Playing to Win in Gaza

Playing to Win in Gaza

Created 2009-01-09 10:12

As the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip nears the end of its second week, two things are clear: first, that it will come to some sort of internationally brokered end; and second, that it will end thus because there is no other end that Israel will countenance. This is not to say that there is no other end Israel wants, but it cannot have what it wants — Hamas will neither be destroyed nor neutered — and so the question of the end is a question of what it may have. For all the vitriol the Jewish state receives every time it attacks those who attack it — be it a Vatican hierarch invoking the Holocaust(!), or the United Nations harrumphing about the sanctity of its property — the ground truth is that Israel lacks the bloody-mindedness to end things as it might, and as its enemies certainly would.

To illustrate this, we must look to the terrible numbers from the field of battle — or rather, the alleyways and gutted apartment blocks wherein Hamas chooses to fight. For all the grief and horror at the deaths of “civilians” in Gaza (and the word must be in quotes, not because there are none, but because apart from the young they are so tremendously difficult to definitively identify), the cold fact is that the IDF has done an admirable job of safeguarding the lives of the Gazan population. If, after nearly two weeks of modern war, only a few hundred out of just under 1.5 million, in a region with an average density of over ten thousand persons per square mile, are dead — and if the number of dead includes combatants — this is nothing short of extraordinary. To state this is not to belittle or dismiss the very real and legitimate horror of the dead, nor the grief that their loved ones endure. A keening mother in Gaza is comforted by the assiduousness of the IDF no more than the grieving mother in Colorado is soothed by America’s historically low casualties in Iraq. In acknowledging the commendably few deaths in Gaza, we must also acknowledge the lonely black pit of loss that renders the death of one indistinguishable from the end of the world.

The careful restraint of Israel at war is not a regrettable thing, except in the realm of amoral power politics: indeed, it is a signal reason we of the non-Jewish, non-Israeli world ought to prefer Israel to its neighbors in sentiment and policy. However much the Muslim population of Israel and Palestine might resent its fate under Jewish rule, it nonetheless enjoys a better existence than Jewish populations under Muslim rule — which is to say, it has a meaningful existence to speak of. Again, this is not to ignore the baleful realities of that existence, which is, after all, rife with petty humiliations ranging from the insensate bureaucracy of movement controls to the banal abuse of fanatic Zionists. Yet if the Xhosa have not exterminated the Afrikaners, nor the Southern blacks the Southern whites, why demand or expect less of the Palestinians? Are they not, to borrow a phrase, men and brothers? Why, then, the peculiar degradation of culture and impulse that compels a relentless violence? The notion, so fondly adhered to by so many, that both sides in this war are moral equals, or at least equally morally degraded, is a fiction that rests upon an invincible ignorance of history.

There are a thousand illustrative anecdotes to call upon, but one suffices: that of the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem’s center in 1967. For the preceding twenty years of Muslim rule, Jews were barred from their holy sites therein, and the majority of the Jewish graves in the millennia-old cemetery on the Mount of Olives were destroyed or paved over. By contrast, when the Israeli infantry drove the Jordanians from the medieval warren of the Old City, the conquering General Uzi Narkiss refused a clerical plea to reclaim the Muslim Dome of the Rock — and Moshe Dayan ordered its administration handed to the Muslim Waqf. To imagine that Israel’s enemies would treat it as well is to indulge in fantasy. We have little data on the fate of Jews and Jewish sites in Muslim hands after 1967, but what have seen — notably in the 2000 ransacking of Joseph’s Tomb — justifies no hope.

If we prefer Israel, then, it falls to us to ensure that its deficiencies in the amoral realm of power politics are not fatal. The long-term survival of the Jewish state is a factor neither of righteousness nor morality, except inasmuch as that survival is righteous or moral. We may forgive Israelis for believing this, but we ourselves need not. Rather, it befits Americans to enable Israel to survive and flourish without subsuming its behavior to those imperatives. Precisely because we do not wish for Israel to conclude, as it rationally might, that its survival depends upon the end of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim habitation of old Palestine, we should conduct our policy now with an eye toward precluding that conclusion.

