Friday, January 08, 2010

No support for Israel means no 9/11 and no war against Islam

Matt Yglesias, one of the more prominent young Jewish US bloggers writes, certainly correctly, that Al-Qaeda would not go out of business if a Palestinian state was created. I imagine Yglesias' point is that Al Qaeda's hostility against the US would continue even after a fair resolution to the dispute over Zionism has been reached. If that's his point, where he's wrong is in his belief that the creation of a Palestinian state would constitute a fair resolution of the conflict.

It is weird because Yglesias, like any reasonably informed follower of events in the Middle East, could easily produce a list of conditions that the Palestinian state would have to submit to and can easily understand why any condition on that list would be unacceptable to the Palestinians and those in the region who empathize with the Palestinians. But he will not allow himself to take the next logical step forward to understand that if those conditions are imposed, many Palestinians and those who would support them would not consider it a fair resolution.

Examples of the conditions I'm referring to include that the Palestinians will have to accept less than 22% of the territory of Palestine for a population about equal in size to the Jewish population, that the country would not have a military, that the country would not control its own borders, that the country would, at Israel's discretion, have to host foreign troops, that the country would not control its natural resources and that refugees would be formally denied their right to return. Supporters of Israel consider all of these conditions fair. Many Palestinians and their supporters do not. My point here is that Yglesias should be able to anticipate that Palestinians would not consider the imposition of these conditions fair. That he does not is the result of a mental block that clouds his understanding of the region.

But the interesting part of his post is his discussion of the reaction to true statements that Israel plays a role in radicalizing Muslims
This reality makes a lot of American Jews uncomfortable to the point where they try to insist on denying that Israel has anything to do with anyone’s motives for doing anything, but that’s absurd.
I want here to write about exactly how absurd it is to deny that Israel is the most important ultimate source of hostility against the US among Muslims. I also want to mention quickly that pointing out realities that make Jewish Americans uncomfortable also often provoke false accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry. False accusations of anti-Semitism and the threat to issue such false accusations play an important role in distorting US discourse on the Middle East.

The role Israel plays in inflaming the war between the West and the Muslim world is wider than just in Israel's own policies. Israel is justifiably blamed for US support for US support for authoritarian dictatorships in countries that submit to US control, such as Egypt. When Barack Obama is able to mention only one policy to defend support for Egypt's dictator, which is that Egypt maintains its peace with Israel, what Obama himself is saying is that the reason the US favors over 60 million Egyptians living under dictatorship is to ensure that 5 million Jewish people are able to have a majority state in Palestine.

The US starvation of over 500,000 Iraqis, the US attacks on and occupation of Lebanon and the economic boycotts in the region on countries like Iran, Libya and Syria are justifiably believed by non-Jewish people in the region to have as their ultimate objectives the security of a Jewish majority state for 5 million Jewish people in Palestine. US policies directly and indirectly in support of the idea that there must be a Jewish majority state in Palestine together are reasonably seen to constitute an unprovoked war against the non-Jewish people of the region.

On September 10, 2001, the United States was not an innocent disengaged target of unexplainable hatred and extremism. The United States was conducting a war to subjugate the non-Jewish people of Israel's region to force those non-Jewish people accept the legitimacy of a state that they reject for the same reasons Black Africans rejected White-majority South Africa. Even worse, the United States was conducting this war against the non-Jewish people of the region (who are mostly Muslim, but include Christians, atheists and other religions) without any consequences to the United States itself.

In 2001, Osama Bin Laden had real grievances with the United States all of which were related to the US project to keep Israel's region of over 200 million non-Jews safe for 5 million Jewish people to have a majority Jewish state. If the United States had not supported Israel there would have been no 9/11 attack against the United States. I'll point out here that the rights of Jewish individuals can be protected in a one-state solution that does not have a Jewish majority but that would not necessitate the US waging war against the non-Jewish people of its region.

Some supporters of Israel acknowledge the cost the US pays to support Israel and believe it is a good thing. 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 and it sucks for them and their families but at least 5 million Jewish people in Palestine do not have to worry that they may have to live under Muslim majority rule. More than 5,000 US troops died in the subsequent invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq that were the direct result of 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq were killed, and millions displaced. Probably trillions of dollars of economic resources will be diverted to the war effort just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some supporters of Israel think the US should be willing to pay whatever it costs to make sure no Palestinian Jacob Zuma could be elected to rule Israel with non-Jewish support.

