Saturday, December 2, 2023

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 14-10-2023 05:24

Wars of religion are far from over

When faced by an utterly ruthless movement, half-measures that allow a battered enemy to recover from his wounds and strike again can be worse than useless. This is the dilemma facing Israel today.

For educated Europeans and their cultural relatives, religion is something spiritual which, sadly or not, has gone out of fashion. They find it hard to understand that it still matters enormously to a great many others, not only in mainly Muslim lands but also in predominantly Hindu India. Their reluctance to take this into account has had a perhaps irreversible effect on most Western countries whose governments encouraged the immigration of huge numbers of Muslims in the belief that, since sectarian loyalties had been consigned to history, they would soon blend in with the rest of the population.

At first, many did, but as time went by and their communities grew, more and more started to demand that the host nation adapt itself to their presence by, among other things, punishing those who blaspheme against their prophet. One result of such agitation has been to discredit freedom of speech in the eyes of many cultural movers and shakers. It is widely agreed that, had Salman Rushdie written The Satanic Verses in the 21st century, no major publisher would have dreamed of printing such a provocative work.

As should have been expected, the increasing assertiveness of a religiously-defined minority provoked a strong reaction; to the alarm of “progressives,”, parties which are automatically described as “ultra-right” keep gaining ground in Sweden, Germany, France, Italy and many other European countries, especially those towards the East that had once borne the brunt of Ottoman expansionism.

The appalling events in Israel this last week seem certain to increase the already wide gap which is separating the now sizeable Muslim communities in Europe from those who would rather not have them as neighbours. The “mediaeval” behaviour of individuals who, like their fellow Jihadists of the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and their counterparts in the Middle East and Africa who, day after day, slaughter unbelievers with sadistic cruelty, will have come as a wake-up call for many who thought such brutality belonged to the past. Almost as shocking has been the response of Islamists living in the West and their “progressive” sympathisers who have enthusiastically applauded the butchery of women and children; in Australia, mobs chanted: “Gas the Jews.”

The Israelis now have no choice but to react with lethal fury; were they to “choose peace” they would all be killed.Just how far they can go without losing the full support of their Western allies is impossible to say, but unless they do manage to eliminate Hamas, as Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed, they will continue to suffer bloodthirsty incursions from Gaza and the Lebanon. No doubt they are already being told that “violence never solves anything” and are getting warned against prolonging “the cycle of violence” by people who overlook that in World War II the Allies put a permanent end to Nazi power and Japanese militarism by turning German and Japanese cities into heaps of burning rubble and killing millions of presumably innocent civilians while they were about it.

On occasion, extreme violence really does work. When faced by an utterly ruthless movement, half-measures that allow a battered enemy to recover from his wounds and strike again can be worse than useless. This is the dilemma facing Israel today. Unlike the Islamists, Westerners want to believe that terrible things that happened in the past can no longer occur and that everyone can be induced to act in accordance with what they call “international law, but, unfortunately, it is premature to assume that history has been superseded.

In much of the world there are many people who are more than willing to emulate the merciless Islamic conquerors of bygone centuries. In the Middle East, the Nazis have countless admirers who take it for granted that striking terror into their enemies’ hearts can be enough to ensure them victory. The Hamas Jihadists who slaughtered men, women, children and babies in Israel are certainly not the only people out there who feel that nothing much has changed since the middle of the last century.

We all see the world through a cultural lens which has been shaped by the societies we grow up in, the education we receive, the information we absorb from what we read or hear and, to a considerable degree, by competing political and religious groupings which are determined to impose their own points of view. In the West, the most successful in recent years has been what one might call the progressive left. Even those who dislike what it stands for and see its preachers as unctuous hypocrites tend to speak and think in similar terms

Many Westerners take it for granted that Hamas is fighting for the “national liberation” of Palestine and has been driven to perpetrate atrocities because it cannot confront Israel in a conventional war. But the leaders of Hamas do not see things this way. Theirs is an apocalyptic creed that calls for the destruction of the Jewish people which, according to them, “is the most contemptible and despicable nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth”, which is why “we will cut off the heads of the Jews with knives” until there is not one left alive in a territory which was once ruled by Muslims.

This is the principal reason why the much-mooted “two-state solution” for the imbroglio in the once “Holy Land” is going nowhere. Islamists, whose influence has become pervasive in the Muslim world, do not believe in nation states because they are based on infidel concepts. What they want most of all is to rid the lands they dominate of Western ideas about political arrangements, human rights and the like and go on to kill as many Jews as possible.

Though by “progressive” standards, the Jihadists could hardly be more right-wing, some Western leftists have managed to convince themselves that they are allies in the war they are waging against capitalism, white supremacy and sexual discrimination. There is even an outfit calling itself “Queers for Palestine” whose members are unimpressed by the Islamist habit of hanging homosexuals in public, dragging them behind cars or throwing them to their deaths off high buildings. 

Until such delusions are overcome, Israel and other countries will find it very hard to face up to the challenge posed by genocidal Islamism which, unless it suffers a defeat as thorough as those that put an end to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, will continue to overshadow the future not only of the entire Western world but also of hundreds of millions of on the whole peaceful Muslims who risk getting caught up in the gruesome Manichean drama that is currently unfolding.

James Neilson

James Neilson

Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).


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