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Avi Shlaim Doesn't Quite Know What To Do
Benny Morris's new book on Israel's war of survival against the Musllm Arabs, has been reviewed by Avi Shlaim, of St. Antony's College (Middle East Division), which until recently was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Arab League (Local Director: Albert Hourani, who behaved like a plump abbot dispensing his favours).
At the end of his review Shlaim writes:
"The only major departure from the evidence, and from common sense, is the stress on the jihadi character of the two-stage Arab assault on the Jewish community in Palestine. Echoing Samuel Huntington's silly and superficial notion of a "clash of civilisations", Morris depicts the 1948 war as "part of a more general, global struggle between the Islamic east and the west". The empirical evidence for this view is utterly underwhelming, consisting as it does of a collection of random quotes. The bulk of the evidence presented in the book suggests that the first Arab-Israeli war was essentially a contest between two national movements over a piece of territory. Despite this one serious lapse of judgment, the book is likely to stand out for many years as the most detailed, dispassionate and comprehensive account we have of the war for Palestine."
So for Avi Shlaim it is a "departure from common sense" to think that Muslim Arabs would go to war against Israel for Muslim Arab reasons. He thinks that the Total Belief-System of Islam, which is far more than a religion in the Western sense, that offers the Complete Regulation of LIfe, that contains a Politics and Geopolitics at least as important as the rituals -- the Five Pillars -- of worship, that sets out quite clearly the duty of Jihad, pursued traditionally through qitaal or combat, but at present is pursued most effectively neither through qitaal nor that version, for Muslims, of qitaal that we Infidels have no difficulty in descrying, and describing, as terrorism, but rather through deployment of the Money Weapon, of campaigns of Da'wa, and of demographic conquest -- no, for Avi Shlaim and all the non-Muslim apologists for Islam, not only the assorted avi-shlaims but the john-espositos and karen-armstrongs of this world, the hundreds of Western scholars of Islam, from Joseph Schacht to C. Snouck Hurgronje, and Henry Lammens and Edmond Fagnan, and Arthur Jeffrey and K. S. Lal, and St. Clair Tisdall, and so many others, samples of their work now available in the source-book "The Legacy of Jihad" -- all of that, in the view of Avi Shlaim, doesn't matter.
He is not, Avi Shlaim, a scholar of Islam. He's a disaffected Israeli, who finds his life endowed with meaning in that very disaffection. He's an ilan-pappe type, a dreary type, and now he must regard with unease, or even dread, the re-discovery, not by Muslims (they never had to re-discover it) but by those who, aware that so many centers of "academic" learning have been slowly infiltrated by apologists for Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and very often the comfortably endowed chairs, or the still more plush private fiefdoms of such things as the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (Esposito's operation, carefully positioned at Georgetown), are paid for, lock, stock, and barrel by Saudi crude, by Muslim masters, all daggers and dishdashas, with their sneers of cold command, and the ten trillion dollars, or what's left of it, that they have managed to receive, without making the slightest effort, since 1973 alone.
As long as the Israeli leftists were merely fighting other Israelis, you know, the bad ones, the Likudniks, the crazed defenders of Israel, they could do just fine in their own little world. But now that Israelis -- and horribile dictu, not only Israelis but all kinds of other people, even non-Jewish people, all over the world, have started to investigate the texts, tenets, attitudes, and atmospherics of Islam, the avi-shlaims don't quite know what to do, and since they know nothing about Islam, for to them this "Palestinian people" business which got going after the Six-Day War to disguise the truth (as Arafat, for Western audiences, would disguise the language he used for Arab audiences, the same language as that employed by his predecessor Ahmed Shukairy).
What the avi-shlaims of this world do not understand is that the ground has shifted. It has been a long time coming, And it has shifted not because of any brilliance on the part of any Israeli propagandist or government official or the "Jewish lobby." Magari. No, it has shifted because we Infidels are now paying attention to what is written and spoken in Muslim lands (see MEMRI), and not only what is written and spoken now, but what is in the Qur'an, what is in the Hadith, what is in the Sira. If people on the street are now beginnning, thanks to the Internet, to visit the Muslim websites and see what Islam is all about, if they are reading the news and, despite the best efforts of apologists, seeing right through to the Jihad-News of the day, if they are learning what "Jizyah" is, and what a "dhimmi" is, then of course they will come to understand the war on Israel as what it always was: a classic Jihad against an Infidel nation-state, on land once possessed and therefore always to be possessed, by Islam.
