It is difficult to get the complete picture of the chaos that reigns today over the Middle East. The opportunity to hear somebody who has first-hand knowledge of the situation should never be missed. Such an opportunity presented itself on January 25 when Prof. Mordechai Kedar delivered a public lecture in Toronto. He is the Chair of Arabic Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel. He is fluent in several languages, including Arabic, and he travels frequently to the countries in that area and is often invited by Arab TV stations as commentator.
The event was organized by the Hasbara Fellowship Canada and introduced by its Director Robert Walker. Prof. Kedar covered several important topics concerning Israel, its Arab neighbours and the conflicts among them. This article will summarize some of the most important points he made (hopefully a movie with the complete lecture will be coming soon).
1. Defending Israel.
The first segment of the lecture covered an issue, with which most Jews in the West struggle constantly – the accusations and blackmail against Israel. That makes necessary the advocacy for Israel, but its weak point is that often it is defensive, people just try to brush off the attacks. The successful advocacy for Israel should be assertive, not defensive. If you defend yourself, you may survive, if you attack, you will most likely win. You cannot win by defense. The people in Israel had learned that the hard way. In Israel you don’t call 911, when you are attacked and you need to shoot, you shoot.
He gave specific examples with accusations – like the one that Israel is an apartheid state that occupies foreign territories. You should oppose this by saying the same about the USA – most of its territories are inhabited by settlers. History and archeology show that the Jews have lived in Israel for thousands of years. Another example is the accusation that Israel uses disproportionate force when attacked by the Arabs – you can counter with the same opinion about Afghanistan, where Americans often can shoot a whole wedding if any of the participants shoots. That way of reasoning is more effective in supporting Israel. Of course, it’s important to speak about Israel’s legal rights, which in Canada are covered by organizations like CILR (Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights), led by Goldi Steiner, Salomon Benzimra, and others, but people have to do more and attack hostile opinions.
2. Israel and the chaotic Middle East.
Then Prof. Kedar moved to the positions of Israel in the area. The common claim is that Israel is the main reason for the turmoil in the Middle East. The truth is that most Muslim countries there have been involved in some kind of wars and fights for many years with no influence from Israel. The BDS movement claims that by boycotting Israel they bring peace, which is ridiculous – many boycott Israel, but invest in Western Sahara, which is occupied by Morocco, a country that fights Polisario, an armed group fighting for liberation of the territory.
We shouldn’t forget the civil war in Algeria in the 1990’s when over 100,000 people died in the fights between the army and the Islamists. Tunisia is not peaceful. After the West helped Libya to overthrow Kaddafi there was no peace – a war started between the Eastern and Western tribes and now the country is with two governments. In Egypt after the “Arab spring” the Muslim Brotherhood clashed with the army and the conflict still hasn’t been resolved. Sudan suffered a genocidal war and the country is divided between Muslims in the North and Christians and animists in the South. Somalia is a failed dysfunctional country, which even has its own pirates. Yemen is a battlefield between Saudi Arabia and Iran with thousands killed in the war. Syria is in the state of a humanitarian catastrophe. Iraq is falling apart; Lebanon went through a devastating civil war. Turkey has a serious Kurdish problem. Even if Israel evaporates, the warring Muslim factions won’t start to kiss and hug each other, there will be no peace.
Israel is attacked and blackmailed by journalists because it is an easy target – they can have breakfast in Jerusalem, go to Judea and Samaria and film a fake war staged by Arabs, then go back to Jerusalem for lunch. If they do the same in any other country in the area, they will not survive. That’s how bias is created.
To fight the bias, people should get more actively involved in the universities, where the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments are strong. They should observe what is taught and object to falsifications and distortions.
3. Why the Islamic State is not a group but a real state.
Moving to the issue of the Islamic State – it was created by the failure of Syria and Iraq, where the Islamists carved out their own territory. Prof. Kedar emphasized that the formation shouldn’t be called ISIS, it is now Islamic State (IS), which has the goal to conquer the world and restore the original Caliphate. The methods of IS deserve special attention.
The Iraqi city of Mosul is inhabited by 4 million people, under normal circumstances, it would be necessary to fight for two to four years, street by street, to take it over with casualties on both sides. IS took it in one day. Why? In the morning the officers of the Iraqi army ran away, and later that day so did the soldiers who were in disarray. They were eventually followed by the police. IS occupied Mosul almost without shots, even though the Iraqi army had American weapons. The soldiers didn’t want to die in a shameful way by being tortured and beheaded, being powerless. That is a consequence from the brutality of IS, which slaughters people in public, films it and spreads widely the footage. This is the best psychological warfare ever implemented – there hasn’t been an army in the world capable of chasing its enemies away in such a quick and effective way.
The IS applies the modus operandi of the 7th century. That’s how the Muslims treated people during their conquests in 7th and 8th centuries and managed to expand their territories. That was the way to “convince” people to surrender and convert to Islam. The purpose of IS is to bring the world back to the 7th century, because that was the most successful and glorious time for Islam. They apply the same methods, as described in the Muslim scriptures, they do the same to Christians, Druze, Yezidis, etc.
