Islāmic Fascism and
Satyagraha in Palestine

Update, 2023: Ḥamās Kills Jews; Students Celebrate

When you hear about Israel this morning and resistance being launched by Palestinians, remember against all odds Palestinians are fighting for life, dignity, and freedom -- alongside others doing the same -- against settler colonization, imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, which the United States is the model. Let it be known the fight for Palestine, against colonization, is a fight for the imagination that other worlds are possible, that genocide should not be accepted, and that people always have the choice of refusal, and the right to resist. Free the land.

Derron Borders, of the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, Director of "Diversity and Inclusion" at the School, October 10, 2023. This was after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel from Gaza on October 7th, randomly murdering and kidnapping people, including children and even babies, who were sometimes decapitated. Naked murder victims were displayed in Gaza, to the jubilation of crowds.

This is what "life, dignity, and freedom" mean to them. It is not clear how Borders could be against "capitalism" with a position at a School of Management. But this is the modern university, where exterminating Jews is part of an Orwellian "genocide should not be accepted." Much of what Borders says, of course, is anti-American boilerplate, the kind of thing mindlessly repeated by brainless academic fools like Berron Borders. Definitely the modern university.

Sen. Marco Rubio summed up the objections: “For decades cowardly college administrators have enabled our universities to become nests of Anti-American/Anti-Western activism. This week student groups at our most ‘elite’ universities signed their names to proclamations siding with savages who murdered & mutilated babies and raped & desecrated the bodies of dead women. And across America college students” with “federal taxpayer subsidized” loans “celebrated the murder of Jews.”

Famed historian Victor Davis Hanson observed: “Americans knew higher education practiced racist admission policies. It has long promoted racially segregated dorms and graduations. And de facto it has destroyed the First Amendment. But the overt support for Hamas killers by the diversity, equity, and inclusion crowd on a lot of campuses exposes to Americans the real moral and intellectual rot in higher education.”

Glenn H. Reynolds, "Pro-Hamas protests show how higher education has finally crossed the line," The New York Post, October 15, 2023.

As we were reminded this week, since October 7th, America and Europe have seen huge increases in anti-Semitism. Not least on American campuses.

These are places where professors and students have spent years talking about “micro-agressions.” Only to turn out to be very aggressive indeed in their hatred of Jews.

People who have said that speech is violence and that even “silence is violence” have had nothing to say about the mass killing of Jews.

People who have spent their lives boasting about their feminism have had not a word to say about the mass rape of their Jewish sisters.

Douglas Murray, "Israeli president on college bosses: Can’t they understand this is a fight against evil?" The New York Post, December 7, 2023.

Islam was never a religion of peace.
Islam is the religion of fighting.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (d.2019), Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), 14 May 2015

...che non si debbe mai lasciare seguire uno disordine per fuggire una guerra: perché la non si fugge ma si differisce a tuo disavvantaggio. should never permit a disorder to persist in order to avoid a war, for war is not avoided thereby but merely deferred to one's own disadvantage.

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince [Daniel Donno translation, Bantam Books, 1981, p. 20]

The Democrats will betray Israel. The Republicans will betray the Ukraine. The Libertarians won't help anyone. All for "peace in our time."

Ἐγκλινοβάραγγος (Enklinobarangus)

Ἵνα τί ἐφρύαξαν ἔθνη, καὶ λαοὶ ἐμελέτησαν κενά;
Quare fremuerunt gentes, et populi meditati sunt inania?
Why do the heathen [gôyim] rage, and peoples imagine vain things?

Psalms 2:1

Update, 2023: Ḥamās Kills Jews; Students Celebrate

On October 7, 2023, the terrorist organization Ḥamās, حَمَاس -- short for حَرَكَةُ ٱلْمُقَاوَمَةِ ٱلْإِسْلَامِيَّة, Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah, the "Movement of Islamic [not Palestinian] Resistance" -- based in Gaza, dedicated to killing Jews, the destruction of Israel, and the dominance of ʾIslām, launched a massive attack into Southern Israel. Their goal was to kill as many people as possible, men, women, children, and infants, and to seize hostages to take back into Gaza. They caught an unprepared Israel by surprise. Ḥamās had deliberately kept quiet recently and acted like they were dedicated to improving the lives of Palestinians. Fat chance.

Instead, they were preparing for war, as they had done for their whole history. By their own charter, they are dedicated to killing Jews and destroying Israel. As Terrorists, of course, their tactics are always to target civilians and to use civilians -- hostages and their own people -- as human shields. They want Palestinians killed in collateral damage, so that they can blame Israel, while useful idiots in the American press and academia will go along with them. Just as we have seen. They have no concern for the lives of Palestinians they throw away: Such people, after all, become "martyrs" (although the best "martyrs" are suicide bombers), whose reward is in heaven.

In the event, the Terrorists killed well over 1200 people, the most Jews killed at once since the Holocaust. They first went after a military base and police stations, catching them unprepared. Then they moved on to local kibbutzim and just ordinary civilian neighborhoods. Often, going door to door, they would just kill everyone, including babies. One kibbutz security officer, a 25 year-old-women, heard suspicious noises, broke out weapons, and armed her people. They held off the terrorists. Other kibbutzim, like so much else, were surprised. Terrorist paragliders dropped into a rock concert, killing some 260 attendees.

Eventually, reinforcements arrived and many terrorists were killed or captured. Others, however, were able to retreat into Gaza, holding over 200 hostages, including children and elderly people. Meanwhile, Muslims around the world were jubilant. This included, not just Muslims in the United States, but students and academics at American universities, who celebrated a great triumph of "anti-colonialism" and "anti-imperialism" against the "settler state" of Israel. This just reveals their malicious ignorance, since most Israeli Jews are not from Europe. They fled from Arab and other Muslims countries. Jews had lived in Yemen since Ancient times, where there were even Jewish kingdoms; but they are all gone now. Middle Eastern Jews, more than European ones, know more of what they are up against.

Apart from the confusion of calling Israel a "colonialist settler state," we must consider where this formula originates. The supreme "colonialist settler state" is the United States, not Israel -- the "Great Satan" to the Mullahs, as opposed to the "Little Satan" of Israel. So the root problem may not be anti-Semitism, but instead anti-Americanism. This is why the "usual suspects" of the socialist Left are to be found in the "Kill the Jews" rallies. Whether they hate America (and Christians) more than Jews is a good question.

In April, 2024, an Irān/Houthi inspired rally in Dearborn, Michigan, featured, not just "Death to Israel" chants, but also "Death to America," أَلْمَوْتُ لِأَمْرِيكَا, ʾal-Mawt li-ʾAmrīkā. This was denounced by the Arab Mayor of Dearborn but not, for a good while, the Governor of Michigan, or any of the "Squad" pro-Terrorist Michigan Congressional delegation. We know how much they all hate America and what it stands for.

Vandalized base of the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, in Lafayyette Park, across the street from the White House, after the Terrorist riot of June 8, 2024. No rioters or vandals were arrested, since they are endulged by the Biden Administration, and only one park ranger, harrassed and pelted with debris, had been assigned to guard the statue. "DEATH TO AMERIKKKA" nicely combines Terrorist and old Communist slogans about the United States (adding "KKK" to the name), telling us all we need to know about these people, to whom, of course, "collective liberation" means mass slaughter and slavery -- although the Leftists may not realize they will be expected to convert to ʾIslām.

"Death to America" was more familiar in Persian, from 1979 and 1980: مَرْگ بَر آمْرِيكَا, Marg bar Āmrīkā. Today, however, in Irān one often hears instead, مَرْگ بَر دِيكْتَاتُور, Marg bar Dīktātur, "Death to the Dictator." There are enough regime loyalists to sustain the theocratic dictatorship in Irān; but it is not clear that a majority of the population is still with the government. Unfortunately, there is no much they can do about it.

The Houthi chant adds something to which we might attend for clarification. They also say أَلْلَعْنَةُ عَلَى ٱلْيَهُود, ʾal-Laʿnah ʿalā-l-Yahūd, "A Curse on the Jews." Just in case we thought it was only about Zionism.

How mindless are the socialist Leftists who support Ḥamās we see when, besides slogans like "colonialist settler state," they decide that Zionism must represent "white supremacy" also -- because, you know, all the enemies of the Left all believe and represent the same things.

