2 Articles; Arab World War Two: Sunni versus Shia; * It’s Time to Tell the Truth About the “Peace Process”

From Rubin Reports.Blogspot.Com

Arab World War Two: Sunni versus Shia

Posted: 26 Jun 2013 05:50 AM PDT

By Barry Rubin

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife….
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds….
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war….”

William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”

This is not merely coincidental violence. True, the currently self-flagellating West used to have scenes like this but no more. Today, the West is an island of tolerance despite the orgy within it of self-blame and criticism. Meanwhile, other places daily show orgies of violence but neither self-criticism nor full awareness in the outside world of the implications.

Let’s take one little example from the daily situation of places from that vast expanse between Nigeria and Indonesia that coincides with Muslim-majority countries. Yet Muslims are also the main victim from the violence, due to the horror of radical Islamism and whipped-up-into-a-frenzy fanaticism which characterizes Arab World War Two.

In early June, Salafists stirred up hatred at the purported threat from a tiny minority of 30 Shia Muslims living in the village of Zawiyat Abu Muslim near Cairo. Shias are a microscopic portion of Egypt’s population, far less than one percent. Until recently one was barely aware they existed at all. But then until recently the same was true of that 1 percent minority of real Shia Muslims in Syria (along the Lebanese border, the Alawites are about as Shia Muslim as the Catholic pope is Mormon)  which has done so much to prompt the Hizballah offensive in the Syrian civil war.

On June 23, a Muslim holiday, a leading Shia cleric named Hassan Shehata was visiting and spoke at a small religious gathering. A mob of up to 3000 regular people, the neighbors, marched on the house where the Shia were gathered. The guests were beaten up, three petrol bombs set the house on fire, and four Shia were murdered. Five Shia houses in all were burned.

Shehata, an inoffensive and apolitical religious scholar was stabbed to death and dragged through the streets.

Let’s not take any point for granted here:

–The attackers and killers were ordinary villagers.

–The attack was not spontaneous but deliberately organized.

–The Arabic-speaking world is gearing up for a massive Sunni versus Shia bloodbath as well as a Sunni war on Christians. The war on Jews is nothing new and if Israel could not defend itself what happened in that village would be our fate in this modern edition of the European Middle Ages.

Generally, please note, the Christians cannot defend itself. And Kurds, Druze, the Bahais in Iran also face such potential or actual problems.  In all cases these are wars of extermination or at least expulsion.

–The victims were not engaged in any violent or provocative acts. They were killed because of their religious identity and for no other reason.

–The villagers were proud of what they had done.

–The police did not try to stop the violence even when one Shia was killed in front of them as they stood by.

–The Egyptian government won’t do anything. Nobody who is not a conformist supporter of the dictatorship and in the right group can expect protection. (With occasional exceptions as with a single Muslim preacher brought to court because he burned a Christian Bible a few months ago.

–The government and police are on the side of the murderers.

–The police threw the victims into a pile, adding to the lack of respect for them.

–A Salafist television station and websites praised the killers and accused Shehata of having insulted Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Note that any non-Sunni or in other cases non-Shia can be falsely accused of doing something insulting to Islam and murdered.

–Certainly the government will not denounce this crime and the perpetrators probably won’t be arrested as those who attack churches and Coptic Christians are not arrested. This includes those who carried out the very public attack on the Cairo cathedral last month, during a service itself commemorating the earlier murder of Christians. Al-Azhar, the center of (Sunni) Islam religious authority did do so.

–An important principle in Islamic states is that the actual government, that is by the allegedly moderate Muslim Brotherhood, also unleashes and uses the more militant Salafists to do what they want as long as they don’t challenge the regime.  You cannot just go by government behavior but by the vigilante activity the government permits. The recent upsurge in opposition activity has pushed the Brotherhood and Salafists together. A key point in an Islamist state is that there is no real government protection for the rights of minorities despite the promises based on Islamic texts.

Here’s a Syrian Salafist commander in a typical such claim:

“We have been providing the minorities with their rights ever since the establishment of the state of Islam, since the beginning of the Caliphate in the days of the Prophet Muhammad, and in the days of the Righteous Caliphs, and to this day. Throughout history, nobody has suffered injustice under the state of Islam – the state of truth and justice.”

Only now in recent years, that lie about minorities has been extended to Shia.

–Every day such crimes are committed by pogroms and terror attacks, especially right now in Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria.  Indeed, terrorism against Israel is a militarily sophisticated type of pogrom, complete with the frequent rationalization of Palestinian governments. (And this is an issue that the American elite thinks is on the verge of solution, especially if there are one-sided Israeli concessions?)

