Sunday, December 27, 2009

How does Al-Qaeda keep recruiting intelligent Western-educated operatives?

How did an educated Muslim son of a millionaire such as Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab become willing to take on an Al Qaeda mission?

A simple one word answer: Israel.

A more detailed, maybe more complicated answer is that by any objective measure, the United States really is at war with the Muslim world over the legitimacy of Israel.

Americans generally do not like believing this. Most Americans take as an unexamined premise that reasonable people must agree that the Holocaust established that there must be a Jewish-majority state in Palestine. From this premise, which is both unexamined and false, Americans are often lead to conclusions that fundamentally conflict with the conclusions arrived at by Muslims.

The premise is indefensible. A Jewish-majority state in Palestine is no more cosmically necessary than a White-political majority state in Southern Africa, and just as offensive to the rest of its region. It is a fact that most Jewish people, in Israel and outside - including in the United States - believe there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. But it is a false unexamined premise that this desire of most Jewish people that there be a Jewish state must be fulfilled at the cost it has now been shown to exact.

Many Americans, including, disappointingly, Barack Obama, believe that the slow starvation of Gaza, embodied in Israel's infamous statement that "the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger", is a reasonable response to Hamas' refusal to accept that there be a Jewish majority Israel. Starting from the premise that there must be a secure Jewish majority state, it is reasonable to punish Gaza for electing leadership that openly denies Israel's legitimacy. In truth, a free Gaza under hostile control does pose a threat to the security of Israel as a majority-Jewish state.

Nearly no Muslims start from the common US premise that there must be a Jewish majority state. Without that premise, the strangulation of Gaza is an outrageous imposition of hardship on innocent and vulnerable Muslim civilians. Without that premise, the United States is assisting Israel in waging an unjust war on the children of Gaza.

Interestingly, the premise that there must be a Jewish state itself, the root of the conflict between the US and Muslim perception of the starvation of Gaza (among many other things that I'll get to later) remains unexamined in the United States at least partly because of a form of intellectual intimidation committed by supporters of Israel in which the idea has been advanced that to question the legitimacy of Israel is a form of bigotry against Jews.

The idea that opposition to Zionism is not bigotry against Jews also does not withstand scrutiny, but the idea cannot be questioned in the West except by those willing to risk being called anti-Semitic. These accusations of anti-Semitism are passionate and often sincere as many Jewish people are uncomfortable with the idea that the legitimacy of Israel can be questioned. These accusations of anti-Semitism are unreasonable and wilt when examined calmly. Unfortunately, a large amount of Americans who are concerned with the Middle East are intimidated by the risk that in questioning these premises they may be wrongly considered anti-Semitic.

Smart Muslim students, as they become politically aware, find themselves more able to question the premise that there must be a Jewish state in Palestine than most Americans. And once the premise is questioned, it is impossible to affirm without on some level for some reason elevating the rights, desires and concerns of Jewish people above those of non-Jewish Palestinians.

Beyond Gaza, Egypt, as well as the last remaining collaborationist colonial monarchies on earth, those of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf are supported in denying rights to their people, torturing those they rule and exploiting their leadership for opportunities for personal gain by the US and the West on the basis that they "sustain peace with Israel, which is a very difficult thing to do in that region".

This seems like a reasonable policy if you accept the unexamined premise that there must be a secure Jewish-majority state in Palestine. If you do not accept that premise, then the over 100 million Arabs held in these US-supported dictatorships have rights that simply outweigh any need for 5 million Jewish people to have a political majority in some secure territory in Palestine.

Beyond the pro-Israel states, the US and West actively work to sabotage the economies of regional states that, in alignment with the preferences of their people, do not accept the legitimacy of Israel. The means unemployed people who otherwise would be employed. This means retired people losing more of their wealth to inflation than would be the case were it not for deliberate US actions to make that so.

People who accept the premise that there must be a Jewish state assign all of the blame for Western economic warfare against Muslims to governments that take actions that threaten Israel's security. People who do not accept that premise see the situation diametrically differently.

What look to Americans, and to those who accept without examination the premise that there must be a Jewish-majority state in Palestine, as largely benevolent Western policies look to a Muslim student as bigotry-motivated attacks on a huge range of Muslims, emanating from the invalid idea that 5 million Jewish people must have a safe majority state in Palestine at any human cost.

