SEP 18, 2023 – DAILY SABAH
The annual Tribute in Light, which honors the memory of the Twin Towers, is glimpsed from the Brooklyn promenade as the nation commemorates the 22nd anniversary of the attacks in New York City, U.S., Sept. 11, 2023. (AFP Photo)
The 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. was again an occasion to repeat what has turned into a “legitimized” reason to condemn Islam as a religion and voice Islamophobia as an ideology. The chorus, as usual, had participants from Israel and this time, several authors found a way to steer the issue toward their own agendas.
Oh, Israel, of course, the situation is about you; your lives, your problems are what really counts; therefore, your issues should involve the entirety of any conversation. Even the Sept. 11 attacks!
Almost all of the columnists in the Israeli media paid a large amount of lip service to what they call “the destructive power of religious terror” and mentioned “the need for global action against religious-based terror.” Some of them found strength in some obscure and cryptic U.N. resolutions that the U.S. representatives had hastily passed in the dark days that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed in 2001 by 19 militants associated with the extremist group al-Qaida against targets in the United States. They were the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history. The attacks against New York City and Washington, D.C. caused massive death and destruction, and President George W. Bush started an enormous “War Against Terrorism.” Sometimes his tongue slipped, and he called it a “crusade against Islamic terrorism.” The White House press office then had to rush to correct that “it was not Islamic but Islamists” the president was talking about and that he was not referring to the nine historical Crusades or Holy Wars but using the word in the sense of “push” or “march.”
Yes, of course, we bought that; laying waste to the centuries-old social structure of Afghanistan and Iraq, and halting their economic and developmental efforts would not make Mr. Bush a “Crusader” – even though every other word he used after Sept. 11 was “Islam.”
By the way, in those speeches, President Bush never mentioned that those “Islamist” or “Islamic” terrorists had been created by his predecessors (one of them was his own father!) by conscripting the vagrant youth, punks and bums from Cairo streets with the purpose of joining the “mujahideen” against the Russian occupiers in Afghanistan. In fact, Nicholas Kotarski of the State University of New York, Buffalo State College analyzed the roots of the organization created by Osama bin Laden in his article, titled: “Whose Monster? A Study in the Rise to Power of al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
Along this line of thought, since the U.S. and U.N. had recognized that “religious-based terror is significant, dangerous and unique enough to be put in a category by itself” then Israel must be a victim of “violence based on religion or belief” because the people who are fighting against Israel belong to a religious group and, among themselves, they often call their fight against Israel a “religious effort.”
Many seem to forget that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a political entity, its work is observed and even supervised by the international community, and it always claims that its actions are organized on nationalistic grounds! If a couple of Israeli opinion leaders claim that the PA “tells its own people that killing Israelis and Jews is for Allah,” it is likely based on the prejudiced assumption that the PA is killing Israelis and is doing it as a religious “calling.”
If these Israeli assumptions about the PA are taken as fact, Israel would then be in a position to claim it has faced religion-based terrorism all along that should be condemned worldwide as the world condemns the 9/11 attacks.
However, these claims forget facts about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s own Fatah party. Abbas, the president of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian Authority, has been in conflict with Palestinian militant groups, among them the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement and Hamas, because those hard-liners oppose Abbas’s pragmatic policies. Even though he warned in 2021 that his administration would no longer recognize Israel if the Jewish state did not stop occupying Palestinian territory taken since the 1967 war within one year, Abbas is internationally recognized in his position and deals with the Israeli authorities all the time. There is another significant point here! The Arab League also backed Abbas’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, not as an internationally recognized political entity. Several members of the Arab League recently recognized Israel and exchanged ambassadors with Israel. Their acknowledgment was based on the concept that, “We recognize you as a political body, not as a religious organism.” The secular Fatah party itself has been condemned by several militant groups in the occupied areas in Palestine.
But that is not enough for many columnists in the Israeli media. Somehow, they “know” something that Palestinians don’t know: the Palestine Liberation (PLO) and the PA are “extremists,” and they are killing Jews because they are Jews.
Killing someone because of their religious beliefs is condemned by all self-respecting people all over the world and accusing someone of such a despicable action stops all discussion and considerations until that accusation is dealt with. It is such a hateful action; one cannot defend themselves against the accusation until they are cleared of all claims. But consider this: if a Palestinian peasant tries to defend their land, house and farm against occupiers who happen to be Jews who are there because the Palestinian peasant’s land was actually promised to Jews by God, and in that altercation, the occupiers lose their lives, was the killer an extremist?
We know there are several militant groups, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs for instance, who would take “punishing infidels into their own hands,” but that is not the case when someone is defending their land for which they have an internationally recognized title of ownership and before them, their father and his father had for centuries! The majority of Muslims, and Abbas among them, believe that fighting against the occupiers of your land is a secular effort and it does not make you a religious extremist!
Likewise, if an organization, Hamas for instance, does not recognize Israel as a legitimate government, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is an extremist organization. Hamas even denies the legitimacy of the Oslo Accords, but it is so secular that several groups even consider it an atheist organization (as if political entities could believe in God!).
Every “Hallelujah” shouted doesn’t make the screamer a Christian, nor does the shouting of “Allah” make that person an extremist! Israeli media cannot devise an extremist claim out of the Palestinians’ national struggle; they cannot downplay a nation’s fight for its ancestral homeland to simple homicides and murders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hakkı Öcal is an award-winning journalist. He currently serves as academic at Ibn Haldun University.