–Violence in Iraq on a Sunni-Shia basis (mostly Sunnis attacking Shia) is at a high point. Imagine what things will be like when a Sunni Islamist ruled Syria   hates and tries to foment unrest in s Shia-ruled Iraq which will no doubt push Baghdad toward the waiting arms of Iran! Two American “clients” at war backed by two anti-American backed alliances!

–Since this is such explosive stuff, the Western mass media and institutions put the main emphasis on playing it down on the off-chance that…what? Western citizens will go burn down houses and stab their Muslim neighbors? They assume that their audiences must be kept in ignorance lest they turn to prejudice and hatred. Even admitting that the contemporary American track record is better than the Middle East skirts the supposed edge of racism. Heaven forbid that Western civilization regard itself, at least today, as more advanced.

–The proper response would be to sympathize with the victims against the murderers and point out that, just as Germans oppressed other Germans during the Nazi era, sympathy and support should go to the victims against the political criminals and not to minimize the threat lest sausage shops or Lutheran churches be attacked.

–Iran condemned the attacks on Shias, saying it was contrary to Islam. But of course the whole central narrative of Islam is based on Sunni persecution of  Shia. Of course, don’t try to find a Sunni mosque in Tehran, and Iran’s ally, Syria, is treating Sunnis far more ruthlessly than the norm in Egypt. Have no doubt about the intensity of this conflict. Egypt and Iran may well eventually find a proxy war. In fact, they are now doing so in Syria.

–A high-ranking Hamas leader even said that overthrowing the Syrian regime is a higher priority than staging  jihad in Palestine. Of course, the Sunnis know that overthrowing Assad is a step forward on the jihad against Israel but he isn’t supposed to say that. Still, it reveals the depth of hatred and antagonism toward the fellow Arabs and Muslims.

As a new report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center puts it:

The depth of the Sunni-Shi’ite schism can be seen in all the major arenas where regional conflicts are being waged. It is reflected in Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the fighting in Syria, the spilling over of the Syrian civil war into Lebanon, record-breaking sectarian violence in Iraq, and the aggressive stance taken by the Persian Gulf states towards Iran and Hezbollah. Thus, the Sunni-Shi’ite schism is emerging as one of the most influential factors shaping the Middle East in a time of regional upheaval.”

You can read about the modern history of the Sunni-Shia relationship in that report. It points out the new parallels with anti-Jewish thinking among Sunnis including the creation of a forged “The Protocols of the Clerics of Qom” which matches The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

The Shia, for their part, reciprocate with their own hatred. How distant seem the days when Iran’s ambition to lead the Muslim Middle East seems credible or the Arab-Israeli conflict seemed central to the region!

As the report cited above continued:

“The meaning of that escalation is that, ideologically speaking, the fight against the Shi’a (and its representatives, Iran and Hezbollah) takes precedence over the fight against the West and Israel—although it does not mean that the fight will necessarily be backed by actual on-the-ground efforts. This coincides with the political and social reality brought about by the regional upheaval: a widening of the fundamental fault lines that run through the Arab and Muslim world.”

Here’s my article on a recent report from a Muslim Brotherhood think tank that confirms this analysis.

Yes, that is the fruit of the “Arab Spring.” Not as the Western sorcerer’s apprentices’ expected love, peace, and democracy but the rise of Islamism and the Sunni-Shia war.

This does not mean–as the brilliant young analyst Phillip Smyth points out–that the Shia Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Sunni al-Qaida won’t soon be competing over how many Americans each group can kill in Syria. It does mean, however, that things have really changed in the region.

Forget the dreams of a new era of peace and democracy. The next several decades—and that’s the optimistic version—will be full of Zawiyat Abu Muslim’s writ large. Anyone who is sensible will avoid the wreckage and send out the lifeboats.

Note: Arab World War One was the nationalist era’s equivalent of today’s battle,what Malcolm Kerr called the Arab Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s between the radical nationalists and the more conservative traditionalist forces.

It also goes for those who would gladly welcome a real, viable two-state solution but know that one is decades off and has been made more difficult by the radicalism unleashed by the supposedly moderating “Arab Spring.”

It’s Time to Tell the Truth About the “Peace Process”

“He who tells the truth is driven from nine villages.”–  Turkish proverb

By Barry Rubin

Has it become time that the absurd paradigm governing the Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the “peace process” be abandoned or challenged?

After all, this narrative has become increasingly ridiculous. Here is what is close to being the official version:

The Palestinians desperately want an independent state and are ready to compromise to obtain that goal. They will then live peacefully alongside Israel in a two-state solution. Unfortunately, this is blocked either by: a) misunderstanding on both sides or b) in the recent words of the Huntington Post, “the hard-line opponents who dominate Israel’s ruling coalition.” Israel is behaving foolishly, too, not seeing that, as former President Bill Clinton recently said, Israel needs peace in order to survive. One aspect—perhaps a leading one—why Israel desperately needs peace is because of Arab demographic growth. The main barrier to peace are the Jewish settlements.

