Editorial: Sixty years of living with Israel
When an injustice is allowed to flourish, as was the case with the establishment of Israel in 1948, it forms negative attitudes difficult to change in the light of reality. The Arab and Muslim world was morally correct to oppose the creation of Israel and not accord it recognition. Wars were fought to undo the injustice, but Israel was backed by the West in general and the United States in particular, which never let the historical solvent of “just war” set things right. The American sustenance of the state of Israel poisoned Washington’s relations with the Muslim world and undermined all friendships formed by it with ambivalence.
Two minds are set against each other in the Middle East. The Arab mind is deeply lacerated and divided. The Israeli mind is paranoid and allows the state to commit more excesses in the territory it controls. With their backs to the wall, the Palestinians have lost all hope of peace and have taken to terrorism whose ultimate horror is suicide-bombing. The changeover from Arab nationalism to Islamism has handed Arab leadership to the clergy that advocates a form of rejectionism that is not always in the best interest of the Muslims. The bitterest fruit of the injustice of Israel is the adoption of an anarchist worldview by the Muslim mind that accepts pious intimidation.
The biggest threat to Israel could have been a united Arab and Muslim response to the new state. But this happened only fitfully, and was overtaken by contradictions among the Muslim states themselves. The Arabs fought their own internecine wars more enthusiastically than the wars with Israel, which they lost. As Israel emerged victorious in each conflict — not least because of the backing of the US — it became more and more imperative for the Muslims to adopt a realistic posture. There are two opinions now about how to face up to a superior enemy: to clash with it and go down or to strengthen oneself economically before confrontation. Unfortunately, however, the Muslims have not made the preparations required for their final contest with Israel.
Although endowed with the wealth of oil, the Arab states show poor quality of manpower and run political systems that remain unstable after sixty years. The distance between the masses and the states they live in has increased and almost every Muslim state has problems of social contract because the issue of the nature of the state cannot be finally decided. Because this issue involves principles derived from Revelation, differences of opinion often result in violence. Today, as Israel flourishes and wins recognition from more and more non-Muslim but powerful states, the Muslim world has devised new philosophies of suicidal violence. From the principle of violence against the infidel, the extremists have moved to violence against Muslims who are allegedly acting “like infidels”.
Muslim extremism has a multiplicity of origins but most of them take us back to an inability to shape a rational response to the injustice of Israel. The most vital requirement of this response should have been the maintenance of the viability of Muslim culture and civilisation and the need to build it in the light of modern requirements of economic and scientific skill. But the Muslim view of religion, instead of becoming more sophisticated, has regressed. Helpless to target Israel, Muslims now fall upon one another on the basis of theories popularised by terrorist organisations vowing to destroy Israel and its American defender.
After sixty years, however, the situation is perilous for both sides of the equation. For the Muslims who see no future for themselves as long as Israel exists, the chaos one sees in the world may be simply a “scorched earth” landscape; but the West, with an entire global system to lose, must worry more. Predicated on opposition to Israel, the nuclear programme of Iran threatens the United States and Europe too. The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to control the world’s oil and secure Israel, but has instead strengthened Iran through a steep climb in the price of oil and by extending the influence of Iran in Iraq and Lebanon. So bitter are the Arab masses that they no longer see Iran as an enemy.
The most lethal threat, of course, comes from this “scorched earth” philosophy that the Muslim masses have adopted in the face of the Israeli challenge. It is suicidal in the classical sense but it gives rise to a general public acceptance of Al Qaeda that daily kills more Muslims than it does Jews or Americans. Ironically, the suicide bombers kill Muslims to enlist broader public sympathy for Al Qaeda’s project of destroying Israel and the US. But after sixty years, “Project Israel” has not succeeded because it has not been able to get itself accepted in the region where it is located. It would be folly, therefore, for Israel and its Western supporters to perceive the growing instability around it as a guarantee of its security. *
Second Editorial: NWFP makes a correction Qazi courts law
The NWFP government has made a much-needed correction in the system of Islamic justice that was recommended for the Malakand Division by the caretaker Shamsul Mulk government before the February 18 elections. While setting up Qazi Courts, the proposed reforms had removed the appellate jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan in favour of the Federal Shariat Court. But in a modified proposal the coalition government has allowed parties to go in appeal to the two appellate courts as applied in the rest of the country. The government has in fact made around 40 changes in the law, like extending the mandated run of the civil trials from three months to six months and criminal trials from 30 to 60 days.
The laws were formulated as a sop to the terrorism of the Taliban and TNSM, and they did not work as they didn’t work the last time they were announced in the mid-1990s. Similarly, the current “peace talks” with the terrorists have not got anywhere, which means the new Qazi law is also not going to be accepted by the Taliban-TNSM combine. And once you get rid of terrorism, you don’t need qazis but a reform of the court system that the country makes use of outside the Malakand Division. *