Michael Oren: Interviewed about his new book about the Middle East and American misperceptions





Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Michael B. Oren, a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem research and educational institute. He is the author of the best-selling Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oxford, 2002), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award; a history of the 1956 Sinai Campaign (Cass, 1993); as well as dozens of scholarly and popular articles on history and the politics of the Middle East. His writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Commentary, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of the new book Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776-Present. It is the first book to tell the history of America in the Middle East from the Founding Fathers to the present day in one volume.

FP: Michael Oren, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Oren: It’s a great pleasure and an honor to be here.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Oren: The idea first occurred to me when I was a graduate student in Middle East history at Princeton about twenty years ago. I was listening to a lecture on the emergence of modern Egypt and my professor happened to mention that, in the late 1860s, a group of Civil War veterans—former Union and Confederate officers—went to Egypt to help modernize its army. But when they got to Cairo, the officers discovered that most of the Egyptian army was illiterate, so they began to build a system of literacy schools. The Egyptian soldiers, though, showed up to class with their children, and so these veterans of Vicksburg and Gettysburg got into the business of teaching Egyptian children to read and write. And while they were at it, they also taught American values: patriotism, civic duties, and democracy.

I was fascinated by this story—like many Americans, I believe my country’s involvement in the Middle East began just after World War II—and I rushed to the library to read more about it. Yet, to my disappointment, I found that while there were many books on the history of British and French involvement in the Middle East, there was not one volume on America’s experience in the region. There was certainly no comprehensive history that would place these officers’ extraordinary story in any kind of meaningful, historical, context.

Flash forward some years to the aftermath of 9/11. Suddenly, it seemed to me, Americans were being asked to make some profound decisions in the Middle East—decisions that would impact not only their security but that of much of the world—but they lacked an historical framework for making them. And so, when my editor asked me “what’s the one book about the Middle East that must be written but that hasn’t?” I did not hesitate a moment. I told him: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.

FP: What are the origins of America’s support for Israel?

Oren: The roots of American support for Israel go back hundreds of years—indeed to the day that the first buckled shoe alighted on a rock along the Massachusetts shore. The owner of that shoe, William Bradford, proclaimed “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” Bradford was a leader of the Puritans, a dissenting Protestant movement that suffered greatly at the hands of the Church of England, and which sought strength in the books of the Old Testament. There the Puritans found a God who spoke directly to His people, in their language, and who promised them to rescue them from exile and restore them to their Holy Land.

The Puritans appropriated this narrative—they became the New Israel and the New World became the new Zion. Consequently, the Puritans and their descendents developed a strong sense of kinship with the Old Israel—the Jews—and an attachment to the Old Promised Land, then known as Palestine, part of the Ottoman Empire. Many of them concluded that, in order to be good Christians and Americans, they were obliged to assist God in fulfilling his Biblical promises to restore the Jews to their ancestral homeland. So was born the notion of restorations, which became an immensely popular movement in eighteenth and nineteenth-century America. John Adams declared that his fondest wish was that "100,000 Jewish soldiers…would march into Palestine and reclaim it as a Judean kingdom," and Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that the dream of restoring the Jews was dear to a great many Americans and pledged to help realize that dream after the Civil War.

Perhaps the greatest expression of restorationism occurred in 1891, when real estate mogul William Blackstone submitted a petition to President Benjamin Harrison urging the United States to spearhead an international effort to take Palestine from the Turks and return it to the Jews. The Blackstone Memorial, as it was called, was signed by 400 prominent Americans, including John D. Rockefeller, J. Pierpont Morgan, and William McKinley. Restorationism proved instrumental in moving Woodrow Wilson to endorse the Balfour Declaration, recognizing the Jewish people’s right to a national home in Palestine, and in convincing Harry Truman, a strict Baptist who had nearly memorized the Bible, to be the first world leader to recognize Israel in 1948.

Of course, the fact that Israel is a democracy struggling for survival in a profoundly undemocratic environment plays a role in America’s support of the Jewish state. So, too, does the extensive cooperation between the United States and Israel on military development, intelligence sharing, and training. But the core of the U.S.-Israel alliance lies in the faith of the American people, which remains—in contrast to Europe—intense.

FP: Human rights and social equality appear to be alien notions and un-existent realities in the Islamic Middle East. How come?

Oren: Concepts of human rights and social equality do exist in the Middle East but they are interpreted much differently then they are in the West. Under Islam, men are accorded rights that are denied women—in divorce proceedings, for example—and those strictures are stringently applied in many Arab societies, such as in Saudi Arabia. Similarly, there are no provisions for children’s rights virtually anywhere in the Middle East, no affirmative action, no bill of rights. Homosexuality is considered a capital offense by many Middle Eastern governments, including Iran and the Palestinian Authority. And yet, in response to charges of sexual repression and systematic rights denial, Middle Eastern Muslims often point out the exploitation of women in the West, the breakdown of family values, and widespread use of alcohol and drugs. Where we see progress and modernity, they see decadence and the trampling of age-old traditions. This is the fundamental source of friction between the West and the Middle East. It is a clash not merely of civilizations but of entire worldviews, of incompatible universes.

FP: What were the most fateful decisions made by U.S. Presidents vis-à-vis the Middle East?

Oren: Many historians would probably list Harry Truman's recognition of Israel in May 1948 as one of America's most fateful decisions in the Middle East. While Truman undoubtedly provided a major boost to the morale of Israeli forces fighting for their lives against invading Arab armies, in fact he provided no concrete assistance to the nascent Jewish state, and even imposed an arms embargo on it. The United States would have eventually recognized Israel, as did virtually all Western states, over the course of the following year. The Arab-Israel conflict, meanwhile, became a reality.

A far more influential event was, to my mind, Woodrow Wilson’s decision not to declare war against Turkey in 1917-1918. Remember that the United States entered World War I in April 1917, opening hostilities against Germany and Austria-Hungary, the two major members of the Central Powers. Wilson then had to decide whether to go to war against Ottoman Turkey, the third member of the coalition. Both houses of Congress staunchly supported the move, as did Teddy Roosevelt, the popular ex-president, who claimed that the slogan “making the world safe for democracy” would become nonsense if America ignored the tyrranical Turks.

But Wilson was also lobbied by Protestant missionaries and their supporters. If the United States went to war in the Middle East, they argued, the Turks would destroy nearly a century of American good works, hospitals, and schools. Moreover, they would massacre the missionaries much as they had the Armenians.

Wilson ultimately supported the missionaries. The grandson, son, and nephew of Presbyterian ministers, the president was closely associated with the missionary movements and greatly admired its success. And so the United States never went to war against Turkey and the ramifications of that decision were immense.

By the time of the armistice, in November 1918, Great Britain had nearly a million troops deployed between Cairo and Istanbul. French forces also occupied strategic positions in the area. The United States, by contrast, had not a single soldier stationed anywhere in the Middle East. The results of that vacuum soon became apparent at Paris, where the Allies gathered to draw the map of the new Middle East. Though his ideas for the region's future differed substantively from that of Britain and France, lacking military leverage, Wilson was powerless to prevent the British and the French from dividing the Middle East between them. Among their creations were Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestine Mandate - later to morph into Israel.

Another decision of massive ramifications was Dwight D. Eisenhower's support for Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1956 Suez Crisis. Though Nasser had plotted against Arab moderates and had violated international agreements by nationalizing the Suez Canal, Eisenhower sided with the Soviet Union - this while Soviet tanks were crushing freedom-fighters in Hungary – to rescue Nasser from certain defeat at the hands of Britain, France, and Israel. A vastly strengthened Nasser proceeded to turn his Soviet-supplied arms against Arab moderates and ultimately aimed them at Israel. But imagine if Eisenhower had just stepped back and let Nasser fall. The Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 might have been averted. There would be no occupied territories, no intifadas or Hamas. Minus Nasser, the Middle East might look radically different today.

FP: Shed some light for our readers on why the word “Fantasy” is in the title of your book.

Oren: Fantasy relates to the highly romantic, and often erotic, image of the Middle East in the American imagination. The roots of that myth are quite deep, many of them stemming back to A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, that collection of ribald Persian tales which, after the Bible, was the second-most popular book on the American colonial bookshelf. The myriad Americans who read this book, and had no other reliable information on the Middle East, took it as truth: there really were flying carpets, genie-haunted lamps, and veiled but available harem girls. Such myths lured many Americans to see the Middle East for themselves.

Starting with John Ledyard, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson who became the first American explorer in Egypt in 1788, Americans flocked to the Middle East. By the mid-nineteenth century, Americans had surpassed the British as the largest group of tourists in the area. Among them were Elizabeth Cabot Kirkland, the wife of Harvard’s president, an African-American former slave named David Dorr, and the Civil War heroes William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant. And while many of these travelers wrote devastating portraits of the Middle East, debunking the myths of A Thousand and One Nights, Americans remained enchanted. By the early twentieth century, Hollywood had seized on the Middle Eastern myth, producing such blockbusters as the Sheikh of Araby (1921), which rocketed Rudolph Valentino to stardom. There followed an almost endless series of Thousand and One Nights knock-off movies, followed by smash hits such as Indiana Jones and Sahara—all Middle Eastern fantasies.

Fantasy also had a profound impact on policy. Back in 1788, John Ledyard looked at the Bedouin of the desert and likened them to the pioneers of the American frontier. These were lovers of liberty who, unfortunately, were languishing under Ottoman tyranny. Remove that tyranny, Ledyard speculated, and the Arabs would rise up and naturally embrace democracy. Such myths played an influential role in America’s policy-making toward the Middle East—many Americans might have wondered why, on 9/11, these picturesque nomads would leave their oases to hijack civilian airliners—and in the decision to invade Iraq.

FP: Who were some of the more memorable characters and figures in America’s history in the region?

Oren: Among my favorite characters are George Bethune English, Harvard Class of 1807, who traveled to the Middle East as a Marine, jumped ship in Cairo, and converted to Islam. Later, as a general in the army of Egypt’s ruler, he led an expedition against Sudanese bandits in Darfur. He ended his career—and indeed his life—acting as President John Quincy Adam’s special agent in the Middle East, secretly mediating a treaty between the United States and the Ottoman Empire.

Another outstanding character was Philip Dickson, a crusty old Yankee from Groton, MA., who moved with his wife and twin daughters to Palestine in 1855. On a barren hilltop, optimistically christened Mount Hope, the Dicksons established a colony dedicated to teaching the Jews how to farm and so preparing them for eventual statehood. The Dickson daughters married two German Lutheran brothers, Frederick and Johann Grossteinbeck, and together the family struggled to overcome disease and hunger in order fulfill its mission.

In December 1856, the Dickson farm hosted an usual visitor—the author Herman Melville. He had come to the Middle East in search of an inspiration for his next novel; his last one, Moby-Dick, had sold a disappointing 3,000 copies. Melville lunched with the Dicksons and the Grossteinbecks, and later wrote rather disparagingly of them in his diary. The following month, the farm was attacked by Bedouins. Philip Dickson was struck mortally on the head while his wife and daughters were brutally raped. Frederick Grossteinbeck was shot in the groin and died an agonizing death. The only member of the colony to escape unscathed was Johann Grossteinbeck who, according to consular records, left Palestine and relocated to California.

Melville would allude to the attack on the Dickson colony in his 24,000-line epic poem, Clarel, but so, too, would Johann Grossteinbeck’s grandson, in his biblically-toned novel, East of Eden. John Steinbeck’s grandfather had met Herman Melville in the Middle East, in a colony created by Philip Dickson.

No favorite list of characters in American-Middle Eastern relations would be complete without mentioning Mark Twain. Still going by his real name, Samuel Clemens, Twain was a relatively unknown humorist in 1867 when two American papers commissioned him to report on his travels aboard the steamship Quaker City, bound for the Middle East. The steamship and its lackluster passengers visited Istanbul, Tangiers, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Twain’s observations of these lands and their inhabitants were ruthless. The Syrian women, he sneered, were so ugly that they “couldn’t smile after ten o’clock Saturday night without breaking the Sabbath.” Shocked by the cost of a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, he snorted, “no wonder Jesus walked.” Yet Twain was no less brutal in lambasting his countrymen, especially those who took sledgehammers to ancient monuments and knocked off fist-sized souvenirs. “American vandals,” he called them.

The Middle East made Mark Twain. Using his new penname, he published his collected dispatches as Innocents Abroad, which became the largest-selling book of late nineteenth-century America. “It sold more books than the Bible,” Twain characteristically quipped.

FP: So what role should the U.S. be playing in the Middle East today and in the near-future? What must it do in Iraq and how can it best fight the terror war in general?

Oren: Americans must understand that they cannot disengage from the Middle East. Iraq is not Vietnam. Americans withdrew from Vietnam in 1975 confident that the North Vietnamese would not pursue them to American cities. By contrast, the United States can evacuate it soldiers from Iraq--and it will, eventually--but the Middle East will pursue. Americans cannot detach themselves from the Middle East because the Middle East will remain for the foreseeable future attached to the United States. Elements in the region will continue to seek to harm American citizens and vital American interests. Leaders in Washington will still be called up to try to resolve Middle Eastern disputes. And the U.S. economy will remain intertwined with that of the oil-producing Gulf.

The question is, then: how can the United States interact with the Middle East in a more prudent and effective manner?

And the answer, I believe, can be found in America's centuries-old history in the region--the legacy of power, faith, and fantasy.

To defend themselves against persistent Middle Eastern threats, Americans will still have to employ power in the area. But at the same time, they must realize that power has its limits in the Middle East. Following Thomas Jefferson's example of first fighting and then concluding a peace treaty with the Barbary pirates, American leaders must learn when to strike back and when to negotiate. They must realize that military power, alone, cannot remake and sustain Middle Eastern states riven by tribal and ethnic hostilities. They must develop new forms of power to meet the rapid-changing dangers from the Middle East--familiarizing a generation of American servicemen and women in the languages and cultures of the region and strengthening economic strictures against the financiers of terror.

