Middle Eastern Insights
No. 2 - 20 March 2011
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
In the Bar-Ilan speech Binyamin Netanyahu delivered almost two years ago, he
articulated two conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state
alongside the State of Israel: Palestinian recognition of the State of
Israel as the state of the Jewish nation, and the demilitarization of the
Palestinian state. These two conditions are not being met, as Palestinian
spokesmen repeat day and night that they would not dream of recognizing the
State of Israel as the Jewish national home, because this would harm their
Arab brethren in Israel and would negate, for Palestinian refugees, the
right of return to Israel. They do not discuss demilitarization because
they know, as well as Netanyahu knows, that there is no such thing as a
“demilitarized state” in the Middle East. We were provided a reminder last
week: A civilian cargo ship carrying many tons of advanced weaponry from
Iran to Alexandria via Syria and Turkey, to be smuggled eventually into the
Gaza Strip. At the same time, Egyptian security forces announced that they
had intercepted five trucks loaded with arms being smuggled from Sudan to
Egypt; these weapons, too, were destined for Gaza via the tunnels.
This arms smuggling, which does not cease for a moment, constitutes a clear
and pointed Palestinian statement to Netanyahu, to Europe, to the United
States, to the United Nations and to non-governmental organizations
throughout the world: “Forget about a demilitarized state, for our state
will be armed to the teeth with the longest range, most modern weaponry, and
Iran, together with our friends and allies, will see to it that the future
Palestinian state will be demilitarized only in Netanyahu’s dreams.”
This statement applies not only to the Gaza Strip, but also – and
primarily – to Judea and Samaria, which, if allowed to form territorial
contiguity, will become a terrorist contiguity that will present a strategic
threat to the State of Israel, whose hands will be bound by Goldstonian
shackles. Yet, despite this clear statement, many countries are poised to
recognize a Palestinian state at the General Assembly of the United Nations
during its annual session this coming September, i.e., in about a half a
year from now. Thus, the Palestinian state will receive in 2011 the same
international recognition that Israel did in November 1947.
This will be the greatest failure of Israeli public diplomacy, which has not
succeeded in conveying the simple message that a Palestinian state with
territorial contiguity is a terror state that will embitter the lives of its
neighbors, not only of Israel. This public diplomacy fiasco stems from –
among others – the fact that on a daily basis, Israel’s government fails in
its obligation to bring Israel’s word to at least every English-speaking
household. This can be done with an Israeli satellite television channel,
similar to the American CNN, the British BBC, France 24, Hungary’s Duna and
dozens of national satellite stations received in every living room in the
world. Because Israel does not operate such a television channel, neither
in English nor in Arabic, it is not on the media map, and a country not on
the media map may also not exist on the geographic map. The distance from
here to the de-legitimization of Israel is very short.
The technology exists, the studios exist, the personnel exist, the knowledge
exists and the need exists. Lacking only are a decision and a modest budget
which will engender the change in Israel’s public posture and thus effect a
change in the political situation. Speeches and declarations, meetings and
rallies will not help us as long as our message does not reach the average
citizen in Atlanta who sees, hears, comprehends and picks up the phone to
ask his/her congressperson to vote in Israel’s favor.
The Brotherhood of Fighters
Last week, Saudi Arabia sent a thousand troops and weapons to quell the
protests in Bahrain, the island east of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
These forces made a well-publicized crossing of the King Fahd Causeway
connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Some claim that at low tide, the
twenty-eight kilometers can be traversed by foot, which is precisely what
frightens the Saudis: That the Shi’ite intifada against the Sunni regime in
Bahrain will spill into Saudi Arabia, especially if the Shi’ite uprising
restores Persian rule to Bahrain after more than two hundred years.
