WISHFUL THINKING ABOUT ISLAM
By Prof. Paul Eidelberg
A Daniel Pipes' article about the violent and criminal career of H. Rap Brown ("The Curious Case of Jamil al-Amin," AMERICAN SPECTATOR, November/December 2001) ends on a curious note. Thus, after referring to the many American Muslim organizations that have come to the defense of this convert to Islam, Pipes' concludes with this apologetic remark:"Now is the time for moderate Muslims publicly to denounce the recidivist ex-con accused of killing a police officer in cold blood. Now is also the time for them to denounce the Islamist organizations that are hijacking their religion. This is the chance for moderates to give voice to the Islam that can be a positive force in American life."Has Dr. Pipes succumbed to wishful thinking? I raise this question for the following reason: With notable exceptions, Israel's academic elites have long held Pipes' ostensibly soft view of a moderate Islam (notwithstanding fanatical elements). This soft view of Islam may clarify Israel's almost pathological commitment to the Middle East "peace process," beginning with the 1978 Camp David Agreement between Israel and Egypt.
Influenced by academics having a soft view of Islam, Israeli statesmen would then be more inclined to regard Arab-Islamic regimes as potential peace-partners. This wishful thinking animated Hebrew University professor Shlomo Avineri, Director General of the Foreign Office in 1977, who recently seems to have had second thoughts, however, about Israel's treaty with Egypt. (Egypt's state-controlled media have never ceased spewing the most obscene vilification of Israel.)Although one may find moderate Muslims, any objective study of Muslim texts and history reveals that Islam, both in theory and in practice, is not a peace-loving religion in its attitude toward "infidels." Even the late professor Y. Harkabi, who advocated a Palestinian state, admits (in ARAB ATTITUDES TO ISRAEL) that Islam is a "militant," "combatant," and "expansionist" creed. How are we to account for Harkabi's paradoxical attitude-hard in theory, soft in practice?WHAT SOFTENED HARKABI'S ATTITUDE TOWARD ISLAM WAS HIS SELF-PROFESSED CULTURAL RELATIVISM. This university-bred doctrine denies objective or universally valid standards by which to determine whether the way of life of one nation (or culture) is intrinsically superior to that of another. All nations are morally equal and should therefore dwell in mutual tolerance and peace.This relativism, which denies distinctions between good and bad regimes, permeates the mentality of multicultural democracies, especially its left-wing intellectuals. It leads to wishful thinking regarding the possibility of genuine and abiding peace between democracies and dictatorships. It needs to be borne in mind, however, that academics like Harkabi and Avineri have no counterparts in the Muslim world. Muslim academics are not relativists: they think in black and white terms, and for them Israel is utterly black. Now it so happens that the doctrine of relativism underlies the failure of American Middle East scholars to warn of the dangers posed by Islam. Even after September 11 many American academics soft-peddled Islam as a peaceful religion, and of course politicians hewed the academic line. This is not to suggest that expressions of peace and benevolence will not be found in Islamic sources. But such expressions are not distinctive of Islam, which divides the world into believers and non-believers, and whose adherents are theologically required to spread the faith throughout the world WHEN THEY HAVE THE POWER TO DO SO. Until then, Muslims may engage in peaceful relations with "infidels." Meanwhile it serves their interests to be portrayed as "moderate."Yasser Arafat was portrayed as a "moderate" before the negotiations that led to the Oslo agreement of September 1993. Today professor Sari Nuseibah, perhaps Arafat's successor, is being touted as a "moderate." Israelis desperate for peace desperately want to believe they can find among Arab Palestinians honest-to-goodness peace partners. This is not only the wishful thinking of Peace Now. Prime Minister Sharon also supports a Palestinian state. He admits to no longer seeing things in "black and white," which suggests he has been tainted by relativism.Let us understand this. Human beings are not only bodies affected by material interests or by economic and other forms of pressure. They are also influenced by ideas. Relativism permeates the mentality of the democratic world, and even though a person may not be consciously aware of this doctrine, it modulates his attitudes and behavior. Relativism erodes conviction in the absolute justice of one's cause. It fosters appeasement of evil. George Orwell discerned the prevalence of this doctrine among British intellectuals in the 1930's. That doctrine contributed to the appeasement of Hitler and to what followed.But in no country is relativism more insidious than in Israel. Why? Because its ruling elites desperately seek international legitimacy for the State of Israel-and respectability for themselves-which they can no longer obtain under the banner of Zionism but only under the banner of democracy! Relativism has emasculated these Jews. Thanks largely to this doctrine, democracy has replaced Zionism as the sole justification for the Jewish state.One last word: Relativism transforms black into gray or cruel enemies into "moderates" or "peace-partners." It thus leads to wishful thinking, which, among Israel's ruling elites spells disaster.
Professor Paul Eidelberg a Political scientist, author and lecturer is the co-founder and president of The Foundation For Constitutional Democracy with offices in Jerusalem and Washington, DC.Professor Eidelberg was born in Brooklyn, New York. From high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force where he held the rank of first lieutenant. He received his doctoral degree in political science at the University of Chicago. While studying at the University, he designed and constructed the electronics system for the first brain scanner used at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital.Professor Eidelberg wrote a trilogy on the statesmanship of America'sfounding fathers: On the Silence of the Declaration of Independence; The Philosophy of the American Constitution, and A Discourse on Statesmanship.Eidelberg joined Israel's Bar-Ilan University faculty in 1976. He haswritten several books on the Arab-Israel conflict and on Judaism:Demophrenia provides a psychological analysis of Israel's foreign policy. Jerusalem versus Athens and Beyond the Secular Mind apply Jewish concepts for an understanding of modern problems. Judaic Man develops concepts for a Jewish psychology. His most recent book, Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall, provides the philosophical and institutional foundations for reconstructing the State of Israel. It has also been published in Hebrew and in Russian.Professor Eidelberg is on the Editorial Board of Israel's premier journalNativ, as well as on the Advisory Council of the Ariel Center for PolicyResearch. He has written more than 800 articles for newspapers andscholarly journals in the United States and Israel.Eidelberg has lectured before Israel's Foreign Office and has writtenpolicy papers for various Knesset Members. He chaired a panel discussion on the topic "Why Israel Needs a Constitution" at the 1997 American Political Science Association conference in Washington, DC. He has drafted a Constitution for Israel which has been published in Hebrew and Russian.During the past two years, Professor Eidelberg has been conducting seminars on constitutions, diverse parliamentary electoral systems, Jewish law, and related topics at the Jerusalem center of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy.Address:P.O. Box 23702Jerusalem 91236 IsraelE-Mail: [email protected]