This interpretation has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with reality. People on both sides know this, even if they rarely say so publicly. For the Palestinian side, the pretense of peacemaking—which every Palestinian leader knows—obtains money, diplomatic support, popular sympathy, and pressure on Israel. Here’s the dirty trick involved. If anyone raises in Israels raises issues about whether a “peace process” can really bring peace, concerns about how it would be implemented, and documented experience about Palestinian behavior in the past, the response is that Israel doesn’t want peace. The actual arguments and evidence about these problems is censored out of the Western mass media and distorted in terms of political stances.

Is the peace process after 40 years (if you count from its origins) or 20 years (if  you count from the time of the “Oslo” agreement) at a dead end? Of course it is. That should be obvious.

In reality, the vast majority of Palestinian leaders favor establishing no Palestinian state unless it can continue the work of trying to wipe Israel off the map. They are in no hurry. They do not want to negotiate seriously. And, of course, in the case of Hamas, which controls or has the support of about one-half of the Palestinians, this violent and genocidal intention is completely in the open. You can’t negotiate seriously with those who are not–to recall the old PLO slogan–the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.  I say this with deep regret but it is the truth.

On the Israeli side, the pretense is kept up because there is already enough Western hatred or real and potential hostility to what is required for its own self-defense. Israel offered deep concessions and took great risks continually through the 1990s. The judgment on the year 2000, the reveling year on the “peace process,” was that this Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution proved that they didn’t want one.

Now, every few days Abbas comes up with a new trick. The latest one is that he really desperately wants to meet with Netanyahu BUT the Israeli prime minister must first meet his latest preconditions which keep changing. And every time Israel starts closing in on matching one of his demands he just changes them.
Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that there is a freeze on government permits for construction on settlements but Abbas doesn’t care.

Kerry gives Israel no credit for that on the peace issue, though it does help U.S.-Israel relations in other ways. For example, Israel will be the first country allowed to deploy the new F-35 warplane and is getting advanced munitions that could be used to hit Iranian nuclear installations. The only condition on these weapons is, of course, that t hey not be used to hit Iranian nuclear installations.  Still, they might be handy some day. And that is precisely the reason Israelis play along and pretend that he might have a better chance at making peace than he does. Which is about zero,

Speaking of Iran, it contributes to a regional situation that ensures anyone on the Israeli, Palestinian, or other Arab side would have to be crazy to make compromises or concessions for peace right now.
At a time when Iran is proclaimed suddenly moderate and when the genocidally-intended Muslim Brotherhood is now a U.S. ally and when even the Taliban is being declared acceptable, why is it that Israel is being portrayed by many of the same people as intransigent and the source of problems?

Israelis generally—not just on the left—want peace and a two-state solution. Israelis generally—not just on the right—do not believe it is possible at present, and they can offer much proof on this point. Moreover, given the region’s rapid movement toward revolutionary Islamism, the atmosphere is totally unwelcoming to any progress toward peace.

Even if the Palestinian Authoritywished a different policy, it knows that with the hegemony of anti-peace Islamists such a move on its part would be suicidal. Just turn on your radio or pick up a Palestinian newspaper and you can see and hear the hatred, incitement, and rejection of Israel’s existence, the indoctrination of young people to carry on the conflict for decades, the celebration of terrorists and especially suicide bombers. A situation in which anyone who believed in moderation and compromise better keep his mouth shut or face the end of his career or even death is not one where a compromise peace can be made and implemented.

This is common knowledge in Israel.You’d be amazed at the names of left-of-center famous Israeli political figures that in private make clear their view that there is no two-state solution at present, no political solution, but they should keep saying the opposite in public to avoid claims that Israel doesn’t really want peace. As an example, one well-known left-wing leader whose name is associated closely with the peace process said privately that Arafat was an SOB who destroyed the peace process. Another famous dove said that nobody thinks that peace is possible but that we must still pretend otherwise.
There are two phony arguments raised on this issue of why Israel obstructs the peace it desperately needs: settlements and demography. It should take only one minute to dispel this nonsense. And that is why these arguments must be censored out of the mainstream debate by ridicule and insult.

Can settlements be blocking a successful peace process? Of course not. If the Palestinians were so discomfited by construction on settlements they would logically want to accelerate the peacemaking process. This is what King Hussein of Jordan warned them about at the 1984 Palestine National Council meeting. Hurry and get peace, he said, before the settlement process has gone forward too long. They ignored the advice; they weren’t in any hurry.