But my own Arabic insructor at UCLA in 1968 was an Israeli who was originally an Iraqi Jew, and he was as dark-skinned, if not darker, than any Arab I ever met -- and I have traveled around Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. So my instructor was the opposite of what all the Terrorist sympathizers say about Israel. Either they don't know what they are talking about, and they are idiots, or they know that what they say is all lies. They just want to kill Jews, just as much as Ḥamās does -- also why they wear masks, like all terrorists.

Dead Jews and burned and even decapitated babies, much of which the terrorists had videotaped and triumphantly broadcast, were dismissed as "Zionist propaganda" by American enthusiasts and apologists. The Terrorists had simply been engaged in "resistance," apparently against "oppressor" infants. A Ḥamās official, Ghazi Hamad, stormed out of a BBC interview because the reporter would not accept his statement that “There was no command to kill any civilians,” which was a lie.
Gaffito left in the Harold Square subway station. Why a "z" with a stroke, Ƶ, is featured is unclear. My guess might have been that the person wanted to write a swastika but was too ignorant to know how to make one.

On the other hand, the crossed "z," or the Wolfsangel symbol, "was appropriated into Nazi symbolism by both military and non-military groups and now remains listed as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League database." Thus the writer, instead of ignorant, might actually have been very well informed on their anti-Semitic symbolism.

The mention of the Anti-Defamation League, however, must remind us that recently the ADL has endorsed several leftist causes, including "Black Lives Matter," whose own anti-Semitism was downplayed or ignored, but now is plainly exposed in their enthusiasm for the killing of Jews. This calls for a sober reevaluation of the political commitments of the ADL, which also recently identified the mathematical expression "100%" as representing "white supremacy." Somebody needs to sober up.
Terrorists were found with just such instructions on them, and their instructions were to rape as well as kill and kidnap. The Terrorists and their apologists know they are lying, just as they want Israelis to know of their savagery.

Terrorists engaging in terrorism was perhaps not so surprising, except for the complacency into which the victims had been lulled. The gullibility and naivety of American diplomacy under Joe Biden was also not surprising. The most shocking development, however, were the celebrations of terrorism by students and professors at American universities. The rot, there, of course, has been growing for some time, and perceptive critics have tried to raise the alarm about it.

American "education" has become a hotbed of extremism, intolerance, hate, and illiberal and violent ideology. Harvard University, generally regarded as the premier university of the country, had already been given a score of zero by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for free speech and academic freedom -- dead last out of 248 schools. This was generous, since the actual score was a negative number. But Harvard suddenly discovered free speech when it was students or faculty calling for the killing of Jews.

And now the raw and vicious face of anti-Semitism has been unmasked. The "two state solution" of the naive, never accepted by Palestinians, has now been forgotten by American radicals. Jews must be killed and Israel eradicated, "from the river to the sea." This is what the Arabs wanted to do in 1948, and the fanatics are still working on it. And, of course, "By any means necessary" means that terrorism, human shields, rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and mutilation are all acceptable.

At the same time, the slogan, "Palestine will be free," suffers from the paradox that few Arab or Muslim countries are anything but dictatorships or authoritarian monarchies. Nobody is really "free" there. Instead, few Muslim countries have freedom of religion, and most of them have abysmal human rights records. Many do not even believe in human rights. Irān hangs homosexuals; and there are two infamous cases of Iranian women, Mahsa Amini (d.16 September 2022) and Armita Geravand (d.28 October 2023), who were arrested by the morality police and beaten to death, both for violating the rules about wearing a ḥijāb. These are the principles of government endosed by the "Kill the Jews" (ʾiṭbaḥ al-Yahūd, إِطْبَح ٱليَهُود) demonstrators, and by the silence of establishment feminism [note].
Copy of Arabic Mein Kampf found in child's bedroom in Ḥamās camp in Gaza. The Arabic title, كِفَاحِي, Kifāḥī, "My Battle," translates German Mein Kampf. Otherwise, "Adolf Hitler" is transcribed into Arabic.

Military rule may not even always be a bad thing. Free and democratic elections in Algeria and Egypt resulted in the election of Islamist regimes, which then were deposed by the military. The Muslim Brotherhood itself, جَمَاعَةُ ٱلْإِخْوَانِ ٱلْمُسْلِمِين, the Jamāʿatu l-ʾIkhwāni l-Muslimīn), the source of (Sunni) Islamist ideology, briefly ruled Egypt. Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood President of Egypt, was then executed -- as the Brotherhood theorist, Sayyid Qutb, who was shocked and outraged that boys and girls dance together in America, had been executed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1966.

Of course, neither theocracy nor military dicatorship sound like steps in the progress of human rights and enlightenment. But both theocracy and dictatorship seem to remain popular among Palestinians, and with Muslims in general. Pakistan has had little but dictatorship, in comparison to the (mostly) democratic India, since they became independent in 1947. Thanks to Islamist terrorism, Hindu India and especially Buddhist Burma and Thailand have become increasing alarmed and intolerant of Islām.

Thus, also unmasked after the Ḥamās massacre of Israelis is the naked Jihād, جِهَاد, of Ḥamās and its allies, "Islamic Jihad" in Gaza and the Shiʿite "Hezbollah" (the Persian pronunciation of Arabic Ḥizbu-llāh, حِزْبُ ٱلله), the "Party of God," in Lebanon. The Islamists, of course, want to force everyone to convert to Islām, or die. If Ḥamās wants to persuade the world that Islām is a religion of hatred and violence, it is doing an excellent job.

But we know from the behavior of Arab refugees in Europe that they carry with them higher levels of violence, crime, and misogyny than Europeans are used to. Muslim immigrants in Britain, from Pakistan and India, engage in higher levels of crime than Hindu or Sikh immigrants from India. Islām itself seems to acccount for the cultural difference there. And British police, being now ideologically corrupt, tend to arrest the victims rather than the perpetrators of such crimes. As Mark Steyn says, "In Britain, everything is policed except crime." And this is under "Conservative" governments. British Tories, indeed, like Republicans in the United States, tend to betray their party and their voters, figuring that the voters have no alternative. This is why Republican voters like Donald Trump and why establishment Republicans, let alone their Democrat friends, hate Trump with a passion. Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was already complaining that voting for the Tories didn't seem to make much of a difference.

Ḥamās Terrorists shouted ʾAllāhu ʾAkbar, أَللهُ أَكْبَر, "God is Great!" even as they murdered, raped, and mutilated women, children, and infants. They defame God, and their own religion, with every word -- something that must be a matter of grim satisfaction, if nothing else, to atheists, who will see it as the confirmation of their whole critique of religion.

But this defamation does not count as death-worthy "blasphemy" among Muslims, who otherwise are eager for any pretext to murder Christians in Pakistan, or who murder Christians in Nigeria, without bothering with a pretext. We also, incidentally, see the purpose of "gun control" in Nigeria, where the government disarms villagers, without doing anything to then protect them, so that they can be killed or kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists or massacred by Fulani death squads -- while in the United States, where the Democrats have unleashed criminals on the public, the murder of bourgeois citizens by the "oppressed" of capitalism is the heroic vanguard of the Revolution. This is what is taught in the schools.

Israel, serious about protecting its citizens, nevertheless inadvertently followed the "gun control" principle, and is now having second thoughts. Israeli households often had safe rooms or bomb shelters, but no weapons for self-defense -- and the safe rooms often had doors that did not lock and were not bullet proof. Kibbutzim were once alert for their defense, but too much peace bred complacency.

The apologists who want to tell us that Islām is a "religion of peace" have some explaining to do, especially when they may have joined "Kill the Jews" demonstrations. Thus, "Islamophobia," which is used as an accusation of a moral and political crime, but which literally actually just means "fear of Islām," comes to be no more than a sensible reaction to the hostility, brutality, and war that the Islamists practice. The Terrorists believe in fear, and fear of them is what everyone should feel -- followed by the determination to defeat them.

And now, of course, it is not just Islamists, but also the vicious and foolish "Progessives" in America, who endorse open genocide against the Jews but then love to accuse Israel of a bogus "genocide" against Palestinians, while they ignore, at the same time, the actual Chinese genocide against the Muslim Uighurs in China. So obviously, they hate Jews more than they want to protect Muslims. And China is above criticism.