The only differences now between the Slow Jihadists of Fatah (who want the tap of Western aid turned on, and therefore are prepared to "chose peace as a strategic option" for a little while, just as long as necessary but not a moment longer) and the Fast Jihadists of Hamas, is over tactics and timing.
No, Islam in the future, and Islam now, and Islam in 1948, and Islam in 1930 or 1920, explains the attitudes of the local Arabs (who became after 1967 that "Palestinian people"), and of the other Muslim Arabs, and other Muslims too, to the extent that those Muslims were fervent. That fervency explains why, for example, Pakistan could never have been courted by Israel but, on the other hand, for a while Israel could establish close relations with the Shah of Iran (essentially, a secular and Westernizing figure who for all of his faults, and they were many, was compared to what followed, practically Winston Churchill), and with Turkey, but not just an abstraction called Turkey, but the Turkey of secularists, Kemalists. And it didn't hurt that both Iranians and Turks prided themselves on not being "desert Arabs," and were quick to proclaim to any Western visitor who might mistake them for others, that "we are not Arabs."
Of course, in the end the entire world belongs to Allah and his people. No doubt. But still, on the To-Do List of Islam, those lands now possessed by Infidels that were once in Muslim possession stand highest.
There were always those who understood that Islam explained Arab hostility to Israel -- a hostility that is not to be assuaged, not to be ended, but should simply be accepted as a permanent fact, yet a fact, or rather a situation, that is manageable if Israel does not further surrender tangible assets. In "The Question of Palestine" Edward Said, reproduced from Ma'ariv in 1951 a summary of the doctrines of Islam. Said, who knew nothing about Islam, was content to be its islamochristian apologist , for he felt keenly that "Arabness" that reinforced even among, or especially among, "Palestinian" Arab Christians, a loyalty to the Islamic worldview, one which naturally arises originally from a need to get along by placating the circumambient and ever-threatening Muslims. Christian Arabs who were not part of a self-confident and numerous group (as, in first place, the Maronites or, slightly less sure of themselves, especially when still in Egypt, the Copts) would always adopt the view of Muslims; it was the only way to get along. And they were enthusiasts for pan-Arabism, for it was only by stressing that ethnic identity that one could escape from the dangers of too great a stress, for Christian Arabs in a Muslim sea, on religious identity. It is no puzzle that Michel Afaq, a Christian, should have been the moving spirit (or one of three) behind Ba'athism; he forefelt the need of Christian Arabs to have, or to create, an ideology that would allow them to participate in political life, and not be reduced to the status of passive, and politically powerless, dhimmis.
Another good article, from 1947 and therefore, like the piece in Ma'ariv, nearly contemporaneous with the 1948 war, was by Bishop Moubarac of Beirut. That article, reproduced as an appendix in Bat Ye'or's "Islam and Dhimmitude," makes clear the connection, as this intelligent Maronite saw it, between the fate of Christians in the Muslim Middle East and the fate of the Jews of what was to become, within months, the State of Israel.
No doubt the Rediscovery of Islam, and the rediscovery as well of all the great Western scholars of Islam, is driving the avi-shlaims up this world crazy. For can Avi Shlaim, or a hundred avi-shlaims, take issue with Joseph Schacht? With Snouck Hurgronje? With Arthur Jeffrey? For that matter, what can the avi-shlaims of this world do in response to that other new phenomenon, the intelligent and articulate apostates from Islam -- Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Magdi Allam, some of them non-Arab, some of them Arabs, but all of them -- and contrary to Muslim propaganda, they were not all suddenly struck with amnesia the moment they decided to jettison Islam, did not suddenly forget everything that they had read, had heard, had taken in, when they lived, as Muslims, in states or societies or families suffused with Islam.
And finally, there are the Muslims themselves, and what they say about Israel, and why they oppose it. And they are very clear, for their own people, and now it is no longer a case of finding this or that blue-papered FBIS (Foreign Broadcast Information Service) report. A click, and you can have all the stuff, reproduced not only at www.MEMRI,org, but at hundreds of websites run by Muslims or, for that matter, by ex-Musilms.
It hardly matters. The evidence is there. Nothing for avishlaims to do, but to utter a dismissal without any evidence, and hope that no one bothers to study, or to read, or to think, about Islam.