Americans must maintain their faith in the Middle East, especially their civic, secular faith in democracy, equality, and human rights. The United States should enhance its support--flagging of late--for Middle Eastern democratic movements and distance itself from the region's autocratic regimes. It must act according to its own principles and ethic codes and so avoid atrocities such as those committed at Abu Ghraib. At the same time, though, Americans must realize that their concepts of liberty may not be appropriate or transplantable to the Middle East, where ideas such as sexual freedom and unbridled free speech are alien if not abhorrent.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, Americans must learn to distinguish fantasy from reality in the Middle East. They can offer to assist the region to democratize, but without the illusion that its inhabitants are desperate to rise up and embrace American-style freedoms. They can open channels of communication to the enemies, such as Iran, but without believing that those enemies share America's interests in stability and peace or that they care about their citizens' safety in the same way America does. They can invest heavily in efforts to resolve conflicts between Arabs and Israelis or Shiites and Sunnis but all the while understanding that the United States, alone, cannot effect rapprochement among the region's adversaries and that some of these disputes will continue to roil indefinitely. The United States should and must reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and seek to develop alternative forms of energy, yet it must realize that oil will remain the determinant commodity for many years to come, and that the Middle East will still rank among its principal suppliers.

In short, the United States will continue to be involved in the Middle East--extensively and perhaps also existentially--but will hopefully be so in a more resilient, flexible, and sober manner.

FP: Michael Oren, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Oren: Thank you for this compelling and stimulating opportunity.



comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007



I look forward to read the book; however from what emerges from this interview I can make the following remarks.

"What was Palestine, the land and its population, to early Americans?" Is the question the answer to which could well elucidate American early, and still widely prevailing, perception of the land and its people.

As with their New Zion Palestine must have looked as a :

A-
A totally desolate and substantially UNINHABITED land ,
populated by some tent dwelling, roaming, marauding and ever traveling, unsettled, tribes .
Its population had no ulterior relations with others; an isolated, community with neither cultural nor historical binding relations; unattached to another major human community
As was then, the land and the people of the soon to become USA

B-
A land without a distinct cultural/national character that offers no resistance to ALIEN settlers and settlements

C-
A land that could be settled peacefully, if uninhabited, or through the decimation, dislocation and total submission of the whole of its indigenous population, if inhabited.

In brief, it seems, must have, looked something like early settlers America as a land and with something akin to native (red Indian)Americans for a population..
These FANTASIES did, still do, lead to a great extent, to major historical miscalculations and unexpected, though inevitable, epoch making repercussions.
BUT the FACTS of the matter are:
A-
Palestine was inhabited and populated by an indigenous settled community with very strong relations to the greater Arab, predominantly Moslem, world of which it was, still is, an integral part and was/is, culturally and strategically, a crucial component.

B-
Palestine had a distinct, very strongly cherished, national/ cultural character that, despite its unique tolerance, for the times, to national and confessional minorities, categorically rejects all alien aggression and/or attempted implantation aiming at the disfiguration, deArabization, of its intrinsic nature and its cultural/nationalist Arab , Moslem and Christian, character .

C-
Palestine being at the cross roads of the old world , and the preferred route of their intercontinental invading armies had suffered conquests of various types but finally managed to achieve and RETAIN not only its intrinsic cultural/nationalist character but equally an unparalleled ability to repulse and drive back, through war and assimilation , all sorts of ALIEN conquests and attempts at its colonization.
The most recent being the Zionist movement ; unchastised by the fate of its predecessors of the Crusades

Some of the missionaries, blinded by their missionary zeal, failed to see that, others did

The comic tragedy of the whole situation is that some Americans, many Americans ?, still have that old perception and still fail to see the facts about Palestine and its people..(A tragic and hugely expensive misperception to all)


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

"There have always been Jews living in Israel. Omar's denial of that fact is one of the false pretensions common among Arab nationalists."(Re: FACTS and FANTASIES (#108665)
by Elliott Aron Green on April 16, 2007 at 4:02 PM)

Eckstein's conscious falsification, brazen lying, virus seems to have spread far and wide reaching and now affecting Mr Green!

Where ever, when ever did I deny the presence of Jews in Palestine??

Is not my statement ( only ONE post up):” despite its unique tolerance, for the times, to national and confessional minorities, ..." an acknowledgement of the presence of minorities in Palestine including some Jews??

When people revert to this kind of brazen unabashed lying it shows how shaky the grounds they stand on are.








omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

A general, uninvolved, and newcomer reader to and of this Forum would come up with the impression that some of the specifics mentioned by Messers Eckstein, Friedman, Furnish and Green, other wise known , with others, as the herd are really and truly damning!.

Some may well be as specific ,isolated, TIMELESS details.

However when these isolated episodes are viewed in the context of the blind, racist and Zionist overall campaign, fronted here at HNN by the herd, against anything and everything that is Arab and/or Moslem one is bound to note two points:
1-In their denunciations that inevitably follow the mentioning of these specific events, incidents, policies , attitudes etc all of the herd, bar none, judge events, policies and attitudes that occurred several centuries past according to the standards of present times.

Which, in a way , could be construed as a subconscious, or unconscious, form of compliment by expecting that the most tolerant and progressive of old cultures, Arab/Moslem culture, to have, and have upheld ,these present day standards.
( To realize how progressive and tolerant Arab/Moslem culture was/is one has only to read Professor Shahak.)

2- This perverted , ahistorical approach of judging events of the , say, 10th century AD with and by the standards of the 20th century and not the standards prevailing at the times of the incidents, events etc seems to be applied, and applicable, only to Arab/Moslem culture by the same herd.

However it is NOT a question of a DOUBLE STANDARD; it is a question of NO STANDARD at all;an instance of the total absence of any objective ,scientific and honest standard.

Blind hate seems to have overcome some, but not all, who otherwise would be sensible enough to judge events by the standards and comparing them with the practices,policies,incidents etc of and by others AT THE TIME they occurred and NOT by present time standards and criteria.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

"As you can see (and I believe that even a brainwashed Muslim can understand) he is talking about a 500 years period."

An extremely intelligent, witty and penetrating remark.
Bravo Mr Mutik!
Let us have more from this well of wisdom and wit that is you.
Bravo.
I am sure poor Eckstein is happy with you now.


A. M. Eckstein - 4/24/2007

How interesting. Thank you for this information, Elliot.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/24/2007

I would like to mention a Turk who apparently tried to help the Jews during the Holocaust, although the Turkish govt was a pro-Axis neutral. This was a journalist named, I think, Nerin Gun. He was the first or one of the first journalists to report on the Holocaust, and he published a book on this in the 60s or 70s. Maybe those who fight Holocaust denial in the Islamic world should dig up his book.


A. M. Eckstein - 4/24/2007

Elliot, my point was that I doubt that Fahrettin would accept Horton's testimony, given his known very pro-Greek leanings.

That does NOT mean that I myself don't accept Horton--because I think there's lots of other eyewitness testimony to confirm him. I'm just suggesting that Fahrettin won't be convinced by Horton's testimony alone.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/24/2007


I think the point to remember here is that we are not talking about abstract religions or empires which come and go but about people. In the beginning of Europe were the pre-christian religions, of which the christianisation left nothing to survive. Then came Islam as the religion of conquerors at a point in history when that was what you did if you could. Although the Christians were left the choice of keeping their religion, over large parts of the Balkans, Crimea and Caucasia Islam became the majority religion by conversion of the Christians. At the time of the American war of indepence England, isolated in Europe, reached for an alliance with Russia and helped Russia to invade entirely Turkish populated Crimea in return for Russian support, demonstrating that the Turk was now weaker than the Christians. Until the Lausanne peace treaty 1924 there followed one war after the other, all initiated by the christian nations, above all Russia, for the purpose of exterminating Islam in Europe, that is by killing and evicting the moslem decendants of people whose ancestors might have been christians at an earlier period. When there was no war, there was terrorism, permanent civil war, an invention of the Balkan Christians to force the Moslems to emigrate, last on Cyprus between 1963 and the war in 1974. I remember the Cyprus events of 1963 when the Greeks were slaughtering Turks and nobody in Turkey could understand why Turkey’s western allies did not tell them to stop it. They did not. They feel that the Moslems are either the descendants of Asian nomads, and deserve getting killed or local renegates who deserve to get killed twice for their ancestors betraying Christianity. The Ottoman solution was to be modernisation and democracy, the first elections were held 1876, followed by a Russian invasion and 500000 Moslems murdered in Bulgaria to make the Christians a majority, and the Christians of the empire were euphoric. The Armenian orthodox patriarch sent a telegram to the Tsar asking him to do the same in what he called Armenia. After that the relationship between Moslems and Christians was poisoned, and democracy ended. The second attempt at democracy 1908 was followed by the Balkan war and 1,5 Million killed, followed by military dictatorship. Only after 1946 when the US supported Turkey, did democracy get a real chance.

The west calls this national liberation but Turks were there for over 1500 years and all these people spent most of this time living and intermarrying with the other people who lived there the practical result being that you can not tell Turks Greeks Albanians Slavs etc apart by their ethnic characteristic or culture, nor even by language, as Greeks and Armenians sometimes are Turkish speakers as Turks are sometimes Armenian, Greek or Slavonic speakers. The Christians wanted Greece to be reborn, but most people of Greek descent having been assimilated into the Moslem Umma, used the fanaticism of the Church to get a Christian state. It is no coincidence that the Cyprus murders were incited by the local Archbishop. The Greek orthodox church has at no point admitted having done any wrong and continues to mobilize the West against Turks, who see in this institution a kind of Greek SS and hate it.

In 1924 was born the modern Turkish nation, dominated by the European Moslems, who had survived. Until the present Anatolian Islamist movement came to power in 2001 Turkey was run by the decendants of the East European immigrants and was basically an East European country. At least one of the reasons for Turkish secularism, actually a de-islamisation process, was to get Turkey off the list of the list of people to be exterminated. By no coincidence this was the same point in European history when antisemitism got murderous. In the 1980’ies there was a German joke which went: “what is the difference between the Turks and the Jews? The Turks still have it coming.” It would take an idiot not to notice the fundamental racism pairing the two groups of non-christian Europeans.

I do not doubt that a lot Greeks and possibly Armenians were killed as the Greek invasion of Anatolia was defeated in 1922 as indeed innocent Germans died in 1945 or that several hundred thousand Armenians were killed in 1915. What I am saying is that this followed 100 years of genocide against the Turk, killing 5 million people until 1914, beginning with the Greek war of independence, where all Moslems in Greece were killed and temporarily stopped as the war in Bosnia was ended in 1995.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/24/2007

Art, Horton was an eyewitness. So if he was pro-Greek that does not necessarily disqualify him anymore than my being pro-Israel disqualifies me from reporting what I have seen here in Jerusalem in the aftermath of terrorist attacks.

The main reason I mentioned Horton was for his reports on the behavior of the American fleet in the harbor at Smyrna. Horton reports that the fleet did not help rescue the Greeks or Armenians. He is also critical of the American press reports on the events and of his own State Dept. I wanted to point out to Fahrettin that US policy has sometimes favored Muslim powers, the Turkey in particular.
Likewise, by referring to Hemingway I wanted to show that a famous American writer could be sympathetic to the Turks.
I


N. Friedman - 4/24/2007

Fahrettin,

This is an interesting comment. Please provide some more detail for discussion.

I am particularly interested in your comment that reads: They also remember the millions of Turks killed and forced out of what was European Turkey in a very brutal and long war effectively from 1774 to 1924. They have people around them who speak Greek, Slavonic, Albanian, Crimean Tatar, various Caucasian languages etc. Official policy is not to deny atrocities but to let bygones be bygones. You do not learn anything in school about the Armenians, nor about the Crimean Tatars, the Turks of Bulgaria etc. You learn that the Sultan conquered Egypt in 1517 and lost Bulgaria in 1876 but neither who lived there nor what happened to them. Now the West is using this, selectively remembering what they politically like to remember.

With Westernized 20/20 hindsight, Westerners tend to see modern Greece, et al, resulting from, in part, liberation movements of sorts and also by the armies of European states, with Islamdom retreating from its earlier conquests.

Such view, most especially regarding the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of European states, is the result of Bernard Lewis' very substantial scholarship. He basically sees Islamdom and Christiandom locked in a long term rivalry where, for a long while Islam was in the ascendancy, initially set back with the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Arab and Berber conquerors but the Islamic offensive later resumed by the truly brilliant Ottoman Sultans - the first ten of them including some really great statesmen and conquerors - and, thereafter, beginning in the 17th Century - perhaps with the seeds sewn a bit earlier -, the Christians turned things around and reconquered much of Europe that had been lost to the Ottoman Empire and then some of the Arab lands.

As you may know, he now thinks that it is possible that Islam is returning to the offensive with Europe beginning a decline.


art eckstein - 4/23/2007

Fahrettin, I think you are on to something in the pairing of Jews and Turks by Europeans as somehow morally "barbaric", and you underline a fundamental racism of perception on the Europeans' part.

The difficulty from a historiographical standpoint is how to elucidate the facts from enormous amounts of information almost all of which is biased observation. (The American consul Horton at Smyrna, who was pro-Greek, MAY be an example of such biased observation, but I'm willing to be convinced either way.)
I think, however, that just as I am willing to admit Israeli atrocities when they happen, you need to be willing to see that the Turks have been actors historically on the world stage, and often violent actors, not merely victims. The total innocence position is not convincing, and we all get farther by admitting that humans are generally a bad lot.

What is noticeable about Arab Muslims such as Omar (who you luckily have not come across yet) is their proclamation of total innocence, a view in which the Arabs are always mere victims of the West, and in which the presentation of hard facts to the contrary only leads to accusations of "lies!". No counter-evidence or argument, just expressions of rage, and ever more absurd denials (such as Omar's denial that 900,000 Jews were forced from Muslim lands after the founding of Israel, a figure that is 200,000 larger than the Palestinian exodus; he insisted in the face of evidence after evidence that they left willingly and peacefully.) Again, I ascribe this in good part to a terribly flawed and propagandistic education system--though the persistent failure to absorb difficult information contrary to one's self-regarding ideology points to a deeper cultural issue.


art eckstein - 4/23/2007

But Horton was certainly a pro-Greek and anti-Turkish individual, Elliot, and ended up (I think) as consul in Thessalonika. We need more than Horton. I think Dodson provides much more, but I doubt that Fahrettin will be convinced, especially because Dodson's actually an Armenian, which raises legitimate issues of bias there as well. Yet the amount of evidence certainly in my view (and I have no horse in this race) points towards the Attaturk army.

