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by William H. Benson

October 26, 2000

     James Michener in his 1955 article on Islam pointed out a crucial point about this religion that most Americans do not realize.  Michener wrote, “Islam differs from most other religions in one respect.  It is not only a religion, but it is also a body of law called the Shariat, which is binding upon Muslims and is indeed a part of their faith.  This melting together of law and religion makes a Muslim’s religion more important to him that it would be in a western community.”

     In other words, the western world distinguishes between law and religion.  An American pigeon-holes secular life and the law into one compartment and religion into another, and he or she instinctively knows that the law takes precedence over the religion.  Only the extremest of the extreme forms of religion in America would encourage a member to break the law to obey the dictates of the religion.

     Not all Muslims are Fundamentalists, but those who are Fundamentalists subscribe to the idea that their religion is superior to that of the west and it is their duty to do everything possible, even go to war and terrorize, to convert all people in the Middle East to Islam or annihilate them.

     The columnist Cal Thomas wrote, “Islamic radicals perceive the West, and particularly the United States, as militarily strong but morally weak.  They correctly diagnose the shallowness of our lives and our preoccupation with material things.  And they believe they have a divine mandate to destroy the West with its pretenses and secularized ways.” 

     Ever since the creation of Israel in May of 1949, the grand design and the policy of the neighboring nations and peoples has always been to push Israel out of existence.  They believe the world would be a better place if Israel were to disappear.  To them Israel is a slice of the western world placed smack dab onto one of Islam’s most holy of places–Jerusalem.  This for a Moslem is an absolutely unacceptable situation.

     In June of 1967 during the Six Day War the neighboring nations attacked Israel, but instead of being pushed into the sea, Israel captured the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Negev, and the Gaza Strip.  Then, in October of 1973 the Yom Kippur War broke out, and a dozen years ago the Palestinians took to throwing rocks at the armed Israeli soldiers in an uprising called the Intifada.

     During the last eight years Israel has struggled to see things from the Palestinian perspective and has even yielded to the sympathetic notion that peace would happen if the Palestinians were given land, a flag, a government, and a country of their own.  At the Camp David Summit weeks ago, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from Lebanon, give up 90% of captured lands, and grant some sovereignty over East Jerusalem.  Arafat refused.

     According to the columnist Mona Charen, “After Camp David, Yassir Arafat shut down the schools, instructed Palestinian TV to show nothing but pictures of the Intifada and stoked the fires of hatred.”  Barak said that Arafat also released from prison the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and refused to stop Palestinian police from shooting at Israelis.  Over a hundred people have died, most of them Palestinians, since Arafat chose this course.

     This issue is so muddled.  All we know and believe to be true is what we read and are told, for there are always two sides to every conflict.  However, it is obvious that the the Palestinians and the neighboring nations still hold fast to the dream of pushing Israel off the map.  Despite repeated promises, the PLO has never amended its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.   Instead, they have escalated their dream with a terrorist attack against a U.S. Naval vessel killing 17 innocent American sailors in Yemen.  Cal Thomas wrote, “The U.S. had better declare war on radical Islam.”

     Yet,  the Israelis are determined to preserve themselves and their country.  Mona Charen wrote, “And so Israel is forced to reckon with the unpleasant truth:  There will be no peace; at best, armed truce.  It’s a terrible reality, but pretending your enemies want peace when they quite plainly do not is foolish beyond measure.”  Last week Ehud Barak told Newsweek that he would prefer a peaceful settlement.  However, if that fails, he said,  “Then, we know what to do.”