Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Apache War

Salman Masalha

The Apache War

Summer Rains. Thus spoke the Israel Defense Forces muses and a pleasant chill emanated from the radio and television receivers and seeped into the heart of the sticky consensus in the heat of a new summer. Before long the Israeli media buried the wicked use of the Hebrew language, meant to conceal crimes perpetrated by the IDF in Israel's name, in the Gaza Strip. And since they still haven't found a name for the summer rains that began to fall in the north, wordsmiths are now being called upon to emerge from the shelters and to enlist in the reserves.

Two wars, which are one, are currently being waged in the region. One is an internal Islamic war between the Sunni stream and the Shiite stream based in Iran. The objective of this war, which began with Khomeini's Islamic revolution, is the imposition of the jihad doctrine throughout the Muslim world - as a first step - and afterward, the spearheading of a global war between Islam and the rest of the world, and especially the West, with Christianity at its center. This is just how things happened in the early days of Islam. And in words that should be especially clear to the Hebrew reader: It's a war about "restoring former glory." The Arab and Muslim world lives in a world of contrasts that it has difficulty bridging. Raised on a legacy of the glorious past, it looks around and sees that ever since those days of splendor it has not been able to escape the backwardness that has gripped it in every area and in every corner.

Al-Qaida is also part of this internal Islamic war. The September 11th attack was a desperate attempt by Sunni fundamentalism to put itself on the map as a standard-bearer of the holy war of Islamic renewal. It did so because Khomeini's Shiite Islamic revolution had taken the reins and led this war. The toppling of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime and the rising capital of the Shiites in Iraq only exacerbated this internal Islamic war.

Against this backdrop, one can understand the stance taken by the Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as well as by others, against "the rash adventure" of Hezbollah's action against Israel. And only against this backdrop is it possible to understand the fatwa (religious ruling) issued on July 17, 2006 by Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Jibrin, a leading Sunni cleric in Saudi Arabia: "It is absolutely forbidden to come to the defense of people of this rebellious party (i.e., the Shiite Hezbollah). It is absolutely forbidden to obey their orders, and forbidden to pray for their victory. We advise people of the Sunna to turn their backs on them and to hand them a defeat ..."

Grapes of Wrath and Summer Rains and other such appellations are offered by the Hebrew muses in order to camouflage the death and destruction sown behind the images and the metaphors. But the Iranians have muses, too, and they know how to use their Persian language, which draws heavily from Arabic and from Islam. They give their instruments of death names like fajr (dawn), raad (thunder) and the musical-sounding zelzal (earthquake). And just to remove any doubt, they use names like Khaybar, to conjure up the massacre of Jews in the 7th-century ethnic-cleansing operation in the Arabian Peninsula. And when the mullahs' emissary in the Iranian presidency, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declares that Khomeini's blood and spirit are flowing in Nasrallah's veins, he is referring to that same global war between Islam and the rest of the world, the world of the devil and of all the heretics.

We can learn something about this spirit of Khomeini from a speech the late ayatollah gave in 1981 on the occasion of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday. Among other things, Khomeini preached: "The days of Allah are when Allah, exalted and praised be He, will cause a zalzala [a tremor, an earthquake] ... Why do you, the religious sages, follow only the imperatives of prayer and fasting? Why do you read only the verses of mercy, and not the verses of killing? The Koran says: Ye shall surely kill, ye shall surely imprison. Mercy is something that is opposed to God ... Mihrab [the niche in a mosque that faces Mecca; the direction of prayer, where the imam stands] is a place of war [from the Arabic root harb - war]. It is from the mihrabs that the war should erupt, just as all the wars of Islam erupted from the mihrabs [that is, from the mosques]."

The corruption of language inevitably leads to the corruption of man, the corruption of nature and the extinguishing of life. The intensity of the response and the destruction being sown by Israel in Palestine and Lebanon derive from an impulse to grab, on the one hand, and from existential anxiety, on the other. And when Ahmadinejad endlessly repeats his mantra of Holocaust denial, his words have one meaning: A Holocaust never happened, meaning, a Holocaust will happen. And when rhetoric collides with "rotary" war machines and when the rotary is loaded with rhetoric, death is the sole victor.

And it also turns out that this god, the Lord of Hosts and God of Vengeance, whose name everyone takes in vain, is the worst invention the Semitic nations ever gave to humanity. It's like a mechanism for self-destruction, a monster that rises up against its creator and eventually brings about the destruction of the idea itself. Mercy isn't opposed to God, as Khomeini said. The reverse is true. Death is what is opposed to God. Death is what does God in.

Grapes of Wrath, Summer Rains, Spider Webs, Webs of Steel - they're all part of this dance of death. We have fajr, raad and zelzal, too. But above all of them hover the spirit and fate of the Apache: The Apaches were bold warriors who wanted to live as free people on their land. But the pioneers didn't want Indians near their farms, and launched attacks against them. The Apache responded with reprisals of their own, and so it went, again and again. Cochise, the tribe's chief, knew that many white men were coming to settle in the area, and in order to defend his tribe, he made a nonaggression pact with them. But this pact was soon violated and the wars between them resumed, until Cochise surrendered in 1872. His tribe was placed on a new reservation.

The Apache in our part of the world, if you like, is the Palestinian whom the secular and religious Zionist zealots are trying to imprison in reservations behind walls of cement and barbed wire. And, if you like, it is the Israeli for whom the zealots of Islam are trying to designate reservations, too, to put it mildly.

We don't need any Webs of Steel or Zelzal missiles here. We don't need a war over ancestors' graves that will lead to the digging of graves for our sons. This is the time to make a conscious turnabout, among both the Israelis and Palestinians, before we all march gloriously to hell. Needless to say, the deluge won't follow.


Published in: Haaretz, August 3, 2006


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