No American can understand the world of an Al-Qaeda recruit unless he can ask what if there was no Jewish state? What if all of the refugees were allowed to return to the territory with their political preferences respected, even if they would vote for a single non-Jewish state. While Americans remain unable to understand, while Obama describes it as a small number of people with outsized rage, the position is perfectly understandable to those who are able to question Obama's premise that there must be a Jewish state - even if Obama is not able to question that premise himself.

So a Muslim student who sees America perpetuating a war against hundreds of millions of innocent, often defenseless and vulnerable Muslims asks what should I do about this? In the naivete of youth, upon his first practical exposure to the virtue of self-sacrifice for a larger ideal many sign up to fight, willing to risk his life just as many young Americans are willing join the US military. It is interesting that the war against Muslims that many young Muslims perceive is completely invisible to Americans who cannot or have not questioned the fundamental premise that there must be a Jewish state. Most Americans honestly and naively have no idea what these young Muslims could be fighting for.

In a single sentence, Barack Obama is conducting a multi-trillion dollar war against Al-Qaeda because he is unwilling or unable to question his premise that there must be a Jewish state. As long as US politicians remain unable to question that premise, they, while believing they are acting reasonably, will continue to generate the outrages, indeed continue to prosecute the war, that drives intelligent and educated recruits to organizations such as Al Qaeda.

It is interesting that a non-violent alternative to Al Qaeda in the West has not yet developed. My contention is that as of now, such an organization could reach its goals more effectively and would offer prospective Al Qaeda recruits a better outlet for their impulse to contribute. One problem is that if organizations that do not actually advocate violence are disbanded by Western security apparatuses just as those that do advocate violence are, it leaves a situation in which only the more militant organizations are able to flourish.

The situation we have today, in which the US will not question the idea that there must be a Jewish-majority state in Palestine while most Muslims do doubt that idea, will continue to instill in many young Muslims the idea that they should defend their people from Western predations - as it instilled that idea in a young Osama Bin Laden once - violently if that is the only way possible.


Anonymous said...

Arab Gulf? Are you referring to the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf?

N. Friedman said...


The UK paper, The Guardian, reports the following: "Another passenger, Syed Jafri, said: "The suspected terrorist was said to have been yelling and swearing and 'screaming about Afghanistan'."

By contrast, you assert:

How did an educated Muslim son of a millionaire such as Umar Farouk Abdul Muttallab become willing to take on an Al Qaeda mission?

A simple one word answer: Israel.

So, according to you, a man obsessed about Israel in a cause obsessed about Israel tries to down a plane and, when overcome by fellow passengers, screams about Afghanistan. Perhaps, he forgot to take the script with him.

Actually, the issue here is that your motive is to attack Israel and to assign blame to Israel whether or not Israel had one wit to do with events.

The reason that most Americans believe differently than you is that Americans assume that, whatever the real motive of Mr. Mutallab, if it really involved Israel, then his statements would mention Israel. Instead, he screamed about Afghanistan.

As for what is really behind all of this, the word is the Muslim religious revival movement. It had its origins in the demise of the Caliphate and gained its original adherents - a million in the early years - in reaction to its demise. And, from the beginning (even before Israel existed), Jews were said to be the force behind Ataturk (or, in some versions, Ataturk was said to be a secret Jew). So, there is a connection between Islamists and Jews that is more important than Israel because, to Islamists, the Caliphate is more important than Israel.

I do not deny that Islamists hate Israel. However, it has, to most vehement Islamists, been a second rank issue, far behind restoring the Caliphate.

Islamists would like Israel to disappear. And the war against Israel has done a great deal in the Arab regions to revive Jihad and, interestingly and non-traditionally, as a non-state institution. But, frankly, if one reads literature written by Islamists and directed to Muslims, the obsession is not Israel.

You might read Raymond Ibrahim's interest collection of documents titled the Al Qaeda Reader. In it, he provides translations of al Qaeda propaganda directed to the West and first time translations of al Qaeda propaganda directed to fellow Muslims. The differences are striking. Notwithstanding what you think, the obsession is not Israel.