I think Hemingway managed to be both at Smyrna and in western Thrace, where his accounts of the refugees in both places are equally heartrending.

Fahrettin is of course correct about the Wall, and it is heartening to see such a sober judgment. Too bad our smug European friends can't be as responsible.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/23/2007

I certainly don't quarrel with Fahrettin that hypocritical moralizing is typical of European politicians, and not only politicians. Especially the British.

On the issue of Smyrna, George Horton, US consul in Smyrna in 1922, wrote his own book on the events. He clearly reports that the fleets of Britain, the USA, and other Western poweers were in the harbor at Smyrna while the city was being burned, the Greeks driven out and Armenians slaughtered. His book is called The Blight of Asia. Horton is criticizing his own country for supporting Ataturk at the time.
It's true that at that time, the Jews in Smyrna were left alone [as far as I know]. Further, Ernest Hemingway, one of the most famous American authors, wrote sympathetically about the Turks forced out of their homes in Western Thrace:
The carts were jammed for thirty miles along the Karagatch road... There was no end and no beginning. Just carts laden with everything they owned... The Maritza was running yellow almost up to the bridge. Carts were jammed solid on the bridge with camels bobbing along through them... The women and children were in the carts, crouched with mattresses, mirrors, sewing machines, bundles. There was a woman having a baby with a young girl holding a blanket over her and crying..." [E Hemingway, In Our Time (New York: Scribner Library 1930 ed), p 23]
Hemingway is describing the forced transfer of Turks from Western Thrace arranged by the Norwegian peacemonger Fridtjof Nansen, which was meant to compensate for the Turkish expulsion of Greeks from Anatolia [described in part by Hemingway in "On the Quai at Smyrna" in the same book, pp 9-12]. Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at forced population transfer. So, if Hemingway is at all a reliable witness, something was happening in Anatolia and the Balkans in the early 1920s.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/23/2007

Art,

I also see this as a friendly discussion. Actually there is no controversy in Turkey that a large number of Armenians and Greeks have been killed 1915 to 1922. People have grandparents who remember that era. They also remember the millions of Turks killed and forced out of what was European Turkey in a very brutal and long war effectively from 1774 to 1924. They have people around them who speak Greek, Slavonic, Albanian, Crimean Tatar, various Caucasian languages etc. Official policy is not to deny atrocities but to let bygones be bygones. You do not learn anything in school about the Armenians, nor about the Crimean Tatars, the Turks of Bulgaria etc. You learn that the Sultan conquered Egypt in 1517 and lost Bulgaria in 1876 but neither who lived there nor what happened to them. Now the West is using this, selectively remembering what they politically like to remember.

The Europeans criticize Israel for the wall, without saying how else she should protect herself against the suicide bombers. They do this because they like feeling that they are better people than the Israelis. Quite a lot of the criticizm pointed at Turkey is for the same purpose. History is manipulated to prove that the Turk is some kind of moral sub human who should apologize for surviving the genocide accepting that for example France is a better country with a moral right to tell the Turk what to do. This is what annoys people and makes them think the people who make money by playing the game, like Nobel laurate Pamuk, are selling them. I feel this is a legitimate defensive reflex at least until the West or Mr. Pamuk bother remembering the millions Christians killed.


art eckstein - 4/22/2007

I don't mean anything I'm saying in an unfriendly way, Fahrettin; I think we are having a productive conservation.

Yes, to be sure, the problem of violence is a general problem. In the States, a "liberal" attitude towards the rights of the mentally insane prevented the student Cho (who was not even a U.S. citizen) from being locked in an insane asylum after the first serious complaints in late 2005, or even kept off campus after that, or his parents even being notified of his troubles by the university (!). So he acted (with an illegally--NOT legally--acquired handgun as it turns out.) and now it is too late. Similarly, I am on the one hand glad that you write:

"In the islamic case it is idiots who believe they are god, if this was what you wanted to hear." But the first problem is that a simply enormous number of Muslim people see these psychopaths as heroes even as they blow up Muslim women and children, while the moderates seem unable to say out-loud and in public what you've just said above. As I said, I think in part this is because the jihadists of today have powerful Islamic arguments and traditions to which they can appeal for jistification of their hyperviolence. And with Cho, these madmen turn out to be beneficiaries of many, many facilitators; they do not exist in a vaccuum.

About Smyrna, or Izmir, all I'm saying is that the side which is conveying information you don't want to hear has some strong arguments, strong enough to convince some prominent Turkish intellectuals. I would add that admitting Turkish non-innocence in atrocities does not at all diminish the atrocities committed by the other side (assuming those can be proven empirically).


art eckstein - 4/22/2007

Fahrettin, I wasn't accusing you of going after Israel; I was making a general statement. I'm glad to see that you think the Israelis have been restrained in their responses to Palestinian terrorism.

As for Smyrna, that's the first time I've heard a controversy over the destruction of the Greek parts of the city. Evidently there is such a controversy, with Turkish nationalists claiming that Greeks or Armenians started the fire. The standard work in English on this incident , blaiming the Turkish army for the burning and the massacre, is "The Burning of Smyrna" by Dobson (1971; 2nd expanded ed. 1998). Since she is Armenian by birth, I doubt that Fahrettin will accept anything she says, though evidently she assembled a huge number of eye-witnesses to a very large massacre of Greeks perpetrated by the Turkish army.. Falih R?fk? Atay, a Turkish author of national renown asserted in 1969 that the Turkish army had burnt Smyrna to the ground. Recently, many Turks have begun to question that nationalist narrative that is taught within their own country. Biray Kolluog<breve>lu K?rl?, a Professor of Sociology, published a paper with Oxford University Press in 2005 in which he argues that the city was burned by the Turks in an attempt to cleanse the predominantly Christian city in order to make way for a new Muslim and Turkish city.

Again Fahrettin, I wonder if it is not better strategy not to insist on innocence all the time.

3. I teach in a History Dept at a university and have taught Muslim students in the Dept's Undergraduate Honors Program. My impression is rather than Muslims being looked down on as non-equals, the other students treat them with kid gloves. To cite one example: I had a hijab-clad girl who was writing a senior honors paper on the Tanzimet and the strong religious opposition to it, arguing that religious opposition was not why the reform failed or why Turkey's modernization in the 19th century was only very partial. She was a self-proclaimed very conservative Muslim. When I asked the students who were writing these papers to list their historical biases and the ways they would combat them, she said she had no biases. No one said a word.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/22/2007

In fact I did not attack the Israelis for anything. I think they are being relatively restrained for all the stress they have.

There is no consensus about who burned Izmir in 1922, the Turks say they had no reason to burn a city they had just liberated and blame the Greeks and vice versa.

The exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey followed 100 years of genocidal war against the Turks of Europe. After the Balkan war of 1912, when 1,5 Millions Turks were murdered, the Turks were very desperate and got very brutal. And survived. The number of Moslems expelled from Greece was less than the number of Greeks expelled from Turkey, because the Greeks had not left many to be expelled. I don't understand why you insist on being such one sided?

I am not excusing any psychopaths but feel that the western art of war is not less bloody than the moslems although it is more hygenic, the air force pilots do not see the blood. It is rassistic to claim that the moslems are bloodier than other people. I say it is not religion murdering people but people murdering people. In the islamic case it is idiots who believe they are god, if this was what you wanted to hear. But who built the and used the atom bomb? The turkish definition of a barbarian is the people who did not invent gunpowder.

It is my personal experience that most people of the west do not accept the moslems as their equals. Period.


art eckstein - 4/22/2007

Dear Fahrettin,

1. Given that you concede that a part of the Moslem world, a part you evidently don't like, is at war with the West, and for religious reasons, you must also deal with the hyperviolence of which they consistently avail themselves--against Christians (in the Philippines), against Jews (in Israel), against Hindus (in Kashmir and India), against fellow Muslims. The point is the continuity between the powerful historical Muslim tradition of ruthless jihadism and the current wave of Muslim hyperviolence. It is not all Muslims, and these psycho and sociopaths are not representative of all Muslim culture. But they ARE representative of a significant part of it, which is what I ask you to examine. I'd be happy to talk about the American culture of violence some time soon, but for now that is a "tu quoque" argument and a way of avoiding looking hard at the disturbing continuity between past savage jihadism (e.g., 80 million dead in India) and current Muslim hyperviolence done IN the name of Islam. (I note the slaughter of 23 Christians and "Yazidis" in northern Iraq this morning.)

This is a legitimate inquiry, Fahrettin. No other religion is doing this! (And, yes, Christianity did things like this in the past, Fahrettin, but the Christian West has analyzed and beat its chest to death over that past--whereas Muslims continue to deny, avoid, fly into rages, use tu quoque arguments, or blame the messenger for even raising the subject of the vast scale of Muslim religious-inspired violence, rather than engaging in self-analysis.)

2. I note that your somewhat expurgated version of the terrible Greco-Turkish war of the 1920s omits the expulsion of 3 million Greeks from Ionia, where they had lived for 3,000 years, as well as such atrocities as the destruction of Smyrna. No doubt the Turks felt provoked. (And the Greeks expelled a half-million Turks.) Well, you know, the Israelis feel provoked too (e.g., by 700 rockets shot in the past year from Gaza intentionally into civilian Israeli settlements within the PRE-1967 boundaries, sending a message of genocide), but as yet the Israelis have not leveled Gaza to the ground as the Turks did to the Greek sections of Smyrna. And you know that they could, in an afternoon. Yet they are attacked by both the Europeans and the Muslims for being brutal (!).

My point is merely that you weaken your case by failing to acknowledge the savagery and injustices committed by BOTH sides in the 1920s war, and by presenting the Muslems in general ("What the West is doing to the Moslems") and the engineers and legatees of Turkish imperialism in specific, as innocents.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/22/2007



Art
Those who call themselves Bulgarians today think of themselves as slavs. They became a majority after the Genocide on the Moslems, who were the majority and thought of themselves as Turks. There are 14 Million citizens of Balkan descent in Turkey today, 10 further millions in the Balkans, making 24 Millions. Add in the similar number who are not there because their ancestors were murdered and you get a Moslem European Turkey with the population of France. Greece has 6 Millions who are descended from locals as opposed to immigrants, Bulgaria 6 Million Slavs, 10 Million Serbs. Send back the Balkanese in Turkey today and you get a Moslem majority, even after the Genocide. This genocide is as central an event of Turkish history as the holocaust of the Jewish, and you call it imperial spin, and refuse to discuss it.

I quoted US violence because it was claimed that killing was moslem culture when it obviously is human culture. Is there anything in modern moslems culture as violent as Hitler and Stalin, both of them products of Christian culture? Nobody calls what they did christian atrocities so apply the same method to understanding todays “moslem” violence and see it in the context of what is a war between a part of the moslem world and a part of the west. It is not between governments but between autonomous autonomous underground groups and governments and/or religious groups without central leadership which could direct their efforts and limit their actions to military targets. The slaughtering of 3 turkish christians, not the first event of this type, shows simply that there too, the goverment ist loosing control. It is interesting to note the european reaction to this crime, which is to blame the “nationalists” and demand their suppression, which if it worked would reduce a channel through which dissent could be voiced, forcing yet more people into the underground where they would be uncontrolled.

I never said the west always supports the enemies of Islam. They do what their primarily economic interests necessitate. Appearently some of you people are Jews who see the issue from the Israeli viewpoint. For me the conflicts around Israel are not the central issue, as I have repeatedly stated that I see a conflict between Christians and Moslems, which in this case is identical with a conflict between imperialists and their colonies, which would be better defined in Marxist terms than the theological stuff used here. Islam plays a role, because we all use the language we have learned to describe our feelings and the world around us and the only language these colonial combatants have learned is the theologic one. It was the opium which was to let them sleep as their countries were being exploited and now it has backfired, they fight with an ideology with which compomise is even more difficult than it would have been with a more rational viewpoint. Actually the Jewish intellectual who thinks the Israelis should be left alone and describes this feeling in the European enlightment language he has learned is doing exactly the same thing as the Arab who wants his grandfathers’ land back and uses his islamic language to describe his feelings.

Mehmet Ali was an Albanian from what is now the north of Greece who tried to take over the Ottoman Empire to reform it coming to Konya in central Anatolia with his army, but was prevented from doing so by European powers who wanted the Ottoman empire to remain weak so they could continue to exploit and eat it. It is ridiculous to call this imperialism, it was an Ottoman reform movement, in the end stopped by the West. Crete at this point was populated by about 50% Moslems. In the end they were forced out and live now in Anatolian exile where quite a lot if them continue to speak the laguage of their ancestors, cretan greek.

After WWI the English let the Greeks invade western Anatolia, where they behaved like Hitlers armies in Russia. After they were defeated the Greek minority in Western Anatolia suffered. Not the Armenians as Elliott claims. There was nothing left the British could do at that point, they had lost the war.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

Yes, this is a rich dialogue, for one. But Elliot, I didn't say, and I certainly didn't mean to imply, that the modernizing Mehmet Ali's Egyptian imperialism of the 1830s and 1840s went as far as the Balkans. No doubt he would have liked it to! But I think he only got as far north as Lebanon (and Crete).


