Palmach soldiers 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In preparation for Jerusalem Day, I’ve just finished The Battle for Jerusalem:
An Unintended Conquest by longtime Jerusalem Post reporter Abraham Rabinovich.
(The book is an expanded e-book version of his 1972 classic.) Rabinovich
interviewed over 300 combatants in the battle, and it shows. No one captures the
experience of war from the fighters’ perspective better than
While reading The Battle for Jerusalem, it struck me that
Israel’s need to constantly defend itself against threats to its very existence
from 1948 to the present has prevented the most basic human instinct – the
instinct for self-preservation – from atrophying here to the degree it has
throughout the West.
Retiring Yale classicist Donald Kagan, 80, expressed
concern in his valedictory interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Matthew
Kaminski that the delicate flower of democracy is threatened today. He laments
the development of a culture that “makes it difficult for us [the West] to
behave rationally when the rational thing is to be tough.” He summarizes the
basic lesson of growing up in the tough Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn:
“If you don’t want trouble with someone, be sure he has something to be scared
Kagan attributes the West’s failure to absorb that lesson to culture
and a lack of political leadership. Democracy, he argues, requires a free,
autonomous and self-reliant population, and these qualities are in increasingly
short supply in an America of office workers and disability
Israelis, however, have been forced to be tough for wont of
choice. And the experience of war has developed the qualities Kagan considers
fundamental for democracy and the capacity for leadership.
In the bloody
fighting in Jordanian trenches to take Ammunition Hill, the greatest casualties
were absorbed by the platoon leaders, who took the lead position moving through
the trenches and were thus most vulnerable to Jordanian fire. Fifty percent of
the junior officers were killed or wounded in the battle. (By contrast, the
Jordanian officers were much more likely to flee the battle than their
soldiers.) A country that of necessity must produce many such young men has a
better chance of developing the toughness and clarity to confront reality as it
is, not as we wish.
ELITE REACTIONS to the Boston Marathon bombing
provide another example of the Western failure to confront reality. Even after
the radical Islamic associations of the brothers Tsarnaev were known, the media
was still wondering “Why?” Could it have been the difficulties of immigrant
absorption or possible concussions suffered by Tamerlan in his Golden Gloves
boxing career? A Boston Globe headline would have been funny were in not
illustrative of a dangerous cast of thought: “Islam might have had a secondary
role in Boston attacks.”
Commentators had fun creating their own riffs –
e.g., “Gravity may have played secondary role in fall”; “Anti-Semitisim may have
played secondary role in Hitler’s Final Solution.” Politicians and commentators
point out ad nauseam that the vast majority of Muslims do not become terrorists,
as proof that Islam had nothing to do with the bombing. That’s like arguing
cigarettes have nothing to do with lung cancer because not all smokers develop
And try making the argument in The New York Times: An
infinitesimal percentage of gun owners murder schoolchildren, so it is
ridiculous to impose new background checks for gun owners.
admit the truth: Islam possesses a power unique among all the world’s religions
today: to fill its followers with the desire to murder innocents among
non-believers. Most Muslims will never become terrorists. But jihadis of various
stripes draw on a rich lode of canonical Islamic texts – the Koran and the
sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (the hadith) for support.
frightening to contemplate that out of 1.3 million Muslims worldwide, there may
be tens of millions susceptible to the lure of radical Islam. And it is a
natural human tendency to avoid facing a frightening reality.
carnage of World War I, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain could not
bring himself to contemplate the possibility that Adolf Hitler was preparing for
war. He never read Mein Kampf, certainly not the sections in which Hitler talks
about the role of deception. The British press went along happily, failing to
report on Germany’s military build-up. In a similar vein today, Western leaders
and media steadfastly turn their eyes from what the radical Islamists say and
their presence at the heart of over 90% of terrorist acts.
THE FEAR of
facing reality is compounded by a lethal political correctness.
Europe has enacted “hate speech” laws indistinguishable from the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation’s efforts to make Muslim blasphemy laws part of
Even the suggestion of a link between Islam and
terrorism can land one in jail.
Nor has the United States been immune.