This is not unlike the attitude we see in "Black Lives Matters," when the dozen blacks killed by police in a year, usually with cause, are the justification of riots and destruction, while the hundreds of blacks killed by criminals, often black themselves, are ignored. In other words, the Terrorists and their Muslim and "Progessive" friends -- all united in hate, anti-Semitism and, not incidentally, anti-Americanism -- are not just evil, they are hypocrites in terms of their own purported causes.

Former City Council member Tony Avella attended a fundraiser hosted by Chaudhry Anwar, whose Facebook page featured posts praising Adolf Hitler; Anwar later claimed that his page had been "hacked" and that the posts were not his; The New York Post, October 28, 2023
This may be much the same phenomenon we saw in the Dreyfus Affair, where some of those promoting the fraudulent charge against Dreyfus, of spying for Germany, were more than willing to actually collaborate with the Germans, fellow anti-Semites, during World War II.

A favorite rhetorical device of the Left is always to accuse their opposition of doing the very things they are doing. Thus, Ḥamās wants to exterminate the Jews, so it accuses Israel of "genocide." Something else we see quite widely on the Left, at the same time, is to accuse everyone else of being "Nazis." It is their favorite smear. But in every way they fit the bill for the Nazi Party: matching a totalitarian ideology, such as we see on college campuses (where young students do not believe in free speech, i.e. Constitutional rights), with violence (as practiced by the black suited and masked "Antifa"), and now with open anti-Semitism.

On Sunday, October 8, Ḥamās supporters, led by the "Democratic Socialists of America" (i.e. Communists), had already organized a "protest" in Times Square, New York, to celebrate the murder of Jews. There we saw a young man, among the ḥijābs, and obviously a "person of color" (and therefore sainted), proudly displaying an actual swastika on his cellphone.

Palestinians know who their friends are, and in World War II it was clearly Adolf Hitler, who at times is incautiously cited by enthusiasts -- "Hitler was right!" An Australian "Kill the Jews" rally actually chanted "Gas the Jews!" Palestinian leaders, at the time, such as Mohammed Amin al-Husseini (1897-1974), the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, were in Germany broadcasting Nazi propaganda. There is a history there, a consistent one.

The Oscar telecast in March 2024 was not nearly as political as it had been in recent years. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, especially when the ratings improved. Activists, however, sometimes thought that they needed to make some kind of statement.

Thus, at right we see actor Mark Ruffalo and singer Billie Eilish wearing red pins. This is supposedly to support the Palestinians in Gaza and to call for a cease-fire, so that Ḥamās can regroup, resupply, and prepare to kill more Jews. This is literally what they have promised to do.

Ruffalo is well known as a lunatic fringe Leftist, but we might wonder if he and Eilish understand the significance of their buttons. We might rather hope that they don't, and no one would go bankrupt betting on the ignorance of terrorist sympathizers, as we have seen above with the "white supremacy" business.

Thus, the "red hand" here is based on a photograph. The photograph is of a Palestinian showing his bloody hands to an enthusiastic mob gathered outside the Ramallah police station in 2000. Two Israelis driving through Ramallah had been arrested and held at the station. A mob broke in and killed the Israelis -- beating, stabbing, and mutilating their bodies -- not unlike what happened, on a larger scale, on 10/7/2023. It is called the "Ramallah Lynching."

So, whether they realize it or not, Mark Ruffalo and Billie Eilish were endorsing the murder of Jews. Eilish is probably just a young fool, but Ruffalo seems to think that he is a well informed person. Obviously, he isn't; and we end up wondering how much of an anti-Semite he actually is. Why didn't he just wear a Swastika?

Terrorist-sympathizing demonstrators now seem to typically show actual red hands, probably well aware that this symbolizes the blood of murdered Jews.

לְמַעַן צִיּוֺן לֹא אֶחֱשֶׁה וּלְמַעַן יְרוּשָׁלִם לֹא אֶשְׁקוֺט
עַד־יֵצֵא כַנֹּגַהּ צִדְקָהּ וִישׁוּעָתָהּ כְּלַפִּיד יִבְעָר׃

Διὰ Σειὼν οὐ σιωπήσομαι, καὶ διὰ Ἰερουσαλὴμ οὐκ ἀνήσω, ἕως ἂν ἐξέλθῃ ὡς φῶς ἡ δικαιοσύνη αὐτῆς, τὸ δὲ σωτήριόν μου ὡς λαμπὰς καυθήσεται.

Propter Sion non tacebo, et propter Hierusalem non quiescam, donec egrediatur ut splendor iustus eius, et salvator eius ut lampas accendatur.

For Zion's sake will I not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, until her righteousness shines out like the dawn, and her salvation as a blazing torch.

Isaiah 62:1
צְדָקָה, is "justice, prosperity, charity." The vowels in צִדְקָהּ are due to the "construct form," צִדְקָת, which is used when attributed to the following noun, or, in this case, just because of a suffixed possessive pronoun. The related word, צַדִּיק, "just, pious, virtuous," is cognate to Arabic صَدِيق, "veracious, honest, upright." We also have צֶדֶק, "righteousness, justice." See the table of value terms here.

What we are dealing with in the young fools who have taken up the Terrorist cause at American Universities has been revealed by many things, but one of the nicest examples was with a woman who came out as a spokesman for the radicals who had just taken over Hamilton Hall at Columbia University.

This was one Johannah King-Slutzky, 33 years old, a graduate student in, of all things, the English and Comparative Literature Department. She claimed that students (and others, as we later learned, including "professional anarchists"), illegally occupying Hamilton Hall, could “die of dehydration and starvation” if they were not provided with food and drink by the University, or at least allowed to bring such things in without interference. She said that the University owed food to the students because it was in their paid-for meal program, and that, in any case, it constituted “basic humanitarian aid”.

Even the reporters questioning King-Slutzky found this all absurd. All the occupiers, of course, could get all the food and drink they might want by just leaving the building -- a building that itself certainly could provide water. All this was then widely mocked, even by the leftist press.

Just what we get with Johannah King-Slutzky is evident in the dissertation proposal that is posted at her University webpage:

My dissertation is on fantasies of limitless energy in the transatlantic Romantic imagination from 1760-1860. My goal is to write a prehistory of metabolic rift, Marx’s term for the disruption of energy circuits caused by industrialization under capitalism. I am particularly interested in theories of the imagination and poetry as interpreted through a Marxian lens in order to update and propose an alternative to historicist ideological critiques of the Romantic imagination. Prior to joining Columbia, I worked as a political strategist for leftist and progressive causes and remain active in the higher education labor movement.

If we want a window into what I call "English Department Marxism," this will do nicely. But I would give Marx more credit than to think he had used jargon like "metabolic rift" or "energy circuits." That an aging English student would be "a political strategist for leftist and progressive causes and remain active in the higher education labor movement," however, is not at all surprising. She has already grasped her 15 minutes of fame as one of the great fools of the 21st century.

The manifest evil of ʾIslāmic Terrorism, on the other hand, is here more explicitly realized than in the purely theoretical treatment we have seen recently in the totaliarianism of Merve Emre. And we also have the nice irony that the militant fellow standing behind King-Slutzky is showing a bare midriff that would likely shout "gay" to the kind of people in Irān or Gaza who would then execute him. But we have already been told by the wise and the good that pointing out the deadly opposition to homosexuality among Islamists is itself "homophobia" -- a claim a little difficult for a rational person to process. "Gays for Gaza" don't worry about living under an Islamist regime, although they are promoting them. We also might wonder if King-Slutzky is aware that walking around without her hair covered could get her beaten to death by the police in Irān -- a problem that Establishment Feminism, whose hypocrisy is familiar, itself seems to ignore.

Islāmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine

The State of Israel

Political Economy

Philosophy of Religion

Philosophy of History

Copyright (c) 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

The intense fury and impatient publicity of the Ṭālibān attack on cultural treasures that were theirs to preserve revealed clearly that more than mud and stone was at stake in the eyes of the attackers. With the help of hindsight, we can now see that the shelling and smashing of sandstone [i.e. the Buddhas at Bamian] in March 2001 was the Kristallnacht of the Ṭālibān. The smashed images were emblems of vanquished faiths and lost civilizations. But they were emblems of humanity as well... and when spring had changed to fall, humanity itself became the target, on a more global scale.

