Monday, March 07, 2011

Juliano Mer, a prominent Israeli actor of mixed Jewish-Christian Arab parentage, was shot dead yesterday afternoon in Jenin...


Juliano Mer, a prominent Israeli actor of mixed Jewish-Christian Arab parentage, was shot dead yesterday afternoon in Jenin.
-- News Report, April 5, 2011

What made Shahbaz Bhatti the moderate Pakistani minister assassinated by Islamist "militants" for campaigning against the country's blasphemy law unique was that he was – a Christian. Muslim extremists tend to invest the bulk of their homicidal energies in slaughtering their own coreligionists.

Mass casualty suicide bombings, now obscenely routine and carried out by Muslims against Muslims mostly in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have engendered pathological responses.

Yet no less devastating in their impact on Muslim civilization have been pinpoint assassinations intended to obliterate individual moderates. In fact, the term assassin dates back to an 11th century Persian Shi'ite sect that first employed the systematic use of murder as a political weapon, according to historian Bernard Lewis.

Bhatti's murder followed on the heels of the assassination in January of Salman Taseer, the cosmopolitan governor of Punjab province. His killing was the most devastating assassination of a moderate politician since the 2007 murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

Political assassinations intended to eradicate moderates are no less rampant among Arab Muslims. Take the 1951 killing of Jordan's King Abdullah, suspected of being willing to make peace with Israel; he was shot at the Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. Or Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, murdered in 1981 for having made peace with the Jewish state.

The litany includes Algerian president Mohamed Boudiaf, shot dead in 1992 by an Islamist bodyguard and Lebanon's Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, killed in 2005 by the Shi'ite Hezbollah network. Lebanon's Christian president Bashir Gemayel was assassinated in 1982 for meeting with Israel's premier Menachem Begin to discuss a possible peace treaty.

While no one would accuse Hariri of wanting to make peace with Israel, he apparently did not kowtow with sufficient obsequiousness to Hezbollah's masters in Iran's. Teheran also has a bloody history of assassinating its own moderates including former premier Shapour Bakhtiar in 1991.

Even the U.S. has not been immune to the phenomenon of radicals murdering comparative moderates.

This month marks the (February 21, 1965) 46th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, the African American radical who was killed after he broke with Elijah Muhammad's xenophobic Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam.

But it is the Palestinian Arabs who have made a morbid fetish of murdering those of their own suspected of being ready to compromise for peace.

Twenty-five years ago this week, (March 3, 1986) Zafer Al-Masri, the forty-four year-old mayor of Nablus was assassinated on the doorsteps to city hall by Palestinian gunmen. Tarred as "an Israeli collaborator," he was said to have close ties to Jordan which at the time was seeking West Bank Palestinians willing to negotiate with Israel under its auspices.

Palestinian Arab society had historically been divided between fanatics led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, former mufti of Jerusalem, and relative moderates, who included notable families such as the Nashashibis. They moderates had reluctantly concluded that the Zionists could not be defeated and that coexistence was a Palestinian interest.

Already by the time Israel was established in 1948, hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinian moderates had been murdered. Moderation came to be treated as treason and punished by death. That is how the Husseini camp came to dominate Palestinian politics and created an intransigent political culture which would ultimately spawn both Fatah and Hamas.

This brings us to the supposedly moderate Palestinians running the West Bank today. Saeb Erekat – one of the most accommodating figures in the PLO hierarchy – confidentially assured Western diplomats that the Palestinians were prepared to compromise on the issue of refugees.

Publicly, however, he continued to insist on the so-called right of return for "seven million" refugees and their descendents to Israel proper as "absolutely necessary for the stability of peace" – a death knell to resolving the conflict. Whatever the motivation for Erekat's duplicitous statements the net effect has been that the Palestinian masses remain unprepared for requisite compromise.

Lately, the only point of consensus between Hamas and Fatah is that Western-backed "moderate" Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – widely credited for developing political institutions his people will need for statehood – must go. Despite the fact that he spearheaded a boycott against Jewish products manufactured in the West Bank, Fayyad is suspected of sincerity in professing acceptance of a two-state solution.

The systematic slaughter of genuine moderates has necessitated redefining moderation. Only by the Hobbesian yardstick of Palestinian politics, where the lives of peacemakers have been brutishly cut short, can an obdurate Mahmoud Abbas, now two years into his boycott of negotiations with Israel, be pronounced a "moderate."

-- March 7, 2011

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