But what Yglesias says "makes a lot of American Jews uncomfortable" is the idea that the United States may stop believing its support for Israel carries an acceptable cost. Preventing that from happening requires minimizing the fact that support for Israel has consequences for the US even to, what Yglesias acknowledges is, the point of absurdity. The discomfort with the idea of calculating the full cost of Israel to the United States also generates sometimes sincere, sometimes cynical accusations of anti-Semitism which intimidate and distort the US foreign policy decision-making process.

The United States is trillions of dollars and thousands of lives poorer than it would have been if US policy-makers could have conceived of advocating a peaceful and gradual transition to one state that protects the rights of Jewish people but at the same time would not require US support for regional authoritarian dictatorships, the denial of technology to other countries in the region, occupations, economic blockades and generally war against the non-Jewish people in the region.

The war the US is waging to defend the idea that there must be a majority Jewish state is becoming more expensive. Eventually the expense will have undeniable consequences for all Americans. As Yglesias says, looking at those costs can make Jewish Americans uncomfortable but the over 300 million people of the United States and the over 200 million non-Jewish people in Israel's region will eventually reach the limit of what they are willing to pay to ensure that 5 million Jewish people in Palestine can maintain a majority state.

If in the 1990s, the United States had switched to advocacy of one state that could accommodate all of the people of Palestine without necessarily having a Jewish political majority, that would have signified victory for the non-Jews in the war the US had been waging against the non-Jews of the region up to that point. With the war over, the attack on 9/11 would not, and could not, have happened. That the US was unable to advocate one state was a mistake then as it is now.


N. Friedman said...


The most likely outcome is that Israel's destruction, were that ever to occur, would be perceived as an incentive for more, not less, terrorism. It would be perceived as showing that Islam has the wherewithal to take on the rest of the world.

Your writing sounds a lot like the writings of the appeasers in the 1930's. If only this or that of Germany's grievances is satisfied, peace will break out. The world, however, does not work that way. The root causes theory - the very argument asserted by the appeasers before WWII (and by you now) - can sometimes explain the origins of a problem but almost never the way to resolve the problem.

Hence, the settlement reached at the end of WWI was widely believed before WWII to be the animating cause for German radicalism. Maybe it was. Either way, that radicalism took on a life of its own and there was no resolving it by addressing root causes. So, the efforts to address the root causes led the German leadership to believe it could demand more and more and that it could make war.

Likewise, Israel is certainly among the causes for the revival of violence by Muslims against the West. But, having been revived does not mean that eliminating an original cause will eliminate what now drives the violence. That mistakes a grievance for what has become a holy religious cause.

What will eliminate the current violence is the defeat of its aims, so that it is not perceived as a viable means to advance the Muslim regions but seen as a source that prevents advancement.

Arnold Evans said...

There are a lot of examples of resolving root causes resolving conflicts.

When the US left Vietnam, Vietnam stopped shooting at US soldiers, as one example. Coming up with a dozen more would be trivial.

Friedman, I'm curious if you'd concede that if the United States had stopped supporting the proposition that there must be a Jewish majority state in Palestine in the 1990s, then 9/11 would not have happened. In which case if the costs the US have taken on because of 9/11 outweigh the benefits to the US of the policy proposition that there must be a Jewish state then supporting that proposition was a mistake from the US' point of view.

N. Friedman said...


You write: "When the US left Vietnam, Vietnam stopped shooting at US soldiers, as one example. Coming up with a dozen more would be trivial"

That is not a reasonable analogy. Vietnam had no fight with the US. It was the other way around.

You write: "I'm curious if you'd concede that if the United States had stopped supporting the proposition that there must be a Jewish majority state in Palestine in the 1990s, then 9/11 would not have happened."

Why would I concede that. Such is a proposition that has no substantial evidence behind it. The causes of 9/11 are the revival of Islam as a political cause among Muslims. And, the cause of that is the withdraw of the West as direct ruling power and its replacement by thugs, large-scale immigration of Muslims to the West, the advent of the Internet and ambitious people who aim to obtain power by means of intimidation and violence, using religion to justify the violence.