The 9/11 Commission Report is filled with references to “jihad,” “Muslims” and
“Islam.” By contrast, the 2008 FBI Counterterrorism Lexicon contains no such
references. Such references, we are told, might give credence to the notion that
Islam sanctions terrorism, as if proliferating Islamist websites, with their
prolific citation of Islamic sources, require such confirmation.
government report on the Fort Hood shootings, in which army doctor Maj. Nidal
Malik Hasan mowed down 13 servicemen and civilians while shouting Allahu Akbar,
determined that it was a case of “workplace violence” and made no mention of his
radical Islamic beliefs. “Religious fundamentalism alone is not a risk factor,”
the report concluded. Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey opined that it would
be even a greater tragedy than the murder of 13 if the attack led to a reduction
of Muslims in the service. Yet that pursuit of diversity kept Hasan in the army,
after colleagues complained of his erratic behavior and espousal of radical
beliefs. The FBI questioned him – one of five cases in which Muslims questioned
by the FBI subsequently participated in terror attacks.
In late 2011, the
president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council threatened that the US Muslim
community would refrain from cooperation with counterterrorism efforts unless
“deep anti-Muslim sentiment” in training manuals was immediately addressed. In
response, President Barack Obama’s then-counter terrorism adviser and current
head of the CIA John Brennan ordered that all US government counterterrorism
manuals be “purged” of any material that the undersigned Muslim organizations,
many of them Muslim Brotherhood front groups, deemed unacceptable.
THAN a week before the Boston Marathon bombing, Clare Lopez, a former CIA
operations officer and currently a senior fellow at the Center for Security
Policy, published a detailed report titled “History of the Muslim Brotherhood
Penetration of the US Government.” She relied heavily on two documents laying
out the Brotherhood’s plans for spreading Shari’a law in America. The first is
the Explanatory Memo uncovered by the FBI during the Holy Land Foundation
The memo refers to the use of front groups
that will raise little concern, and lists 29 such groups in the US, including
the Muslim Students Association, with 600 chapters; the Council on
Islamic-American Relations; and the Islamic Society of North
These groups are almost all treated by the US government and the
media as “moderate” and “mainstream” Muslim defense organizations, despite their
links to the Brotherhood.
The second document referred to by Lopez is the
“Project,” dated 1982 and uncovered by Swiss authorities in a 2001 raid on the
villa of a suspected terrorist. It sets forth seven rules for front groups,
including: avoid open alliance with terrorists or expressions of support for
terrorism; use deception to conceal the true goals of the organization;
establish funding networks; create alliances with “progressive” organizations;
influence Muslims living in the West to maintain a jihad mentality; and maintain
hatred of Jews.
Brotherhood-affiliated organizations have followed the
game plan with remarkable discipline. By constantly raising the specter of
Islamophobia, they have succeeded in stifling open discussion of the Islamic
element behind terrorist threats to America.
Lopez lists a number of
figures with extensive connections to the Brotherhood who attained influential
positions in the US government and as presidential advisers, at least two of
whom were subsequently convicted of terrorism-related offenses.
BLINDNESS to what is known comes at a high cost. Alan Johnson prepared a lengthy
government report while working in the UK’s Office for Security and
Counterterrorism, based on interviews with young British Muslims who had been
radicalized. In virtually every case, there was a skilled recruiter, who
succeeded in aligning the target’s life goals with a larger narrative involving
a rigid, angry, politicized distortion of Islam. And that contact is rarely
confined to just the Internet, but involves personal contact – e.g., in a mosque
or at overseas training centers.
Even if the Tsarnaev brothers acted as
“lone wolves,” not in conjunction with any overseas terror organization, the
older brother, Tamerlan, almost certainly had terrorist training
Reporter Judith Miller points out that virtually everything about
Tamerlan would have earned him surveillance under the guidelines of the New York
City Police Department anti-terror unit: his travel to Dagestan, a Russian
Republic with an Islamist insurgency; the warning from the Russian government
that he could be dangerous; his rapid behavioral changes – adopting traditional
Islamic clothing and growing a beard. Once under surveillance, his Internet
postings and even his purchase of a pressure cooker might have alerted
Yet the NYPD anti-terrorist surveillance program, which is
credited with foiling 16 potential attacks, has been under constant assault by
so-called “mainstream” Muslim defense organizations since the 2007 publication
of its report, “Radicalization in the West: the Homegrown Threat.” Last year,
the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for “exposing” the NYPD’s surveillance
After Boston, any law enforcement agency that does not have a
program in place based on the NYPD model is in dereliction of
Israelis would know that. ■
The writer is director of Jewish Media
Resources, has written a regular column in The Jerusalem Post Magazine since
1997, and is the author of eight biographies of modern Jewish leaders.