In one of the episodes of the TV drama, Homeland, a CIA operative reports to a meeting of senior officers about his experience in Syria. 

The discussion proceeds something like this.
There are too many militias to count, and more than a few considered important. The US has no strategy guiding its personnel on the ground.

Where does it come from?.

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They've been at it since the 7th century.

What would it take to fix it?

200,000 US troops on the ground, and billions to create and teach a new kind of education for the younger generation.

That is not going to happen.

So what to do?

Keep doing what we've been doing, which isn't much of anything.


It's fiction, but may be a decent portrayal of what exists at the summit of American government.

The news out of Germany, Sweden, and Finland is a series of sexual and other violent attacks, attributed to recent arrivals from the Middle East.

A cop was attacked in Philadelphia, by a man screaming Allah Akbar, and explaining his action by the absence of Sharia law in the city.

The Israeli Arab who killed two Jews in a bar and a Bedouin taxi driver in Tel Aviv, and since shot dead by police while resisting arrest,  has been declared a martyr by several competing Palestinian organizations, each seeking credit for his success in killing Jews and worrying Israelis over the course of a week. 

Political and military personnel from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are acting against what they describe as the wrong kind of Muslims. Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting one another, as well as supporting factions in Syria fighting one another. Pakistan is threatening to nuke Iran if it causes too many problems for Saudi Arabia.

Individual Christians and Jews may be as violent as Muslims, but they lack the support of a religious infrastructure. Their establishments left behind the notion of religious war, and doctrines that justify hate and killing of unbelievers or heretics. Jewish and Christian crazies are out there to be hunted down and incarcerated by authorities who are mostly Christians or Jews, depending on the place.

There are Muslims who want to bring their community into line with others. They emphasize humane elements in Islamic doctrines, while their antagonists shout loyalty to doctrines justifying slavery or death for unbelievers. 

In the case of the Tel Aviv killer, family members and other individuals in his village revealed his hiding place. Earlier the man's father identified him for the police from the picture broadcast soon after the killings.

The police have taken into custody individuals from the killer's family and village who may have helped him evade capture.

This suggest some combination of Arab loyalty to the Israeli State, along with fear of retribution from the Israeli State, competing with sentiments opposed to the same state.

Will the Europeans, Americans, and others ratchet up their concern for the violence that may come along with Muslim migrants, most of whom may only be looking for the same kind of opportunities that brought Grandpa from Europe to America more than a century ago?

It's a long way conceptually from many individual Muslims who want to live like others, against many who want to impose their own views about Islamic law on others, to the larger question about what may bring Islam to moderation, as has occurred to Judaism and Christianity.

The road may have been quickest for Jews, always been a small community. The Romans defanged those inclined to violence by quashing two efforts at rebellion over the course of 70 years at the beginning of the modern era.

The much larger communities of Christians had a longer road, from the killing of unbelievers, religious wars between sects, and then the cooperation of Church personnel with the Holocaust while others opposed it and gave refuge to those persecuted. It was only several decades after World War II that the heads of the Roman Catholic Church acted officially to undo the calumnies against Jews going back to passages in the New Testament.

It may have required the carnage of World War II to produce the unity of Europe and the turning of Christians from hatred to accommodation.

Would a similar massive military defeat be necessary to bring a majority of Muslim religious and political leaders to undue centuries of hatred among themselves and toward others?

Or is there be an easier way to neutralize the hateful elements in Islam?

There was a spurt of hope called Arab Spring, after Barack Obama's Cairo speech urging Muslims to accept the norms of western civilization, but now it has morphed into Arab Winter, 

Angela Merkel's humane welcome to Muslim refugees appears to be falling as flat as Barack Obama's refusal to identify Islam as responsible for various incidents in his country.

We'll see if the most recent episodes in Europe and American lead to anything greater than profuse expressions of sorrow and good intentions by some Muslim religious leaders, and evasive comments by politicians, .

History suggests, in the examples of Jews and Christians, that reform toward moderation requires the shedding of considerable blood, as well as centuries of persuasion. Even those changes are not complete, as shown by recent news about extremist Jews, and Christians who revere the burning crosses of the Ku Klux Klan. The doctrines of all three faiths require a selective reading by those who aspire to peace.

Comments welcome

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected] 
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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