To the extent that Israel is a grievance to Muslims, it is one of many. And, if it did not exist, there are dozens of other grievances, most particularly grievances against India, grievances against the UK, grievances against the Saudi government, grievances against the Egyptian government.

What we know, however, is that left to their own - where there is no push from the West and no reason to kill large numbers of people -, there is still violence. Take Southern Sudan, since the 1980's, where more than a million non-Muslims were massacred and where slavery was re-instituted. Israel did not cause that. Rather, the violence was the work of people who made religion their cause. And, if such violence could be used as effectively against the US, it would. Why? Because the religious movement among Muslims that causes this violence, the Islamist movement, aims to bring Muslim rule to the entire world. That is their cause, not Israel's destruction, which is merely an incidental matter.

Arnold Evans said...

You seem to be saying "Israel has nothing to do with anyone's motives anywhere."

N. Friedman said...

No, Arnold, that is not my view.

My view is that Israel is an incidental to the Islamist war against the West. Again, to quote the Christmas underwear bomber: A Feb. 20, 2005, Internet posting attributed to the son and quoted by The Associated Press said: “I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win ... and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!”

That is his cause. Israel is an incidental - and, evidently, not one he cared much about. Israel's demise will do nothing to eliminate the cause he was fighting for and that al Qaeda is fighting for. More than likely, Israel's demise would spur more, not less, violence because it would be seen as a victory in the movement to re-establish the empire he so very much desires.

Arnold Evans said...

It seems that you are saying Israel plays no role in generating the wide range of regional grievances that caused Mutallab to become radical. That if the US advocated one state that would have no impact on Al Qaeda's ability to recruit someone like Mutallab or Al Qaeda's decision to target the United States.

That is the same as "Israel has nothing to do with anyone's motives anywhere." It strikes me as absurd.

If that is not your view, what do you concede Israel as to do with someone's motives somewhere?

N. Friedman said...

My view is that you confuse the Islamist cause with the anti-Israel cause. They are two different, distinct issues.

The Islamist cause is to extend Islamic rule to the world. The Anti-Israel cause is to destroy Israel. The anti-India movement seeks to break up India into its states, focusing currently on Kashmir. The destruction of these states would advance the Islamist cause, creating even more violence than we have thus far seen.

Arnold Evans said...

So what role will you concede the anti-Zionist cause plays today in attracting and radicalizing people to what you call the Islamist cause?

To say none would be absurd.

N. Friedman said...


Islamists, as I noted, aim to conquer the world for Islam. They make no bones about that being the central aim in their own literature directed to Muslims and those who engage in that cause assert that cause as what motivates them. That, not hatred of Israel. And that is something that anyone who embraces the radical Islamist cause understands.

Israel, however, does play a major role in Islamist propaganda. The purpose of the propaganda is to confuse and divide the West. Jews, after all, have never been loved in the West and any cause involving Jews more or less always becomes controversial at some point. So, it is a tried and true tactic to criticize things involving Jews in order to undermine Western resistance. The Nazis did exactly the same thing. In fact, Islamists often copy Nazi propaganda - some of which even appears nearly verbatim in the Hamas covenant.

Hatred of Israel does not radicalize anyone who was not previously radicalized. It does not attract people who would not otherwise be attracted. The main attraction to Islamism is its promise of a meaningful life in pursuit of a great religious cause. It is a way of life in that sense that someone who adopts the cause adopts it as his (or her) way of life. That cause is something that motivates a person from Nigeria to get on a plane to kill Americans on a Christian holiday, not Israel.

I am not denying that Israel appears in Islamist propaganda read by Muslims. I am not denying the many - albeit not all - Muslims hate Israel. I am saying that the Islamist cause is not about Israel and the disappearance of Israel today would have no impact on the Islamist movement.

N. Friedman said...


The sentence above that now reads "I am saying that the Islamist cause is not about Israel and the disappearance of Israel today would have no impact on the Islamist movement" should, instead, read:

I am saying that the Islamist cause is not about Israel and the disappearance of Israel today would have no negative impact on the Islamist movement.

Arnold Evans said...

OK Friedman. You're making the exact statement Yglesias says some Jewish Americans make because they are uncomfortable with the idea that support for the Israel carries costs for the US. If you don't realize that, I doubt any reasonable reader of this exchange is missing it.