This is easier said than done, and it may not be do-able at all, but it has the virtue of being the moral course. We can do our best to make the coming ersatz peace something more than it will be; we can foster economic development for the great masses of idle Palestinian labor; we can cooperate in the strangling of fanatic movements like Hamas; and we can demand more of Palestine than it demands of itself.

The ultimate success of these efforts, though, is out of our hands. In the end, the Palestinian polity is the creation of Palestinians. This is simultaneously as it should be, and the most dreadful portent for the future. Yielding the great dream — of the end of Zionism, of the destruction of the Jews, of the ravaging of their holy places — makes sense only in the definitive demonstration of its unattainability. The enemies of Israel are unpersuaded, having seen the Zionist state yield mile upon mile in the past decade, having seen Israel lose a war in Lebanon, having compared the raw facts of demographics, and having seen the world weary of this Jewish statelet and its inconvenient struggles. They rightly believe they will be a majority in time. They rightly believe their material weakness is not perpetual. They rightly believe that Israel wants to stop playing this game: and so they play to win it.


We Will Establish Islamic Rule From Alaska & Chile to South Africa, & From Japan to Russia – Beware, We Are Coming”

THE MIDDLE EAST MEDIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Special Dispatch – No. 2181

January 9, 2009 No. 2181

In-Depth Report on Shabab Al-Mujahideen in Somalia – Activists Demolish Churches: “We Will Establish Islamic Rule From Alaska & Chile to South Africa, & From Japan to Russia – Beware, We Are Coming”

Following are excerpts from TV reports on the Somali terror organization Shabab Al-Mujahideen, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV and Al-ArabiyaTV in November and December 2008.

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“Shabab Foreign Fighters Have Joined Their Ranks”

Al-Jazeera TV, December 20, 2008:

Reporter: “In March 2008, the Shabab Al-Mujahideen group appeared in Somalia. Its members have managed to take the dynamics of war to a new level. This extremely secret group has been placed by the U.S. on its list of so-called terrorist groups. Members of this movement conceal their identity.”

Abu Mansour: “We are fighting to remove oppression and colonialism from our country. We are defending ourselves against those who attacked us. Once we succeed, we will fight to end oppression in other places in the world.”

Reporter: “This is the city of Marka, which is located 90 km from Mogadishu. This is one of the few places controlled by the Shabab Al-Mujahideen, who filled a political vacuum, while they continue to fight in Mogadishu. Shabab Al-Mujahideen controls large parts of the center of Somalia, and they are growing stronger day by day.”

Ibrahim Al-Maqdasi: “We want to inform Bush and our rivals about our real intentions. We will establish Islamic rule from Alaska and Chile to South Africa, and from Japan to Russia. Beware, we are coming.”

Reporter: “One of the main principles of the Shabab Al-Mujahideen is to view all Muslims as Somalis, and so, many foreign fighters have joined their ranks.”

Abu Mansour: “We welcome any Muslim from anywhere in the world who wants to join us. We will allow him to marry our daughters and share our crops. Many have died fighting for our cause, and others are here with us.

“Shabab Al-Mujahideen controls all the communities under their rule, and they keep calling upon the population to join them. The response of the population is mostly positive, because for the first time in two decades, they face a genuine rule, which had managed to restore some of the peace they had lost.” [...]

 

 

 

Al-Jazeera TV, December 19, 2008:

Reporter: “The hammers of the armed men of Shabab Al-Mujahideen in Kismayo rain down upon the tombs of Sufi sheikhs. As far as they are concerned, worshipping by tombs constitutes polytheism, and the shari’a must be implemented in every place they control after fighting. These small mosques, or maqamat, as they are called by the Sufis, have existed in Somalia since the days of yore, but now, these places lead people astray, according to the armed men, who belong to the Jihadi Salafi movement. The same principle applies to churches. Here in Kismayo, a Catholic church was built 60 years ago, but it was reduced to rubble, even though no Christian set foot in it for two decades, because no Christians live in Kismayo anymore. The armed men intend to build a mosque in its place.”