Lenn E. Goodman, Islamic Humanism [Oxford, 2003, pp.18-19, boldface added]

Militants have been killing polio vaccination workers and their police guards since 2012, throwing into chaos the country's drive to eradicate the disease. Militants believe that polio vaccinations are a cover for spying activities.

"Pakistan Polio Campaign Targeted Amid New Militant Strikes," The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, January 23, 2014, A9

The Revolution in Irān in 1979 inaugurated a new era of politics in Islām. There had been various revolutions and coups in the Middle East previously, but none had aimed so openly at creating a state of an overt theocratic nature. Previous ideology, like Gamal Abdel Nasser's "Arab Socialism" in Egypt, after the Revolution of 1953, borrowed heavily from Western Marxist/leftist theory and practice. Nasser soon found an alliance with the Soviet Union more congenial that the alternatives. The very idea of Revolution, of revolutionary struggle, and of state run economics, not to mention the uniforms, the weapons, and the military organization, is derived from Western ideology and history, starting with the American Revolution but principally, in the 20th century, from the Russian Revolution. When Palestinian organizations began trying to practice guerrilla warfare, all of the rhetoric and precedent for this was borrowed from "national liberation" movement practices in Cuba, Vietnam, etc. When Israel occupied the Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank of the Jordan in 1967, Palestinian leaders hoped this would make possible a guerrilla war like that seen elsewhere. Their stated goal at the time was a secular state in Palestine, in which Jews would have equal rights with Palestinian Christians and Moslems. Some of the most radical Palestinians at the time were actually (or at least had been born) Christians.

A guerrilla war within Israel or the Occupied Territories never got very far. There just wasn't enough space, and the Israelis were able to suppress internal military action. One response to this was to resort to pure terrorism, like airliner hijacking and the infamous murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Real guerrilla strikes could only be mounted from outside, from Jordan or Lebanon. King Hussein put an end to Palestinian military force in Jordan late in 1970 ("Black September"). That left Lebanon, where a civil war broke out in 1975. This fragmented the country and enabled the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to become a state with in a state, bombarding Israel occasionally from across the border, even if no more serious military operations could be mounted. The Israelis were not going to allow this, and invaded Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. The 1982 invasion was an ambitious project that went all the way to Beirut and aimed to drive the PLO right out of Lebanon. The Israelis succeeded in that respect, but the ferocity of their assault, and the atrocites committed, at least by their Christian allies, put them in a very bad light internationally. A withdrawl was arranged, with Western, including American, peacekeeping troops deployed.

Now the effect of the Irānian Revolution began to be felt. The large Shiʿite community in Lebanon became energized under Irānian influence. The foreign troops began to be attacked by suicide bombers, including a catastrophic bombing of U.S. Marine barracks late in 1983. The peacekeepers pulled out, and Lebanon lapsed back into civil war, with the new twist of suicide attacks and terror kidnappings and murders.

The suicide tactic was more of Shiʿite than of Orthodox Islāmic inspiration. In Middle Eastern history, the Shiʿites had usually been no more than a persecuted minority in Islāmic countries. The original and paradigmatic Shiʿite Martyr was Ḥusayn, the son of 'Alī, who was killed in the hopeless battle of Karbalā' in 680 against the forces of the Omayyad Caliph. Subsequently, the martyrdom of Ḥusayn would be commemorated by Shiʿites with practices, like self-flagellation, that seem much more characteristic of Christian self-mortification than of Islām in general. Now, however, suicide tactics, like those of the Japanese kamikaze pilots, were discovered to be effective when more conventional forms of warfare, even guerrilla warfare, had failed.

Meanwhile, the Israelis had been funding conservative Islāmic groups among the Palestinians, hoping in this way to counter the influence of the revolutionary Marxist ideologies that seemed dominant in Palestinian guerrilla organizations. This turned out to be a mistake. The Irānians had coopted the revolutionary ideology to their own purposes, and now this began to catch on with the Palestinians, among whom there were relatively few Shiʿites. In time, suicide bombers became the weapon of choice for Palestinian attacks on Israelis. A new era, of pure terrorist attacks, rather than attempts at the familiar forms of guerrilla warfare, had arrived.

While scholars have been using the term "Islamism" for the mix of ideology in the Irānian revolution and the movements inspired by it, a term already exists in Western politics for such a thing, and that term is "fascism." An often nearly meaningless term of abuse (still loved by the recent Left), "fascism" can actually be given a fairly precise meaning. It represents, in the first place, a collectivist and totalitarian ideology. This is largely of Marxist inspiration, with political forms pioneered by Lenin and then copied with admiration by Mussolini and, especially, Hitler.

The fascists themselves, like Mussolini (who coined the term), often came from a leftist and socialist political background -- Lenin wrote newspaper articles praising Mussolini in the days before World War I. Their new inspiration, however, was to abandon the international struggle of the workers and to embrace nationalism, especially a strongly racialistic and mystical nationalism. Elements of socialism remained. Private property might be left nominally in private hands, but its owners were expected to serve the Nation, and merely private purposes, let alone use for alien loyalities or ideology, was to be strongly condemned and suppressed.

Hitler's Germany witnessed a social leveling unknown in earlier Germany:  Where the Imperial Army had required noble blood for its officers, the Nazi Army was as much of a meritocracy as possible given its racial criteria (Mussolini was unable to go as far). Fascism thus assumed the character of a "Revolution from the Right," with a distinctive mixture of conservative and radical elements. Stalinist Russia itself began to take on some of these features, as Stalin found it expedient in wartime to begin appealing to Russian nationalism and even to the Church, with increasing attacks on "rootless cosmopolitans" -- which meant, not good Marxist internationalism, but, most precisely, the Jews.

The Irānian revolution was definitely "from the Right," embodying some of the most reactionary ideas imaginable. At the same time, it didn't need the nationalism or racism of European fascism. Both of these were artifacts of 19th century secular ideology, the latter even a kind of application of Darwinism. The Ayatollah Khomeini had no interest in this stuff, since secularism of any sort was alien. Such nationalism as modern Irān had seen was itself based on the Shiʿism adopted by the Safavid Shāhs. Khomeini needed only to extend and strengthen this, eliminating the civil authority and Western secularism represented by the Shāh and introducing a rigorous religious moralization of society, returning to the imaginary ideals of the Time of the Prophet.

This Islāmic version of Calvin's Geneva, however, now had all the modern trappings of revolution and armed struggle, which owed little to the history of Islām and much to Marxism, Fascism, and "National Liberation." Private life was invaded by the State in a way that traditional Islām might have found appalling, and religious dissent, as in the Baha'i community, was annihilated. Even the ancient religion of Irān, Zoroastrianism, most of whose adherents had long fled to India (the Parsis), saw its ancient practice of sky burial (on the "Towers of Silence") prohibited. As with European fascism, private property was not itself attacked (that would be contrary to Islāmic law), but modern banking and finance could be attacked (charging interest is contrary to Islāmic law), and so vaguely socialist and anti-capitalist economic policies could be promoted. This, of course, all but ruined the Irānian economy. Irānian weakness then tempted Saddam Hussein of Iraq into a land grabbing attack. In the following lengthy war (1980-1988), the Iraqis could only be repulsed with suicidal banzai charges resulting in thousands of casualties.

Meanwhile, a Holy War (Jihād) was being conducted by Orthodox Muslims in Afghanistan, against the Soviet Union. Irān had little direct involvement in this, and the fight was even supported by the country regarded by Irān as the "Great Satan," i.e. the United States. This was fertile ground, however, for the new radicalized Islāmic ideology. And as the Palestinians would adopt Shiʿite suicide tactics, the Afghan Mujāhidīn in their own desperate and ruthless struggle absorbed the reactionary and totalitarian aspirations of the Irānians. This meant that when the Soviets were gone, the Mujāhidīn could easily find their next enemy, the friend of Israel, the Great Satan itself, erstwhile ally or not.

