can serve both the short term and long- term interests of the Palestinian people. Long-term solutions have yet to be found, but the likelihood that they will be found is greater now than ever before, since perhaps in the coming period of decreased hostility, the minds of sincere men and women will turn towards eradicating the structures of occupation that continue to foster violence and resistance, and open the way to a comprehensive peace to which the Islamic movement, which enjoys the support of a growing number of Palestinians and Muslims throughout the world, should be party.
The writer is director for Public Affairs at the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), a Washington, DC area Islamic think tank.