Elliott Aron Green - 4/21/2007

Just one more point in response to FT.
--on cheap oil, actually the USA, Britain, and France have helped keep oil high over the years by giving tax advantages to their own oil companies like ARAMCO. The huge payments for oil have enriched Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, which Art pointed out. I want to stress how certain Western govts. helped their oil companies pay more to Arab oil states.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/21/2007

There's too much in the above thread for me to respond to everything. However, I usually like to start on a positive note. And here I would agree with Fahrettin. The Sunni Muslim Arabs did enjoy equality in the Ottoman empire with Muslim Turks. See link to my article:
http://infoisrael.net/cgi-local/printer.pl?source=4/b/iv/archives/121220041&;lang=

Yet, Christians and Jews were not equal in that state. Not even after the Tanzimat reforms, whereas Muslim Arabs from notable families got high posts in the Empire. These included the palestinian Arab Muslim families, Husseini [Husayni], al-Khalidi [as in Walid & Rashid], and Abdul-Hadi. Members of all these families obtained high Ottoman posts. The Arab upper crust became part of the governing class of the Empire, and they were not eager to separate from the Ottoman Empire, which even Rashid Khalidi agrees with, I believe.
As for the rest of Fahrettin's historical claims, there's too much confusion and falsehood for me to respond to.
However, a few points:
NF or Art pointed out how imperial Germany sided with the Ottoman Empire. Kaiser Wilhelm went so far as to dub himself "Defender of Islam." I have no doubt that the Germans and Austrians helped in the Armenian genocide. In the 1922 Smyrna Affair, Britain, France, and the USA, as well as other non-Muslim powers, supported Ataturk's takeover of the city, which involved considerable slaughter of Armenians.
FT should not whine so much about Western hostility to Islam and admit that as often as not, in the 20th century, Western powers supported Muslim powers against local non-Muslims. A case in point is the British supporting, indeed inciting, Arabs against Jews in Israel. Colonel Meinertzhagen, a British Foreign Office intelligence officer reported to his superiors that British military officers in Israel were encouraging Arab attacks on Jews. These attacks became known as the Nebi Musa Pogrom of 1920, in which Col. Waters-Taylor encouraged Amin el-Husseini to instigate attacks on Jews during the San Remo Conference. This may sound like FT's story about the British in Basra. But the British did not put on Arab costumes. They're not so crude or blatant. What they did was to encourage Arab leaders to incite their own followers against Jews. Likewise, in 1929, the British encouraged Arab attacks on Jews throughout Israel, according to two respected Western journalists, Pierre van Paassen & Albert Londres. See their books and articles. So FT should give up his silly notion that the West always sides with non-Muslims against Muslims, or that the West is always anti-Muslim.
--about Art or NF's mention of Mehmet Ali in the Balkans. In fact, Mehmet Ali sent an Egyptian army to Crete in the 1820s to fight the Greek rebels. Because of Mehmet Ali's success, Crete remained part of the Ottoman Empire for about 80 years more.
-- I agree with Art or NF that the Wahhabiyya in Arabia was an internal Islamic development. The Wahhabis at first fought [in alliance with the Saudi clan] against other Muslims.
--Michael Totten [see his blog] reports from Kirkuk in Iraq that the local Turkomans generally support the Kurds, rather than wanting to be part of an Arab state.
-- For an instructive outline of Arab-Islamic political culture, I recommend a book by David Bukay of Haifa University, published by the Ariel Center for Political Research in Sha`arey Tiqvah, Israel.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

1. I'm not going to deal with the Turkish imperial spin in the first few questions, though they present an interesting perspective: "The Balkans were not ruled by Turkey. They were Turkey." I'm glad I asked Fahrettin the question that brought this out.

2. But Fahrettin is certainly wrong about the Balkans having a "Turkish" population in the 4th century A.D. Perhaps he's thinking of the Avar invasions of the 6th century A.D., or perhaps the Bulgars. Ethnically, most Greeks are Slavs (and some are Greek), not Turks. I think if you called a Bulgar a Turk you might get a fight: they appear to prefer to think of themselves as Iranian in origin rather than Turk (though Fahrettin is probably right if he's thinking of the Bulgars in his famous statement, since ancient Bulgar looks to be a form of Turkish rather than Iranian--but don't tell a Bulgar this.)

6. The U.S. goal is a united Iraq; the al-Qaeda goal is a sunni-shiite sectarian war. Fahrettin--figure out yourself who is blowing up mosques. I would advize you to stop the "false flag terrorism" line entirely--i.e., that atrocities are being performed by British or U.S. troops in Muslim disguise. You don't have a single proven case of this in four years of war. These acts are being done by Muslims against Muslims. Face facts--and the implications.

The U.S. is indeed a violent society (though one should note that it turns out now that the Virginia Tech killer of this week obtained his handguns illegally.) But that's a "tu quoque" argument, as I said. However violent the U.S. is, doesn't change the fact of MUSLIM violence. I hope you see that.

The U.S. violence has specific cultural roots, which are worth examining (though this particular blog is not about that topic). MUSLIM violence has specific cultural roots, too--and its scale is enormous. I'm just asking you, as a middle-class secular
Turk , Fahrettin, to consider the cultural roots of that Muslim violence, which is very savage. Like the Christians in Turkey who had their throats cut this week, yes? In the U.S. you don't have suicide bombers blowing up universities, or intentionally targeting differing sects. No one has killed 34,000 innocent civilians for political purposes or as a religious duty and an act of prayer to Allah.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/21/2007

A lot of questions. So here my views.

1. The Balkans were not ruled by Turkey. They were Turkey. The migration period of the 4th century brough Turkish speaking peoples to the Balkans, who at this point did not yet call themselves Turks, who then dominated the Balkan peninsula first as Christians, then as Moslems for the next 1500 years. They renamed themselves to Turks when they became Moslems, creating the illusion of a Turkish invasion in the 14th century. What really happened was that one group of Turks were made to Moslems by another, an event which happened all over Europe with Christianisation. The difference was, the Chrsitians did not allow the pre christian religions to survive, whereas the Moslems did. They were so tolerant, that in the 17th century then protestant Hungary tried to join the Ottoman empire to save herself from Catholic Austria. Also the Spanish jews saved their lives by going to Turkey where Jewish Spanish is today an official minority language. By the 19th century about 2/3 of the Balkan population were moslems. They were massacred or forced out in the Turco-Russian war of 1876 and the Balkan war of 1912. European and American history books from this era state clearly that Islam would soon be sent back to the deserts of Arabia, where it came from. This sending back cost 5 Million people of Turkish culture their lives, another 5 Millions were forced to move to whatever was left of Turkey where approximately 1/3 of the population are their decendants. This is not simply a period of decline, it was the christian attemp to exterminate all people of Turkish culture, which includes the Caucasian as well as Greek and Slavonic speaking Moslems.

2. What is now Turkey remained Turkey because she was able to defend herself in the first world war and actually could knock out Tsarist Russia, her sworn enemy. The Balkan war 1912 happened, because England and France needed Russia against Germany, and paid the required price that first European then Asiatic Turkey would be cleared of Moslems. Asiatic Turkey was to be divided up among Greece, Armenia, Russia. The Armenians were to be give what the Christians called Armenia (a word meaning highland) where the Christian Armenians were 15% of the population. As the war started so did an armenian revolt, which killed about 500 000 Moslems to get rid of them, a similar number of Armenians were then killed as they were forced out of Anatolia, because the situatioan was interpreted by both sides as one in which only one of the two groups could remain in Anatolia. ( see the ottoman army 1914-18 Osprey publishing) The Turks reject the that-was-a-genocide claim, because it ignores the millions of Turkish dead claiming a one sided killing. Some people got sued for claiming a genocide, but then there are laws in several european countries like France and Switzerland where you go to jail for saying the opposite. Who is to throw the first stone?
3. The Arab countries were provinces of the Ottoman Empire which had the same legal status as the Turkish provinces, the Arabs being legally the Equals of the Turks, Bosnians etc. equally represented in government. The Ottoman empire was not a colonial empire which has a motherland- say England which rules over the colonies say India. As such the Arabs were as free as the Turks or anybody else who lived there. The last free elections on which most arabs could vote were probably the elections to the Ottoman parliament before WWI. To be taken out of the Ottoman Empire and be made colonies was a trajedy for most Arabs, because even after independence these colonies (except Egypt and Marocco) did not have and could not develop the political culture which would have allowed them to solve their problems and establish decent democratic rule. Power is grabbed by people like Gaddafi, the Saud family or a Saddam, because they do not have the culture and the institutions to guarantee civilized government, thanks to decisions made by France and England. They talk a lot about Islam, but this is because they are people who have never learned to talk about anything else. This is by the way one interpretation of Nazi rule, it was possible because Germany after unification in 1871 did not have the time to develop the political culture which would have prevented a Hitler.
4. Turkey has a kurdish problem because turkish politics are too traumatized by the genocides of 1876/1912 to develop a rational policy for dealing with ethnic groups but also because the only serious kurdish national political group is the pkk, a stalinist kurdish version of the red khmer which thanks to European financing got 30 000 people killed, traumatizing the Turks even more. Before 1912 policies towards ethnic groups were very liberal.
5. The reforms of the 19th century did lead to islamist resistance. In Arabia there was a revolt of Saud family, saying the Turks had become infidels, to be slaughtered. These people ( a very small minority in Turkey) are saying today that modernisation was a Jewish conspiracy, designed to end the Ottoman empire to give the Jews a chance to grab Palestine. Fact is the Spanish Jews of Saloniki helped the local Turks get a modern education and were very active in the Union and Progress party which run Turkey in WWI. As the Greeks invaded Turkey after the war, the first shot of the war of independence was fired by a converted Jew, who is seen as a national hero. I also see the rise of salafist fundamentalism and islamofascism as a primarily domestic development and a disaster. The education of farmers’ boys is financed by unknown people, who indoctrinate them. Businessmen are helped to make a lot of money to make them influential. However the present islamist government of Turkey is very popular with the Europeans as they do what they are told which the secularists were not doing. I think they are playing with forces they will not be able to control. Remember: Bin Laden was supported by the USA against Soviet rule in Afghanistan then too they felt they could control him.
6. The theory is, that Iraq as an oil rich country with a relatively large disciplined population could have acted as a focus for uniting Arab countries against the West and if it can not be made into a us ally like germany or japan it is for that reason to be broken up. This sounds quite logical to me, especially since there is Ralph Peters map of how the Middle East is to be rearranged published in a half official magazine of the US armed forces, the armed forces journal. At the latest since US Officiers in the NATO tried to discuss this map with their Turkish colleages, who furiously left the meeting, the map has half official US-status. (look under ralph peters in Wikipedia.)
7. There is in Turkey a discussion of what is to become of Northern Iraq with some turkish Kurds (president Ozal was one) proposing turning Turkey to a confederation of Turks and Kurds which North Iraq could join. Present Iraqi president Talabani once also suggested the same thing. Most Turks are sceptical of the wisdom of including yet more Kurds into Turkey. I think Iraq should remain a united country, the Turks living there being given the same autonomy rights as the Kurds. The US does not want this, they want to give the oil in the turkish populated area to the Kurds, who could use it to destabilize Turkey.
8. Art, You keep quoting al qaida, which is a bunch of criminals. I am a member of the secularist Turkish middle class no less educated that the US middle class, which is very secularly critical of US policies. The Iraqi invasion has led to the turkish approval rate for US policies sinking from 65 to 12%. I think you should take the reasons more seriously.
9. Joseph claims that killing is an integral part of moslem culture. I have read in today’s economist that about 30 000 Americans including about 400 children get shot dead every year, the total number since kennedy’s getting shot being higher that all the soldiers killed in all american wars of the 20th century. You live in glass house so don’t throw stones! So called honour killings are practiced in Turkey by the Kurds who go to jail if they are caught, the tyrannic turk refusing to respect kurdish traditions. They have nothing to do with Islam, since islamic law requires courts to sentence people, it is tribal law of the worst sort.
10. Joseph, the just economic value for oil is where it can be substituted with alternative sorces. Measured on this oil has been cheap during the whole 20th century, making possible a long period of economic growth. Even worse than the value has been the fact that all oil revenue gets invested in the west, which can be called stealing the oil. At the time when oil became an economic factor, all the oil producing arab lands were ottoman provinces, who would have used the revenue for economic development of the empire. Even without oil revenue Turkey is the most highly developed moslem economy. These lands were taken away from the Ottoman Empire and the inhabitants fed nationalistic horse dung, so that the English could steal the oil.
I hope that answers most questions directed to me.


N. Friedman - 4/21/2007

Professor,

Synergistic is correct. But, the Sultan, during the 19th Century, was certainly the weaker party.

On the other hand, the Kaiser, according to Dadrian, was enamored of at least the power held by Abdul Hamit - if not also the man -, as combined emperor of the Ottoman Empire and object of religious justification for that power, as Khalif.

The Kaiser adored that form of absolutism which, by then, Europeans sovereigns had mostly lost - although few ever quite became their own literal religious justification for themselves and their own power. The Kaiser evidently thought that a great idea.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

N. F., is your point that influence ran both ways in the 19th century? That's the (always) synergistic, not one way, relationship I've been emphasizing.

Your evaluation of the Europeans and Israel has much validity.

One has to add, however, that three generations of university sympathy for third world "liberation" movements, starting in the 1930s-- and despite the experience of how hideous these movements usually are once they get into power--is a powerful force on university campuses for sympathy for the Palestinians. This shades, bit by bit, into implicit or explicit double standards of evaluation of conduct of Israeli and Palestinian (and general Arab/Muslim) action, with the Israelis always bad even if they're just defending themselves, as well as into "understanding" of overtly racist and genocidal tactics such as suicide-bombing ("who are we to judge?"), followed by a slide into outright anti-semitism. The impact of such ideology (I won't call it "thinking") on the leadership classes who attend the universities is clear, as one can see, e.g., from the BBC.


N. Friedman - 4/21/2007

Correction:

The Ittihadists came to power well before WWI. However, Germany had a cozy relationship with them, including with respect to the demise of the Armenians, at least according to Dadrian's research.


N. Friedman - 4/21/2007

Professor,

So far as influence, you might read Dadrian's book above mentioned. He notes, most particularly, the cozy relationship between the Kaiser and Abdul Hamit and later the close relationship with the Ittihadists who came to rule the Ottoman Empire during WWI. Dadrian takes the view, as you may already know, that there was German complicity, if not more, in the slaughter of the Armenians.

In the 19th Century, there was influence running both ways, but most especially from Germany which, behind the scenes, supported the Ottoman Empire against the other European states - and their humanitarian intervention policy, i.e., imperialism disguised as humanitarianism - as well as against Russia and its imperial aims.

One might bring us up to today when we speak of humanitarian intervention. That, after all, is still European policy supporting European self interest in Arab lands. That policy makes objection to Israel's alleged sins into the humanitarian cause - with Europe's real cause, in fact, being a secure supply of oil and beneficial contracts in Arab lands. Of course, Europeans no longer do the invasion part of intervention. Rather, they push for something akin to humanitarian intervention via International organizations - or, at least they pretend to do so.