Hassan Ya’qoub: “We are a people chosen by Allah to spread the Islamic shari’a throughout Somalia.”

Reporter: “In the town of Marka, Al-Jazeera TV witnessed the public implementation of the shari’a. Three men convicted of drug abuse and trafficking were sentenced to 40 lashes. Like in the shari’a, the purpose of conducting the flogging in public is to deter others. Such summary trials have gained the support of some Somalis, who have suffered from the absence of the rule of law, due to the absence of the rule of the state, because of the civil war that has raged for decades.”

Man: “We are 100% behind the efforts of the Islamic administration.”

Woman: “We are pleased that the Islamists are here. We enjoy peace now, and crime is declining.”

Reporter: “Others, however, complained that the implementation of the shari’a has taken away what they refer to as the “other opinion.” Shabab Al-Mujahideen adhere to their methods. They are now the strongest armed militia in Somalia. Their rivals, however, view them as a group of extremists who must be deterred.” [...]

 

“Do Not Recognize International Law or Any Man-made Laws; This [Islamic State] Must Not Turn to Either the East or the West”

Al-Arabiya TV, November 21, 2008:

Reporter: “For several decades, the smell of gunpowder has not subsided in the Horn of Africa. The Islamic violence in Somalis, which only recently declined, is quickly returning with a new form of fighting. Al-Qaeda is again in Somalia – in a new form and with local leaders, instead of the leaders familiar from the early 1990s, when the struggle against the American military presence erupted. As soon as the rule of the Islamic Courts Union [ICU] was overthrown, when the Ethiopian forces entered Somalia in support of the regime, Islamic cells began to use violence, establishing an organization which follows in Al-Qaeda’s footsteps, but which they named the Shabab Al-Mujahideen movement.

“The Somali organization resembles Al-Qaeda in everything, except for swearing allegiance to Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, Al-Qaeda, for its part, was not tardy in supporting the [Somali] organization. [Al-Qaeda] leaders issued appeals to join the fighters in Somalia, first by Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and then by another leader, Abu Yahya Al-Libi.”

Abu Yahya Al-Libi: “Do not settle for anything less than an independent Islamic state. Do not recognize international law or any man-made laws. This [Islamic state] must not turn to either the East or the West.”

Ayman Al-Zawahiri: “I say to my brothers, the lions of Islam in Somalia: Rejoice in your victory, as America licks its wounds in Iraq, and Ethiopia is looking for a way out. This is why the stage of plots and conspiracies has begun. Adhere to the rights for which you have sacrificed your lives. Do not lay down your weapons before the mujahideen state of Islam and monotheism is established in Somalia.”

Reporter: “The field operations of the Somali organization, which split from the ICU, are spreading day by day. The attacks become more sophisticated, ranging from the targeting of the Ethiopian army or the Somali government, to imposing military control on neighborhoods and small towns, around the capital of Mogadishu. Although the Somali group did not swear allegiance to the Al-Qaeda organization in Afghanistan or Pakistan, its field tactics and its use of systematic electronic activity constitute a cloning of Al-Qaeda’s expertise in this field. The combat tactics which are used in Iraq, such as mines, mortars, and the kidnapping of foreigners, may have appeared in response to a call by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in a video aired at the beginning of 2007.

“As in the case of the Iraqi Al-Qaeda, the Somali organization turned to media propaganda. It began issuing an electronic newsletter called Millat Ibrahim. It began documenting most of its operations on video and audio tape, ranging from small attacks to incursions and into cities and controlling them.

“It’s noteworthy that the organization is conducting a violent campaign against ICU leaders who joined the political process and agreed to reconciliation, or to negotiations, in an attempt to reach an acceptable settlement to the crises in Somalia. Sheikh Sharif, the leader of the Islamic Courts Union, was described as an apostate in publications of Shabab Al-Mujahideen. This might indicate an escalation of the conflict with the Islamic Courts Union, even though Shabab Al-Mujahideen emerged from the womb of the ICU.

