A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
A collection of the week's news from Israel
December 28, 2001
Issue number 359
From the PA Media...
Arafat Embraces Terror Organizations By Itamar Marcus and Ruthie Blum
Arafat misleads the world about his relationship to terror organizations. Arafat's message in English to Bush: Terror organizations outlawed. Arafat's message to Palestinians: The PA and the terror organizations are united.
The Palestinian Authority continues to mock the United States and Israel, sending well publicized promises to President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon that it is outlawing terrorist organizations, while sending strong messages of solidarity with the terrorists to the Palestinians. In public displays of adherence to American pressure, the Palestinian Authority declared Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine illegal organizations. Television crews were even invited to film the closing of the organizations' offices. However, last Saturday the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine held a ceremony in honor of its 34th anniversary. Not only did the PA permit the celebration of the "outlawed" organization, but Yasser Arafat sent his Cabinet Secretary to deliver a speech in his name, praising the terrorist organization and lauding the unity of "all [Palestinian] factions". A representative of Hamas also attended. Furthermore, to guarantee that the message of unity reach a wider audience, Sunday's official Palestinian Authority daily published a lengthy front-page article covering the ceremony in great detail. The article included a photo of PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abed Al-Rahman speaking at the event, during which Arafat's delegate expressed disdain for the US and Israel, and claimed that the "[international arena... is being handled] with wisdom and caution, in order to foil the conspiracy of Sharon and his American allies."
Headline: "The PFLP anniversary rally was a display of national unity. [Cabinet Secretary] Abed Al-Rahman delivered the President's address, and emphasized the fortitude and indivisibility of our nation, and its strength in facing the occupation."
"A ceremony marking the 34th anniversary of the establishment of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine turned into a celebration of national unity. During the ceremony, in which the Palestinian Authority and political groups (national and Islamic), as well as public works organizations, stressed their adherence to national unity and to the supreme interest of our people.[in attendance were] Ahmed Abed Al-Rahman - who attended as President Yasser Arafat's representative - political and public figures, in addition to the leadership, top echelons and members of the Popular Front.
"Arafat's representative, Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abed Al-Rahman reiterated the statements made in Arafat's speech regarding the Palestinian Authority' s concern for the security, welfare and continuity of all the factions, and said that he views all the aggression against them as aggression against the Palestinian Authority.
"The Cabinet Secretary discussed the circumstances and changes in the international arena, and their influence on the Palestinian question and on the national struggle. He said that in spite of the hard line that has been adopted, [the international arena is being handled] with wisdom and caution, in order to foil the conspiracy of Sharon and his American allies." [PA official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 23, 2001] (Palestinian Media Watch Dec 23)
Palestinian Authority libel: "Israel steals body parts from Palestinian martyrs to use in hospitals."
By Itamar Marcus and Ruthie Blum
Lies and distortions whose aim is to create revulsion and hatred toward Israelis and Jews are published and broadcast regularly in the Palestinian media. This week an article appeared in the official Palestinian Authority daily in which Israel is accused of using Palestinian body parts for evil purposes.
[Note: This libel is one of a series of false claims made by the PA against Israel over the years. Other examples include: the distribution of poisoned candy to Palestinian schools by means of helicopters; the export of radioactive belts to the Palestinian Authority; the sale of carcinogenic foods to Palestinians; the injection of AIDS; etc.]
Headline: ". The occupying authorities steal body parts from martyrs to use in hospitals"
Excerpts from the text:
". When the occupying authority holds the bodies of martyrs. it does so in order to hide the traces of its crimes. The witnesses and evidence prove that the occupation forces torture the bodies of the martyrs on purpose and fire bullets into them at close range. There are clear indicators that the occupying authorities steal body parts of the martyrs during the holding process, in order to use them in Israeli hospitals, especially for Israeli patients in need of transplants. After they seize the body parts of the martyrs, they bury the corpses.under dubious circumstances, scorning humanitarian values and moral and religious regulations. Legal authorities noted that the occupation's refusal to surrender the bodies of the martyrs to their families is intended to hide the truth of their non-humanitarian practices on the bodies of the martyrs." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec 24] (PMW Dec 24)
Negotiating under Fire Jerusalem Post Editorial
The stage was set. For the first time, after over a year of terrorist attacks and broken cease-fires, the United States finally came to the conclusion that the only solution is to support Israel in the fight against terrorism. The US decision led to unprecedented European and Arab pressure to take action against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
As a result of the pressure, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat publicly called for an end to suicide bombings and mortar attacks, and stated that all Palestinian forces must be under his authority. Arafat's forces made some arrests, and the rate of attacks seems to have gone down.