The fascist mix of Islāmic ideology soon becomes evident even in books published in the United States. Daniel Pipes quotes from a 1989 book by Shamin A. Siddiqi (Methodology of Dawah Ilallah in American Perspective or The Need to Convert Americans to Islam) that Islām "pinpoints the shortcoming of capitalism, elaborates the fallacies of democracy, [and] exposes the devastating consequences of the liberal lifestyle" [Commentary, November 2001, p. 23]. This says it all -- a leftist/collectivist attack on capitalism, a leftist/rightist/totalitarian attack on democracy (the Foreign Minister of South Africa recently called Cuba the "most democratic country in the world"), and a leftist/rightist/totalitarian attack on a liberal social order. Pipes and others have been warning for some time about the growth of anti-liberal, anti-modern, and anti-American ideology within organized Islām in the United States.

As the 1990's went on, organization and planning for attacks on the United States, and their execution, moved along steadily. A bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 was followed by attacks on American troops in Saudi Arabia, bombings of American Embassies in East Africa, the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Aden harbor, frustrated attempts at bombings in the United States in 2000, and finally the horrific hijackings and suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. Many of the perpetrators (not the suicide ones) and accomplices of these attacks were eventually caught and tried. Many revealed their ties to the terrorist network in Afghanistan. The United States was willing to treat much of this as a law enforcement problem, and was more worried about drug production in Afghanistan than in its terrorists, but the attacks on American soil and the deaths of so many American in 2001 made it a matter of open war in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Israelis had come to a realization that they were stuck with the Palestinians and that some sort of accommodation was in order. The PLO returned home as the "Palestinian Authority" and Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza and much of the West Bank. Just as everything seemed about to be fixed, the ultimate Palestinian demand, the right to return to pre-1948 homes, resurfaced, and Israeli unwillingness to consider this set off new resistance and new suicide bombings -- even as many Palestinians clearly did not want Israel to continue to exist in any form, and wanted Jerusalem returned to Islām, intentions that could not be allowed by any Israeli government. The attitude of the Israeli public hardened, and the mastermind of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, regarded by many as a war criminal, Ariel Sharon, was elected Prime Minister.

Another source of Islāmic discontent has been over Iraq. After Saddam Hussein failed to gain anything with his war on Irān, he turned his attentions to Kuwait, which he invaded and occupied in 1990. In 1991 a large coalition of Arab and Western counties threw the Iraqis out. They left behind, as threatened, burning oil fields, even though they had been warned that this tactic might set of an ecological disaster on a global scale. Fortunately it didn't, and the fires were out by 1992, but it revealed the level of ruthlessness and irresponsibility in the Iraqi dictator, who had previously used poison gas against Kurdish rebels and is famous for participating in and enjoying the torture of his enemies. Shiʿite and Kurdish rebellions were sparked by the defeat on the battlefield, and unfortunately the decision was made that the survival of Hussein was probably better than the Irānian intervention that Shiʿite success might bring, or the anarchy that might result from Shiʿite and/or Kurdish success in any case.

Saddam Hussein's good behavior was thus to be assured by UN inspectors and UN economic sanctions. Hussein eventually kicked out the inspectors, and began to blame the sanctions for poverty, starvation, and disease among the Iraqis. However, the sanctions allow for the sale of Iraqi oil to pay for food and medicine; nor do they prohibit free economic and humanitarian aid. In fact, Hussein deliberately allows people to starve, for the propaganda value, and uses his income to pay for palaces, for the rebuilding of his military, and for what may still be his chemical and biological weapons programs. Although he plastered Allāhu Akbar, "God is Greatest," on the Iraqi flag after the war, it is hard to imagine a less religious and more cynical ruler than Hussein. The Ayatollah Khomeini himself said that he would rather drink poison than make peace with Saddam Hussein (he did anyway). So it is especially pathetic to see Hussein and Iraq represented as martyrs to Islām and victims of the United States.

Nevertheless, this attitude is part of the mix of Islāmic fascism, one of whose abiding sources of power is resentment over the poverty and powerlessness that characterizes Middle Eastern and other Islāmic countries and communities -- Saddam Hussein is praised just because he "stood up" to the West. Since the real explanation for this continuing poverty and powerlessness is the lack of the rule of law and of protections for a modern, liberal, capitalist society, the real explanation is emotionally intolerable and must be rejected. As Daniel Pipes says of "Islamism":  "Wherever that seditious and totalitarian ideology has gained a foothold in the world, it has wrought havoc, and some societies it has brought to utter ruin" [op.cit. p.24]. All that lies at hand for an alternative explanation are the hoary cliches of Marxism-Leninism. Everything can be blamed on colonialism, imperialism, and the international conspiracy of Americans and Jews to exploit the oppressed and thereby dominate the world economy -- seamlessly blending Marxist analysis with the tradition of Tsarist and Nazi anti-Semitism. The fascist affinity of reactionary inspiration for leftist ideology is thus strongly reinforced. Die-hard Western enemies of capitalism, free trade, and "globalization" thus happily provide conceptual and rhetorical tools that confirm Islāmic fascism in its sense of being wronged and of fighting righteously against evil, "by any means necessary." The defeat of the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler, and the later fall of Communism, were thus preludes to the same tactics and resentments, against individualism and capitalist modernity, being taken up in a new geo-political, and intensely reactionary, cause.

The solution to most of the ills of the Islāmic world is in principle easy. Democracy, the rule of law, a tolerant and secular government, and the protection of property rights in an open economy are the keys to modern life, prosperity, and the kind of power that is envied in the Great Satan.

The great festering wound, in the view of many Moslems and Arabs, and the source of much anti-Americanism in the Islāmic world, that is the problem of Israel and the Palestinians, is not so easily -- if even the general solution were really so easy -- resolved. Conflicting claims to the same land are involved. Now, the Israeli view tends to be that their enemies simply don't like Jews, don't want to concede the existence of a Jewish state, and so are determined on Israel's, and her people's, destruction. The Islāmic world, after all, was quite content with the partition of India, since this produced an Islāmic state, Pakistan, despite its displacement of millions of people. But the partition of Palestine was not accepted, just because it was not to the benefit of the same partisans. Also, what Palestinians often don't realize is that most Israelis now, and the ones most adamant about concessions to Palestinians, are not European immigrants, like the original Zionists, but Jews who have been displaced from other Middle Eastern counties, whether by choice, or because the hostility of Arab governments drove them out. The story of these Jews, after a fashion, is similar to that of many Palestinians themselves, who fled or were driven out of their homes in British Palestine.

On the other hand, individual Palestinians, including Christians, are not bound by the expectations or purposes of the Islāmic world, or of particular Arab governments, let alone Pakistan. Their ownership of homes in the Mandate, preserved in the British land records, is independent of claims of Jewish refugees against Egypt, Iraq, or Yemen. Nor can their claims be dismissed and disqualified as the fruit of anti-Semitism. It is unlikely that their dispossession by anyone else would have been accepted with any better grace than they have accepted dispossession by the Jews. The conflict has certainly fostered anti-Semitism, but it doesn't make any sense to ascribe it to anti-Semitism. The Israeli attitude has tended to be that Israel is a fact and that when it comes to their lost homes, Palestinians should just get over it. But this is a surprising attitude in people who claim to have returned to their ancestral homes after 2000 years -- two millennia of "remembering Zion." If Jews can remember their homes since the days of Vespasian and Titus, it is not surprising if Palestinians can remember their homes since the days of Harry Truman. The implication here is that the homes of Palestinians must somehow mean less to them, must somehow be less memorable, than the homes of the Jews. This may even be true; but, unfortunately, if the Palestinians were lacking a cultural system, ideology, or religion to identify themselves with the land, they have now certainly acquired it, often in the worst way.

