MARTIN: Extremism isn’t going anywhere

In his Wednesday column “Lessons of the 9/11 decade,” Senator Joseph Lieberman confidently ends his article with the belief that the United States will defeat Islamist extremism — no matter how long it takes or what further turns lie ahead. But such an outcome is far from certain. Despite all the lessons that the United States has learned since 9/11, there is one that has been missed: Islamist extremism will never be defeated unless the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

While the United States has sought to defeat Islamist extremism in the rest of the world, there has been no progress concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 9/11. The conflict continues to be a source of anger in the Middle East and the stalemate has driven many to violence. This deadlock has once again come to the political fore with the sudden arrival of the Arab Spring, but it is unclear whether these revolutions will help bring peace or further bloodshed. Although Senator Lieberman claims that the Arab Spring represents the “ultimate repudiation of everything violent Islamist extremism stands for,” the truth is that the Arab Spring is still in its infancy, and it remains to be seen whether these countries adopt a Western-style democracy or something very different. We only need to look back at Hamas’ election victory in Gaza in 2006 to see the potential for Islamist extremism to take hold even in potentially democratic countries in the Middle East.

And even if Islamist extremism fails to become a significant political force in the wake of the Arab Spring, the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo earlier this week shows that strong anti-Israeli feelings remain. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has strengthened these sentiments throughout the Middle East and Islamic extremists will continue to exploit these feelings to attract new members to their cause and replenish their ranks in preparation for further acts of violence. Some of this violence will be directed towards the United States, since its relationship with Israel and its broader involvement in the Middle East continues to make our country a target. Islamic extremists have used the anger towards Israel to convince others that weakening or defeating the United States will help to bring about victory in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Next week, Palestine will make a bid to seek recognition of its statehood at the United Nations General Assembly. It will certainly be rejected, as the United States has made it clear it will use its veto power if necessary. But regardless, it is difficult to imagine any outcome that will not embarrass the United States or hurt its standing in the Middle East. The United States has had over a decade since the last serious talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to solve this problem, but its failure to do so has finally driven Palestine to act unilaterally. Although Senator Lieberman is right to say that the United States has learnt a great deal since 9/11, the country has ignored the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the War on Terror. Islamic extremists will continue to use this ignorance to prolong a conflict which has raged for over 60 years, and will not likely end any time soon.

Jonathan Martin is a senior in Pierson College.

Comments

  • Arafat

    Poorly reasoned and very misleading.

    Like all liberals the author blames Israel or America for pretty much everything. It’s our fault Muslims do what they do. It’s a natural reaction to OUR aggression. So whose fault is this:

    Iran/Iraq War: 1,000,000 killed
    Yesterday’s suicide bombing at a Pakistani funeral: 26 killed
    Southern Thailand: 5,000 Buddhist killed in last five years
    Bangladesh in the 1970s: 1,500,000 Hindus killed
    Sudan: 2,600,000 killed and counting
    Arab Spring: Death toll undetermined and growing (Islamists gaining power)
    Syria/Hama: 35,000 killed
    Jordan/Black September: 10,000 killed
    Iraq/Kurds: 500,000 killed over 50 years
    Lebanese Civil War: 185,000 killed (almost all Christian leaders assassinated, now Hezbollah runs the proxy government)
    Algerian Civil War: 150,000 killed
    Caucus and Southern Russia: 10,000+ killed
    NW China: 1,500 killed
    Somalia Civil War: 500,000 killed
    Turkey/Kurds: 38,000 killed
    Iran Revolution: 75,000 killed
    Indonesia uprising 1965/66: 400,000 killed

    Wars against Israel: ? killed
    Conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites: ? killed
    Nigerian Conflict: ? killed
    Number of Copts, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians killed: ?
    Number of Hindus killed in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh: ?

    What is the common denominator here? America, colonialism, imperialism, Israel or Islam???

  • Arafat

    Oh, and while I’m at it whose fault was this?

    Within a few short centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had conquered all of the Middle East, all of North Africa, HUGE sections of Asia and growing sections of Southern Europe.

    It was only after it became aparent that Muslim hordes intended to march towars Rome when the First Crusade was declared. Was this America’s fault, imperialism’s fault, colonialism’s fault, Israel’s fault, or Islam’s fault?

  • Arafat

    “…the truth is that the Arab Spring is still in its infancy, and it remains to be seen whether these countries adopt a Western-style democracy or something very different.”

    Is this intended as a joke?

    A western-style democracy in Libya, Syria, Bahrain. Egypt?

    Did you hear the one about the midget who ran into a bar?

  • Arafat

    “We only need to look back at Hamas’ election victory in Gaza in 2006 to see the potential for Islamist extremism to take hold even in potentially democratic countries in the Middle East.”

    I think it’s time we define democracy.

    Is Sharia law compatible with democracy? Is refusing freedom of speech, religion, the press, women’s rights compatible with the definition of democracy?

    Maybe Jonathan can point us to a Middle Eastern country where democracy is working. Where Christians have the same rights as Muslims. Where people are free to question or criticize the “democratically elected politicians”. Where the press is free to do the same.