US policy in the region is a lot more prone to disregard the rights and sensibilities of the non-Jewish people of the region than it would be if it was not constrained by the idea that there must be a Jewish state.

A lot of non-Jewish people are being killed by policies whose ultimate aim is ensuring Muslims are not able to challenge Israel.

The people who die, who go hungry or go jobless as part of the Western effort to ensure that the people of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and other countries cannot effectively follow their reasonable inclination to challenge Israel play a significant role an creating the atrocities that convert college students to radicals.

The idea that the Islamist movement would not be impacted at all by the US ending detrimental policies aimed at maintaining its commitment to keep 5 million Jewish people in a secure majority state is, as I keep saying, absurd.

But the alternative idea would be uncomfortable for some people.

N. Friedman said...


Mr. Yglesias is entitled to his opinion, for which he has no evidence, just his gut feeling.

Again, I go where the evidence is. Provide me with evidence showing that recruits for Jihad are moved to join Jihad primarily due to Israel. We have Exhibit A in the Christmas underwear bomber. Why was his agenda, according to his own words, to conquer the world for Islam if, in fact, he was motivated by Israel? Why are his writings not primarily about Israel if that is what moved him? Do you have an explanation for that?

Now, the 9/11 hijackers certainly hated Israel. However, like many Muslims radicals of their time, what most likely cemented them to the cause was Bosnia, where many, if not, all of them spent time in the fight. That destination was very important to many Islamists of note, including Omar Sheik - killer of Daniel Pearl. So, one could say that Bosnia is the cause, if we go by your logic. After all, it played a major role in the lives of many of those who have killed Westerners.

Again, I do not deny that these people mostly all hate Israel, just as I do not deny that these people mostly all hate India. If you are Christian, they probably also hate you. What I deny is that Israel is the causal factor in all of this. That amounts to oversimplifying a complex phenomena.

I do not see evidence for your proposition. On the other hand, there is a mountain of actual evidence that Muslims join the fight to conquer the world for Islam.

And, of course, Muslims from the region of Pakistan use India in their propaganda. In fact, there is so much more propaganda about India that to suggest that Israel is the center of gravity of all of this is pretty nuts.

Let's be honest here, Arnold. Your agenda is against Israel and you hope to use Islamist violence as a sword against Israel's existence. No amount of evidence would convince you that Islamist are recruited to advance the Islamist agenda to conquer the world for Islam, not even evidence that comes from captured and dead Islamist terrorists.

N. Friedman said...


An interesting note, from Haaretz, which reports that Hamas does not yet have what it takes to become part of al Qaeda. Why?, you might ask. Evidently, because, among other things, Hamas has failed "to prove their global jihadist intentions, a study has found."

So, we have, according to you, people who become radicalized due to Israel but, when they join the radical of radical groups, al Qaeda, they change their focus from Israel to the globe. Wow, what conflicted people these radicals must be to expect even those fighting Israel to change their focus from Israel to elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

As always very well put Arnold.I`d thought Friedman was going to go for Bush`s "They`re jealous of our freedoms and successes and thats why they hate us"instead its the old THEY[insert which ever person/group/religion etc.. you find applicable] want to conquer the world![Bin Laden as Hitler]you can`t negotiate with those sort of people and thus we have no choice but to fight them and defend our [superior] civilisation and way of life.

GeneralOreo said...
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GeneralOreo said...
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GeneralOreo said...


Funny, as someone who grew up in an arabic country, I'll say that 1) irrational hatred and jelousy of the west is abundant 2) talk of islam conquering the world and praise of past jihads is more than common and nobody speaks against it and 3) I find secular and liberal democracy, free speech, reason and logic superior to anything islam can offer. You want to call it 'western' civilization, go ahead. Doesn't change a thing.

But hey, guess I was brainwashed by FAUX NEWS. Hah.

The islamic world is now about identity. Your views on it have nothing to do with reality and evidence but what you want to believe and enforce in your world view and ideology. In the US, it's also seen in comparison to ignorant right wingers which adds another dimension to this. It's about as dumb as the right refusing to do anything about climate change because they see it as a victory for irrational far left zealots (the other side of the same coin really).

Ah, I said I'm done with this blog but couldn't help posting this reply. Gotta stop arguing needlessly and move on.