Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Vulnerability of Israel

For the Jewish people, therefore, the history of the twentieth century may be summed up thus: If there had been a Jewish state in the first half of the century, there would have been no Holocaust. And if there had not been a Jewish state after the Holocaust, there would have been no Jewish future.

— from A Durable Peace, by Benjamin Netanyahu

The mushroom cloud rising over Tel Aviv has to be the greatest dread of the Jewish State in the 21st century. For a half a century after the birth of Israel, the existence of a haven for Jews all over the world could be assured by the armed might of the Jewish state. But, as the time approaches when Iran can deliver nuclear-tipped missiles to the heart of Israel, the existence of that haven can no longer be assumed.

Even without access to the secret deliberations of Israel's security bodies, it is safe to say that Israel will do everything in its power to frustrate the designs of the mullahs in Tehran, and the Israeli military is undoubtedly capable of doing so. But the terrorists of the Great Islamic Jihad are intent upon acquiring nuclear weapons, and even a well-placed dirty bomb could do enormous damage to Israel and force much of its carefully-tended farm land out of cultivation. A devastating attack of this kind might cause the collapse of Israel's economy.

This is a reminder of why Israel is perhaps the most important ally in the war against the Islamists. The very existence of America is not yet threatened by them, but Israel is very much at risk. They could become our greatest ally because the stakes are so much higher for them.

The jihadis make virtually no distinction between Americans and Zionists; the two terms are virtually interchangeable for them. Nothing better demonstrates why it is time to stand with the Jews.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The New Kristallnacht

Full disclosure: I am not a Jew. I am a practicing Christian, non-evangelical, from a background of tolerant Protestantism. I read eclectically, am well educated, and consider myself an intellectual. And I stand with the Jews.

Many historians date the beginning of the Holocaust to November 9th, 1938. On that date the Nazi government launched a pogrom against the Jews, killing hundreds and arresting many more. Synagogues were torched, Jewish shops and homes were looted and destroyed, and Jews were shipped off to concentration camps. That night of major violence came to be known as Kristallnacht, in reference to the shattered glass found on the sidewalks in front of Jewish businesses all over Germany. A few days later new laws were passed by the Nazi government, effectively banning all economic activity by Jews and removing what few civil rights remained to them. It was a big step down the road that led through the gates of Auschwitz and Treblinka to the Final Solution.

Does the West stand on the threshold of a new Kristallnacht? The alarming spread of anti-Semitism across the globe is ominous evidence of a new cycle of hatred.
  • When Jewish students are attacked on an American university campus by protesters screaming "Hitler was right!";
  • when the prime minister of Iran says, "...the use of a single atomic bomb has the power to destroy Israel completely, while it will only cause partial damage to the Islamic world";
  • when synagogues are burned in Belgium and European Jews are afraid to wear the yarmulke openly;
  • when The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is made into a television drama in Egypt and sold openly on Wal-Mart's website;
  • when Jews are fleeing anti-Semitism in France to settle in Israel;
  • when the world does not rise up in outrage against these evils;

-- then it is time to prepare for a new and more widespread Kristallnacht.

Anti-Semitism is virtually everywhere, even in such formerly safe havens of the Anglosphere as the USA and Australia. Around the world, but especially in the Middle East, countries which once boasted large and vibrant Jewish communities are now emptying themselves of Jews. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq once were homes for Jews. Now there are virtually none; they have left their homes and their cultural roots to resettle in Israel or America. There had been Jews in Yemen since at least the second century, taking on many of the cultural characteristics of the Muslims around them and contributing to the civilization of Yemen while retaining their Jewish identity; now they are gone.

The "World Community", as exemplified by the UN, regards violence against Jews to be of no importance. The UN passes dozens of resolutions condemning Israel, the most notorious being Resolution 3379 (1975), which declared that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." All Israeli actions towards the Palestinians are censured, including the building of a wall to protect innocent Israelis against suicide attacks. But in all the years of the UN’s existence, not one resolution has been passed against those who have promised to annihilate the "Zionist entity".