What Israelis fear the most, and have every reason to fear, is massacre. Having fled the monumental slaughter inflicted by the Germans, a foundational sentiment of Israel is the determination, "never again." Israel thus always acts unapologetically in whatever way seems necessary for its defense and for the preservation of the lives of its citizens. This has often seemed admirable and paradigmatic as an example of a country protecting its citizens (e.g. the ambitious and successful 1976 raid on Entebbe airport in Ugandu to free victims of an airline hijacking). The approaches and ideologies, whether secular or religious, to which Palestinians have adhered have never been such as to calm this most fundamental fear of the Israelis. Instead, it is well known in Israel and elsewhere that, however mild and conciliatory Palestinians leaders often are in the foreign press or when speaking to foreigners, the rhetoric in the Arabic language press is usually violent and vicious, conjuring images of attack, conquest, mastery, and annihilation. They sometimes don't seem aware that foreigners, and especially many Israeli Jews, can read Arabic. And, when this duplicity may be exposed, the response is sometimes that the Israelis themselves are engaged in their own massacre of the Palestinians, rather like the Nazi genocide itself. Now, Israel has certainly killed Palestinians, sometimes gratutitously; but the truth is that Israel has long been in the position of being able to kill as many of them, or all of them, as Israel might like. Israel in fact has not engaged in mass murder but has been rather more intent on making life uncomfortable enough for Palestinians (seizing land, blowing up houses, denying building permits) that they will simply leave.

If the Palestinians wish to exploit the moral possibilities of their position, that they have a good claim to their old homes in Palestine, that the actions of the Israeli Occupation are often contrary to International Law (which they are), then they should do so in a way that does not undercut their own moral ground and does not give precisely the wrong impression to the Israelis, and to disinterested observers. This can be done, not with the traditional Middle Eastern rhetoric and practice of violence, but with the very modern device of non-violent resistance, Mahātmā Gandhi's Satyagraha, or "truth force."

When I was a student in Beirut in 1969 and 1970, a Catholic priest once suggested that Palestinian refugees who wanted to go home should simply get up and walk across the border into Israel. There was no more than a fence there. A large crowd could trample it down. The Israelis always feel justified in violent responses to violence. Dead Israelis mean deadly retaliation. Although this is usually protested by some, most Western opinion sees it as at least understandable, which it is. If Palestinians, however, were to cease killing Israelis and deliberately adopt a non-violent approach, then Israel would be in no position to justify or explain deadly retaliation to anyone. In doing this, Palestinians could do a number of things simultaneously:  (1) Cease threatening Jews with death; (2) convey the determination to live on peaceful and friendly terms with Israelis, since the purpose of Gandhi's practice is to make friends with your enemies; and (3) to do what Palestinians say they want most, simply to go home. Nor is this just a matter of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories or refugee camps. Israel has expelled some Israeli Arabs from their ancestral villages, even though these people are Israeli citizens and still live in Israel. In terms of non-violent resistance, all these Israeli Arabs need to do is reoccupy their old villages, or block roads and stage sitdown strikes at the point where they might be forcibly prevented from going there.
On 15 February 2015, 20 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers, and one Ghanan worker, were kidnapped and beheaded in Libya by the forces of the "Islamic State," ISIS. The Coptic Patriarch Tawadros (Theodoros) II immediately delared all 21 to be Saints and Martyrs. In 2023, Pope Francis ruled that the 21 would also be recognized by the Catholic Church as Martyrs. They are commemorated on February 15 in both churches.

It is clear that such practices are a difficult and alien concept in the Middle East, and Palestinians have largely never done anything of the sort. There is no local tradition of non-violence as in India, or of peaceful civil disobedience as in the United States. Instead the ideals are all of armed victory and conquest. This is unfortunate, to say the least. Unlike Saddam Hussein, who would be happy to simply murder his enemies, even if they delivered themselves to him peacefully, Israel must be sensitive to Western public opinion, including Western liberal Jewish opinion, all of which is vulnerable to images of non-violent protestors being attacked by police or soldiers. As it is, Palestinian practice and rhetoric plays mainly to an Islāmic audience, and only clumsily to the West. The occasional Palestinian can score points with articulate and reasonable appearance and arguments (like Hanan Ashrawi), but such points are then lost with the next suicide bomber, or the next murdered Israeli tossed from a window into the exultant mob.

The problem of the Palestinians is thus the problem of Islāmic fascism in general, which is that it is necessary for some prestigious and charismatic leader, whether political or religious, to denounce the violence, resentment, and hatred and to articulate the sensible alternatives in an appealing way. Frankly, this seems unlikely. The traditions of liberal, tolerant society, of non-violence, and of secularism may be just too alien in the Islāmic world. I can hope otherwise, but what the radical ideologues want is war, Holy War. As it happens, war is what they now have, as American bombs fall on Afghanistan and American commandos drop in out of the night. We will have to see how this works out -- certainly, when a Texan is President, it is a bad time to mess with the United States of America. Saddam Hussein wanted the "Mother of Battles" in 1991, and he got it. But he did not do well out of it. The rhetoric of the Afghan terrorists is now of Islām against Christians and Jews. So far, they seem to have done poorly in rallying actual Islāmic governments, as opposed to radical demonstrators, around them. If they lose, and their terrorist networks are rooted out, it may be a particularly sobering moment for the Palestinians. At such moments, soul searching and reexamination are possible. Perhaps even Satyagraha in Palestine is possible.


Philosophy of History

Political Economy

Home Page

Copyright (c) 2001, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2020, 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Islāmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine, Note

The "Kill the Jews" exhortation here highlights the issue of the use of diacritics in transcribing Arabic. Thus, various news stories have demonstrators or lone harassers chanting itbah al-Yahud, which is translated as "Kill" or "Slaughter the Jews."

The first such story I saw was an account by a UCLA professor, Inna Faliks, about the harassment she and her husband, who works for an Israeli company, were receiving, at UCLA and elsewhere. Reports about this to the UCLA campus police and to the Administration have been essentially blown off. There is also the irony that students, even graduate students, shouting "Slaughter the Jews" nevertheless denied that Ḥamās had actually done any slaughtering. Apparently trying to be a good liberal, Faliks says, "I have always been against guns," but, sobering up to reality, she also says, "yet now we own a weapon, as well [as hiring private security]."

Arabic words do not begin with vowels, and there are a couple of consonants with which words can begin that usually drop out in transcriptions (ʾalif and ʿayn), while there are two possible letters that could be transcribed "t" in Arabic, and there are at least three, if not four, possibilities for the final "h." Thus, there is a lot of ambiguity to overcome if we want to track down what this chant actually is in Arabic. It is not given in Arabic, or with diacritics, in any news story I've been able to find, not even at Wikipedia or Wiktionary, which are often good about this sort of thing.

For starters, a prefixed "i" on an Arabic verb almost certainly indicates an imperative, which is how the phrase is always translated anyway. If so, then we know that the consonant that carries the "i" is simply a glottal stop, the default pronunciation of the letter ʾalif.

With a guess about how to write the phrase, if you enter إِطْبَح ٱليَهُود at Google Translate, you get "Slay the Jews," which looks about right. The Arabic would be transcribed ʾiṭbaḥ al-Yahūd. However, the root for إِطْبَح, namely طبح, doesn't exist in Hans Wehr's authoritative A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic [Cornell University Press, 1966].

What does exist in Wehr is the root طبخ, which gets us the exhortation إِطْبَخ ٱليَهُود, transcribed ʾiṭbaḫ al-Yahūd. If you run this through Google Translate, you get "Cook the Jews"; and, indeed, all the meanings that Wehr gives for طبخ have to do with cooking, as does the cognate in Hebrew. While the anti-Semites may indeed wish to cook the Jews, or perhaps gas them in some oven, that isn't the way itbah al-Yahud tends to get translated.

That leaves me at an impasse. Wehr doesn't always have everything, and إِطْبَخ may have a colloquial meaning that isn't present in Classical or Literary Arabic. I just wish some helpful person would cite the hateful, anti-Semitic wish in written Arabic. There really should be a Wikipedia page about it. The little diacritic dot on the "chair" of the ح makes all the difference.

A friend of mine suggests that the root is actually ذبح, which Wehr indeed glosses as "to slaughter, butcher; to massacre; to murder, slay," etc. If we actually have إِذْبَح ٱليَهُود, which quite literally will be "Slaughter the Jews," this transcribes as ʾiðbaḥ al-Yahūd, where ð is a voiced, dental fricative, like the "th" in English "that."

The next step is that ð becomes د, a simple d in Colloquial Arabic, making the expression إِدْبَح ٱليَهُود, ʾidbaḥ al-Yahūd. Perhaps that is close enough to itbah al-Yahud.