Of course, we now have the US doing that same sort of thing - but the old fashion way -, invading Iraq to bring democracy to Arab lands.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

And I too would like a response, Fahrettin, preferably point by point.

Here is what I wrote, in case you can't find it (and at the risk of piggy-backing on Mr. Mutik yet again!):

by art eckstein on April 21, 2007 at 9:20 AM

Fahrettin:

1. You misunderstood me: Islam became MORE LIBERAL in the 19th century, under the impact of western ideas and the unavoidable impact of western power, which suggested something was wrong with traditional Islam; it did not become LESS liberal. (At the same time, there were always strong conservative elements) Turkey itself, with the attempted Tanzimat reforms of the mid-19th century, is an example (strongly opposed by religious leaders). See the comments of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani in 1882. See in general Philip Curtin's recent book on third world cultural responses to European power in the 19th century.

2. The changes in islam today are indeed partly a negative reaction to the impact of western imperialism, but this imperialism should not be exaggerated. Western powers ruled in the Middle East (excluding Egypt) only at most from about 1920 to 1950, about 30 years, one generation. In Iraq the British were there for only 25 years. Before that, of course, the Muslims of the Middle East weren't FREE; rather, they were under Turkish imperial domination. (But the terrorist Bin Laden is most upset about the abolition of the Caliphate, which was the decision of the secularizing, modernizing Turkish leader Attaturk in the mid-1920s.) The rise of salafist fundamentalism and islamofascism etc., is in addition in part a negative response to more recent cultural globalization, which is however not a western plot but an unavoidable cultural development of capitalism + technology, which results in offering people CHOICES. The conservative Islamists and islamofascists, with their emphasis on Koranic and Koranic-imposed + state imposed virtue, are horrified at Muslim people (esp. women of course) having choices... But the rise of salafist fundamentalism and islamofascism is in my view PRIMARILY an INTERNAL Islamic religious development, not just a response to outside pressure. It has its origin in Saudi Wahabism (which was a purely internal development of the late 18th century when there were NO Europeans yet in the Middle East). It is fueled recently and primarily by the ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS that the Saudis have spent in the last 30 years in promulgating their particularly narrow and violent form of Wahabist Islam, thanks to their oil money. This has had an enormous cultural and religious impact., from Paris to Pakistan. (All those fundamentalist madrassas are Saudi-funded.)

3. It turns out that the reference you made to a Turkish newspaper yesterday was not to any "confirmatory" story about the alleged Basra incident, but rather to another alleged incident, at Tel Afar. But, Fahrettin, the argument that only U.S. collusion could have led to the truck-bombing in Tel Afar is undermined by the bombings within the heavily fortified Green Zone last week! You think that the U.S. wanted to blow up the Iraqi parliament and weaken and demoralize the govt? Mistakes happen.

What you use here (or the Turkish people in Tel Afar, Iraq, use) is what's called "The argument from probability" ("this could only happen if the U.S. let it"). This is an EXTREMELY weak argument in the absence of specific evidence to support it (and you have no evidence at all), because there are many different (and indeed more likely) "probabilities" than the one you suggest..

Of course, the power of Muslim paranoia here, the EMOTION brought to bear here, is exactly one of the things I have been pointing out. But emotion and unsupported accusation is not a substitute for evidence or specific facts. You won't accept what I'm next going to say, but I believe these paranoid constructions are another way for Muslim people to avoid Muslim responsibilty for Muslim bad actions, including the murder of 34,000 innocent civilians in Iraq last year, the blowing up of universities and book-markets, each and every act of the murder of an innocent here being an act of worship of Allah-- by shifting responsibility for these terrible actions to someone else, ANYONE else, and no matter how absurd the shift has to be. Hence the Muslim-oriented websites that claim that the July Bombings in London were actually a British govt plot against Muslims, and the Madrid Bombings were actually a Western govt plot against Muslims--the websites where the Basra story now has a home.

Fahrettin, the stated U.S. policy is to PREVENT a sunni-shiite civil war, not start one, and this can't be a lie, because it is NOT (repeat: NOT) in U.S. interests for such a religious war to occur, because it will make, and indeed has ALREADY made, any new Iraq impossible, and the American project in Iraq a failure. You're just wrong to think that such a religious war is in U.S. interests--just the opposite. On the other hand, the stated policy of AL-QAEDA-IN-MESOPOTAMIA is, precisely, to FORMENT a sunni-shiite civil war, precisely BECAUSE such a war will destroy U.S. plans for a new Iraq, destroy the American project there. We have al-Zarkawi's own words for this. (Or do you think THOSE documents are a U.S. fake, eh?) After all, it was Shiites who let the Mongols into Baghdad in the thirtenth century (Bin Laden has made reference to this.) So who do you think is actually likely to have set off that truck-bomb in Tel Afar? Who do you think blew up the Golden Mosque in order to enrage the shiites against the sunnis? British soldiers?

(By the way, Fahrettin: Do you wish Tel Afar and of course Mosul to revert to Turkish control, as they were before 1925? I think we all need to know, in order for us to guage your world-view.)

I gather, Fahrettin, that you have NO other sources or evidence on the Basra incident, which is the one you originally referred to (British soldiers caught about to blow up a mosque, etc...) and which really got this thread going. Your reference to the Turkish newspaper yesterday was actually to a paranoid version of Tel Afar, not to any "confirmation" of Basra. The Basra thing IS a nutty conspiracy theory, Fahrettin (just like Tel Afar is a nutty conspiracy theory) and it appears on websites along with the other nutty conspiracy theories BECAUSE it is a nutty conspiracy theory (which places responsibility for Muslim religiously-fueled atrocities somewhere else, namely on the West).

4. Fahrettin, you say you do not live in an English-speaking country. and have little access to the English-speaking press; well, I do. And so I also guarantee you that if there was any substance to the Basra incident, which occurred in Sept. 2005, the enormous configuration of powerful political and media forces ranged against Tony Blair, and the general hatred in Britain for the Iraq War, would long since have driven Blair from office amid one of the greatest scandals in British history. Face it, F.: you've fallen victim to the self-interested propaganda of Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the ultimate source of this story of the "car packed with explosives," for which there exists no backup evidence (and not even Sadr says the car was to blow up a mosque!)




art eckstein - 4/21/2007

Oh, I think we were responding to the same message from Mr. Tahir. I hope he sees it!

AE


Joseph Mutik - 4/21/2007

The message is:

Two parts of the problem but what about the facts? (#108820)


Joseph Mutik - 4/21/2007

And also parallels my points about anti Tony Blair forces in the UK.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

Quite so. And by God's gift.

But in terms of "influencing events" I was also thinking of regions as far to the northwest as Vienna and the Hapsburg Empire.

Art


N. Friedman - 4/21/2007

Professor,

You write: "Of course, the Ottomans were long used to influencing events in Europe (esp. the Balkans), and this was accepted as natural (Allah's gift of power to those who worshipped Him correctly)."

"Influencing" is too narrow a term. The Osmanli ruled the Balkans.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

The first paragraph in my entry just above does not carry any dates, but I meant it primarily as discussion of the situation in the 19th century, which N.F. is discussing, and the impact of European culture and military power upon the Muslim umma at that time.

Obviously there are also parallels with the present, but at present the reactionary forces within the Muslim world are even more powerful than in the 19th century and, I would argue, not so much because of "Western imperialism" but because of an internal development, the enormous wealth and power behind the enormously successful Saudi Wahabi effort to spread their particularly narrow form of Islam.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

Yes, N. F., I don't deny that at all. In fact my point (above in point 1 to Fahrettin) was that these external stresses are what led to efforts at liberalization and reform (though this stress led as well as to a powerful religious reaction in the opposite direction). You and I have had a long discussion previously about the impact of such external stress upon Islamic society--it leads both to reform and to reaction. But it may be that without external stressors, you get a static situation, given the power of the reactionaries and impact of the traditional all-embracing culture upon individuals. Indeed, we considered the possibility that external stress is actually necessary to provoke any sort of reform in such a heavily traditional society. But the reason such stress can lead to powerful reactionary movements is because of the powerful reactionary forces already existing within Islamic society, who can appeal to powerful texts and traditions (as well as to paranoia, etc.). Indeed, my impression is that you were more pessimistic about this aspect of things than I was.

I would also say that although the Napoleonic conquest of Egypt was certainly a shock to the Muslim world, it didn't last long, and neither did the British at that point, and by the 1820s and 1830s you get a purely Egyptian imperialism under Mehmet Ali (who was a reformer, as you say). Of course, the Ottomans were long used to influencing events in Europe (esp. the Balkans), and this was accepted as natural (Allah's gift of power to those who worshipped Him correctly). The outrage was to see the Europeans in turn influencing the Middle East, even only sporadically and indirectly until the 1870s in Egypt (and Lebanon) , then directly after 1882 in Egypt, and then more broadly after WWI; this was a situation contrary to the moral universe as most of Islam conceived of it--whereby Islam should be powerful and intervening in the dar al-Harb, not vice versa.


N. Friedman - 4/21/2007

Art,

I agree with some of what you write. However, I note some possible errors. First, you mention only one period of European rule over Muslims. That is not quite so. For example - and it is not the only such example -, Napoleon conquered Egypt but was later ousted by the British. The British played a substantial role in Egypt during a good part of the 19th Century, both directly and indirectly. The Napoleonic conquest is normally cited as the beginning of the era in which Europe dominated the Muslim regions.

Second, there were, as you note, the Tanzimet reforms, etc. during the 19th Century. But - and this is a big but -, the real impact of the reforms was to undermine the checks and balances of the Ottoman system. This, in the end, resulted in the horrendous regime of Abdul Hamit, who had powers that, prior to him, Sultans did not have because, largely due to the reforms, there were no remaining institutions with the power to stand up to him. See, Bernard Lewis's stellar book The Emergence of Modern Turkey.

Further, as Vahakn Dadrian shows in his book The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus - also a stellar book but not quite as readable (and most likely banned in Turkey) -, the reform project was not only strongly resisted by the religious forces but only half-heartedly embraced by the government (apart from those who truly were reformers - and Lewis shows that there were quite a few real reformers), most especially by most of the Sultans who had much to lose from the reforms. Lewis and Dadrian disagree to the extent that the reforms were ever sincerely embraced but, either way, they were never truly implemented so as to equalize fully the lives of non-Muslims under Ottoman rule.

Third, the 19th Century was a period of great decline for the Ottoman Empire. During that period, the country was under constant military threat and was hemorrhaging land to the Europeans, using its remaining power primarily to to play off one European power against the other. Such point is noted not only by Lewis and Dadrian but in Ephraim Karsh's recent book Islamic Imperialism.

I think what might be said about that period is that Islamic power effectively collapsed by the late 18th Century which led to both liberalizing and reactionary forces. The liberal forces included - for example, under Muhammad Ali's rule - to greater equality for non-Muslims (although Ali also participated in horrendous massacres of non-Muslims in, if I recall correctly, the Balkans).

At the same time, Islam was in retreat and tolerance was collapsing overall. That, after all, is part and parcel of the events that caught the Armenians in its wake. Dadrian, I note, would place the primary blame for creating conflicts within the Ottoman Empire on the dhimmi system and, hence, on Islam. But, I think he would acknowledge that the 19th Century and early 20th Century was a period of extraordinary stress on Ottoman society.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

Fahrettin:

1. You misunderstood me: Islam became MORE LIBERAL in the 19th century, under the impact of western ideas and the unavoidable impact of western power, which suggested something was wrong with traditional Islam; it did not become LESS liberal. (At the same time, there were always strong conservative elements) Turkey itself, with the attempted Tanzimat reforms of the mid-19th century, is an example (strongly opposed by religious leaders). See the comments of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani in 1882. See in general Philip Curtin's recent book on third world cultural responses to European power in the 19th century.

2. The changes in islam today are indeed partly a negative reaction to the impact of western imperialism, but this imperialism should not be exaggerated. Western powers ruled in the Middle East (excluding Egypt) only at most from about 1920 to 1950, about 30 years, one generation. In Iraq the British were there for only 25 years. Before that, of course, the Muslims of the Middle East weren't FREE; rather, they were under Turkish imperial domination. (But the terrorist Bin Laden is most upset about the abolition of the Caliphate, which was the decision of the secularizing, modernizing Turkish leader Attaturk in the mid-1920s.) The rise of salafist fundamentalism and islamofascism etc., is in addition in part a negative response to more recent cultural globalization, which is however not a western plot but an unavoidable cultural development of capitalism + technology, which results in offering people CHOICES. The conservative Islamists and islamofascists, with their emphasis on Koranic and Koranic-imposed + state imposed virtue, are horrified at Muslim people (esp. women of course) having choices... But the rise of salafist fundamentalism and islamofascism is in my view PRIMARILY an INTERNAL Islamic religious development, not just a response to outside pressure. It has its origin in Saudi Wahabism (which was a purely internal development of the late 18th century when there were NO Europeans yet in the Middle East). It is fueled recently and primarily by the ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS that the Saudis have spent in the last 30 years in promulgating their particularly narrow and violent form of Wahabist Islam, thanks to their oil money. This has had an enormous cultural and religious impact., from Paris to Pakistan. (All those fundamentalist madrassas are Saudi-funded.)

3. It turns out that the reference you made to a Turkish newspaper yesterday was not to any "confirmatory" story about the alleged Basra incident, but rather to another alleged incident, at Tel Afar. But, Fahrettin, the argument that only U.S. collusion could have led to the truck-bombing in Tel Afar is undermined by the bombings within the heavily fortified Green Zone last week! You think that the U.S. wanted to blow up the Iraqi parliament and weaken and demoralize the govt? Mistakes happen.

What you use here (or the Turkish people in Tel Afar, Iraq, use) is what's called "The argument from probability" ("this could only happen if the U.S. let it"). This is an EXTREMELY weak argument in the absence of specific evidence to support it (and you have no evidence at all), because there are many different (and indeed more likely) "probabilities" than the one you suggest..