Again, though, if settlements are gobbling up the land perhaps to the point of no return, shouldn’t the Palestinians demand negotiations immediately instead of refusing to talk for a dozen years and setting countless preconditions that seem to become more demanding as any previous ones are met?

Then we have the bogus demographic issue. The Gaza Strip and West Bank are not part of Israel. Nobody today seeks annexation. Palestinians—except those who live in Israel’s borders—are never going to be citizens of Israel. Ironically, let’s remember, it is the Palestinians who demand that they will through the fictional “right of return” get to be Israelis.

Bill Clinton recently said, with total ignorance:

“Is it really okay with you if Israel has a majority of its people living within your territory that are not now, and never will be, allowed to vote?”

No. They do not live “within [Israel’s] territory.” Therefore, the question does not arise and it will never arise. Israel has not annexed and never will annex the Gaza Strip and West Bank. No one thinks the Palestinians there are citizens and they do not want to be citizens. In fact, they vote in their own elections, or at least once did so and live under their own government and laws. How could anyone not understand this?

Finally, there is the never-addressed issue of what I call, “the day after.” Let’s face it. The Obama Administration and its predecessors have made—how can I put this politely?—some mistakes about the Middle East . They have often urged on Israel very dangerous, even suicidal, courses. They have not always been faithful to allies.

Are these the best-informed, best-intentioned, and best-judgment people to heed? Perhaps it is possible that Israeli leaders actually do know more about the Middle East and their people’s interests than does Washington or Western journalists and “experts.” Perhaps Israel’s people, as shown by their own repeated votes in free elections, are better informed than those thousands of miles away who never lived through this history an,d understandably, don’t put Israeli interests first.

After all, these are policymakers who have just formed alliances with a former Nazi collaborator (the Muslim Brotherhood), and other groups which preach genocide against all Jews, hate the West, hate Christians, want to murder gays, and to make women second-class citizens. Would you listen to advice by people who do such things?

Moreover, what would happen the day after a successfully negotiated two-state solution? If cross-border terror attacks began would the United States act decisively to condemn the Palestinian regime? Could it “fix” the problem of a Palestinian state that did not live up to its commitments?

What about a state that was taken over by a Hamas coup or even a Hamas electoral victory, which happened in the last Palestinian election? Suddenly, Israel would be ringed by a Hamas-ruled Palestinian state that rejected peace; a Muslim-Brotherhood ruled Egypt and perhaps Syria; and a Hizballah-ruled Lebanon. Do you think that two-state solution or at least peace would long endure?

What about a Palestinian state that invited in the armies of neighboring Arab states or Iran, with their weapons or as large numbers of advisors?

In short, would Israel be better off from those who, on the one hand, have as little intention of implementing their agreements as they have often done before and, on the other hand, those who urge you to make such a deal but can and will do nothing significant to enforce it?
No.

Clinton said that Israel needs peace to survive. Yet the situation is one in which a certain type of peace would endanger survival. What Israel wants is a two-state solution that brings real peace and that would enhance survival. Why is there never any talk about the quality of the peace?

But finally here is the key concept, as voiced by the Huffington Post’s article on Clinton’s speech:
“It underscored a chasm between the country’s official support for creating an independent Palestinian state and the hard-line opponents who dominate Israel’s ruling coalition.”

The problem is the word “opponents.” Israel would be happy to create an independent Palestinian state that resulted in an end to the conflict. It was ready to do so at the 2000 Camp David meeting but the Palestinian leadership then, and since, has refused to say that even a two-state solution would
permanently end the conflict. It would merely initiate the next round of a battle pursing total elimination of Israel.

This is not an ideological but a strategic issue. Wishful thinking and arguments that if you don’t work for peace you won’t get it are fine for the words of bystanders. They would be disastrous for actual policy. Incidentally, the three most “soft-line” supporters of creating an independent state have been Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak. These men learned vividly the same lessons that their political opponents did.

The real blockage to peace comes from the Palestinian leadership (including Hamas’s open preference for massacring all Israelis) and by the realities of the strategic situation that.

Question: Is this a right-wing position?

Answer: No, it is just a recognition of reality. As I noted above, everyone knows it and if they don’t there are three possible reasons:

1. They want to bash Israel and subvert Israel’s relations with the West and they know what they are doing.

2. They are ignorant about the region or at least very much out of date. And this goes for those ruled by wishful thinking.

3. They think that by pretending peace is possible they can make the Arabs feel that the United States is trying to help the Palestinians and that therefore most Arabs and Muslims will think better of them and radical Islamists will like America.

Among Israelis they know that since this is a firm belief in the West keeping their mouths shut makes it easier to get along with those people who are in power in the West. And this goes for those ruled by wishful thinking, though proportionately far fewer than in the West.

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