Misunderstanding Islamism and the Gaza War
Why did Hamas terrorists gleefully mass murder civilians in Israel? Why did the murders include atrocities such as burning people alive and chopping off their heads, even after they were dead? And, why did the crowds of “civilians” cheer and beat the dead bodies of Israelis paraded in the backs of pickup trucks in Gaza? Further, why do governments and Muslims throughout the world claim to support Hamas and/or the Palestinians? To comprehend all of this, Westerners need to gain an understanding of the religio-political movement called “Islamism.” Islamism is an entirely different phenomenon than Western political parties, and its goals and values are vastly different. Islamism is the 100-year-old movement for Islamic revival, and has been led by Iran since its Islamic revolution in 1979.
Islamic revival can best be understood by comparing it to medieval “Christian revival.” The 17th-century wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants threatened to destroy Christian society. Christianity saved itself with the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which separated Church and State and introduced the concept of “nationalism,” with nation-states based on geographic boundaries, ethnicity, and language to determine personal identity and political loyalty.
For Christianity, nationalism and the separation of church from government in Europe was a success, resurrecting Christian Europe from decline. Three hundred years of world domination followed, marked by the Enlightenment, European colonization of the Americas, and the industrial revolution, as Europe led the world into the era of Modernity. Europe also exported its Western culture and concept of “nationalism” to the entire world. However, nationalism, which evolved from Christianity’s historic trials, would never integrate successfully into the world of Islam where loyalty could only be to God, the sovereign of the world and all mankind.
While “Christian revival” was successful due to the expulsion of religion from governance, in Islam it is exactly the opposite -- Islam was successful in its first 1,200 years precisely due to the dominance of religion in government and society. Islam experienced decline only with the advent into the Islamic world of Western political systems, European nationalism, and secularism in the last 300 years.
The movement of Islamism began in the early 1900s as an indigenous, grassroots movement championed by both poor and educated Muslims throughout the Muslim world. “Islam is the solution!” was the Islamist call to action against Westernization and secular governments which provided the masses with little hope or future. Early Islamist writer, Sayyid Qutb, in Signposts on the Path, wrote:
The leadership of Western man in the human world is coming to an end, not because Western civilization is materially bankrupt or has lost its economic or military strength, but because the Western order has played its part, and no longer possesses that stock of values which gave it its predominance. The turn of Islam has come!
Islamists do not consider themselves to be revolutionaries, in the sense of revolution changing society in a new way. Rather, Islamists strive to rebuild internally by applying traditional principles to reestablish the past strength and glory of Islam. To simply dismiss Islamists as extremists is short sighted. Islamists endeavor to build a constructive society based on justice, using the best moral values from Islamic tradition, history, and law.
Today, Islamism is the only serious political alternative to secular forms of government in the Middle East, and represents the innermost aspirations of most Muslims. Islamism has already achieved political power in Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen, and exerts wide-ranging influence and pressures upon secular leadership in Muslim countries who live in fear of their power over their populations. Though divergent ideas can be found, central beliefs of Islamism focus on these areas:
Government and Law -- Islamism advocates the implementation of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and the restoration of the Koran as the sole authority for government in Muslim countries. A return to success necessitates a purification of Islamic society from secular government systems, legislation, and institutions borrowed from or imposed by the West. For Islamists, political upheaval -- if needed by the sword -- is a necessary part of the purification of their society, hundreds of years in the making.
Culture -- All Muslims know of their history as a superior religious, military, and cultural force in the world. Islamists feel their culture is threatened by Western secular influences, especially Western values, political structures, social patterns, roles of women, secular lifestyles, and styles of dress.
Wealth and Poverty -- Islamists are strongly concerned about social issues, especially the gap between rich and poor. As responsibility for the needy is central in Islam, a society with rich elites and poor masses is unacceptable. Islamists have created welfare institutions in many rural areas and poor city neighborhoods.
Dominance of Unbelievers Over Muslims -- Western military presence in Muslim countries constitutes an affront to Islamists. Islamists believe that dominance by unbelievers is blasphemous, as it can lead to abasement of faith, immorality, and violations of Holy Law.
The United States of America -- Islamists often refer to the United States as “evil,” “the enemy of God,” and “the Great Satin.” Most Westerners have trouble understanding such passionate rhetoric, and simply dismiss it as comical. However, as the United States is the acknowledged heir and reigning master of Western civilization, it inherited the historic animosities against the West, becoming the target of objection, hate, and rage by Muslims.
Jewish/Western Conspiracy -- Islamists view Israel as the center of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, whose purpose is to infiltrate Muslim countries, destroy Islamic values, and instill the germ of Westernization, with the ultimate goal of eradicating Islam.
Israel -- For Islamists, the very existence of an independent Jewish state called Israel is a theological and historic impossibility. In Islam’s natural social order, the Jews’ proper place can only be as protected tributaries (dhimmi) under the leadership of Islamic society, not as rulers of a sovereign state. Israel is thus their number one target, and unacceptable in any size or circumstance. On its road to revival, Islam must reacquire Palestine to redeem itself from the humiliation of a Jewish dhimmi state. Therefore, Western-style “peace” between Israel and the Islamic world is unattainable. Peace can only be achieved in Islamic terms -- peace with justice -- which requires the eradication of political independence of Jews and the domination of the Islamic society (ummah) over them.
Western misunderstanding of the movement of Islamism led to today’s conflict in the Middle East. For Israel, the Gaza war represents the final collapse of the misunderstandings and political fantasies of the Israeli left who embraced the secular PLO terror organization and turned over the Gaza Strip to them in 2005. The PLO was quickly routed by the duly elected Islamist Hamas movement who expelled the PLO and established a Palestinian state whose sole purpose was to wage war on Israel.
The U.S. government is today mistakenly characterizing HAMAS as “a few bad apples” while lionizing and promising massive aid to “civilian” Gazans, whom they view as innocent bystanders who deserve protection, food, medicine, Internet, cell service, and ultimate statehood. All this is to set up a U.S. led political settlement after the war.
As depicted in my 2008 film, Farewell Israel: Bush, Iran and the Revolt of Islam, the assumed friendly Jewish secretary of state Henry Kissinger played Golda Meir and Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War with military assistance to set up after-war diplomacy. So too today is another Jewish secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, setting up Israel for political defeat after the Gaza war.
The Biden administration will demand payback for assisting Israel in the war with a PLO run Palestinian state to include Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The U.S. Middle East “peace plan” will include security guarantees from the increasingly far Left anti-Israel Democrat party-run U.S. government and promises of recognition by various Arab states. If Benjamin Netanyahu refuses the plan, claiming it is an existential threat, a major U.S. effort will be made to remove Bibi from office in exchange for his political rivals who will accept “peace.” Most of all for Joe Biden, the peace plan will provide him with a “success story” to counterbalance his record of disastrous domestic policies. If implemented, the U.S. peace plan will be at the expense of Israel which will be doomed to fight another future war for its very existence from indefensible borders.
Hollywood film director Joel Gilbert is president of Highway 61 Entertainment. Among his many films are political documentaries including The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud that Divided America; Trump: The Art of the Insult; There's No Place Like Utopia; Dreams from My Real Father; Atomic Jihad; and Farewell Israel: Bush, Iran and the Revolt of Islam and his new film and book Michelle Obama 2024: Her Real Life Story and Plan for Power.
Image: Tasnim News Agency