    Maybe Jonathan can point us to a Middle Eastern country where Muslims live side-by-side with Jews. Where Palestinians can vote and be elected to the Parliament, or serve on the Supreme Court>

    I know one country that fits all of the parameters I mention above and it is Israel. Maybe Jonathan can mention one more such country.

  • River_Tam

    The condescending reference to “Western-style Democracy” is overwhelming. Is Israel now “the West”? Are South Korea and Japan “the West”?

    Democracy is not about east or west – it’s about the fundamental human right to self-governance. Dismissing it as a cultural quirk or peculiarity is a convenient way for those who stand in the way of freedom across the globe to assuage their guilt when they don’t lift a finger to help Iraqi and Iranian and Cuban and North Korean citizens throw off the bonds of tyranny.

  • ldffly

    Solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and instabilities within the Saudi government go away, too. Am I correct?

  • RexMottram08

    Democracy is a means to the end of liberty under the rule of law. An Islamic culture will bend democracy to very different ends.

  • Arafat

    Page 1.

    From the essay “Communism and Islam” in International Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan., 1954), pp. 1-12, here is Bernard Lewis on Islam’s inherent authoritarianism:
    I turn now from the accidental to the essential factors, to those deriving from the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought. The first of these is the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition…Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical — attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both…In point of fact, except for the early caliphate, when the anarchic individualism of tribal Arabia was still effective, the political history of Islam is one of almost unrelieved autocracy…[I]t was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law. In the great days of classical Islam this duty was only owed to the lawfully appointed caliph, as God’s vicegerent on earth and head of the theocratic community, and then only for as long as he upheld the law; but with the decline of the caliphate and the growth of military dictatorship, Muslim jurists and theologians accommodated their teachings to the changed situation and extended the religious duty of obedience to any effective authority, however impious, however barbarous. For the last thousand years, the political thinking of Islam has been dominated by such maxims as “tyranny is better than anarchy” and “whose power is established, obedience to him is incumbent.”

  • Arafat

    Page 2.

    …Quite obviously, the Ulama of Islam are very different from the Communist Party. Nevertheless, on closer examination, we find certain uncomfortable resemblances. Both groups profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth; the answers are different in every respect, alike only in their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man. Both groups offer to their members and followers the agreeable sensation of belonging to a community of believers, who are always right, as against an outer world of unbelievers, who are always wrong. Both offer an exhilarating feeling of mission, of purpose, of being engaged in a collective adventure to accelerate the historically inevitable victory of the true faith over the infidel evil-doers. The traditional Islamic division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, two necessarily opposed groups, of which- the first has the collective obligation of perpetual struggle against the second, also has obvious parallels in the Communist view of world affairs. There again, the content of belief is utterly different, but the aggressive fanaticism of the believer is the same. The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as “There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet!” was laying his finger on a real affinity. The call to a Communist Jihad, a Holy War for the faith — a new faith, but against the self-same Western Christian enemy — might well strike a responsive note.

  • Arafat

    Could someone explain this conundrum for me?

    Why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands anywhere and everywhere without a word of protest from American Muslims, or any Muslims for that matter, but if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims will never stop protesting against it? Why is this do you suppose? What explanation can be given other than as the Qur’an states repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate in which all non-Muslims are subjugated.

    For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and thousands of years after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe.

    Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even though, for instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once lived there. According to Muslim logic per Israel shouldn’t this land belong to the Buddhists?

    Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly converted to Islam or have been killed and now we’re told all this vast landmass belongs to Islam. That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical. And what about Southern Thailand. Did anyone know that in the last several years something like 5,000 Buddhists have been killed by Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the Buddhists are on belongs to Islam. And Southern Russia? Muslims are relentlessly waging a slow reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it, Russians are treating Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern section of that country to Muslims.

    Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions have been killed in Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan while Islamists steal the food from aid compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims. All other people can go somewhere else to live, I guess.

    And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 5,000 years – something like 4,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it?

    And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam. Did you know that? It’s true. Even though it’s no bigger than a small pimple on the caliphate’s ass it is still their land and they will fight to the death to prove their point.

    Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course it is. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage.

  • The Anti-Yale

    So Palestinians want to use votes in a world deliberative body, rather than bullets and bombs on the land, to argue for their cause, and PEOPLE DARE COMPLAIN?

  • claypoint2

    Oh, wow. Trolls and zealots on the loose… simultaneously.

    I thought that this was an interesting and provocative column. I may not agree with all of it, but the focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems right.

  • Tan

    I never thought I’d say this, but I’m with the trolls on this one.

    It’s a decent column.

  • connman250

    Islam rules the mid-east and where you have Islam you cannot have a democracy.

    Arafat, who writes above, makes the most sense of anyone on this blog, stating why Islam is at war with other nations all over the world, and It is not about being treated badly, It is about gaining control worldwide.

  • domlawton

    “Quite obviously, the Ulama of Islam are very different from the Communist Party. Nevertheless, on closer examination, we find certain uncomfortable resemblances. Both groups profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth; the answers are different in every respect, alike only in their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man.”

    Ha! Are you serious? We’ve defined Marxism out of the Western intellectual heritage now? For such an apparently committed anti-authoritarian, Lewis seems awfully ready to declare us as always having been at war with Eastasia.