But clearly, against Mr. Mutallab's own statements, you think he acted due to Israel. And, the evidence that contradicts the man's own statements are, please tell me? Surely, if Israel was the issue, he would be screaming, perhaps for propaganda purposes, about Israel.

One last point. Whatever the original causes of the violent and self-destructive behavior of certain Muslims, the violence and the ideology behind it have taken on their own life. Remember the arguments in the 1930's about the horrors visited upon Germany by the Versailles Treaty; and that undoing that arguable error by granting German concessions would assuage the Nazi hostility. In fact, by the 1930's, whatever the original cause of the Nazis, that movement had taken on it own life and concessions had no real chance of success.

So it is with your obsession with Israel. Israel, first of all, was never central to the Islamists but, second of all, even if it were, the Islamist movement has taken on a life of its own that is unlikely to be assuaged. In fact, assuaging Islamists is more likely to foment more, not less, violence.

lidia said...

NF is took a permanent job here, it seems

Anyway, Arnold is right - Israel is a poison for the ME and beyond.

Now, NF is (as always) lies. Germany was NOT a victim of a colonial occupation, but an imperialist colonialist state beaten by its imperialist rivals. Palestinians, on the other hand, were and are victims of imperialist colonialist rape of their land. Germany could be imagined not to be colonialist, but Israel must go (and it will)

N. Friedman said...

The point, lidia, is that Arnold's assertions are wrong, since the terrorist screamed about Afghanistan, not Israel.

One would think - since Arnold is so sure that Israel is behind what happened - that the perpetrator would follow script and blame Israel. That, however, did not happen. The man screamed about Afghanistan.

N. Friedman said...

It gets worse for the "It's Israel" theory. A group called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula forgot to read Arnold's script when announcing why the attack heard. According to the London Telegraph:

The group added that the failed attack was in response to US attacks on the group in Yemen, while it also urged the killing of Western embassy workers in the region as part of an "all out war on Crusaders".

So, it is due to Israel but those who might make propaganda hay out of the matter claim something else. Imagine that. They cannot even get their propaganda straight. And, that is true whether the group was really behind the attack or is just another Islamist group wanting to claim responsibility for the unsuccessful attempt at mayhem.

One thing we can be sure of: if there were any benefit to blaming Israel, such would be good propaganda for people like Arnold. Yet, Islamists resist the temptation. Could it be that Arnold is wrong and does not understand what motivates Islamists who want to blow people up? Sure looks like it.

Arnold Evans said...

Aaah Friedman:

You very often give painstakingly detailed refutations of arguments I do not make. This is no exception. My real argument is on this page, any interested reader can just scroll up and read it. Your presentation of my argument is just not a reasonable interpretation. The effort you put into refuting your presentation of my argument is really wasted, but use your time as you see fit.

I really don't feel like retyping what I've already typed but I think what I've already wrote already addresses your concerns and is consistent with what you are presenting as counterexamples.

Anyway, carry on.

Anonymous said...

Friedman is obviously a troll and the one rule to follow with such people is:Please do NOT feed the troll!

N. Friedman said...

But Arnold,

Your entire argument is premised on Israel being the reason for the attack. That, after all, is what you claim.

Consider: if this were really about Israel, would not the propaganda by the bomber and his backers relate to Israel? And, if not, why not? You have no answer for this.

N. Friedman said...


We also have these postings allegedly by Abdul Muttallab that are reprinted by The Guardian. They posting do not appear to pertain to Israel. They pertain the to perfidy of Muslim rulers. And, given the point of view of The Guardian, were there anything in the man's background that relates to Israel, it would be front and center.

So, your contention that the man was recruited due to Israel is belied by the lack of interest of the man in Israel.

I trust that you have to admit that the connection here to Israel is not supported by evidence.

N. Friedman said...

Add The Washington Post, which has also gone through Abdul Muttallab's online posts, to the score of finding no trace of the word "Israel" or even "Jews." Read it and weep. Loneliness appears to have been his problem, if we go by what was posted.

Again, Arnold, stop trying simplify things. You hate Israel so you project Israel into things that, just perhaps, have nothing to do with things. That says something about your predilections but does nothing to get at the truth.