Return to Text

Kings of Afghanistan

"Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Stamford, introducing us.

"How are you" he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive."

"How on earth did you know that?" I asked in astonishment.

Sherlock Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet" [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I, Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003, p.10].

Aḥmad Khān Abdālī1747-17751747-1793
Tīmūr Shāh1775-17931773-1797
Zamān Shāh1793-18001793-18001797-1809
Maḥmūd Shāh1800-1803, 1809-18181809-1818
Shāh Shujā'1803-1809, 1839-1842
Civil War, 1818-1826
Dūst Muḥammad1826-1839,
First Afghan War, 1839-1842, British
Fatḥ Jang1842-1843
Shīr 'Alī1863-1866, 1868-1878, d.1879
Muḥammd Afḍal1866-1867
Muḥammd A'ẓam1867-1868
Muḥammad Ya'qūb Khān1878-1879
Second Afghan War, 1878-1880,
British Occupation, 1879-1880
'Abd ar-Raḥmān1880-1901
Ḥabīb Allāh1901-1919
Third Afghan War, 1919, British
Naṣr Allāh1919, d.1921
Amān Allāh1919-1929, d.1960
Muḥammad Nādir1929-1933
Muḥammad Z.āhir1933-1973,
Republic, 1973-1978
Mohammed Daoud KhanPresident, 1973-1978
Leftist Government, 1978-1992
Abdul Qadir Dagarwal1978
Nur Muhammad Taraki1978-1979
Hafizullah Amin1979
Fourth Afghan War, 1979-1988,
Soviet Occupation, 1979-1989
Babrak Karmal1979-1986
Haji Mohammad Chamkani1986-1987
Mohammad Najibullah1987-1992
Rightist Government, 1992-1996
Abdul Rahim Hatef1992
Sibghatullah Mojaddedi1992
Burhanuddin Rabbani1992-1996
Ṭālibān Government, 1996-2001
Mullah Mohammed Omar1996-2001
Fifth Afghan War, 2001-2021, Americans, NATO
Burhanuddin Rabbani2001
Hamid Karzai2001-2014
Ashraf Ghani2014-2021
Ṭālibān Government Restored, 2021
Modern Afghanistan begins with Nādir Shāh of Irān. After Nādir's assassination (1747), one of his Afghan generals, Aḥmad Khān, gained control in Afghanistan -- permanently separating, as it happened, Irān from India. For some time, regional centers of power prevented a unified country. Division and civil war persisted until the British decided to intervene in 1839. Dūst Muḥammad was deposed and Shāh Shujā' restored. The main British interest was always in having a government in Afghanistan that would be both friendly to the British and strong enough to act as a buffer against Russian penetration of Central Asia. The First Afghan War, however, was one of the legendary disasters in British Imperial history. The column retreating from Kabul toward the Khyber Pass was cut to pieces and wiped out except for literally just a couple of survivors.

The Second Afghan War was somewhat more successful, establishing at least a protectorate over the country. A famous (fictional) participant in this action was Dr. John H. Watson, M.D., who retired to quiet rooms in London with one eccentric "consulting" detective, Sherlock Holmes. The Russians never troubled Afghanistan (or India) much, and the protectorate was shaken off in the Third Afghan War in 1919, when the British were beginning to lose interest.

Afghanistan would next enter history in a big way in the 1970's. The overthrow of the King led to long political struggle between conservatives and communists. An endangered Communist government provoked an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979, under the "Brezhnev Doctrine" that a country, once communist, could not be allowed to revert to something else. The nightmare of the British had now come true. The British no longer cared much, and the Republic of India, friendly to the Soviet Union, cannot have been too unhappy about another enemy of Pakistan arriving on its border; but the invasion had serious geo-political consequences. Jimmy Carter skipped the Moscow Olympics of 1980, revived the draft, and then lost reelection to a Ronald Reagan who promised (and delivered) a revived American military.

At the time, I reflected that the Russians might be up against the toughest people on Earth. There was no jungle available for guerrilla warfare, but it turned out that the vast mountain ranges, riddled with caves and valleys, worked about as well. Some parts of the country the Russians were never able to effectively occupy, and the Afghans basically didn't take prisoners. This began to tax the strength of the Soviet Union, even as the United States grew in strength, militarily and economically, under Reagan. U.S. training and arms, especially Stinger anti-aircraft missles, supported the Afghan Mujāhidīn (fighters in Jihād, the Holy War) through a friendly Pakistan.

The provision of American aid to the Afghans is recounted in an entertaining movie, Charlie Wilson's War [2007], about the colorful Texas Congressman who saw to it that this was done.

It was especially sad for me to see so much trouble come to Afghanistan. Oddly enough, when I lived in Honolulu, 1972-1975, I knew a group of Afghan students who lived at the East-West Center at the Unversity of Hawaii. I saw them frequently at the Cafeteria and got to be friends with several. Hawai'i hardly seemed like the same universe as Afghanistan, and they may have been surprised -- as surprised as me to find Afghans in Honolulu -- to find someone like me who spoke some Persian, a language that most educated Afghanis are liable to know a little of at least (or know well). I always remembered one guy in particular. Very tall and dark, with some scars on his face. He looked like he had ridden in with Genghis Khan. His appearance was daunting, until he spoke. Then he had a disarming, if not comical, high pitched voice; and in fact he was perfectly amiable. When the Soviet invasion occurred, I began to wonder, and have ever since, what happened to all those guys, with their Hawaiian shirts, in later years. I hope and imagine that they were able to get out or stay out of Afghanistan and live happily elsewhere.

After nine long years, Soviet resolve broke, and a face-saving peace was patched together (1988). This left a friendly government in Kabul, but that did not last very long (1992). By 1996, the most radical of the Mujāhidīn came to power, the Ṭālibān or "Students" (ṭālib is "student" in Arabic; -ān is a plural suffix in Persian). These were originally students in the Islāmic schools, financed by Saudi Arabia, in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Saudi Islām is a very conservative sort, and the Ṭālibān envisioned a purified Islāmic society under their rule. This ended up going far beyond the precedent set by the Irān of the Ayatollahs. Not only were women to be veiled, but they could not even hold jobs outside the home, attend school, go out without male escort, or laugh in public. Women found wearing nail polish might have their fingernails pulled out. Television, movies, and music were banned, and men prohibited from shaving or even trimming their beards. All these indicators of pure barbarism were topped off in early 2001 when the regime decided to destroy all the Buddhist art in the country, including the two great cliff carved Buddhas in Bamian province, 175 and 120 feet tall, dating from the earliest days of Buddhism. Even Irān asked them not to do this; but it was done -- one of the greatest crimes against history, art, and (other people's) religion within memory.

Worse was to come, however. The regime was harboring some of the most fanatical elements from all of the Islāmic world, including terrorist organizations that began to strike against American targets, like American embassies in East Africa (7 August 1998), and the American destoyer Cole in Aden harbor (12 October 2000). This led to a mass hijacking of American airliners in the United States itself on 11 September 2001, two of which were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, bringing them down, and one into the Pentagon, killing many people but making what, from a distance, looked like no more than a dent. In a fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, the passengers counter-attacked against the terrorists, and the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. The World Trade Center was the most spectacular and sanguinary strike, leaving around 3000 people dead. An earlier terrorist, who had helped bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, and had been captured, told interrogators that he had hoped to kill 200,000 people. He evidently was not taken seriously enough. Many people who died in the South Tower had not evacuated, or had even returned, because it was not understood that the buildings were under attack.

This meant war, which is just what the terrorists wanted. What they really wanted was probably World War III between Islām and the West; but that was not what they got. The United States did not want to occupy Afghanistan, like the Soviets, but just to beat down the regime and its power and hunt out the leaders of the terrorists and their installations. At the same time, the old enemies of the Ṭālibān, hanging on in the North, still with Russian support, could be encouraged and aided. Whether or not they would be able to actually retake the country, the basic American operation should be a commando or "special operations" one, long celebrated in movies, which now must be proven in practice.

Thus, a poor, bare, harsh, sad, and luckless country, Afghanistan, enters the 21th century as the cockpit of world history.