At the same time, the entire Palestinian terrorist apparatus remains essentially intact, Arafat did not call for an end to the intifada, and Fatah spokesmen insist Arafat did not prohibit terrorism against Israelis in the territories or attacks on soldiers.
In short, substantial progress had been made toward forcing Arafat into the choice that faced the late Taliban regime - either stop harboring terrorists or lose power. Unless the United States decided to fall back on the failed policy of evenhandedness that US President George W. Bush had clearly rejected, it seemed that nothing could save Arafat from the moment of truth that lay ahead. Nothing, it seems, except Israel's own Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Now we find out that Peres has reportedly been negotiating a deal with Palestinian leaders, apparently with the knowledge of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to recognize a Palestinian state and return to final-status negotiations.
It would not be particularly useful to dissect this reported draft non- agreement in detail. But it is already clear that there is a blatant contradiction between the first point of the alleged agreement and the statement issued yesterday by the Prime Minister's Office.
According to that statement, "the entire cabinet decided that the State of Israel will not conduct diplomatic negotiations" until five conditions are met: 1) terrorists are arrested; 2) illegal weapons are collected and turned over to the US; 3) terrorist organizations are dismantled and their leaders arrested; 4) effective counterterrorist operations are taken; and 5) incitement ceases. According to Peres's reported plan, most of these are not preconditions to negotiations, but part of a six-week period in which Israel would end its closures, freeze settlement growth, and transfer funds to the Palestinians.
For months now, Israel has been steadfastly insisting there would be no negotiations under fire. When Sharon visited Bush in Washington before September 11, Israelis bristled at the implication that the Mitchell timeline would be implemented based on the "progress" the US thought it detected at that time.
Now, in contrast, there is no US pressure to negotiate with Arafat based on empty promises, and even the Europeans have demanded that Arafat dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But Peres has no patience for Israel's demands or cabinet decisions. To Peres, evidently, the principle of not negotiating under fire is meaningless - a triviality to be ignored.
We have seen this movie before, with most of the same actors playing the same roles. Peres produced the Oslo agreement behind Yitzhak Rabin's back and presented him with what was largely a fait accompli. Sharon swore he would let neither Arafat nor Peres fool him, but he seems to have walked into the same trap. Sharon, like Rabin, seems to have been tempted by the same logic: let Peres negotiate, my options are open at all times.
The problem is not just that Peres led Israel down such a primrose path before, but that this time a shooting war is going on. The refusal to negotiate under fire was not just an empty slogan; it was the whole reason this government was elected. Sharon was swept into power because Israelis realized that it was suicidal for Israel to make concessions under fire, because there would be no end to either the fire or the concessions.
The current editorial on the Fatah Web site (www.fateh.net) explains how international pressure increased on Arafat after the "Dolphinarium retaliatory operation," and that it increased further after the recent "explosions" in Jerusalem and Haifa. Following these massacres, Arafat's Fatah argues that a strategy is needed to "help us restore the full support of the international community for our rights [including the 'right of return']."
The editorial is careful to explain, however, that "the intifada is not a tool for returning to the negotiating table; it should accompany any future negotiations to enhance the position of Palestinian negotiators." The Palestinians, in other words, reserve the right to continue terrorism against Israel as long as their "rights" have not been achieved, including the "right" to force Israel to commit suicide. Given that the US is no longer pressing Israel to negotiate under such circumstances, it is incomprehensible why the Sharon government would volunteer to do so. (Jerusalem Post Dec 24)
Now That the 'Partner' Is Gone By Limor Livnat
Exactly 20 years ago, the State of Israel, in order to protect its citizens, was forced to drive the PLO from Lebanon. Until Operation Peace for Galilee, Yasser Arafat succeeded in doing in Lebanon what he had failed to do in Jordan: He took parasitic control of a country bordering on Israel by building a military infrastructure and an international terror network, with the intention of waging total war against us.
Israel rescued its neighbors from Arafat twice: Jordan in 1970 and Lebanon in 1982. Today, Israel must rescue itself from that very same person, who, like Frankenstein's monster, must destroy any country that provides him with sanctuary.
The government of Israel has attained an impressive diplomatic achievement, in that both the United States and the European Union support its claim that the Palestinians must eliminate terror immediately and unconditionally.
However, there are those among us, and among our friends, for whom it is difficult to recognize the fact that it is not possible to eliminate the Palestinian terror apparatus without removing the one who built it and continues to head it.
