Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Christian Founders of Middle Eastern Terrorism

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I have been watching the French Canal+ film series, Carlos, about Carlos the Jackal, and was thinking about how the golden age of terrorist hijacking that took place in the late 60s and throughout the 70s really had nothing to do with Islam. As a matter of fact – regardless of what Misters Williams and O’Reilly may believe – those terrorist pioneers were led by Arab Christians and a motley crew of international Marxists, all of whom were dressed more like Starsky and Hutch than like Garbed Muslims.

A simple googling of the two leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of PalestiniansGeorge Habash and Wadie Haddad, and I was surprised to find that Time – a publication targeting the eight year old audience – had actually written an obituary of George Habash that recognized the Christian and non-Muslim origins of Middle Eastern terrorism. Entitled “Terrorism’s Christian Godfather”, the article reads,

You could call George Habash, a Palestinian leader who died in Amman on Saturday at the age of 82, the godfather of Middle East terrorism. If you assumed that Palestinian or Arab extremism somehow sprung entirely from Islam — from the puritanical Wahabbi intolerance and so forth — take a close look at Habash’s first name. He was a Greek Orthodox Christian, who sang in his church choir as a boy back in the Palestinian town of Lydda. Habash’s life tells us a lot about the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which seems as intractable as ever, and prompts reflection on the Middle East’s seemingly unstoppable whirlwind of violence.

Habash’s group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), pioneered the hijacking of airplanes as a Middle East terror tactic — one eventually employed by the al-Qaeda hijackers on 9/11 — way back in 1968 when three PFLP armed operatives commandeered an Israeli El Al airliner enroute from Rome to Tel Aviv. Checking in for a flight has never been the same since.

This isn’t to say that there is something inherently Christian at the root of Middle Eastern terrorism. These terrorists, including their international brothers in arms, were part of the post-World War II fall out – either political ideologues caught up in what they perceived to be oppressive capitalist imperialism or those Pan Arabists who fought against the occupation of Palestine. As history would prove, neither caught any traction, and just as the Marxists in Latin America lost their steam towards the end of the 80s, so did Pan Arabism, the latter to be replaced by religious –rather than ethnic – identity. In other words, it wasn’t until the Habashs and Jackals of the era failed that the Jihadists arose to fill the void.

In the very recommendable “It’s the Occupation, Stupid” in Foreign Policy, Robert A. Pape describes how occupation, rather than religion, is at the root of suicide terrorism.

In the decade since 9/11, the United States has conquered and occupied two large Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), compelled a huge Muslim army to root out a terrorist sanctuary (Pakistan), deployed thousands of Special Forces troops to numerous Muslim countries (Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, etc.), imprisoned hundreds of Muslims without recourse, and waged a massive war of ideas involving Muslim clerics to denounce violence and new institutions to bring Western norms to Muslim countries. Yet Americans still seem strangely mystified as to why some Muslims might be angry about this situation. Continue reading

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How Could We Have Known?

How could we have known that invading Iraq would unleash the type of violence that has caused the deaths of some 70,000 Iraqi civilians? That would have been homicidal, right?.

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Juan Williams, Priests, Prejudice and Planes

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Without getting into the wisdom of NPR’s decision to fire Juan Williams, it is amazing how article after article in the mainstream press make great efforts to minimize Mr. Williams’ unquestionable and unapologetic justification of prejudice. Ms. Parker, it’s not like he “gets a little nervous” but then recognizes that the nervousness is irrational and unfair. To the contrary, he has argued that even though not all Muslims are terrorists, he was justified in believing that people who dress like Muslims on planes are potentially terrorists because they are dressed like Muslims.

As Glenn Greenwald found in digging up some of Mr. Williams earlier writings on racial prejudice,

In 1986, Juan Williams participated in a forum in The New Republic regarding a column by The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, who had justified the practice of D.C. jewelry store owners who would “admit customers only through a buzzer system, and [] some store owners use this system to exclude young black males on the grounds that these people are most likely to commit a robbery” (h/t).  Defending this race-based exclusion, Cohen argued that “young black males commit an inordinate amount of urban crime,” and that “black potential victims as well as white ones often act on this awareness, and that under certain circumstances, the mere recognition of race as a factor . . . is not in itself racism.

“Responding to Cohen’s argument, Williams said:  “In this situation and all others, common sense in my constant guard.  Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.

But the prize goes to Robert Scheer who made the most telling analogy on “Left Right and Center“. According to Scheer, if we follow Mr. Williams’ logic, then parents should being concerned about having their children sit next to Catholic priests on planes, especially considering that a much larger percentage of priests have committed acts of abuse than Muslims have terrorism.

Finally, people dress differently in different parts of the world — not to mention that people in different Muslim countries dress differently from each other — not to make a political or religious statement, but simply because that is how they dress. I am sure that when Mr. Williams gets dressed in the morning he isn’t contemplating expressing his Americaness, drones, and civilian casualties.

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Putting the Pieces Back Together

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After four weeks of rubble — during which I did an intensive three week parenting internship within the Sigliano family household — I am now starting to put the pieces back together. Beneath the dust filled air, I finally get to spend a night in my own bed.

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Give Sarko a Break

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I spend a lot of time in France and love many things about the country. But I don’t know what is worse, the strikes or Sarko.

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