“One of the most common methods of recruiting suicide bombers and encouraging them to sign up for the organization’s operations list is to issue short films recounting the life story of the suicide bomber, and documenting the last moments of his life.”

 

“I’ll Put a Bullet in the Head of the Infidels, and I’m Ready to Do It”

Young man (in English): “… while the name of the Prophet Muhammad is being dragged down, and the face of the [Islamic] nation is being dragged down, and the face of Islam is being dragged down, and so on. But me, I’ll tell you one thing. I’ll put a bullet in the head of the infidels, and I’m ready to do it. Allah willing, the ‘saved sect’ will lie in wait for each and every dog the infidels bring, and the infidels who bring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. We will put bullets in their heads. Allah willing, we will bomb ourselves. Each and every place you find them. Allah Akbar.”

Reporter: “The Somali organization split away from the Islamic Courts Union after the latter gave up its military activity, and engaged in political negotiations. That is when the organization in the field split into two. The military wing, called the Al-’Asra Army, is responsible for combat operations, while the security wing, called the Al-Hesba Army, is responsible for establishing security and order in the areas controlled by Al-’Asra Army.

“The rise of the Somali organization would never have taken place if not for the absence of the regime throughout Somalia, and its weak security control. This was also accompanied by an increase in piracy in the Indian Ocean. This situation repeats itself in many cases in the Islamic world, and the case of Afghanistan and the Taliban’s ability to rule the country is the most well-known and powerful example.” [...]

 

“The Mujahideen are the Government in This Country”

Al-Jazeera TV International (Qatar), January 4, 2009 (the following appeared in English):

Sheikh Muqtar Robow, spokesman for Shabab Al-Mujahideen: “Shabab Al-Mujahideen is an Islamist-Salafi movement that wants to implement shari’a completely – every single element of it. That’s what the movement stands for.”

Interviewer: “So what are your objectives, and what are you fighting for?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “Our objectives, by the grace of God, are to see the return of the Islamic Caliphate, the last of which was the Ottoman empire that collapsed in the 1920s. We want to bring that system back and govern the world with God’s law.

“We stand for the eradication of oppression and aggression from the world. We are here to protect the weak – that’s what we are fighting for. We have been commanded by God to fight such tendencies. He says in the Koran: ‘Fight until there is no misguidance, and until all religions lead to God.’ Equating God with other beings is misguidance. We have been commanded to fight until there is no one claiming to be a god on Earth. We want the constitution of the world to be the word of God, and for everyone to have access to justice.”

Interviewer: “So your objective is not just to fight in Somalia but to extend your fighting beyond Somalia and to the world?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “Islam is universal, and so are Muslims. The message from God that was spread by Prophet-Messenger Muhammad is also universal. God told the Messenger: ‘We sent you as nothing else but mercy to the world.’ Anyone spreading the message of Prophet-Messenger Muhammad must bear in mind all human beings – whether in the United States, Asia, or Europe – and bear in mind that they understand the religion well. Once we are successful in ending Somalia’s problems, then we shall spread God’s mercy and His law to the rest of the world.”

Interviewer: “Who appointed you? Who asked you to perform this task?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “It is a responsibility God placed on all Muslims – to defend and fight for the religion. He ordered them to fight and commanded them to be prepared at all times. God says: ‘Against them prepare your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of God and your enemies.’ When God says ‘prepare yourselves,’ He is talking to the multitudes of people who are united. When God says ‘fight them,’ He is talking to a group of people. He was not addressing a single person. So this is required from every Muslim.

“But our situation in Somalia today is different. We were attacked in our own home. I haven’t attacked Ethiopia or Kenya. I live in the country where I was born, and where I’m being subjected to all kinds of atrocities. We are defending ourselves against our external enemies who attacked us. Even animals defend themselves. If you lock a cat in a room, beat it up, and block its exit – then it will definitely fight back and defend itself. Even small birds in their nests will instinctively protect their eggs.