Ever since Arafat's supposed recognition of Israel and of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 in 1988, he has adopted a brilliant strategy which has succeeded, until recently. He convinced Western and Israeli public opinion that he is prepared to compromise and to make a "peace of the brave" with Israel. But at the same time, he built a military infrastructure in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, with the support of Arab countries and terrorist organizations that operate within those areas.
Today, it is abundantly clear to almost everyone that a murderer remains a murderer. Even the perverted lip service of the head of the Palestinian Authority has succeeded in arousing ridicule and rejection.
The time has therefore come to put an end to the nauseating talk regarding Arafat the person: whether he is a partner, or not; whether he is relevant, or not.
The time has come for action on our part. And I do not mean the bankrupt idea of unilateral separation. That idea will not increase security in the slightest. It is but the result of hasty and irresponsible thinking by the same people who supported the Oslo process from its beginning, and throughout its course.
There are three actions that should be taken immediately:
At the end of the 1980s, minister of defense Yitzhak Rabin and foreign minister Moshe Arens began to establish contacts with a pragmatic local leadership. At that time, the PLO murdered some of the local Arab leaders who were willing to compromise with Israel. In 1988, the PLO received legitimacy from the US administration. However, immediately following the Gulf War, the PLO lost this legitimacy and was on the brink of collapse.
That was a golden opportunity to strengthen the local Arab leadership at the expense of the PLO. But the architects of Oslo believed that a weakened PLO was an ideal partner for negotiations. The rest is history.
Ten years later, the same opportunity is repeating itself and Israel must not again play into Arafat's hands. We must build relations of trust with leaders who are from the "inside," those who are prepared to climb down from the tall tree of the PLO's mythology and finally care about the interests of their people.
All of this is achievable only if we stop expressing any agreement for a Palestinian state in wide swaths of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. There must not be a state such as this, and therefore, there must not be any talk encouraging it.
Local leaders with local autonomy, yes. But a state? No!
The writer is Education Minister in the Coalition Government. (Jerusalem Post Dec 24)
Spreading the Greater Lie about Israel By Andrew Sullivan
A gaffe is perhaps best described as what happens when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Among professional practitioners of the political arts this doesn't occur too often. But every now and then the truth emerges.
So God bless the French ambassador. All he was saying is what many also privately believe. That "shitty little country", Israel, has become, among many European elites, the object of hate that dare not speak its name.
I'm not talking merely about editorials that seem to deny the right of Jews to emigrate to Israel; or leaders that come close to blaming Israel itself for the mass murder of its own citizens by Hamas terrorists.
It is simply routine at this point to see "balanced" news reports from the BBC and the broadsheet British press that morally equate the actions of Israeli self-defence with the deliberate murder of civilian Jews by Palestinian terrorists.
While Britain and America are allowed to fight a war against terrorism, Israel is urged to practise self-restraint every time another terrorist massacres another group of civilians in a restaurant or disco.
Supporting Israel as a matter of right versus wrong is almost unheard of in polite society. In normal times, this is lamentable but not disastrous. The Jews know something about survival. They can and will defend themselves.
But in abnormal times, when anti-semitism is spreading across the globe like a brushfire, it is deeply dangerous. Not since the 1930s has such blithe hatred of Jews gained this much acceptability in world opinion.
Across the Arab world, in particular, the past decade or so has seen a shift from mere passive resentment of Jews to a paranoid anti-semitism.
That European elites want to ignore it, or — worse — pander to it, suggests we have learnt nothing from history.
Am I exaggerating? I wish I were.
The massacre of September 11 has merely exposed and accelerated this trend.
In the aftermath, a Gallup poll of Pakistanis found 48% believing that the Jews actually flew the planes into the World Trade Center, after warning their compatriots to stay away.
This unhinged lie was routinely reproduced in dozens of Middle Eastern newspapers and remains the biggest single obstacle to getting Arabs and Muslims to acknowledge Osama Bin Laden's guilt.
Al-Ahram, Egypt's biggest newspaper and the official mouthpiece of the government, controlled by President Hosni Mubarak, recently published a particular gem as a compilation of the "investigative work of four reporters on Jewish control of the world". It stated that: "Jews have become the political decision-makers and control the media in most capitals of the world (Washington, Paris, London, Berlin, Athens, Ankara)." It claimed: "The main apparatus for the Jews to control the world is the international Jewish lobby, which works for Israel."
Or take the official "moderates". Consider the view of the former imam of New York's Islamic Cultural Center, a man described until a short time ago as a western-leaning mullah sent to New York to spread inter-faith understanding. After September 11, he disappeared and then popped up in the Middle East with the following statement: "You see these people (the Jews) all the time everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism and drugs. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world. Now, they are riding on the back of the world powers."
Then there's the Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda: the Muslim-Jewish conflict "resembles the conflict between man and Satan . . . this is the fate of the Muslim nation, and beyond that the fate of all the nations of the world, to be tormented by this nation (the Jews)". Replace the word Muslim with German and you don't have an approximation of Hitler. You have Hitler.
Here's one fact, reported earlier this autumn by Agence France-Presse: Mein Kampf was recently as high as No 6 on the Palestinian bestseller list.
Last week, Reuters ran a photograph that was barely picked up elsewhere. It was a picture of Hezbollah youth brigades gathered in a square and all performing the Nazi salute. If that picture had shown American children doing the same, don't you think it would have been splashed on every front page in the world?
In fact, it is a function of condescending racism to the Arabs that we believe this kind of hate-filled pathology is somehow normal for them. The left is particularly complicit in this evil.
Many western liberals chided America for withdrawing from the Durban conference on racism last August. But that conference was the latest high-water mark for Jew-hating.
The infamous, fabricated tract, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was widely distributed at the meeting. Questioners were shouted down with cries of "Jew! Jew! Jew!"
The Palestinian Authority refuses to include the fact of the Holocaust in its own history books. What about the following statement by one Ali 'Aqleh 'Ursan: "The covetous, racist, and hated Jew Shylock, who cut the flesh from Antonio's chest with the knife of hatred, invades you with his money, his modern airplanes, his missiles, and his nuclear bombs."
Is 'Ursan some fringe extremist? No, he's the chairman of the Arab Writers' Association. There are, of course, completely legitimate criticisms of Israel and Israeli policy that have nothing to do with anti-semitism. The settlements policy of the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is extremely hard to justify. There are Jewish extremists as well; and there is brutality in Israel's conduct in the West Bank and Gaza that deserves rebuke.
But these valid arguments are light years away from the Jew- hating that has been fomented by Arab governments for years and tolerated by western elites for far too long.
Such anti-semitism is the fundamental reason why no peace is possible in the Middle East, because it has so infected every possible Arab interlocutor that Israel simply has nobody to make peace with.
In fact, unless western governments expose and condemn such anti-semitism no peace will ever be possible.
And the minute real pressure is put on the Palestinians by the West, we get results.
Hamas's temporary cessation of suicide bombings in Israel last week is directly related to the Bush administration's clear backing for Israel after the latest terrorist wave.
Appeasement is not necessary for peace. In fact, it perpetuates war. Do we remember anything?
Sixty years ago such hatred of Jews — unchallenged, appeased, excused, ignored — led directly to Auschwitz. Its prevalence now in the Middle East should remove any doubt about the morality of Israel's self-defence in these perilous times and shame anyone who trafficks in it.
Yes, this means that Israel's war against terrorism is the same as our war against terrorism.
And, yes, it is good versus evil all over again.
How much more do we need to know about the nature of Israel's enemies to know whose side we should truly be on? (Sunday Times of London Dec 23)
The Burial of the Oslo Accords Would Not Result in the Funeral for the Dream for Peace By Natan Sharansky
In a recent Israeli government meeting, a senior minister said: 'I don't want to be the gravedigger of the Oslo Accords.' This statement was made while atrocious terror attacks were taking place, and following the expert opinion of security officials who attested in that same meeting that not only is Palestinian Authority [PA] not doing anything in order to prevent terror attacks, but that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, who was one of Oslo's architects, is himself behind these attacks. To the reverberation of the senior minister's statement, I could not help myself but to drift in my imagination to Moscow's Red Square, and to Lenin's Mausoleum, which remains there as a vestige to an antiquated world long gone.
The Soviet Union and Communism were thrown into the garbage can of history long ago. Nevertheless, the body of the man who, more than anything else, symbolizes the Soviet regime, has yet to be brought to eternal rest. The idea to lay Lenin to rest was brought up a few years ago. Those who supported the idea based on political grounds hoped that with this act they would hammer the last nail into the coffin of the Soviet Union's dark and murderous past. Despite that, Lenin's embalmed body eventually remained in its place.
I wonder occasionally as to what was the reason for that decision not to lay Lenin to rest. Apparently, for a few, Lenin's burial would symbolize not only the official end of the Soviet dictatorship but also the shattering of the vision which underlined it: to build a more just and equal society, free of any biases, social or geographic borders.
