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Lessons from a Critic of Jihadist Poetry

Aug. 30 2017

After dedicating two decades to studying avant-garde Egyptian poetry, Elisabeth Kendall yearned to apply her skills to something more relevant. She focused her attention on jihadist poetry—a robust and ever-growing genre on which she is now the leading Western expert. Both Osama bin Laden and his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote their share of poems; while Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does not, he did devote his doctoral dissertation to the subject. Alex Marshall writes:

Kendall started looking into poems by going online and getting hold of three years’ worth of magazines produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s arm in Yemen. . . . She quickly discovered that poems were featured on almost a fifth of the pages. . . .

The poems Kendall found weren’t simply propaganda. Yes, there were a lot calling for attacks and ones urging people to join the group (“Where are you as Muhammad’s community burns in flames?”), but there were others lamenting dead friends (“I know you’re with Allah . . . but, if I’m honest with myself, I am going to miss you”) and even ones trying to instill conservative values in women. . . .

She discovered that over half were plagiarized from the classical tradition [of Arabic poetry]. Nearly 10 percent turned out, ironically, to be from the pre-Islamic era. . . .

She also surveyed Yemeni tribespeople on poetry (among many other topics), to [see if] it was important to their daily lives—some 84 percent of men and 69 percent of women said it was—and while traveling around she sometimes played her minders jihadist songs from her phone just to gauge their reactions. . . .

Could poetry help turn such people away from jihad? “I think it could,” she says. “I’m not suggesting counter-terrorism experts start writing poetry.” . . . But countries could help fund publications that do promote anti-jihadist poetry written by locals. Kendall insists you can find such poems if you look closely and give people the opportunity to speak. Pseudonyms would be essential, unfortunately.

Read more at BBC

More about: Al Qaeda, Arabic literature, Arts & Culture, Jihadism, Osama bin Laden, War on Terror, Yemen

 

In Pursuing Peace with Saudi Arabia, Israel Must Demand Reciprocity and Keep the Palestinian Question off the Table

Nov. 22 2017

The recent, unprecedented interview given by the IDF chief of staff to a major Arabic news outlet has fed the growing enthusiasm in Israel about the prospects of a peace treaty and mutual recognition between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Mordechai Kedar urges level heads and caution, and puts forward ten principles that should guide any negotiations. Most importantly, he argues that the two countries normalize relations before coming to any agreements about the Palestinians. To this he adds:

The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace. . . . If the Saudis want to live in peace with us, we will stretch out our hands to offer them peace in return. But that is all they will get. Israel [has] been a state for 70 years without peace with Saudi Arabia and can continue being a state for another 7,000 years without it. Any desire for a quick peace (as expressed in the disastrous slogan “Peace Now”) will raise the price of that peace. . . .

[As part of any agreement], Israel will recognize the House of Saud’s rule in Mecca and Medina—even though the family does not originate from the Hejaz [where the holy cities are located] but from the Najd highland—in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its historic and eternal capital city. Israel will recognize Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel as the Jewish state or a state belonging to the Jewish people. . . .

Israel will not allow incitement against Saudi Arabia in its media. In return, the Saudis will not allow anti-Israel incitement in Saudi media. . . .

It is important to keep the Americans and Europeans away from the negotiating table, since they will not be party to the agreement and will not have to suffer the results of its not being honored—and since their interests are not necessarily those of Israel, especially when it comes to the speed at which the negotiations move forward. The Americans want to cut a deal, even a bad deal, and if they are allowed into the negotiation rooms, they will pressure Israel to give in, mainly on the Palestinian issue.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia