It’s all but official. Despite strong opposition from Arab allies, not to mention our NATO partners in Europe, it seems we’re headed for Round 2 of the 1991 Gulf war against Iraq. Not only are U.S. officials once again stepping up their rhetoric against Baghdad, but President George W. Bush himself last Monday issued an ominous three-word answer to the question of what happens if Saddam Hussein does not permit UN inspectors back into his country. “He’ll find out” was the terse reply.
“[T]his country of ours is kidnapped, hijacked by groups that call themselves Islamic but in truth use Islam as a cover and a garb for political goals.” So says Shaikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s former oil minister, information minister, and ambassador to the United States. Yes, indeed, but where did these groups come from? And who else in Kuwait has used Islam as a cover and a garb for political goals while in the process creating the monsters that so distress Shaikh Saud today?
Despite the seemingly upbeat political and media analysis coming from all corners, violence will not come to an end in Israel and Palestine until Israel ends its military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. “Violence,” be it used to describe legitimate resistance by a people under an illegal, military, foreign occupation, or be it state-orchestrated activities that violate International Law, United Nations Resolutions, and defy outright humanity, are natural components to foreign military occupation.
With the assassination of right-wing Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians is once again on the front burner. In the coming days, neither side of this bitter conflict will be at a loss for rhetoric to explain their positions.
In response to the assassination of rightwing Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi Israeli forces entered El Bireh, Jenin and Al-Azeria east of Jerusalem, taking control of the areas and declaring curfews and assassinated Fatah activist Atef Abayat. The military operations may spread to additional areas.
Muslim intellectuals and thinkers have had to contend with the power of the West and the power of Western ideas while interpreting and understanding the condition of the Muslim community. Many, like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (India), Muhammad Abduh (Egypt), and Muhamamd Khatami (Iran), openly admired the West for its achievements and have even remarked that the West was “Islam without Muslims.” For them the West was indeed worthy of emulation in many areas, such as democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of law, and dedication to science.
Whether or not the shaky cease-fire in effect since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States holds, the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace remain dim.
The use of military force for self-defense is legitimate under international law. Military force for retaliation is not. The magnitude of these initial air strikes raises not only serious legal and moral questions but political concerns as well, as it will likely set back the fight against terrorism.
One of Israel’s founding Ministers of Education and Culture, Professor Ben-Zion Dinur (1954), said it most sharply; “In our country there is room only for the Jews. We shall say to the Arabs: Get out! If they don’t agree, if they resist, we shall drive them out by force.” (History of the Haganah) With this theme as the explicit backdrop of a newly established State, it is no wonder that Israel has had little chance of being a normal member of the community of nations.
America’s main strategic goal in the Middle East is to secure the supply of oil. In this light, what is the place of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The Clinton administration thought that solving it was the chief precondition for stability in the Gulf. President George W. Bush, in contrast, at first gave top priority to bringing down Saddam Hussein. This would convince the Arab world, he thought, that it had no options left but to stick with America.