May 26, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 95

The Future of the Armed Struggle: An Arab Debate

May 26, 2000
North Africa, Qatar, Syria, The Gulf, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 95

On May 16, 2000, "The Opposite Direction," a well- known political talk show on Al-Jazeera [Qatari TV Channel], which is said to have tens of millions of viewers around the Arab world, hosted a debate between the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Dr. Ramadhan Abdallah Shalah and Tunisian Intellectual, Lafif Lakhdar. The debate revolved around whether the Arabs should continue to use armed violence in their struggle against Israel. Following are excerpts from the debate:

Host: "...Will [US State Department Peace Process Coordinator] Dennis Ross succeed in bringing an end to the conflict, or are we on the verge of a new Intifada in Palestine, while we witness [the success] of the Lebanese resistance movement?"

Dr. Shalah: "...This conflict started long before Dennis Ross was born and even before the empire on whose behalf he speaks [i.e. the US] was conceived. This conflict erupted before the beginning of the twentieth century and it continues. This was [demonstrated] by [the British] General Allenby who, when the British forces entered Jerusalem [in WW1], stood in front of its walls and declared: 'today the Crusades have come to an end'"

"The conflict continues and the proof is that despite the fact that the last war waged by the Arab armies against Israel took place 27 years ago - the conflict goes on..."

Lafif Lakhdar: "...the Lebanese Resistance movement has succeeded because it fought under the banner of international legitimacy. It fought to enforce UN resolution 425... However, this is the first time that an invader and occupier leaves the occupied land, but the occupied protests this withdrawal and demands that they stay. The Syrians oppose Israel's unilateral withdrawal, and so does the Lebanese government and even Hizbullah... It proves that the goal of Hizbullah was not only to liberate the border strip..."

"Regarding Palestine – the conflict is indeed long and has several aspects... it experienced some transformation: from an armed struggle to an Intifada, and then to negotiations. All these are means to achieve one goal: restoring the right of the Palestinian people on the basis of international legitimacy, which demands an Israeli withdrawal from the Arab land that was occupied in 1967..."

Dr. Shalah: "...Al-'Afif Al-Akhdar says that the Lebanese Resistance fought under the banner of international legitimacy and that Israel withdraws on this principle. This is to his credit. After many years in which the Lebanese Resistance was accused by the so-called 'international legitimacy' of being terrorism it is now [regarded as] legitimate... I want to remind him and the viewers that the Resistance did not ask for permission from 'international legitimacy' when it embarked [on its activity], especially since 'international legitimacy' nowadays is a synonym for the US... Everybody knows that this Resistance movement fought the 'international legitimacy' represented by the US... until they left Lebanon defeated after the explosion in the Marines' base..."

"Ze'ev Schiff, a leading Israeli analyst, said on May 12 in Ha'aretz: 'For the first time in the history of Israel's wars, its enemy has beaten Israel in psychological warfare, in part by intelligently using Israel's [own] media. It has been proven that Israel's steadfastness has been corroded, since nobody claims such capability anymore."...Lafif Lakhdar should know that the Lebanese people and the Islamic nation everywhere will celebrate the victory of the heroes of the Resistance over Israel which was regarded once as the unbeatable army. Now it is beaten and fearfully withdraws to its land… pardon, to occupied Palestine..."

Lafif Lakhdar: "Hizbullah's resistance to the Israeli occupation is legitimate... however, Hizbullah is a terrorist party because it was founded by Khomeini's Iran for the purpose of murdering progressive Shi'ite intellectuals... They also murdered 500 members of the [rival Shi'ite party] Amal, in 1985 in the Tufah District. Hizbullah entered their homes and slit their throats one after the other. Hizbullah kidnapped, on behalf of Iran, innocent people in Beirut for use as hostages and these kidnappings damaged the reputation of Islam and the Muslims throughout the world. Hizbullah has emptied South Lebanon, especially Jezzine, of the Christians. It deported them… Nevertheless, when Hizbullah struggles against the Israeli occupation in order to fulfill Security Council resolution 425, it struggles within the framework of international legitimacy..."

"Israel withdraws, but Iran and Syria behave as if this withdrawal is a punishment, because they do not want it to take place. They want Israel to stay because there are two kinds of occupation in Lebanon that justify one another: The Syrian occupation and the Israeli occupation. The Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon means that Syria must [also] withdraw from the Biqa' [valley] within a few months, and vice versa..."

Dr. Shalah: "Before I answer the accusations Al-Akhdhar directs at Hizbullah, I want to inform the viewers of the source of these accusations. Al-'Afif wrote on May 7, in Al-Hayat, that as soon as he learned of the downfall of Netanyahu and the rise of Barak, he sent him a telegram saying: 'I congratulate you in the hope for Arab-Israeli peace.' So, these accusations should be treated as if they come directly from Barak's office. Therefore, since the one who makes the accusations is Barak's spokesman, I am not interested in responding to them. If a student at the Hebrew University had written these things in a paper on Hizbullah in a political Science course, any professor with minimal knowledge would have marked his paper 'Zero'..."