It looks like the Oslo devotees are facing the same dilemma. The death of the Oslo process is an indisputable fact, and it is apparent in the difficult reality in which we live in. The vast majority of the Israeli public, as well as many in the American administration, understand today that Arafat is an enemy whose goals are not any different from those of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
Even so, there are a few Israeli leaders who are unwilling to lay the Oslo Accords to rest in peace despite the waves of terror brought upon us by Arafat. Instead of treating the Oslo Accords as failed means of bringing peace, for these individuals these accords became the ideal for peace in itself, and the one and only key for a 'New Middle East,' prosperous and free of borders, and which was the object of their dreams.
The Oslo devotees are afraid that as a consequence of the Oslo Accords' death, the public will force them to also eulogize the principles which were the basis for these accords. However, it turns out that noble principles can lead to a grim reality. Communism was created as a tool for the attainment of exalted goals by the proletariat's dictatorship, which oppressed, tortured, and murdered tens of millions of people in the name of equality and justice. The Oslo architects encouraged the establishment of Arafat's dictatorship as a tool to be used for the realization of the vision of peace.
The incomprehensible fear of abandoning the Oslo illusions is causing serious damage to the State of Israel. The fact that a part of the Israeli leadership is investing efforts in reviving the Oslo Accords while the other part is attempting to stop those efforts is creating a situation where the political debate remains fenced in the Oslo trap. Furthermore, Oslo's basic defect is the erroneous belief that it is possible to attain peace that is not based on deterrence with an undemocratic partner. He who encouraged the establishment of a Palestinian dictatorship in our back yard should not be surprised by the presence of unrelenting terror, which is nothing but a survival mechanism of the dictatorial regime.
Those politicians, both Israeli and foreign, who insist on coming back to the same notion which strengthen and legitimize Arafat and his dictatorial regime, waste their time on a mistaken peace concept which took its last breath a long time ago.
Instead of continuing to groom the Palestinian dictatorship since 'there is no other partner,' it is incumbent upon them to help the Palestinians in creating a democratic society, whose leadership will devote time to the betterment of its residence rather than to wars with others. Until such times, there will be neither peace nor stability.
Just as Lenin's burial would not bring an end to the hope that it is possible to build a better world here, the burial of the Oslo Accords would not result in the funeral for the dream for peace between our neighbors and us. On the contrary, only with the acknowledgment in the death of these accords will Israelis and Palestinians be able to open up to new ideas and to advance towards finding true solutions to the region's ills. (MEMRI / Ha’aretz Dec 19)
Freedom and the Arab World: Terrorism thrives where people aren't free. By Joshua Muravchik
In the aftermath of September 11, the rulers or cabinet ministers of Iran, Malaysia, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia urged America to focus on the "root causes of terrorism." A good case can be made, however, that they themselves are the "root cause." The fact that the September 11 killers almost all came from one of the richest countries on earth, Saudi Arabia, and were mostly middle class themselves, makes nonsense of the conventional wisdom that poverty is the underlying source of terrorism. Rather, what is most distinctive about the Islamic world, where most modern terrorism germinates, is the prevalence of autocratic and tyrannical government.
This reality is brought into dramatic relief by data released this week by Freedom House in its authoritative annual survey, "Freedom in the World." The spread of democracy spurred by the end of the Cold War has made elected government the norm around the globe--except in Islamic countries. The new study shows that of the 47 countries with mostly Muslim populations, fewer than one quarter are "electoral democracies," while more than three quarters of the world's other 145 governments are.
This is only the beginning of the disparity. Freedom House assesses whether a country is an electoral democracy and whether it is "free." The latter is a much tougher standard. Not that Freedom House uses the term "democracy" loosely as some people did in the old days of "people's democracies." To be counted democratic a country must have fair and competitive elections. Still, many democracies, especially the new ones, have not yet firmly established the rule of law, due process, independence of the press, and the like, so they are counted by Freedom House as only "partly free." To qualify as "free," a country must have democratic elections as well as a gamut of civil liberties and citizens' rights.