Is this a state? It is called now just Islamic State, not Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Why? Because now they are in charge of all Muslims all over the world. They issue passports, have their marked ambulances and other cars with IS license plates. The IS flag’s script is used on the passports. What is on the flag is supposedly a depiction of a ring found in the Arab Peninsula (now in a museum in Turkey) that once belonged to Mohammed. They use a font from the 7th century in order to show that they have the same goals as the old Islam. They reject the use of the term King, used in some Arab countries, because only Allah is the King, the Muslim leader should be called Caliph. They have elaborate government structure, which reproduces the government of the 7th century’s Caliphs, with minister of war, minister of treasury, etc.
There are already numerous states and territories all over the world that pledged allegiance to IS – most in Muslim countries. IS is not just in Syria and Iraq, it is seen as a worldwide Caliphate. Organizations and individuals pledge their allegiance to it.
Then Prof. Kedar showed documents of IS (in Arabic) listing the number of people on its territory by ethnicity – they were mostly people from Saudi Arabia, Palestinians, Sudanese, Kuwaiti. Also, there are many foreigners – the largest number is from France, 1500, Russia, 800, Australia, 400, Spain, Germany, Canada (70 people), Bosnia, Norway, Finland, etc. They also listed many girls from those countries – they have the task to act as police to control women to behave in a modest way; another role is to provide sex services under the disguise of temporary marriages (he showed a document listing two-hour marriages between the mujahedeen and the women).
A picture he showed depicted a sign in a market saying that orphans can take anything they want for free – that’s according to the sharia law. If the merchant is overwhelmed by that taking, he can increase the prices, that’s a type of welfare: “If you are an orphan and don’t have money, take anything without paying.” IS also has clearly defined administrative districts.
They also have their own money – only coins, they don’t recognize paper money. IS issues gold (21 karats, with the weight written on it), silver and copper coins. On them there is a map of the world without borders, expressing the idea of one world under one Caliph, one prophet and one Allah. Their purpose if to erase the borders and impose unity. The borders are considered humiliating to Islam, which should rule the whole world. They don’t believe in paper money, because it has no value, it is just a promissory note from the governments and the banks. The coins have their own value as it was the case in the original Islamic State in the 7th century.
The idea of dominance is expressed by the gesture of lifting one finger, which symbolizes that unity. It could be seen everywhere, even in Jerusalem amongst the Muslims groups of women who harass the Jews on Temple Mount.
Ever since he left the military in 1995, Prof. Kedar dedicated his time to researching Islam and he has never seen before an extremist ideology spreading as quickly as the ideology of the Islamic State.
IS also has inspectors on the markets who check the expiration dates of the goods, the violators could be fined or even executed for cheating. Another picture showed a policeman writing a ticket for violating the rules to an owner of a Chevrolet who used illegally the roads of the Muslims. Since the Chevrolet’s logo resembles a cross, it is considered an infidel car.
All these activities, which are well organized, like policing, punishments, inspections, licence plates, passports, ambulances, etc., show beyond any doubt that this is not an organization, it is a state. For example, the BBC calls it “the organization that calls itself Islamic State” – wrong, they do it not to enrage Muslims. That undermines and distorts the real threat – the later we realize that, the bigger the price we will pay to dismantle it with the blood of our children. The Western governments are blind to the threat.
During the question period Prof. Kedar provided additional information about IS. On the issue of their sources of income, he explained that in addition to oil sales, they benefit greatly from ransom money – most cases remain secret, but in one case friends and relatives paid $50 million to release a hostage, who was eventually killed. They also collect taxes – 10% which is low, but the punishment for tax evasion is usually death.
On the question about how to defeat IS he replied that it will be impossible to do so only with air strikes – they have no visible structures, there are no formations, infantry, etc., they are hiding in cellars. There are no real targets for airstrikes.
That brought another question about how to handle IS. Prof. Kedar thought that the only solution is to kill or send them to jail for life. The same person continued with a new question, if we kill them, the ideology will still live on, convincing Muslims that this is the correct Islam, what should be done? Prof. Kedar replied that the defeat of IS may not kill the ideology, but we shouldn’t forget that the ideology was always there, yet Muslims didn’t act upon it. But here comes IS and convinces them that “Yes, we can!”, they can take over the world. A defeat of IS means that the idea of the power of Islam will be discredited and the goal of Muslim supremacy would be limited again to words on paper.
There was also a question about the Muslims who fight against extremism. Prof. Kedar noted that they should not be underestimated – there are those who fight like the Toronto organization “Muslims Facing Tomorrow” of Raheel Raza. Also, Tarek Fatah has been involved – he even wrote a book “The Jew Is Not My Enemy” in which he took a strong position.
It was an interesting presentation, though not very optimistic. It confirmed something that many of us have thought– the new barbarism can be fought only by force and must be defeated decisively. There is no other way to resolve this problem.
Unfortunately, many politicians don’t see things this way. Our hapless Prime Minister Trudeau still thinks that we can communicate with IS through empathy and inclusivity while looking for the “root causes” of their discontent. Other leaders in Europe are doing worse by opening the borders to millions of unemployable Arabs, among whom there are plenty of fighters and terrorists.
I guess things will become much worse before our politicians wake up.
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