“First of all, we aspire to free ourselves from occupation and oppression. After that we will take the fight outside our country, as I told you. It is not essential that it happens in my lifetime. This cause will continue whether we are alive or not. It was promised by God. In this life, first, there was prophethood. Our prophet predicted that there would be caliphates, and that after that, there would be kings who would torment people, followed by dictatorships. And this is what we are witnessing today. The Prophet also predicted that after that, we would return to the caliphates, based on his teachings. That’s what we believe in. We also believe that we will defeat those who have caused aggression against us. We were told by God. It is in our hearts and is a source of joy for us.

“I believe that if I die before realizing that goal, my children and their children will reach it. If I die, I expect to go to Paradise, and as long as I am alive, I will live a valuable life. Right now, the infidels have come from all directions to fight us. I still live a life of respect. I travel to wherever I like, I sleep and walk to anywhere I want. I thank God for all that.”

Interviewer: “Now, Abu Mansour, you are in control of some parts of Southern Somalia, you are also fighting in Mogadishu – what are actually your objectives for Somalia as a country?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “As you can see for yourself, there is peace in areas under our control, while there is chaos where the Ethiopian forces and Somali government troops control. People are robbed, raped, and troubled – you yourself know. When we took control of this area, people were terrorized and being made to pay illegal taxes. Today, we have brought them peace at no cost to them.

“Our vision for Somalia is to show the people who their real enemies are. Once they identify their enemies and remove them from among themselves, reconciling them will be very easy. This is the easiest nation to reconcile, they are all Muslims and Sunnis. There are no Shiites among them. They are also all followers of the teachings of Imam Shafe’i. They have just been divided by their enemies who incited them against each other. It is Ethiopia that has refused to let this country settle. Europe and the United States are also culprits in the Somalia conflict. If they left it alone, it would take just a single day to unite Somalia, and then we shall govern the country using shari’a.

[...]

“If terrorism is a description for aggression, brutality, and those who destroy life and property for no reason, then the United States is a terrorist itself – but if it means defending oneself and one’s country, then we are terrorists. When a goat is slaughtered, it must struggle, and there is even a possibility of its blood staining your clothes. The United States and its slaves are telling us: We will slaughter you, and if your blood stains us, then you are terrorists. If you struggle, and use your legs to hit us, then you are terrorists. If defending our occupied country and our religion will make us terrorists, then we are terrorists.

“We are happy to terrorize the enemy of God. Ensuring that the Ethiopians and Ugandans get no sleep in Somalia is an act of worship for us. We are happy whenever we attack them. It takes us closer to our Lord.

“America is the terrorist. We were attacked in our own country. America is encouraging aggression in our own country. It attacked Dobley with cruise missiles, killing civilians and livestock. It attacked people in Dhuusamarreeb. America is just trying to show us its might and power. We are happy to be included on the list of terrorist organizations, as we have stated before. If that makes us terrorists, then that’s what we are happy to be. Our only regret is that we are number 41 on that list, and not number one.

[...]

“We have already stated that we do not believe that there is a government in this country. For example, you yourself may have passed through Dobley and Kismayo, and are now in the capital of the lower Shabebele region. In all these places you passed through – did you see any government presence other than the Mujihideen? No. The Mujihdeen are the government in this country. They perform all the roles of a government. The group you are talking about controls just a small part of Mogadishu and Baidoa town only, and there is fighting going on in these places as well.

“I would be happy to take you to Mogadishu. I would encourage you to go and see for yourself the Bay and Bakool regions, and central Somalia. All there is just a government in name only that has been created in Kenya by Ethiopia. We have never and will never recognize it. It is only when you recognize an entity that you can sit down and speak to it. We do not think it is worth talking to, and we haven’t signed agreements with it, and we never will. Whoever talks to it and joins it will be considered part and parcel of that entity.”

