For some time now, I have been disenchanted with the main stream news media be it TV or print. The title of this essay,
'Why they Fight' is also the title of the cover story in the latest issue of Time magazine.
This refers to the latest chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict which was sparked off with the capture of three Israeli soldiers by HAMAS and Hizbollah.
I believe that the Time article does not give a complete picture and this is my attempt to answer the question of why they are fighting.
To understand why HAMAS and Hizbollah are fighting Israel you must start with the religious beliefs that motivate them. (In contrast, Time magazine started with the recent elections that brought HAMAS to power.) They are both Islamist organizations that believe that jihad is a holy duty of Muslims.
The world, for the fighters of these two terrorist organizations, is divided into two camps - darul Harb (abode of war) and darul Islam (abode of Islam). The abode of Islam refers to land controlled by Muslims while darul Harb refers to land controlled by infidels.
They believe it is their duty to wage jihad to expand darul Islam at the expense of darul Harb. Permanent peace with darul Harb is not allowed. Truces lasting no more than 10 years are permitted.
Israel is of course part of darul Harb. Making matters worse, Israel also sits on land that was once part of darul Islam. According to Islamic Shariah, once a land is part of darul Islam, it must remain so till Judgment day.
Should it be lost to darul Harb, war must be waged to recover it.
This is clearly stated in the HAMAS Charter: (1)
Article Eleven: The Strategy of Hamas: Palestine is an Islamic Waqf
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab King or President nor all of them in the aggregate, have that right, nor has that right any organization or the aggregate of all organizations, be they Palestinian or Arab, because Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations and to the Day of Resurrection. Who can presume to speak for all Islamic Generations to the Day of Resurrection? This is the status [of the land] in Islamic Shari’a, and it is similar to all lands conquered by Islam by force, and made thereby Waqf lands upon their conquest, for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection. This [norm] has prevailed since the commanders of the Muslim armies completed the conquest of Syria and Iraq, and they asked the Caliph of Muslims, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, for his view of the conquered land, whether it should be partitioned between the troops or left in the possession of its population, or otherwise. Following discussions and consultations between the Caliph of Islam, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, and the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, be peace and prayer upon him, they decided that the land should remain in the hands of its owners to benefit from it and from its wealth; but the control of the land and the land itself ought to be endowed as a Waqf [in perpetuity] for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection. The ownership of the land by its owners is only one of usufruct, and this Waqf will endure as long as Heaven and earth last. Any demarche in violation of this law of Islam, with regard to Palestine, is baseless and reflects on its perpetrators.
The HAMAS ideology is nothing new. This has been the official ideology of the Arab and Turkish Caliphates for many centuries. In fact, the Charter is quoting Caliph Umar (Successor and Companion of the Prophet Mohammed) who conquered Byzantine lands. You can't get a better pedigree of Islamic theology than this.
Inspite of their military inferiority, they have strong faith in eventual victory and world domination by Islam. This is what HAMAS leader, Khaled Mash'al, said:
Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the imagination, but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world, Allah willing. Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good. Our nation is moving forwards, and it is in your interest to respect a victorious nation. (3)
The Jews, the perpetual enemies of God, of course would eventually be massacred. In Article 7 of the HAMAS Charter, you will find a reference to Sahih Bukhari (part of Islamic Holy Scriptures) that spelt out the fate of the Jews:
The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).
As for Hizbollah, they are Shiites and not Sunnis like the HAMAS people. But their world views are nearly identical. Hizbollah was started in 1982 as a response to the Israeli occupation of parts of Lebanon. It is supported by Iran and Syria. Hizbollah's ideology is inspired by the Iranian revolution that toppled the Shah.
They see the Arab-Israeli conflict not as a clash of two different nationalities, Palestinian vs Israeli, but as a clash between the abode of Islam against the abode of War. This is classic Islamic jihad ideology.
Hizbollah gets its inspiration from Iran and to understand their thinking better, it would be wise to read the speeches of the Founder of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. He said:
"But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those (who say this) are witless". (4)
His views can be described as religious fascism in that he thinks Muslims should rule the world. Just substitute Hitler's Aryan race for the Muslim Ummah (nation) and you will see the similarity.
It is also instructive to read the speeches by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. In a speech televised on Hizbollah controlled Al Manar TV, he said:
Where are you, oh Arab and Islamic peoples? What are you doing? How will you act? That is up to you. As far as we are concerned, when we began the resistance in 1982, we did not look beyond our borders at all. We looked only to Allah. We relied only upon our people and our mujahideen. Today, we are the same. But what I wanted to tell you at this sensitive moment, and following many military successes in recent days, and following many surprises - and more surprises are yet to come, Allah willing - is that Hizbullah is not waging the battle of Hizbullah or of Lebanon. We are waging the battle of the nation, whether we like it or not, whether the Lebanese like it or not. Lebanon and the resistance of Lebanon are waging the battle of the nation. Where does the nation stand with regard to this battle? This question is directed at you, for the sake of your life in this world and in the world to come.