Of course, the power of Muslim paranoia here, the EMOTION brought to bear here, is exactly one of the things I have been pointing out. But emotion and unsupported accusation is not a substitute for evidence or specific facts. You won't accept what I'm next going to say, but I believe these paranoid constructions are another way for Muslim people to avoid Muslim responsibilty for Muslim bad actions, including the murder of 34,000 innocent civilians in Iraq last year, the blowing up of universities and book-markets, each and every act of the murder of an innocent here being an act of worship of Allah-- by shifting responsibility for these terrible actions to someone else, ANYONE else, and no matter how absurd the shift has to be. Hence the Muslim-oriented websites that claim that the July Bombings in London were actually a British govt plot against Muslims, and the Madrid Bombings were actually a Western govt plot against Muslims--the websites where the Basra story now has a home.

Fahrettin, the stated U.S. policy is to PREVENT a sunni-shiite civil war, not start one, and this can't be a lie, because it is NOT (repeat: NOT) in U.S. interests for such a religious war to occur, because it will make, and indeed has ALREADY made, any new Iraq impossible, and the American project in Iraq a failure. You're just wrong to think that such a religious war is in U.S. interests--just the opposite. On the other hand, the stated policy of AL-QAEDA-IN-MESOPOTAMIA is, precisely, to FORMENT a sunni-shiite civil war, precisely BECAUSE such a war will destroy U.S. plans for a new Iraq, destroy the American project there. We have al-Zarkawi's own words for this. (Or do you think THOSE documents are a U.S. fake, eh?) After all, it was Shiites who let the Mongols into Baghdad in the thirtenth century (Bin Laden has made reference to this.) So who do you think is actually likely to have set off that truck-bomb in Tel Afar? Who do you think blew up the Golden Mosque in order to enrage the shiites against the sunnis? British soldiers?

(By the way, Fahrettin: Do you wish Tel Afar and of course Mosul to revert to Turkish control, as they were before 1925? I think we all need to know, in order for us to guage your world-view.)

I gather, Fahrettin, that you have NO other sources or evidence on the Basra incident, which is the one you originally referred to (British soldiers caught about to blow up a mosque, etc...) and which really got this thread going. Your reference to the Turkish newspaper yesterday was actually to a paranoid version of Tel Afar, not to any "confirmation" of Basra. The Basra thing IS a nutty conspiracy theory, Fahrettin (just like Tel Afar is a nutty conspiracy theory) and it appears on websites along with the other nutty conspiracy theories BECAUSE it is a nutty conspiracy theory (which places responsibility for Muslim religiously-fueled atrocities somewhere else, namely on the West).

4. Fahrettin, you say you do not live in an English-speaking country. and have little access to the English-speaking press; well, I do. And so I also guarantee you that if there was any substance to the Basra incident, which occurred in Sept. 2005, the enormous configuration of powerful political and media forces ranged against Tony Blair, and the general hatred in Britain for the Iraq War, would long since have driven Blair from office amid one of the greatest scandals in British history. Face it, F.: you've fallen victim to the self-interested propaganda of Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the ultimate source of this story of the "car packed with explosives," for which there exists no backup evidence (and not even Sadr says the car was to blow up a mosque!)


Joseph Mutik - 4/21/2007

First of all the oil isn't cheap in our days. Without the investment from the western countries the oil industry wouldn't exist in the Arab world. Almost without exception the oil revenue isn't used, by these countries, for giving the population a better life, for general development etc. One example is Saudi Arabia , where the young population is about 50% and from these 50% more than 50% it's unemployed because the government doesn't care much. That's the main reason the Arabs need the West and the Jews as a scapegoat.
You are, of course, talking about "1984" by George Orwell. He describes the life in a totalitarian country where the government controls everything including the minds of the people. In our days the book applies mostly to the world totalitarian regimes in Asia and Africa and the Muslim totalitarianism represents a good part of it. I would like to remind you that your country, Turkey, controls the Kurdish minority through persecution and totalitarian means. Turkey also through totalitarian means, tries to control history, continuing to deny the Armenian genocide, perpetrated by the Turkish government and army. In Turkey it's illegal to tell the truth about the Armenian genocide and recently a journalist was killed for publishing the same truth in a Turkish newspaper.
I see you have access to the internet , so I don't understand how can you say that you don't have access to the English press, unless you are afraid to access it because of your government control, maybe. If you go to google.com and click on "News" you can get a huge list of media in English (or many other languages). "The Times" of London, "The New York Times", "The Washington Post" and thousands of publications around the world (including many Muslim countries) have web sites in English, so if you are not afraid, for some reason, you can access them on line.
The Israeli Palestinian problem isn't going to be resolved before the Palestinians renounce to their one sided call for justice by overlooking the plight of the 900000 Jews from Arab countries, forcibly thrown out and now settled in Israel.
Islam is intolerant, mainly, because it faces a sexual revolution, and the backward Muslim men are afraid to give freedom to the Muslim women.
Killing is an integral part of the Muslim culture, the most obvious example being the "honor killing' of Muslim women, which is a daily fact of Muslim life. As far as I know Israel is the only place where this kind of killing is punished by law and the Israeli jails are quite well populated by Muslim men who killed Muslim sisters, mothers or other female relatives for being raped or trying to befriend men without family permission etc.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/21/2007

Art,

there would be no crisis if the west was not so interested in obtaining cheap arab oil and keeping political structures which let them control the oil market. All the non representative Arab governments are in countries designed by the English to allow England to control the oil. They were designed to be non representative and instable so that the English would have reasons to intervene. Without these interventions the islamic would would restructure the political geography of the middle east to fit the interests of the people living there.

I accept that you really believe the stuff you write abot the Basra incident. In my younger years I also believed in the reality of a democratic and free west. As I get older I think we are dealing with a 1984 world. It was an English book describing something into which the author saw the western world developing.

My wish for the palestinian problem is that they should make peace under almost any conditions. Of course the Israelis hate getting killed as much as the Arabs do. People have a habit of hating those who killed their beloved ones. The point I was trying to make is, in the Arabs case this hating takes the form of anti semitism. You don't need any conspiracy theories when there are daily killings in Palestine.

The turkish article I quoted was about the situation in the turkish town of tel afar in northern iraq (1984 reporting acts as if the million strong turkish community in northern iraq does not exist) where there was a bombing attack with a truck which went through 4 us checkpoints without being noticed to kill 100 people. The turks of tel afar do not believe this is possible without the occupation power wanting these people killed to start a war between the shiitic and sunnitic turks of tel afar. whatever else she might be turkey is not a 1984 country.

I do not live in an english speaking country and have very limited access to their press. that there ate nutty conspiracy theories does not prove that there are no conspiracies.

You write that Islam started getting intolerant at the beginning of the 19th century. This supports my view that this change was a consequence of the western colonisation af the islamic world and the attempt to exterminate the moslems of europe, both of which started at the very same beginning of the 19th century.

I did not say that all murders are comitted by the occupation powers, just that war between sunnites and shiites is in their interest and that they have been working on it. I know there are a lot of idiots out there.


art eckstein - 4/21/2007

addendum: a google search of the web finds that this story about the British soldiers circulates on websites which carry along with it accusations that the London July Bombings were all along a government plot against Muslims, and that the Madrid Bombings were a Western government plot against Muslims as well--not to mention 9/11, which was a Bush plot to demonize Islam and take over the world.

As far as I can tell, the story, which dates from Basra in Sept. 2005 and is not new, concerns two British soldiers who were in Arab disguise and observing a pro Muktadr al-Sadr demo in Basra following the arrest the previous day of one of his lieutenants. Naturally the soldiers were armed. The story that their car had "explosives", let alone was "packed with explosives", let alone was intended to "blow up a mosque" originates with the Muktadr al-Sadr propaganda machine. There is not the slightest evidence that any of this is true, and repeating it in a Turkish newspaper doesn't make it any truer.


A. M. Eckstein - 4/20/2007

1. T.F., I don't blame Islam alone for the problems we all face, the West has played its signficant part, and I myself on this blog have continually emphasized that these interactions are a SYNERGY. But no Muslim interlocutor here on this blog, since I have been here since August, has EVER admitted a single Muslim failing. It's a discouragingly simplistic attitude.

2. You admit you DON"T have a second English source for your British-disguished-as-Arabs-blowing-up-mosques, just propaganda in a large-circulation Turkish newspaper. But if this were a real story, Blair would have been out of office a long time ago in one of the greatest scandals of modern times--the British press absolutely HATES Blair, the BBC is Muslim-friendly, the Conservatives oppose him, and many in his own party despise him. Under those circumstances, no one could keep a story like the one you're telling down; the British govt can't control the British press like you say. So it's still up to you, T.F. to prove it. In any case, are you really saying that all those suicide bombers who have killed 34,000 Iraqi civilians for God are actually British soldiers in disguise?

3. As for Israeli actions that alienate Palestinians, i.e., the killing of real (and purported) terrorists I think you need to consider what the far more violent, savage, and indeed genocidal message of suicide bombers does to the Israelis. Again, we are talking about a synergy, not "what the West is doing to the Moslems".

Until Muslim interlocutors on this blog are willing to acknowledge the enormous Muslim contribution to our present crisis, they will continue to be harangued about facts they do not want to hear.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/20/2007

Further above there is the argument, that Arabs are blaming eveything that ever went wrong on the Jews, and then the argument that everything which ever went wrong is actually due to Islam. Then you blame the messenger, and comes outright rage. So yes, you people are actually avoiding the topic at hand, which is what the West is doing to the Moslems!

I do not have a second english speaking source but the news about the anglo american invasion army fighting hard to start war between shiites and sunnites in Iraq is all over the Turkish press. See for example Ferai Tinc in todays Hurriyet, which is the Turkish newspaper with the highest circulation. That the british government seems to be able to control the british press is no proof that these events are not happening. I am a psychopath for reading the daily newspapers! Actually this was soviet strategy, if you disagreed you got locked up in the psychiatric ward. The USSR would not have sane people disliking what is was doing.

Yes there is fighting between Arabs, who let the west play the game of divide and rule. None of you people are discussing the death of 5 Million moslem Europeans in the 100 years to 1914 which I have mentioned, preferring to go on and on about 15th century Egypt and 11th century India, to prove that it is Islmam and not western policies causing problems. Dictatorships might like blaming Jews but everyday Israelis kill palestinians which annoys them as much as the suicide bombers annoy the Israelis. Israel is using force to scare the Palestinians to give up, every death makes them hate the Israelis more. Same thing with shock and awe in Iraq.


art eckstein - 4/20/2007

1. If I'm being too hard on Mr. Tahir, who is perhaps backing off his absurd assertion about the British being behind the blowing up of mosques (when it is clearly al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia), I apologize in advance.

2. But over the past view months I've noticed that there are certain patterns of argument that have appeared, and that are worth noting for all of us--that we become conscious of them.

a. tu quoque--faced with grim facts about Muslim history, the way these are denied and analysis of their cultural implications avoided is by changing the subject, by bringing up bad events in European (or Israeli) history, or even outright falsehoods about European (or Israeli) history (such as that the British intentionally caused famines in India--not even Mike Davis asserts this; or: Omar's "Israeli massacre" in 1967 of hundreds of innocent unarmed Egyptian pows, which turned out in the end to be a firefight between the IAF and Palestinian guerrillas).

b. blaming the messenger--faced with grim facts about Muslim history, another way these are denied and analysis of their cultural implications avoided is by ascribing bad motives to the messenger bringing these facts to people's attention ("blind hatred", "demonizing of Islam", to quote Omar twice). This too is an attempt to change the subject, rather than analyze the facts in evidence.

c. Paranoiac rage response--e.g., "the herd" of Zionists is plotting together against Islam and therefore the substance of their arguments or facts need not be addressed except as part of a savage WAR, not as part of an intellectual conversation. Indeed, there IS no conversation occurring, or possible, in the sense of a mutual exchange of information going on (in part because Omar for one HAS little information), but our blog is viewed merely as a place of polemic in the most basic sense of war-fighting, and in that war-fighting rage--hot emotion--is effective. Omar is particularly susceptible to employing this one.

3. I suspect that these argument-styles are actually a part of Muslim culture and are a very effective means of proceeding within that culture, very effective responses to accusations, very effective ways of not having to deal with the substance of any accusations: (a) tu quoque; (b) blaming the messenger, his motives for bringing up certain facts; and (c) outright rage .

The problem for Omar and perhaps for Mr. Tahir is that in a Western context these styles of argument and response are very easily seen through as avoidance of the substance of the topic at hand.


Joseph Mutik - 4/20/2007

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for admiring my wit!
Now, as a sign of your bright Islamic wisdom, can you address the facts?
Can you bring us two corroborating sources for the story about the British soldiers (eventually from the UK media and parliament), presented to us by Mr. Tahir? Would be very nice if you can abstain from using yellow journalism sources?!
Do you have any comments about K.S. Lal estimate of up to 80 million people killed by or as a consequence of the Muslim conquest of India?


art eckstein - 4/20/2007

The central problem we are now discussing is the appalling continuity between Islam's extremely violent jihadist past and Islam's particularly bloody present. And in both periods, a prime target has been civilians.

The problem is compounded by denial. For instance, there is Omar's denial of the violence that forced 900,000 Jews out of Muslim countries between 1948 and 1960 (that is 200,000 more people than the Palestinian exodus which obsesses him, and those Jews lost everything too, just like the Palestinians, and some Muslim right now is enjoying their property, a fact which does not appear to bother Omar in the least). And there is Fahrettin Tahir's amazing assertion that the civilian and religious atrocities in Iraq are being done by British soldiers wearing Arab disguise.

These positions of denial taken by Omar and Mr. Tahir are not accidental, the acts of two cranks--if only that were so! In fact, the pattern of thought exhibited by Omar and Fahrettin Tahir is very widespread in the Muslim world. That is a big part of the problem. Thus Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most prominent university in the Muslim world, spoke for many of the "professors" at that university when he declared after Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech--and in the midst of widespread Muslim violence against innocents, including the burning of churches and the murder of nuns, in response to the Pope's accusation of Muslim violence (!)--Azhour declared, "Islam is innocent of EVERYTHING mentioned by this Pope." Yes--that sort of thinking is a big part of the problem.

I won't argue here at length about why this degradation of Islam's intellectual tradition is happening within such a large section of the Muslim world. As I said in a posting above, I think in part it's the failure of the education system, which has been replaced by the worst sort of self-regarding propaganda. The result is that people are simply ignorant of history. In part, as I've said elsewhere, it seems to be that the Muslim honor culture requires denial of responsibility for evil deeds that have occurred, because the shame of them is unacceptable, and therefore the result is a shfiting of responsibility onto others--ANY others.