Lafif Lakhdar: "Hamas and the Islamic Jihad brought Netanyahu to power by carrying out suicide bombings in order to destroy the peace process and eliminate the rights of the Palestinian people. Why? Because Hamas does not believe in a Palestinian State....Sheik Ahmad Yassin, Hamas's spiritual leader says...that, in accordance with The Koran, Israel will disappear in 2027....This is Hamas's and maybe Islamic Jihad's too. They want to destroy the peace process and leave the Palestinian people in refugee camps until the year of 2027. …It is a disaster when a political-military organization bases its platform on an interpretation of a Koranic verse... These people should not deal with politics because they are not qualified for it."

Dr. Shalah: "I personally, do not believe these things [the Koranic interpretation predicting that Israel will disappear in 2027]. What is attributed to Sheik Yassin is his personal opinion and he alone is responsible for it..."

"The question is broader, though: Lafif Lakhdar believes the Islamic religion is not connected to [the making of] history, politics, or the conflict... While we, in the Islamic movement, believe there is a divine Providence over history... the Jews [also] based their occupation of Palestine on the Torah, but this does not prevent Al-Akhdhar from claiming Islam and The Koran are irrelevant to the conflict....I want to ask him in front of one and a quarter billion Muslims whether he believes in The Koran..."

Lafif Lakhdar: "Am I under investigation by the Inquisition now? The Koran has nothing to do with history. History is determined by the balance of power..."

Dr. Shalah: "...As you know, the Torah tells the people that Allah created the Heavens and the Earth in six days and on the seventh day, He rested, or maybe he delivered the keys of the world management to Clinton, God forbid. Therefore, I ask him again in front of millions [of Muslims]: does he believe in the Koran ?..."

Lafif Lakhdar: "He has just revealed his true face. He is an Inquisitor. I did not come here for an Inquisition. You are the one who murders children and you have no right to talk about Allah. Allah does not murder children and innocent people. The Labor Party that founded Israel is not a religious party, Moshe Dayan wrote on his ID 'Religion: heretic.' Israel was not established on the Torah, but rather on secularism..."

"The next stage is the stage of peace. This is a transformation from armed conflict to another type of conflict with Zionism. We must become modern like Israel. We should have modern education that will produce technology experts, engineers, doctors, and scientists. What we have now is the education of the Middle Ages. It produces unemployed religious scholars of the third and fourth degree. We must struggle against the Zionist plan through the liberation of the Arab woman. The Islamists fight the woman throughout the Islamic world. They murder her, slaughter her, and stone her to death..."

Dr. Shalah: "... Lafif Lakhdar talks about realism and modernization... and how Israel is the model we should all adopt. …My problem is how can Lafif Lakhdar change his homeland as one changes shoes..."

Lafif Lakhdar: "...We must modernize ourselves and leave our backwardness behind. The Islamists want to keep us backward. For example, we should equalize the status of Muslims and non-Muslims in the Islamic world. One Sheik of the Islamic Jihad, Abdallah Al-Shami, for example, said that after the liberation of Palestine, we will turn the remaining Jews into Ahl Dhimma [1]. Hamas plans to liberate Palestine to the last grain of land and then turn it into an Islamic Waqf [religious endowment]. What will happen to the Jews that were born there? Hamas and the Islamic Jihad don't talk about them, they just say Jews will become Ahl Dhimma. We will not be able to compete with the Zionist plan unless we equalize the status of the Muslim to that of the Christian, and also to that of the Arab Jew. We should also equalize the status of men and women and modernize the economy and education... the perpetuation of armed struggle at all costs is a tribal mentality. The mentality of the Jahiliya [2] [era]."

Dr. Shalah: "...As usual, Lafif Lakhdar busies himself with hypothetical questions about the destiny of the Jews. He is worried about the hypothetical case they become Ahl Dhimma. He is not interested in the current situation of the Palestinians... My answer to the hypothetical question is that Al-'Afif should know that throughout history the Jews have never enjoyed a status like the one they enjoyed under the rule of Islam as Ahl Dhimma. By all means, I wish they would have granted us Palestinians in Lebanon and everywhere else in the world the status of Ahl Dhimma..."

[1] The Dhimma system is the Islamic legal structure ordained by the prophet and his followers. According to it, the lives and property of non-Muslim monotheists (Christians, Jews, and others) are protected under Muslim rule in return for a poll-tax ( jizya ). However they remain inferior to Muslims, enjoy limited rights, and are subject to prohibitions in most fields of life.

[2] The pre-Islamic era, known in Islamic tradition as "The Era of Ignorance."

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