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The Need for Clarity in the War against Islamist Totalitarianism

Feb. 15 2017

Between, on the one hand, the Obama administration’s vague catch-all of “countering violent extremism” and the Bush administration’s overly broad “general war on terror” and, on the other hand, declaring war on Islam as such, Eran Lerman presses for a clear definition of America’s current conflict:

It is in the interests of all the key players to latch onto a coherent interpretation of who the enemy is and how to defeat it. That war could be called by the shorthand DIT, or Defeating Islamist Totalitarianism.

Modern Islamist totalitarianism draws on traditional elements in Islam, including the notion of jihad, the idea of Islam as a religion of conquest, and the central role of political power . . . in shariah. But it also draws on 20th-century models of political action from Lenin to Hitler. . . . This distinction has several implications.

First, modern political movements—unlike ancient religious affiliations—can be tested and broken on the field of battle. Their legitimacy flows from their success, not from the validity of their arguments, and will ebb with failure.

Second, drawing a clear line helps mobilize moderate and pragmatic Muslim forces that are elements of stability within the existing power system. These include Sufi mystics violently targeted by Islamist Salafists, as well as those, like the Egyptian president Mohammed Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who speak the idiom of Islamic modernist “enlightenment” (tanwir) and rationalism (emphasized, for example, in the preamble to the current Egyptian constitution). All of these forces have a vested interest in the defeat of Islamic State (IS), Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, it suggests a workable agenda rather than a millennial war. IS and its ilk can and should be “eradicated” (to use President Trump’s term from his inauguration). Attention should then turn to the Iranian regime and its proxies, notably Hizballah, and subsequently to the Brotherhood and its offshoots, like Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, ISIS, Islamism, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

 

A New Book Tries, and Fails, to Understand the West Bank’s Jews

Aug. 22 2017

In City on a Hilltop, Sara Yael Hirschhorn seeks to explain Israel’s settler movement, rejecting the common misconception that its members are fanatics uniformly motivated by religious zeal and ferocious nationalism. Nonetheless, writes Evelyn Gordon, Hirschhorn fails to look past her own political assumptions:

[R]eaders emerge from [the book] with no clear understanding of what drives the settlement movement. This isn’t surprising, since Hirschhorn admits in her conclusion that she herself has no such understanding: “After discussions with dozens of Jewish-American immigrants in the occupied territories, I still struggled to understand how they saw themselves and their role within the Israeli settlement enterprise.”

Consequently, she’s produced an entire book about settlers that virtually ignores the twin beliefs at the heart of their enterprise: Israel has a right to be in the territories, whether based on religious and historical ties, international law, or both, and Israel has a need to be there, whether for religious and historical reasons, security ones, or both.

This glaring omission seems to stem largely from her inability to take such beliefs seriously. In one noteworthy example, she writes, “While their religio-historical claims to the Gush Etzion area are highly contentious, many settler activists over the past 50 years have asserted Biblical ties to the region.” But what exactly is contentious about that assertion? No serious person would deny that many significant events in the Bible took place in what is now called the West Bank. . . . One could argue that this doesn’t justify Jews living there today, but if you can’t acknowledge that this area is Judaism’s religious and historical heartland, and that many Jews consequently believe that giving it up would tear the heart out of the Jewish state, you can’t understand a major driver of the settlement movement.

Similarly, Hirschhorn pays scant attention to the security arguments for retaining the West Bank, and none at all to Israel’s strong claim to the area under international law. . . . The result is that while most of her settlers don’t come off as fanatics, they often do come off as simpletons—people who became “colonialist occupiers” for no apparent reason, without ever really thinking about it.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Settlements, West Bank