Interviewer: “Are you saying that you are not ready, as a group, to talk peace with anyone?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “We are not at all ready to talk to those men. We recognize them as war criminals. They brought the enemies of God to the country. They declared war on the people of Somalia. They killed their relatives and destroyed the capital. They have destroyed the entire country. We recognize these men, who have been brought in Ethiopia’s tanks, as culprits. We do not consider them Muslims since they are in negotiations with the enemy, and they are part and parcel of its forces, wearing its uniform, and carrying its weapons. They have rejected God’s commandments and are misguided.

“We urge them to just repent and seek forgiveness from the Lord, and then return to the people, take up their guns, and fight the enemy they brought into the country, because the enemy forces will not listen if we ask them to leave today. Let them join the fight to remove the enemy force. Those who repent to God will then have to face the people who have the choice of either forgiving them for the crimes they have committed, or trying them in court. Those men you hear are war criminals, who have committed huge crimes against the nation, and they will one day be taken to task.

“We are ready to talk to anyone who is not a war criminal and who doesn’t support the enemies of Somalia. We are ready to talk to the Somali public, its clerics, and intellectuals. We will talk to them about the country’s future, and how to correct all mistakes, on how to bring peace to the country. We are ready to talk to them about all matters concerning this country, but we will never talk to those in league with the enemy.”

Interviewer: “You are talking about the establishment of a shari’a state in Somalia, but what if the Somali people say they want a democratic system of governance? What would be your response to them?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “They will not say that. The people have experienced democracy. They tasted democratic governance in the sixties. We had a communist system of governance, and then clan wars and chaos. They had some calm under the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006. They can compare all these governments and systems. They praise the six months of the ICU’s rule. They also praise our current system. Democracy says the will is of the people, while God says the will is His, and no one else’s. There is no one to be worshipped but Him.

“The Somali people will never ask for democracy. We are not saying that our movement will lead this country, but if we found a person the community unanimously accepts and who is ready to govern the country according to the shari’a – then we shall become his soldiers. But our aim is to ensure that there is no king on this earth other than God. If we die pursuing this cause, then we will have died in dignity.”

Interviewer: “The people of Somalia have faced conflict for the past two decades, and now you are talking about a war which has no end – don’t you think that is very unfair to them?”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “This is necessary conflict. We have not crossed anyone’s borders yet. We will fight anyone who fights us inside our country, with all our might. One day we shall also go into their borders and fight them. We will repay those who killed our children and mothers, and demolished their houses by destroying their homes. We will make them suffer the same fate as our people. An eye for an eye is part of justice. I’m talking about Ethiopia, Uganda, and Burundi.

“Any party that carried out aggression against our country and its people should await our revenge, even if it takes 100 years. We will tell our kids all about it. We will teach them in school the atrocities meted out against their people. We will never forget, ever.

“You hear the enemies of God – the Western powers – talking all the time about atrocities committed in Darfur. Don’t they see what is happening in Somalia? That is the folly of America’s view of justice. It is blinkered. They don’t see what’s happening in Somalia. All these atrocities are their own creation. They are behind all of this. If those of us who are alive now cannot achieve revenge against those who perpetrated aggression against us, then we will put it in our wills and state all the problems they caused us. The atrocities committed against Somalia will not go unpunished. They can choose whether to increase or reduce them – it’s up to them.”

Interviewer: “You have accused your opponents of carrying out killings against civilians, but you too are also accused of carrying out killings against civilians.”

Sheikh Muqtar Robow: “We do not kill our people. One of the reasons why I am carrying this gun is to protect my people and our faith. We are commanded by God to protect the weak in society. God says: ‘Why are you not fighting to defend the weak – men, women, and children who have nowhere to turn to.’ We are not the ones who kill, they are. It is the Ethiopians and their spies who kill civilians. Sometimes clan clashes could happen in Mogadishu, or petty robberies like the theft of mobile phones. We will never kill our people. When we came here, there were numerous roadblocks, where people were being robbed and killed. We are involved in securing their areas, and ensuring that their suffering is lessened. No one is killed in areas under our control, but if you go to Mogadishu, people are dying every day.”

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