The nation he referred to is the Muslim nation and not the Lebanese nation or the Palestinian nation. For him, the war is not a clash between Israelis and Palestinians but between Muslims and Jews. The concept of nationality is weak in Arab lands.
As Bernard Lewis said, for Muslims the world is divided into religious nations, who happened to live in different countries. I believe that the Palestinian nationality was started as a stick to beat Israel with. Prior to 1967, there was no Palestinian nationality and the West bank was part of Jordan and Gaza was controlled by Egypt. The Palestinians did not demand independence from Jordan or Egypt.
Thus the war is driven by religious beliefs and not by nationalism on the part of Israel's enemies. You won't learn this from the main stream media. Israel only wants to live in peace with its neighbors but some of the thugs in the neighborhood want to drive them into the sea because they are not Muslims.
Next to the religious beliefs of those who fight Israel, we need to understand the intentions of Iran. This latest chapter in an old conflict comes with the backdrop of Iran's determination to acquire nuclear bombs. Most certainly, the recent kidnapping of two soldiers by Hizbollah was instigated by Iran to deflect world attention away from its nuclear program. The Iranians probably hoped that an attack on Israel will unite the Muslim world behind it.
If so, it seems that they have miscalculated. Instead of uniting the Muslim world behind Iran, the reaction must have been disappointing for the Iranians. The Saudis, for the first time, did not blame Israel. Instead it puts the blame on Hizbollah for sparking this recent conflict in Lebanon.
The Saudi official news agency said:
A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements inside [Lebanon] and those behind them without recourse to the legal authorities and consulting and co-ordinating with Arab nations," a statement carried by the official news agency SPA said.
"These elements should bear the responsibility for their irresponsible actions and they alone should end the crisis they have created.
The Jordanians and the Egyptians soon followed suit and criticized Hizbollah for starting the violence.
The Israelis can also tell the Americans that they had tried their best to adhere to the 'road map for peace'. They have after all withdrawn from the Gaza strip but still got rocketed by HAMAS for their pains. Therefore, Israel has a free hand in Lebanon to crush Hizbollah. Should they give them a serious drubbing, Iran will be humiliated. This will not upset Sunni states like Saudi Arabia who fears growing Shiite power.
After thousands of years of being subjugated by Sunni powers, Shiites are beginning to think that their moment has arrived. The fall of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent elections organized by America in Iraq has brought the Shiites to power in Iraq. Elections in Lebanon brought Hizbollah representation in Parliament.
Iran, being majority Shiite, seeks leadership of the Shiite Muslims. The goal is control of the region's oil wealth. It has organized militias in Iraq loyal to Iran who will no doubt fight to control Iraq once American troops leave. Perhaps that is why the Sunnis in Iraq are now saying that they want the US troops to remain. Suspicions between Sunnis and Shiites will give the US an important role as balancer and peace-keeper.
The Saudis are also nervous because its oil rich eastern region has a largely Shiite population. For years, the Shiites have been marginalized in a largely Saudi society who regard them as apostates or heretics. The coming to power of their co-religionists in Iraq has raised their own aspirations which Iran can play on.
Thus the Sunni countries in the regions like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt are very nervous that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons and would be pleased if the Americans or the Israelis bomb the nuclear facilities. But regime change in Tehran is ultimately what the Americans want. It is the current regime in Iran that poses the greatest threat to American goals in the region.
What Bush wants is to remake the Middle East. This means that it wants to see democracy taking root, peace between Arabs and Israelis, secure oil supplies from the Persian Gulf and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Iran shows the greatest hostility to American goals. It opposes democracy and champions an alternative vision - the Islamic state based on Shariah Laws. Thus it supports Shiite militias in Iraq and in Lebanon. It also supports HAMAS even though they are Sunnis. Iran wants the obliteration of Israel as can be seen by many speeches made by President Ahmednijad.
It also wants hegemony in the Persian Gulf with its oil resources. It knows from Saddam's failed invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that it cannot defeat the US in a conventional war. So it is very eager to acquire nuclear weapons. It already has missiles that can reach Europe and believes that the soft western powers do not have to courage to stop them from taking control of Gulf oil if Iran has nukes.
Thus, Iranian goals and ideology are totally at odds with American ones. It seems likely that a clash between America and Iran in the future is in my view likely. At the least, America or Israel will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
Should the Iranian regime be toppled, a lot of the obstacles blocking the attainment of American goals will disappear. Funding will stop of Iraq's Shiite militias and for the Hizbollah. This is not to say that America will easily achieve its goals even with a friendly regime in Iran. For one, there still are the Sunni Islamists to deal with. But it would certainly lower the temperature.
This period we are living in feels like the late 1930s. Then the western powers were reluctant to confront Hitler who was building up his army. Ahmednijad, like Hitler, wants to exterminate the Jews. Both have fascist views though one is secular and the other religious. Both lead or led peoples who feel they deserve to be the top dog. We are living in interesting times.
(4)See the book, 'Why I am not a Muslim', by Ibn Warraq.
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