Anti-Semitism was already established on the nationalistic Right. More alarming are the notably virulent strains now reappearing on the Left. During Hitler's time, many of the Old Bolsheviks were Jews; Bolshevism was considered "revolutionary Jewish politics" and was reviled as such on the Right. But in the Soviet Union persecution of Jews flared sporadically and the purging of "rootless cosmopolitans" was the duty of the Party. Now, with the euphemistic equation Zionism=Racism, the very existence of Israel has been called into question. An anti-Zionist might say, "I am only against Zionism, not against the Jews," but that is merely a new and disingenuous cover for Jew-hatred.

The mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv is the dream of the enemies of Zionism.

In their reaction to conservatives by those on the Left, a new term has developed: "Neoconservative" is a code word for "Jew". A neocon who supports Israel is thus an agent of the Zionists. I am, in fact, one of their unwitting dupes as I write this, since I stand with the Jews.

Is the rich and fertile culture of "The West" even conceivable without the Jews? In every enterprise open to them Jews excel. They are over-represented in the highest reaches of the arts and sciences, and in the academy; despite historical obstacles and discrimination, they are to be found among the greatest mathematicians and physicists, composers and musicians, historians and novelists. Examine the masthead of a magazine, the credits for a movie, or the members of a university faculty, to see the contributions of the Jews.

Beyond those achievements, the greatest gift of the Jews to Western Civilization has been the Law. The Jews brought us the idea that a man stands accountable before his Creator, Who will sit in judgment over him; that the Law is just and eternal, and that obedience to it is a moral and righteous act. Christianity, especially as developed by Saint Paul, was responsible for the spread of this new idea of law and the individual throughout the West. Still, it is in essence a Jewish idea. Christ's revolutionary message urged a return to the Law as originally understood by the Patriarchs. In its earliest years the gate to Christian conversion opened onto Judaism first. And today a Christian views the just society as a fulfillment of the Law, the Jewish Law of which Christianty is a New Covenant.

So while the halls of justice in Christendom may accord with the architecture of the Greeks, and may boast inscriptions in Latin, the justice handed down within them is the justice of the Hebrews. I stand with the Jews.

The Laws of the Jews form the moral and ethical core of Western Civilization. Without them we would be a hollow culture, subject to the whims of polytheism and prone to the fads of nihilism. They are the backbone of what makes us civilized; we repeal them at our own peril.

Whether or not it is 1933 (or 1936, or 1938) all over again, it is time for the West to make a stand. Before the shards of glass cover the pavement in front of Jewish businesses in the new Kristallnacht; before laws are passed restricting the rights of Jews; before whole families are shot and bulldozed into mass graves; before the mushroom cloud rises over Tel Aviv -- Western Civilization must stand up and be counted. We must say, with the Jews, "Never Again."

I stand with the Jews.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Invention of the Individual

A previous post addressed the characteristics which distinguish the West from the culture which has bred militant Islamism. One of these characteristics is respect for the rights of the individual. But what is an individual?

The Western conception of the individual did not really exist in antiquity, nor does it in some cultures today. Distinct human beings are acknowledged, but they are appendages of family, tribe, or other collective structure, which have a greater claim to authority and authenticity than any single person.

As the Towering Barbarian has anticipated, one looks to the Jews and the Greeks for the origins of the individual. Jews brought the Law to the West, and with the Law came the idea of a man standing in relation to his God, with Whom he had a covenant, and Whose ordinances he was bound to obey. In that sense, the individual is the smallest unit of our human race to be judged by God on the basis of the Law.

The Greek innovation is reason, which looks to the world as an object separate from the self, an object that can be analyzed and understood by rational means. The Analyzer and Ratiocinator is the individual.

But the force which combined these two threads was Christianity, which brought the Law to Aristotle. In the teachings of Christ it becomes clear that the individual and his conscience are distinct in the eyes of God (Matthew 6:5-6 KJV):

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
This individual, in unmediated communion with God, possesses those natural rights which were recognized in the Declaration of Independence. He is granted these rights by his Creator, and they cannot be taken away by men.