Update, 2002

By mid-November, 2001, after weeks of US bombing, the Ṭālibān regime suddenly collapsed. The "Northern Alliance" ("United Front") forces took the northern city of Mazār-e-Sharīf and began suspiciously claiming advances everywhere, but then the next thing the world knew, the Ṭālibān were evacuating Kābul. Besieged in Kunduz in the north and Kandahār in the south, Ṭālibān forces began defecting and surrendering. By late November, only die hard Arab, Chechyn, and other foreign forces were offering resistance. The siege of Kandahar was then supplemented by United States Marines. This has all allowed for the United States to begin using airbases all over the country and for American special forces to range at will looking for the terrorists.

The final mountain stronghold of the "Al Qaeda" terrorists, "Tora Bora" (sounding more like Polynesia than Afghanistan), eventually broke under American bombing and Afghan ground attacks. The leader of the terrorists, Usama ben Laden, has disappeared. Either he was killed, was able to flee (to Pakistan or elsewhere), or is still hiding in the mountains. The leader of the Tālibān, the Mulla Omar, also fled and is apparently in hiding, though not far enough in hiding not to be negotiating surrender or safe passage. Meanwhile, the Northern Alliance with international help has put together a coalition government. There was some talk about restoring the King as a figurehead, but that has not happened. Life in Kabul almost seems to be returning to normal, with music playing, movies being shown, television back on the air, and the braver women returning to their jobs and going without burkas. Some Afghans are returning from exile for the first time in twenty years. This is all very promising, but Afghanistan is a place where things can go wrong quickly. There are still Tālibān in the mountains trying to reorganize, and foreign "peacekeepers" are the kind of thing that might suddenly become very unwelcome. We shall see.

Update, 2011

Almost ten years after American forces entered Afghanistan, they are still there, with help from some other NATO nations. Whatever else may be involved in the situation, no sensible person can possibly see this as a good thing. If whatever it was that needed doing is not done by now, then one begins to wonder if it can be done, in terms of will and resources or even in terms of what is possible on the ground. While in Iraq the challenge was to strike a modus vivendi between the dominant communities, Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds, in Afghanistan it is still not clear who all the players are, or how an accommodation would be struck -- especially when the Ṭālibān are still involved, and the idea was to get rid of them altogether.

The Ṭālibān survived for a couple of reasons. (1) They fled to the mountains of Pakistan, where the locals were sympathetic, the Government of Pakistan had minimal authority, and elements of Pakistani politics, including, it is alleged, much of Pakistani Intelligence, are cooperative. Pakistan has blown hot and cold on what to do about all this, and truces and have been followed by serious incursions, which have resulted in retaliatory terrorist bombings against civilian targets in Pakistan itself. The Pakistani Government has apparently been tolerating the missile strikes that have become favored by the Obama Administration, but this has been criticized as an inferior strategy to capturing Ṭālibān leaders for interrogation and rooting out their support.

(2) The Ṭālibān have regained some popularity and leverage in Afghanistan. Part of this is due to their willingness to market the opium crop, which pleases local farmers and provides a steady income for Jihadist activities. The American response to this involves folly of a high order. The drug warriors want to destroy the opium crop and get the farmers to grow something inoffensive, like sunflowers, even though this means a drastic loss of income for them. Such an approach has more to do with domestic American politics (i.e. drug prohibition) than it does with the circumstances of Afghanistan. The sensible strategy would be to buy the opium crop, i.e. buy it right out from under the Ṭālibān. If the drug warriors then was to destroy the crop, fine; but they might also consider using it for morphine, which is actually needed in American medicine.

Meanwhile, the elected government of Afghanistan, of Hamid Karzai, has been wearing out its welcome. It is not clear that Karzai was even honestly reelected in the last election. The compaints about the regime are a little vague, but corruption seems to be high on the list. There have even been allegations that members of Karzai's own family are already striking deals with the Ṭālibān, and Karzai himself has tried to gain nationalist points with criticism of the Americans, while also hoping for a deal with the Ṭālibān. Yet it begins to look like he would not survive for a minute without Western support, although this in itself is a bad, if not fatal sign, for the regime.

The support of the Ṭālibān has mainly been among Pashtun (or Pashtu) speakers, who are the largest ethnic group in the country. Minorities, like the Persian speaking Tajiks or Turkic speaking Uzbeks and Turkmen, are thus generally suspicious of the Pashtuns and hostile to the Ṭālibān. They also are largely in the North, where the strength of the "Northern Alliance" came from that overthrew the Ṭālibān. Yet Karzai thinks that peace requires more of an accommodation with the Ṭālibān than with the minorities. The Ṭālibān, of course, would need to agree to cut all ties with al-Qa'ida and other Jihadists, and withdraw from Pakistan. This seems to be a lot to expect, and American commanders are skeptical, to say the least. One wonders if legitimizing the Ṭālibān would also involve reinstituting their anhedonic, nail-pulling, and art-destroying ways. I have not noticed public discussion of this aspect of the matter.

Hence the Western dilemma. The ideal procedure would have been like what the British did in Ethiopia in 1868:  go in, overthrown the government, massacre the hostiles, then leave the place to its own devices. This could not be done for two principal reasons, one silly, the other weighty.

(1) The "liberal" criticism of U.S. policy after the Soviets left Afghanistan, voiced at the end of Charlie Wilson's War for instance, is that, having supplied the Afghans with what they needed to get rid of the Russians, it was then our obligation to pour in money to rebuild the country. Since Afghanistan had always been an exceedingly poor country, there really wasn't much to rebuild, since there hadn't been much there in the first place. So the idea seems to have been that Western Aid would help Afghanistan build new stuff, get educated, and grow into a modern country. It is not clear that any Afghans actually asked for this, and it is also not at all clear that such "nation building" with foreign aid has ever actually worked anyplace else anyway. Quite the opposite. So the "liberal" criticism of American policy looks more like the typical liberal attempt to blame America for every bad thing that happens anywhere. In truth, most Afghans were probably thinking more like, "Thanks for the help against the Russians. Good-bye."

What happened next goes back to the foreign aid that Afghans did get, from their Saudi co-religionists. The Saudi schools in Pakistani refugee camps, teaching Wahhābī ideology, were the origin of the Ṭālibān -- and the reason why they were called "students." There was nothing new about this. Wahhābī clerics in India in the 19th century created a movement that the British called the "Hindustan fanatics." These characters actually headed for the very border regions that are a problem now, to stir up the same kind of trouble. They had some success, until the British were able to wipe out most of them. Now, in effect, they're back; and it is their foreign connection, as in the 19th century, that leads to the second point about Afghanistan.

(2) The Ṭālibān and their al-Qa'ida friends are not just a bunch of lunatics up in the mountains who can be forgotten by the rest of the world. When Islamic Fascism expresses itself in gloablized Terror, even the modern "Hindustan fanatics" have a world-wide reach and represent a real danger to countries where many or most people might never have heard of Afghanistan. This is where the 9/11 attacks were plotted and launched, and it is still the spritual homeland of terrorist groups that are active in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, and in cells across Europe -- with attempts to establish cells in America. Thus, Afghanistan cannot simply be left to its own devices, unless we understand that it will again simply become the kind of hotbed of hostility and danger that it was in 2001.

This does not mean that operations can continue there with any hope of success. But if the Karzai regime is allowed to fall and the Ṭālibān left to return, it does mean that plans should be in place to go back in and take them out all over again, perhaps with sufficient force to prevent their escape into the mountains from Kabul as before. This may seem like a lot of trouble to anticipate when we are already there, but then it does clarify the job, while meanwhile "counter-insurgency" is a nasty and thankless business with muddled purposes and uncertain allies -- and the prospect of dragging on indefinitely. The unpopularity of wars of indefinite committment has already done its damage in American politics -- with "anti-War" (but really just anti-American) Democrats given unlimited power in 2008. That the presumptively anti-War President Obama has not withdrawn from Afghanistan may persuade a few more about what is at stake, but it doesn't contribute any clarity or promise to the strategic or operational situation. It is a business where muddling through may be about the best we can hope for, while it bears to keep in mind that some kind of disaster or humiliation is always possible.

Islāmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine

Philosophy of History

Home Page

Copyright (c) 2001, 2002, 2011, 2014, 2021 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved