July 26, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1663

Tunisian Intellectual Lafif Lakhdar to the G8: Solving the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Will Dry up Support for Islamist Terrorism

July 26, 2007
North Africa, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 1663

In a May 19, 2007 article in the form of an open letter to "the reasonable ones among the G8," on the liberal website Elaph, Tunisian intellectual Lafif Lakhdar wrote that the Israeli-Arab conflict was a major source of terrorism and urged the G8 to implement the Clinton proposals.

He explained that while Al-Qaeda's adoption of the Israeli-Arab conflict was instrumental as well as ideological, resolving the conflict would, in any event, deprive the organization of a powerful tool to attract sympathy and support.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]

Al-Zawahiri Wrote That the Muslim Masses Will Only Take Part in Jihad If the Jihadists' Slogans Are Comprehensible to Them

"The resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, starting from the heart of this conflict – namely, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – is the best approach to drying up one of the most important sources of Islamist terrorism. This terrorism threatens to 'Somalia-ize' the Palestinian territories, make the Middle East less and less governable, shake fragile global stability, and make the world less just and more dangerous.

"The predominant opinion in your capital cities, which are the capitals of international decision-making, is that the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict has absolutely no role to play in the containment of Islamist terrorism. This is a presupposition propagated by a number of specialists in Islamist terrorism, among them Olivier Roy.

"In order to enlighten your decision-making, I will present you here with the thoughts of Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who is better informed on this subject than your 'experts,' who have not read Islamist terrorism in its [own] texts and have not taken the trouble to read the jurisprudence of jihad, which is the religious-political authority for Islamist terrorism.

"Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri expresses the view, in his book Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet, that 'the jihad movement needs to involve the Muslim umma in its jihad,' but that the Muslim umma will never participate in its jihad unless the slogans of the mujahideen become comprehensible to the Muslim umma

"Therefore, the jihad movement must not settle for engaging in war [against the West and its Muslim supporters] only under the slogans of [Islamic] rule (hakimiya), and loyalty [among believers] and rejection of loyalty [to infidels] (al-wala' wal-bara').

"'Unfortunately, these slogans are not comprehensible to the masses of the umma, who are not prepared to sacrifice for slogans they do not understand, even if they are 100% true' (pp. 227-8).

"Islamic rule (hakimiya) means establishing a theocratic Islamic state from Al-Andalus to the Chinese border. As for al-wala' wal-bara', its meaning is, in very condensed form, a total and complete break with the West and its civilization, and perpetual jihad against it until its final defeat."

Al-Zawahiri: "It is Clear that Our Enemies Will Not Tarry for as Long As We Need" to Convince the Muslims to Adopt Our Main Goals

"[Al-Zawahiri writes that] the jihad movement's continued call for Islamic rule and al-wara' wal-bara' 'until they bear fruit requires us to [continue to] call for them steadfastly, for a long period. It is clear that our enemies will not tarry for as long as we need in order to educate the umma' (p.228). Al-Zawahiri says: 'We must add to [those] slogans, [that express] our pure, fundamental beliefs, other slogans, which are also the pure truth, that will be comprehensible to the masses of the Muslim umma… Rather than considering them to be slogans that are secondary in importance, we must give them prominence…

"[Al-Zawahiri continues:] 'The slogan that the Muslim umma understands well and which has resonated with it for 50 years is the slogan that calls for jihad against Israel. In this [current] decade, the umma has also become mobilized for jihad against America, in addition to jihad against Israel… Thus the jihad-fighting Islamic movement needs to raise the slogans of liberation of the three Islamic holy sites: the lofty Ka'ba, the noble Mosque of the Prophet [in Medina], and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. In this way, [the jihad movement] will take hold of the reins of leadership over the Muslim umma and will rally the hearts of the Muslims to it…' (pp. 229-30).

"With considerable foresight as a political analyst, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri is of the opinion that if the jihad movement abandons the slogan of jihad against Israel and the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, 'it will isolate itself, and its struggle will become a struggle between the [jihadist] elite and the government[s]' (p. 230). This, Dr. Al-Zawahiri says, will make it easier for 'the rulers who are agents [of the West]' to incite the masses against the jihad movement and 'crush it in silence.'

"It has become clear to you from this lengthy and significant citation, that 'the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque', as demanded by Al-Zawahiri – that is, a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – will strike at the heart of Islamist terrorism."

Ignoring the Palestinian Issue's Importance to Jihadists "Will Make it Easier For the Al-Qaeda Wolf to Enter the Palestinian Fold"

"In parallel, to not take cognizance of this truth will make it easier for the Al-Qaeda wolf to enter the Palestinian fold, and win over the followers of Hamas and the ['Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam Brigades, [the latter of which] seem to be on the point of rebelling against the moderates in its leadership, and Prime Minister Haniyeh in particular. Al-Qaeda's entrance into Palestine does not bode well, since the occupied territories may turn into a second Iraq in which Islamist terrorism will flourish.

"Al-Qaeda's jihad strategy with respect to the Palestinian issue, which gives the lie to the terrorism 'experts' who misled you, may also lead you to consider a clean break with the shameful policy of 'let them (the Palestinians and the Israelis) bleed one another' until the fighting exhausts them and they come to us [i.e. the West] asking for a solution – [a policy] set out by former U.S. secretary of state James Baker."

"There is No Better… Remedy than Development to Heal the Palestinians and the Muslim Arabs of their Narcissistic Wounds"

"The danger of Al-Qaeda infiltrating Gaza; the omens [indicating] a Hamas split into extremists and moderates; the pragmatism of Abu Mazen and his faction; the Arab [League] proposal, which broke the taboo of recognizing Israel and normalizing relations with it; Damascus's intensive efforts towards negotiations with the Israeli government; and a possible visit by Assad, in Sadat's footsteps, to Jerusalem – all of these are factors that militate for a satisfactory resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, starting with a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the implementation of [former] president Bill Clinton's proposals, which offered the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the most important things they need.

"[Clinton's proposals offered] the security that the Jews have lacked for 20 centuries, and the state that the Palestinian nation has never known throughout its history. A viable Palestinian state, accompanied by a Marshall Plan for its development, may well drive nails into the coffin of Islamist terrorism.

"There is no better and more salubrious remedy than peace and development to heal the Palestinians and the Muslim Arabs of their narcissistic wounds, which were caused by the West's superiority over them, from the time of the invention of firearms in the 16th century, and in particular since Napoleon's cannon defeated the Mamluk horsemen and cut off the Sphinx's nose."


[1], May 29, 2007. Minor emendations were introduced in accordance with the author's own French translation of the article, which he sent to MEMRI, and upon his request.

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