The individual is the cornerstone of the West, on whom the structure of its civilization depends. The great experiment in Iraq depends for its success on the emergence of something similar in Mesopotamia. It is an open question whether Islamic theology or some other philosophy can produce in a short time the same thing that Jewish, Greek, and Christian thought articulated over the course of two millennia. The West will have to wait and see…

Thursday, October 21, 2004

What Distinguishes the West

A previous post concerned that which distinguishes Islamism from its enemies. But what distinguishes us?

The societies which flourish in the civilized parts of the world, collectively known as "the West", rest on three pillars: Civil society, the rule of law, and respect for the rights of the individual.

Civil society depends on the plurality of institutions within a polity. Rather than subsume all under the state (which is subsumed under the autarch or an oligarchy), the state is only one amongst many aggregate entities within the culture. Families, churches, corporations, clubs, autonomous local government — if the individual is an element in a multitude of sets, he is more likely to flourish. Great power is less likely to concentrate when there are many groups to claim the allegiance of a person. Civil society arose gradually in Europe from the Greeks and the Romans in the interplay of pagan culture with the state and later the Church. None of it was intentional; its independence was surely cursed by monarchs down the centuries.

The rule of law is a shared understanding that the rules binding citizens outlive individual rulers. A just and liberal society can be conceived of without democracy; it cannot exist without the rule of law. The law was handed down to the Jews, who passed the concept on to the West.

Individual rights are premised on the existence of individuals in a society. We in the West are so accustomed to the idea that it is hard to conceive of societies which do not really recognize the individual as we know it. The tribe, the clan, the patrimony with its honor — membership in these is not voluntary, and all can take precedence over the individual. This is true of those cultures which form the core of the Great Islamic Jihad.

When and where was the individual invented? This is an interesting topic which will be covered in a later post.

The news from Baghdad

The jihad against women is ancient, yet ever new. From a report from the city's universities in the Washington Times:

"Any girl student who does not wear a veil, we will burn her face with chemicals."

Under threat and physical attack, at least a third of the three thousand women who attend colleges in Baghdad have been given releases from class attendance for the rest of the academic year due to the increasing violence directed against them.

Among other things, the terrorists are demanding that all university classes be segregated and that contact between men and women be forbidden. Many women, intimidated and fearful, have taken to wearing veils to and from classes.

Bombs have been set off on campuses, women have been abducted and threatened, terrorists wait outside the gates to target women who wear Western dress or walk with their faces uncovered.

There is a severe cultural divide, a disconnect, between the idea of veiled women and those same mysterious creatures attempting to study differential equations through the gauze. This dissonance is so loud we are becoming deafened by its shrill, unrelenting fear.

Pray that all the noise is merely the death rattle of an anachronistic hatred.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

What Distinguishes the Enemy

To examine the reasons why Islam is at war, it is helpful to recognize the broad distinctions, both theological and cultural, between Islam and all of its enemies.

    Several notable differences which suggest themselves are listed below:

  1. Repeated and explicit scriptural passages requiring the believer forcibly to convert or kill infidels. This was covered briefly in the previous post.
  2. A tradition which provides for no distinction between religious organizations and political structures. This is somewhat similar to the culture of Czarist Russia, in which the Orthodox Church has been part of the state since the Middle Ages. In fact, even under Communism, the Church was still subordinate to and part of the State. Interestingly, like Arab culture, Russia has been susceptible to recurring brutal autocracy.
  3. The absence of both the rule of law and a civic culture in which the rights of the individual are acknowledged and respected.
This last point is the most intriguing, and later posts will examine the necessary conditions in which individual rights tend to flourish.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Why is Islam at War?

A devout Muslim believes that anyone outside the Ummah, the community of believers, resides in Dar al-Harb, the World of War. The believer is obliged to fight to enlarge the Ummah by all means necessary. The war we are in now, the Great Islamic Jihad, Third Wave, is a continuation of a war that is as old as the Islamic faith itself.