This does not mean that I think Islam is hopeless. N. Friedman and I had a long debate about this on a blog a couple of months ago, and I argued that a more liberalized and intellectually alive and broadened Islam was possible (it existed in the 19th century). The tragedy is that Islam is being taken over by its narrowest and most violent elements, and that "moderate" Muslims seem powerless to stop the process. Without trying to put words into my friend Mr. Friedman's mouth, I think he would say that the process is not merely a response to the pressures of globalization and modernization (though it is that), but also it is in good part because the modern jihadists have powerful Islamic texts and powerful Islamic traditions on their side in the internal debate. I'm trying to be less pessimistic, but when confronted with the thinking and assertions of Omar and Mr. Tahir, it is difficult.


art eckstein - 4/20/2007

F. T. started his blog with European "atrocities" against Muslims in the 15th century. Bloodstained Muslim conquerors such as Mahmud of Ghazni and Babar therefore are a fair comparison.

But since Omar, for one, has asserted--and reasserted in the face of specific facts and evidence--that MODERN Muslim atrocities such as the forcible expulsion of 900,000 Jews from Muslim lands after 1948 did not happen (no, no, it was all peaceful and anything to the contrary is a lie!), he is in no position to talk about the modern world either.

Note, too, that Omar actually has no facts to offer us above, just a sewer of vituperation. Thus when others bring up facts he doesn't like, Omar's way of dealing with those facts, or rather with NOTdealing with them, of avoiding their implications, is to attack the motives of those who bring up these facts in the first place, no matter how true they are ( "blind hatred"). Even if that "evil motivation" were true (which, I emphasize, it is not), that would not invalidate the facts that have been presented. But Omar apparently believes that it would, which yet another of his logical fallacies. Like I said, it's a style.

Even if the "evil motivation" of the interlocutors here were true (which, I emphasize, it is not), that would not invalidate the facts that have been presented. Nor would it alleviate Omar's, or F.T.'s, intellectual and moral necessity to take into account how the savagery of Muslim atrocities impacts how Islam has been and is viewed in the West (or their impact upon the policies of the Israelis). That is, international interactions are SYNERGISTIC, not one-sided, the Muslims have been and are powerful agents in history not just victims (of the West), and they are just about the last people on earth to complain about imperialism, since historically Muslim culture has contained a very large dose of violent imperialism which has been religiously motivated. (This, too, Omar essentially denies, preferring instead the "golden age" myth, both in regard to Spain and in the Ottoman Empire, and in both cases despite serious counter-arguments and savage facts with which he has been presented and to which his answer is simply denial.)


Joseph Mutik - 4/19/2007

Before the blogs when some media outlet published a story the rule of thumb was that before publishing the editor made sure that he has at least two corroborating sources for this story. In our days someone plants a "story" on the internet (blog or some other site) and afterwards uses it as corroboration or it becomes a source for people like yourself. If your story about the British soldiers would have the slightest smell of truth the UK media (mostly anti Tony Blair) would have been full of it, but it isn't/wasn't. In the same time the UK parliament (where the opposition and a good part of the Labor party is against Tony Blair) would have been full of inquiries about the story you mentioned, but I couldn't find any such inquiry. Your only source is the name of some kind of an yellow journalist from UK, but what about the UK parliament and the rest of the UK media? Can you show me your two corroborating sources, at least?
Personally, I don't see anything wrong with the Arabs being friends with the Nazis. The British were the enemy for the Arabs. Anwar Sadat was a Nazi sympathizer and in the end he made peace with Israel and paid with his life for it. When the president of Iran denies the Holocaust of the Jews he knows very well that he perpetrates a lie but he tries to divert the minds of the Iranians from the social and economic hardships created by the regime of the mullah in Iran. The Arabs governments (about 99% unpopular dictatorships) learned very well from the European experience that when things go wrong (politically, socially, economically) the "blame the Jews" tactic works the best. That's the reason that, in our days, "the protocols of the elders of zion" sells the best in the Arab world and all the lies perpetrated in Europe in the 19th century and the beginning if the 20th century, about the Jews, are now part of the Arab propaganda. I didn't call you "retard" or "maniac" I called you "brainwashed" and also I said that when someone tries to present concocted stories as "truth" it may be a case of "psychopathy".
Mr. Tahir, can you get serious and deal with simple truth, which is that through history (and the 20th and 21st centuries) more than 90% of the Muslims killed were killed by other Muslims and in particular Arabs were killed by other Arabs (Muslim Arabs killed other Muslim Arabs or Christian Arabs and also Christian Arabs killed Muslim Arabs, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria etc.).


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/19/2007

Actually I don't know your Omar, is he mentally retarded maniac like myself?

For the report about the brits who were disguised as arabs do a google search under john pilger, return of the death squads (Iraq's hidden news). I am personally sure the american people would not accept Mr Bush's policies, if they were told the truth about what is going on. They get fed on idology and propaganda which makes them think Moslems oppose the US because they are maniacs to be treated by aerial bombardement back to the stone age. This might motivate them to support their government but they are fighting a war that nobody is going to win. Much better to let the arabs keep their land and oil.

Bosnia was invaded by Austria in 1878 and a lot of Bosnians emigrated to Turkey, leaving the rest a minority by 1910. In the 1990ies there were 2,5 Million Bosnians in Bosnia and about 4 Millions in Turkey, send them back and you would get avery large Bosnian Moslem majority in Bosnia, as was the case before the Austrian invasion. The massacres of the Nazi occupation aera were a consequence of the Massacres of Moslems in the Balkan war 1912 where 1,5 Million Moslems were murdered by Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians. Once this starts it is hard to end it. The Serb position in the war of the 1990ies was that the Moslems are Turks who deserve to be killed, their comrades in the cypriot greek army wear T-shirts saying "I am thirsty give me turkish blood to drink" I will not show any understanding for that and neither should anybody else. Remember the story of count dracula is modeled on the balkan christian anti turk fighter count vlad tepes, who was so bloody and gave birth to the myth that he drank blood.

It is true that a lot of Moslems were and are pro Nazi. This is not because they think the Nazis were good guys but because they do not think that the Nazi's enemies are any better, the difference they see being that the Nazis were fighting their enemies the French and the English who had occupied the Arab world as the Nazis had France and the Serbs Bosnia. The Nazis treated the French much better than the French treated the Arabs, in the 1950'ies the French killed one million out of 16 million Algerians, the Nazis did nothing of the sort in France. Follow the debate in the Moslem media and you will notice they talk about the US in Iraq in the same terms the West talks about the Nazis.

I deplore anti-semitism and I am not going to defend it. The way I see it when the Iranian president and his comrades claim there was no holocaust, they are not saying this because they thinks there should have been one but because they have heard so many western lies that they do not believe anything the west says, even when it happens to be the truth.

I do not doubt that there are Moslems who kill other Moslems in Iraq. The political question is who started this, find out whom it serves and you find out why it is happening.


Joseph Mutik - 4/19/2007

Your British soldiers concoction proves my point beyond any doubt. If it would be a true story we all can figure the noise we would hear from the anti-Blair voices in the UK (parliament and media). Only sick minds and cultures can cook up this kind of stories and show them to the public. The only fair comparison to your myth could be the psychopathic Virginia Tech killer who was sure he was right.
About the K.S. Lal estimate you can find details here:

"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_Muslim_Population_in_Medieval_India"

"K.S. Lal estimates that about 60 to 80 million people died in India between 1000 CE and 1525 CE as a result of the Islamic invasion of India. He concluded that about 2 million people died during Mahmud of Ghazni's invasions of India (pp. 211-217)."

As you can see (and I believe that even a brainwashed Muslim can understand) he is talking about a 500 years period. During and after medieval wars people died not only by sword but they also died (in a much higher proportion) of disease and hunger. I hope you heard about the black plague that wiped out more than 50% of the population of the 14th century Europe. I wrote "I hope" because hnn.us is a site about history.
I have a suggestion for you, Mr. Tahir, there is a site about urban legends, try your stories there, someone may believe you?!


Elliott Aron Green - 4/19/2007

Fahrettin, the Croatian-American historian that I had in mind is Ivo Banac. He seems pretty reliable and objective.


art eckstein - 4/18/2007

Right, Elliot: K. S. Lal.
Lal is a professor of Medieval Indian History at the University of Delhi. Also author of Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India (1999).


Elliott Aron Green - 4/18/2007

Art, I think that Indian author's name is K. S. Lal [not Lai].

Fahrettin, I don't put you in a category with Omar, but please consider that maybe your education was misleading. By the way, I did NOT learn much about Yugoslavia in general or Bosnia in particular in a US school. I have read a lot of books. I have looked at "Bridge on the Drina," a novel by a Serbian author about 19th century Bosnia. Now, about the Muslim portion in the Bosnian population. According to a Croatian American historian, whose name escapes me, unfortunately, in 1910, Serbs made up about 44% of the Bosnian population, Muslims about 33%, and Croats about 19%. Others were Jews, Gypsies, etc. During WW2, the Croatian Nazis, the Ustasha, set up a satellite state which included Bosnia. They perpetrated massacres of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies, including in a concentration camp/death camp/ called Jasenovac. The Germans brought the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, to Bosnia to help them recruit an SS division among the Muslims. This SS division was called the Handschar [khanjar] and was paralleled by the Skanderbeg SS division recruited among Albanian Muslims in Kosovo. The Handschar was notorious for its own massacres of Serbs and others.
The WW2 massacres of Bosnian Serbs reduced the Serbian proportion in the population [as did the higher Muslim birthrate]. In 1992, when the Bosnian war began, the Muslims were estimated at about 44% and the Serbs had gone down to only 33% [approx.]. In any case, given the history of Bosnia before 1992, you can imagine that the Serbs had reason to fear a Muslim-dominated government there. Moreover, Izetbegovich gave the Serbs no credible assurances. So a little understanding of the Serbs' position might be in order.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/18/2007

N, I wasn't objecting at all to your point. Indeed, I think that Kamal Karpat, a Turk himself, might be a more credible source for Fahrettin, on that point, than Karsh or Lewis, who are good enough for me. Now, I read Karpat's essay [originally a lecture, it seems] in a publication by --I believe-- Yarmouk University in Jordan. This came out of a conference called, I recall, The Third Annual Conference on Bilad al-Sham-Palestine, or some such title.

On the Arab flight from Jaffa, I would recommend some old books. There's a book by a German, Herbert Pritzke [Bedouin Doctor], who had been a German POW in Egypt and was allowed to escape by the British and become a mercenary in the forces of the Mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini [and the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine], fighting against the Jews.
Pritzke writes that the Arabs fled from Jaffa before the Jewish forces entered the city.
John Roy Carlson ["Cairo to Damascus"] also mentions the flight of Arabs from Jaffa, if my memory serves me right. Carlson's book is very important in any case.

I read Karsh's excellent article on the Arab flight from Haifa in Commentary a few years ago. But there are a lot of folks out there, including PhDs, who don't want to be convinced and can't be convinced.


art eckstein - 4/18/2007

1. The figure of 80 million Hindu dead at the hands of Muslims in the sequence of invasions that began in the early Middle Ages and lasted up until the invasion of Babur did not come from ME, T.F., but from N. Friedman in the post before mine. But see, e.g., K.. S. Lai, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India (1992).

As the distinguished American historian Will Durant says, "The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history."

2. The idea that the Muslim on Muslim violence in Iraq actually faked by the West is, I must say, an Islamic corker that is new to me, and is contradicted by, e.g., the explicit statements of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, including its now dead leader al-Zarkawi (unless, of course, T.F., you are going to argue that this is all a fake by the evil West too).

This assertion of your has now placed you in the Omar Baker category for me, T.F. Sorry to say it. but there it is. Your statements are very revealing about the refusal of the Muslim world to face the reality it has created and is creating, but instead (for reasons not doubt of "honor") to blame someone else--ANYONE else--no matter how absurd the accusation. On Muslim on Muslim violence, see, e.g., Fouad Ajami, The Foreigner's Gift (2006).

3. The embargo on Iraq was imposed not by the U.S. but by the U.N., and it was not maintained by the U.S. alone but by the U.N. It is impossible to believe that if Saddam had obeyed all the U.N. retrictions, it would not have been lifted by the U.N Remember that in 1998 Saddam threw all weapons inspectors out of Iraq, thereby violating the 1991 peace agreement.

In general, T.F., international relations do not consist of the U.S. victimizing a passive Muslim world; international relations are never unilaterial but rather are synergistic interactions in which Muslims have very significant agency.

Whatever you were told in a U.S. school does NOT lessen the negative impact of the deeply-flawed, whitewashing, propagandistic and self-regarding education in the MUSLIM world. You attempt her a false argument, called a "tu quoque" argument in logic ("You do it too", as if that would lessen or take away from the fact that I do it). But in fact the U.S. education system does NOT "do it too". U.S. education is highly self-critical. I know, since I am a professional educator. Muslim education is simply not in the same ballpark in terms of self-criticism of, e.g., the historically vast scale of historical Muslim imperialism and atrocities.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/18/2007

Actually the number 80 million dead in India is new for me. It is a figure hard to imagine especially since they would have to be killed by men with swords. Perhaps Art can name the source for this info??

It is true that moslems do not like to live under non moslems, but in the Balkans, Crimea (today Ukraine, then a turkish populated land), Crete and Kaukasia they had no alternative if they wanted to stay alive, the Christians who conquered these lands forced most of those whom they had not killed out. We all saw in Bosnia in the 1990ies how they do this. Letting them live on would have meant these areas remain moslem majority lands, that was exactly what they were determined to end. (southern) Greece when it seceded with british french and russian help killed every last member of the 30% moslem minority. Compared with them the Israelis have treated the Palestinians very humanely.