Lots of countries do meet this standard. Of the non-Muslim countries, 58 percent are "free" and only 14 percent are "not free," i.e., strict dictatorships. The remaining 28 percent fall in that middling category of "partly free." But among the Muslim countries the proportions are reversed. Only one country--Mali--out of 47 ranks as free, 2 percent of the group. Thirty-eight percent are partly free, and a whopping 60 percent are "not free." The 47 Muslim-majority states, in other words, account for a majority of the world's "not free" states. Moreover, Freedom House also provides a list of the least free nations, based on its meticulous scoring of various kinds of liberty. The "worst of the worst," it calls them. No fewer than 7 out of this rogues' gallery of 10 are predominantly Islamic states--Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan (before the B-52s got there). Only Burma, Cuba, and North Korea rival them in repression.
These striking political discrepancies cannot be attributed to the overall underdevelopment of the Islamic group in comparison with the West, for the contrast shows up within regions. For example, of the 15 states that once made up the Soviet Union, 6 have Muslim majorities and 9 do not. Of the former, 5 are not free, and the best one (Azerbaijan) is only partly free. Among the 9 non-Muslim post-Soviet states the picture is brighter: Three are free, 5 partly free, and only one (Belarus) rates a "not free." In Asia there are 7 mostly Muslim countries, none of which is free: Three are partly free, while 4 are not free. In comparison, freedom is flourishing among Asia's 32 other countries: Eighteen, a solid majority, are free, while 7 each are partly free and not free. A similar pattern is evident in Africa, where 20 states have Muslim majorities, and only one of these, Mali, is free, with 9 partly free and 10 not free. The 33 African states that do not have Muslim majorities present a different picture: Eight are free, 15 partly free, and 10 not free.
The ratings in Africa also dispel the notion that lack of freedom is itself merely a reflection of economic backwardness. True, social scientists find a significant correlation between democracy and the wealth of countries. But the 53 African states as a group have an average income (equivalent to about $2,300 per person) that is less than half of the average among the 47 Muslim-majority states, and yet there is appreciably more freedom and democracy in Africa than among the Muslim states. Indeed, since the two groups overlap, the Muslim members pull the ratings of the African group down; while the Africans elevate the overall ratings of the Muslim states. Indeed, they account for 7 of the paltry 11 electoral democracies. Mali, that sole exemplar of freedom in a majority-Muslim country, underscores the weakness of economic explanations. It is one of the world's poorest countries, with an average income around $700 per person.
None of these damning numbers proves that Islam is inherently incompatible with freedom and democracy. A generation ago, before the spread of democracy in Asia, it was often said that Confucian values were inimical to democracy. And a generation before that, when democracy had withered in Latin America, Italy, Spain, and Poland, much the same was said about Catholicism. Now such generalizations sound like bigoted ignorance.
Weighing further against the assumption of a fixed Islamic affinity for repressive governance is Freedom House's striking observation that the state of freedom has deteriorated among the Muslim countries in the last 20 years while freedom has been growing faster than ever all around them. If the problem were inherent, then why would it be worsening? More likely it stems from some dynamic causes, especially the rise of radical Islam, which has encouraged repression on the part of those regimes that are influenced by it as well as those that are trying to stamp it out. Probably, too, the obsessive hatred of Israel that has been the centerpiece of Arab political culture in the current era has had a self-poisoning effect. It is the Arab world, in particular, that makes the status of freedom among Muslims as bleak as it is; in comparison, shoots of freedom are visible in Islamic countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Mali, Nigeria), Europe (Turkey, Albania), and South Asia (Bangladesh, Indonesia).
This climate of unfreedom is the swamp where terrorism breeds. The repression, humiliation, and violence that are the daily portion of people living under autocratic regimes nurture rage and fanaticism. And the absence of a free press seems to cause a kind of epistemological retardation conducive to paranoia and lunatic conspiracy theories (e.g., "the Mossad did it"). Moreover, the lack of democracy means not only that grievances go unaddressed but also that people fail to learn the virtues of moderation and compromise.
The implications of all this are quite different from what those who raise the issue of "root causes" intend. Far from pointing toward a relaxation of military efforts, it suggests that the more terror-loving tyrannies the United States can topple the better. Not only will their demise clear the ground where seeds of freedom may then take root, but the example will embolden and inspire those who dream of freedom in the region.
This is not to say that military methods are sufficient in themselves. They should be complemented by a sustained effort to foment political change in the Islamic world. Conventional wisdom doubts our ability to export democracy, even while many voices are raised in favor of new "Marshall Plans" to stimulate economic development in the Middle East and elsewhere. Experience shows, however, that we have had more success in spreading democracy than in inducing economic development. If we put that experience to work in the Middle East, buttressed by battlefield campaigns against the tyrants who sponsor terror, we can go far in stamping out terrorism and its root causes. (Weekly Standard Dec 31)
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.