Islam may be unique in its scriptural call to continuing war on behalf of the faithful. Some have argued that Christ's words (Matthew 10:34)
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
are used as justification for Christian violence. On the whole, however, any Christian scriptural justification for holy war is weak indeed compared to numerous passages in the Quran such as:
Al-Baqara (The Cow)
2:218 Those who believed and those who suffered exile and fought (and strove and struggled) in the path of Allah,- they have the hope of the Mercy of Allah. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
And yet there are many scriptural passages in the Quran urging peace and mercy. The question naturally arises: Why did Islam not follow the other major religions into modernity by interpreting its core texts in a way that would allow a tolerant and secular society to arise?

Posts over the next several days will explore some general reasons why Islam remains at war.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Three Reasons

Curiosity killed the cat, but the refusal to be curious — to be open to novel ideas — eventually kills the culture.

Bernard Lewis proposes three obstacles to the Muslim world’s attempts at modernization. They are easily summarized: first, and “most profound,” is the relegation of women to the harem. The second obstacle is the insistence on theocracy as the only valid form of government. The Western separation of church and state, the long, bloody clashes to establish tolerance and barriers, never happened in Islam. Last is the Islamic world’s insistence on using the inventions of the Infidels while refusing to allow the creative mise-en-scène from which these inventions and advances arose. It was new wine in old wineskins.

According to Stanley Kurtz, Lewis failed to address fully a central feature of Muslim culture, its tribal identity. Unlike the West’s Judaeo-Christian elevation of individual liberty and responsibility, Islamic identity begins and ends in the tribe. When Western pundits question the absence of Muslim disapproval for the excesses of the jihadists, it is obvious that they have failed to grasp the tribal nature of Muslim culture.

In Western culture, the notion of being "beyond the pale" has lost its currency. Once upon a time, though, we understood the pain of isolation behind the phrase. To be beyond the pale was to be forced to live outside the fortification that kept the wilderness at bay. It was a cruel punishment. This is a social position still understood by today’s Muslims and they are loath to incur it.

The failures of Islam to adapt to incursions from Dar al-Harb, its cultural decision to be the scavengers rather than the reapers of a well-tended garden, and its insistence on reclaiming an atavistic Utopia — all these are the symptoms of a brittle culture which cannot survive its own contradictions.

The Newest Phase of a Very Old War

Some people refer to the current war as the GWoT (Global War on Terror). Others call it WWIV (Norman Podhoretz). We at Gates of Vienna prefer to call it GIJ3W: The Great Islamic Jihad, Third Wave.

This conflict of cultures has endured for more than a millenium. The first wave began with the conquest of Mecca by Mohammed in 630 CE. It crested in Al Andalus (Moorish Spain) in 711, only receding in 1492 when Los Reyes Católicos entered Granada.

The second wave began when Osman raided Western Byzantium in 1299 and founded the Ottoman Empire. It crested during the reign of Süleyman I in the 16th century, and receded after the failure of the second siege of Vienna under Kara Mustafa in 1683.

From our perspective at the dawn of the 21st century it is hard to realize that a little more than three centuries ago the whole of Christian civilization was threatened. When the Turks stood at the Gates of Vienna it seemed that all of Europe would be overrun by the legions of the Prophet.

This war never ended. While many individual treaties were made between various states over the centuries, no truce was ever declared between Islam and the infidels, and no permanent peace was established (as General Gordon discovered at Khartoum in 1885).

So when did the Third Wave begin?

When will the Third Wave crest? And when will it begin to recede?

The thesis of this blog is that, like it or not, we are in a religious war. We do not define the terms but we should take careful note of them. We are mistaken if we think the Enemy wants merely to kill us. Once again, Jihad offers two choices to the West: conversion or death. Jihad exists in order to annihilate unbelief. Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, or Wiccans, it is all the same to him.

Once again, our survival depends on our capacity to unite in a common cause against physical and cultural destruction.

Full disclosure: the authors are practicing (non-evangelical) Christians, staunch supporters of Israel and the Jews, and tolerant of all. Even those who don't agree with us or with one another.

We invite comments and discussion on GIJ3W and related topics.