The Moslem on Moslem violence in Iraq is actually contested by Moslem sources. In the only case of terrorists arrested as they were planning to attack a shiite mosque, they turned out to be british soldiers disguised as sunnitic arabs. The british army then attacked and bulldosed the police station and saved them. Neither the british nor their american masters ever said anything about this event, trying to let it be forgotten. The impression in the moslem world is that perfidious britain is trying to start fighting between the shiites and sunnites so that the sunnitic arabs and iran neutralize each other. That is called divide and rule. Either the moslems are stupid enough to eat that, or the british are stupid enough to expect them to, time will show. To the extent that it is really moslems killing each other that started after the invasion army took over. Up to that point the (dare one remind: legitimate if incompetent) government of Iraq was preventing such slaughter.

In fact Saddam did everything the US told him to and the result was not the lifting of the embargo but that Iraq got invaded and Saddam went to the gallows. The embargo was there to weaken the Iraqi army to reduce US casualties during the invasion. Now they tell the ayatollahs, next on the "axis of evil" to disarm and get angry when the ahmedinedjat refuses.

I was told in a US school that Jesus was the son of god and Mohammed a nut who thought he was a prophet. You can read above
how elliott ( I presume an american) writes :

"Since you mentioned Bosnia, we could speak of the oppression/repression/subjugation of the Serbs in Bosnia in the 19th century, both by the Ottoman govt and by local, Bosnian Muslims. " that is how the US schools educate people. In the same 19th century the US was a slave owners society until the 1860ies, racial discrimination remained until the 1960ies, nobody who reads this site seems to notice that the stones being thrown at the moslems come from a glass house. Education in Moslem countries is not more one sided than in Christian countries. In Greece they sometimes teach their children that the Turks killed Jesus!!


N. Friedman - 4/18/2007

Elliott,

The point about jurist and/or Muslims living under non-Muslim rule has been discussed in considerable detail by, among others, Bernard Lewis. Moreover, Ephraim Karsh has mentioned such point with reference to Haifa and, more particularly, Joffa. Karsh writes:

The desertion of the elites had a stampede effect on the middle classes and the peasantry. But huge numbers of Palestinians were also driven out of their homes by their own leaders and/or by Arab military forces, whether out of military considerations or, more actively, to prevent them from becoming citizens of the Jewish state. In the largest and best-known example of such a forced exodus, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa against their wishes and almost certainly on the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, despite sustained Jewish efforts to convince them to stay. Only days earlier, thousands of Arabs in Tiberias had been similarly forced out by their own leaders. In Jaffa, the largest Arab community of mandatory Palestine, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea. And then there were the tens of thousands of rural villagers who were likewise forced out of their homes by order of the AHC, local Arab militias, or the armies of the Arab states.

(Emphasis added).


art eckstein - 4/18/2007

The problem, T.F., is that the impact of a flawed, self-regarding and deeply propagandistic Muslim education-system extends far beyond whitewashing Muslim atrocities in the Middle Ages (and 80 million dead in India during the Muslim conquest periods is quite an atrocity). It extends to whitewashing Muslim conduct in the modern period--hence Omar Baker's unawareness of the violence and pogroms that attended the forcing out of Muslim lands of 900,000 Jews between 1948 and 1960 (that's 200,000 more people than the Palestinian exodus, T.F.), and his assertion that this was peaceful and voluntary (where did he learn such a thing?).

I leave aside Omar's continuous and strident denial of this fact even when presented with the evidence of it.

For more discussion of the grotesque nature of that education system, you can read Nonnie Darwish's account of what it was like to grow up in Gaza in the early 1950's. She is the daughter of the Egyptian colonel who founded the first anti-Israel Fedayeen organization at that time.


art eckstein - 4/18/2007

Dear FT:

As for famines in India, as I read Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, not even Davis, a renowned Marxist historian, argues that these famines were intentional on the British part, but rather they were the result of a savage combination of unfortunate weather-patterns and Victorian ideologies of "work-fare".

I can't speak about Ireland, don't know enough.


art eckstein - 4/18/2007

Dear FT:

The deaths in the embargo were caused by Saddam holding the oil money back for himself and refusing to address the terms by which the embargo might have been lifted.

As for the deaths in the war in Iraq, a war which I do NOT support, the fact is those deaths are overwhelmingly the result of Muslim-on-Muslim violence. This includes 34,000 civilian deaths caused by terrorists last year alone, each one of those civilian deaths "an act of worship of God", including blowing up universities and book-sellers markets. It is digusting. Now they're using poison gas. Don't blame the U.S. Look in the mirror.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/18/2007

Fahrettin, thanx for the info about Britain in Ireland. I wouldn't put anything past UK policy, but they do it subtly and with finesse, unfortunately.

NFriedman wrote that Muslim jurists generally determined that Muslims should not live under non-Muslim [harbi] rule. This is supported by the Turkish historian Kamal Karpat, particularly referring to the northern shore of the Black Sea, today Ukraine, which Russia took from the Tartars/Ottoman Empire in the late 18th century.

As to the Greeks, they have their own charges to make against the Turks, as you know.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/18/2007

Art,

5 Million Moslems of Turkish culture were murdered in Europe during the century to the first world war, this does make us victims, especially since western history ignores the episode and the West today insists that Cyprus be surrendered to a Greek Eichmann. So where do we find the deeply flawed and highly propagandistic education systems?

Does any number of dead Indians in the middle ages justify the Iraqis being killed today? That is 500000 during the US embargo and 655000 during the occupation, in sum making about the same percentage of the total population as Soviet citizens killed by Hitler?




art eckstein - 4/17/2007

I ascribe this prevailing Muslim historical ignorance about the nature of their own past to the deeply-flawed and highly-propagandistic education systems that we find throughout the Muslim world.


art eckstein - 4/17/2007

Still, nothing beats 80 million dead in India thanks to Muslim imperialist violence and invasion (except perhaps Mao Tse-Tung)--and nothing beats as well the modern Muslim ignorance of these events, which allows Muslims to portray themselves as, historically, victims.


N. Friedman - 4/17/2007

Fahrettin,

World history is filled with man's inhumanity to man. It is not difficult to top what the British did to the Irish, whether in the Muslim regions or elsewhere.

If you want figures near to bottom of the barrel, you might consider Tamarlane. Or, you might examine the behavior of the Muslim conquerors of India, where they found millions of pagans. KS Lai reports that, all told, 80 million Hindus were butchered by Muslims in their effort to extirminate pagan infidel. Such events are truly at the very bottom of the barrel, in the same league as Hitler, Mao and Stalin - if we judge things by barbarity. And, in most instances, the killing was done in seemingly good conscience - follow religious commands, a typical source in history for barbarism.

In monotheistic regions, Muslim conquerors were comparatively tame. But, episodically, they were as bad as the Europeans. And, in and around Jerusalem, Muslim conquerors were rather nasty most particularly to Jews. Such nastiness has a very long history.

In other periods, Muslims, most particularly in the Ottoman Empire, were comparatively generous to Jews and Jewish refugees most particularly from Spain, since such refugees brought with them scientific and medical advances that exceeded what was known in that empire. But, such was not consistently the case. And, most particularly when Muslim religious groups would gain the upper hand, the treatment of Jews were deteriorate - in accordance with the rules that are, according to the jurist, supposed to apply to dhimmi.

The view that dhimmi were well treated other than in the period of the decline of Islam is not supported by the record. As I noted, there were periods of comparative kindness - but no period of real tolerance, as we would understand the word. And, in most periods Jews were treated as a contemptible group while Christians were, more often than not, treated as a potential (and, sometimes, actual) fifth column.

Where Islam is interesting so far as treatment of non-Muslim of the permitted religions is in the willingness to use such people's talents. In conquering Constantinople, Mehmet II used cannons designed by a Christian. And, I believe that Mehemt's doctor was Jewish. In that period, Christian rulers were less willing to consider the talents of infidels in their lands.

I might also note: the issue for Muslims in Christian lands was not, for the most part, all that important. In most instances where Christians conquered land with a Muslim population, the Muslims, complying with the majority view among Islamic jurists, would simply leave. But, where they did not leave on their own, Christians tended, after not too long a period, to turn vicious against their Muslim subjects.

As I said, man's inhumanity to man.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/17/2007

Elliott,

The English created artificial famines in Ireland and India in the 19th century in order to break their colonial subjects, as the Ottoman Sultan sent the Irish a shipload of food, the English sent the ship back. They wanted the Irish to die.

Now top that on your list of atrocities.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/17/2007

The dhimmis "were allowed to practice their religions in peace."

Yes, in the late Mamluk period most people were poor and oppressed throughout the world. I am saying that Jews in Jerusalem were especially oppressed by the Muslim officials and Muslim population at that time. Note, this was not the ordinary oppression of the poor, the workers, this was oppression, exploitation, and humiliation as prescribed by shari`ah [see Quran 9:29]. I have other accounts about oppression of Jews in Israel for later periods, including the 19th century, for which there is substantial documentation. Also, check Karsten Niebuhr for Egypt in the 18th century.

Since you mentioned Bosnia, we could speak of the oppression/repression/subjugation of the Serbs in Bosnia in the 19th century, both by the Ottoman govt and by local, Bosnian Muslims.

As for Israel's War of Independence, the Arabs began that war at the end of November 1947 with attacks on Jewish civilians throughout the country. By the end of December 1947 Jews had been driven out of neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Indeed, Azzam Pasha, sec'y general of the Arab League, threatened the Jews that the coming war would "like the Mongol massacres and the Crusades." A Palestinian Arab spokesman warned that the Arabs would drive the Jews into the sea.
So let the Arabs point the finger of accusation at themselves.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/17/2007

Elliot complains about Jews suffering in Palestine in the late Mameluk period, that was the 15th century where most people in most countries were doing a lot of suffering. There were of course Jews and Christians in most Moslem lands, where they were allowed to practice their religions in peace. This can not be said of Moslems on Christian countries. Andalusia was extinguished in the 15th century, European Turkey in the 20th, Bosnia in the 1990ies. After these events the Moslems started getting intolerant. It surprises me that in all their deliberations the western countries never talk about the effect the Bosnian genocide of the 1990ies had on Moslem public opinion.
The Quran might say the Jews would return to Palestine, it does not say the Arabs should be forced out. The fight is not about the Jews in palestine, but the Arabs out of it.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/17/2007

France became a latin speaking country after the roman conquest, Britain became a germanic speaking country after the Saxons went there and what is now the arab world became so after islamisation. This is a common phenomenon in history, and not a wrecking of ancient civilisations. Before Europeans invaded the rest of the world, conquerors left the conquered live as their subjects. It is only with European conquest that the native civilisations of America were destroyed, as indeed the moslem civilisation in Europe was through mass murder of the faithful, because the Christians of Europe were determined to kill off the Jews and Moslems of Europe.


art eckstein - 4/17/2007

There may have been a couple of occasions when I misinterpreted what Omar meant because of his poor command of English, or because he expressed himself obscurely. That's it.

By contrast, Omar's accusation that I have "lied" about him have been proven CONTINUALLY false on this blog, via the interventions of others.


art eckstein - 4/17/2007

Nothing I have ever written about Omar Baker was untrue. The same cannot be said about what he says about me. His tactic is simply to repeat calling me a liar over and over, in the hopes that someone who hasn't followed our colloquy carefully will believe him. It is the tactic of continual slander, instead of answering specific factual arguments, which he cannot do.

To give one example, Omar DENIES that 900,000 Jews were forced out of Arab lands between 1948 and 1960, and, like those in the Palestinian exodus, lost everything they had. Note that this is 200,000 more people than the Palestinian exodus. Omar asserts that these Jews left "voluntarily", and when presented with the specific facts of the case, of the masscres, pressures and pogroms, in an essay so long that it required a separate page on HNN, his only response was to call this information "LIES!".

On that basis, judge Omar for yourself.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/17/2007

if I misinterpreted you, then I regret it, Omar


Elliott Aron Green - 4/16/2007

The Arabs did not perceive any separate country under any name where "palestine" was later set up by the San Remo Conference of 1920.

The Muslim population in this country, considered by the Arabs as an indistinct part of bilad ash-Sham, harshly oppressed and exploited Jews and Christians, particularly Jews, which emerges from various eyewitness documentation from the late Mamluk period. There have always been Jews living in Israel. Omar's denial of that fact is one of the false pretensions common among Arab nationalists. I remind both Omar & Fahrettin that their own Qur'an says that Allah assigned the Holy Land to the Jews and that the Jews will return to their Land.


Elliott Aron Green - 4/16/2007

Just to elaborate slightly on the point made above about names of the Land of Israel at the time of the Puritan settlement in New England. At that time, the term "palestine" was not commonly used by local Arabs or by the Ottoman government for any province or district. There was no Ottoman administrative territory with borders even close to those set up by the international community after the San Remo Conference of 1920. Arabs traditionally did not see a separate country in the Land of Israel. Rather, it was an indistinct part of bilad ash-Sham [Syria or Greater Syria].


Elliott Aron Green - 4/16/2007

The Arabs had usurped the Land of Israel, and indeed all of the Levant was populated by non-Arabs before the Arab conquests which submerged the earlier civilizations of the Orient. The Arabs indeed wrecked the ancient civilizations of the East.


Fahrettin Tahir - 4/16/2007

So the Turks are tyrants, the Arabs not worth a mention, the US a land of angels fighting for what is morally right in a far away corner of the world, a fight which she must never give up??? Perhaps you should analyse the megalomania with which 18th century US politicians thought they had a right to decide who the masters of an Arab populated country should be? Such people turned the Jews into a hated island in an Arab see, 5 millions against 300, creating a problem with no long range solution. The middle east will remain attached to the US? What right does an American scribe have to decide that the 300 Millions Arabs are forever going to remain attached to the US? You trying to make new enemies for the US?


Elliott Aron Green - 4/16/2007

I have read many favorable reports about Oren's book. It seems indeed impressive, and is the first comprehensive history of US-Middle Eastern relations. I would just like to mention Frank Manuel's book, America-Palestine Relations, that came out about 1949. Manuel's book covers some of the same ground as Oren's.

On another point I would disagree with Oren. He says that at the time of the Puritan settlers in New England, the Land of Israel was known as "Palestine." In my studies, I have noted that the most common name in the West for this country at that time [ca. 1620] was Holy Land [in its various forms: Terra Santa, etc.]. Other names were Palestine, Zion, Judea, the Land Where Jesus Trod, etc. Sometimes this county was included within broader geographic terms like Levant, Syria, Bible Lands, etc.

Subscribe to our mailing list