Iran declared the movement of forces an act of war, which it will not
accept. It is clear to all that Iran is meddling in events so that the Shi’ite
majority, some of which speaks Farsi, will revolt against the Sunni
al-Khalifa family that rules at the grace of foreigners: the British in the
past and the Saudis today. By assisting the Bahraini king, King Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia is attempting with all his might to stop the domino effect,
just as the Syrian regime was, and maybe still is helping Qaddafi survive
the waves of opposition to the Libyan dictator by, according to some
sources, sending pilots, who determinedly and ruthlessly attack the rebels,
after Libyan pilots refused to bomb their countrymen.
The Saudi king is not alone in wanting to halt the domino effect: The
United States’ primary naval base in the Gulf is located in Bahrain and it
is conceivable that the Americans were aware of the dispatch of Saudi
troops, and perhaps even provided behind-the-scenes encouragement.
Saudi Arabia's Abdullah and Syria's Bashar Assad are in the same boat as
illegitimate rulers who use the Mukhabarat (Intelligence) to dominate their
countrymen, a boat being tossed on the stormy seas of those hungry,
unemployed, sick and neglected who have decided to emerge from under the
yoke of oppression, even at the risk of their lives. March 15th last week
was a “Day of Rage” in Syria, a day when the oppressed Syrian masses started
to flow onto the streets and usher in the freedom of which Abdullah and
Assad are so afraid. In reality, only several dozen people protested in
Damascus on that day, because the Syrians know that the regime will treat
them as did Qaddafi his opponents. Abdullah is fighting in Bahrain for the
survival of his throne in Riyadh, just as Assad is waging war in the Libyan
desert to safeguard the heads of his Alawi brethren in Syria.
Why Do They Slaughter?
What is common to Daniel Perl, Nick Berg, the Jews of Hebron in 1929 and the
Fogel family? They were butchered. They were not simply stabbed to death,
but were killed by an act designed to decapitate them or to cause fatal
bleeding by severing their carotid artery. Another common denominator: all
were slaughtered by Moslems. An endless list of Moslem girls and women can
be added to them, those who were similarly slaughtered by their brothers,
fathers or other relatives for “violating the family honor”. A question
that arises automatically is where does this Moslem tendency to this kind of
slaughter come from?
The answer is simple: Slaughter is a routine, widespread practice among
many Moslem families. Many children see how their fathers slaughter sheep
when celebrating an important event, and the whole family is present at the
sacrificial slaughter during Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, when
the slaughter is part of the holiday ritual.
In modern societies, the slaughter of animals for meat consumption takes
place in slaughterhouses, far from the eyes of the public and children, who
generally get their meat free of blood and hair and ready for cooking or
eating. This sterile arrangement spares the public the sight of the
slaughter, the blood and the accompanying cries. In the West, many of those
who witnessed animal slaughter become vegetarian.
In many Islamic societies, slaughter generally occurs at home, in front of
the children, and is part of the routine of life. They are immunized
against the sight of slaughter, are not moved by the blood dripping from the
animal’s neck and are not frightened by its snorts and struggles. In many
cases, the children hold the legs of the lamb in order to immobilize it
during slaughter; they sense very well its frantic reactions as the knife so
painfully slices through its neck. The presence and participation of the
children in the act of slaughter immunizes them emotionally against its
influence; when they are older they perform the custom of sacrifice with
their own hands and knives, and in front of their own children.
The emotional immunity to the act of slaughter allows a Moslem to utilize it
whenever he feels he must employ radical methods to rid himself of someone.
The slaughter of sheep during the Festival of Sacrifice is accompanied by
the recitation of “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful”,
and the butchering of girls who do not behave properly is conducted as a
kind of execution ceremony. The slaughterer feels that he is doing
something important and worthy, acting in a way to which he is inured since
In western societies, slaughter seems barbaric, while members of Moslem
societies view it as proper and commendable when carried out within the
proper context. Therefore, slaughtering a Jew, a Christian or anyone seen
as an enemy is not considered unusual in traditional Islamic societies.
This is what professional jargon calls a “cultural difference”.
The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of
Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel.
Translated by Nachama Kanner