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Avnery on bin Laden: Rejoice Not ...

“REJOICE NOT when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”.

This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages, too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.

Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude – is something different altogether. An ugly thing.

Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,” God admonished them, “And you are singing?”

These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.

THE REJOICING may be premature. Most probably, al-Qaeda did not die with Osama bin-Laden. The effect may be entirely different.

In 1942 the British killed Abraham Stern, whom they called a terrorist. Stern, whose nom de guerre was Ya’ir, was hiding in a cupboard in an apartment in Tel Aviv. In his case too, it was the movements of his courier that gave him away. After making sure that he was the right man, the British police officer in command shot him dead.

That was not the end of his group – rather, a new beginning. It became the bane of British rule in Palestine. Known as the “Stern Gang” (its real name was “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”), it carried out the most daring attacks on British installations and played a significant role in persuading the colonial power to leave the country.

Hamas did not die when the Israeli air force killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the paralyzed founder, ideologue and symbol of Hamas. As a martyr he was far more effective than as a living leader. His martyrdom attracted many new fighters to the cause. Killing a person does not kill an idea. The Christians even took the cross as their symbol.

WHAT WAS the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure?

He preached the restoration of the Caliphate of the early Muslim centuries, which was not only a huge empire, but also a center of the sciences and the arts, poetry and literature, when Europe was still a barbaric, medieval continent. Every Arab child learns about these glories, and cannot but contrast them with the sorry Muslim present.

(In a way, these longings parallel the Zionist romantics’ dreams of a resurrected kingdom of David and Solomon.)

A new Caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the Zeitgeist, were it not for its opponents – the Americans. They needed this dream – or nightmare – more than the Muslims themselves.

The American Empire always needs an antagonist to keep it together and to focus its energies. This has to be a worldwide enemy, a sinister advocate of an evil philosophy.

Such were the Nazis and Imperial Japan, but they did not last long. Fortunately, there was then the Communist Empire, which filled the role admirably.

There were Communists everywhere. All of them were plotting the downfall of freedom, democracy and the United States of America. They were even lurking inside the US, as J. Edgar Hoover and senator Joe McCarthy so convincingly demonstrated.

For decades, the US flourished in the fight against the Red Menace; its forces spread all over the world, its spaceships reached the moon, its best minds engaged in a titanic battle of ideas, the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.

And then – suddenly – the whole thing collapsed. Soviet power vanished as if it had never existed. The American spy agencies, with their tremendous capabilities, were flabbergasted. Apparently, they had no idea how ramshackle the Soviet structure actually was. How could they see, blinded as they were by their own ideological preconceptions?

The disappearance of the Communist Threat left a gaping void in the American psyche, which cried out to be filled. Osama Bin Laden kindly offered his services.

It needed, of course, a world-shaking event to lend credibility to such a hare-brained utopia. The 9/11 outrage was just such an event. It produced many changes in the American way of life. And a new global enemy.

Overnight, medieval anti-Islamic prejudices are dusted-off for display. Islam the terrible, the murderous, the fanatical. Islam the anti-democratic, the anti-freedom, anti-all-our-values. Suicide bombers, 72 virgins, jihad.

The US springs to life again. Soldiers, spies and special forces fan out across the globe to fight terrorism. Bin Laden is everywhere. The War Against Terrorism is an apocalyptic struggle with Satan.

American freedoms have to be restricted, the US military machine grows by leaps and bounds. Power-hungry Intellectuals babble about the Clash of Civilizations and sell their souls for instant celebrity.

To produce the lurid paint for such a twisted picture of reality, religious Islamic groups are all thrown into the same pot – the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ayatollahs in Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Indonesian separatists, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, whoever. All become al-Qaeda, despite the fact that each has a totally different agenda, focused on its own country, while bin Laden aims to abolish all Muslim states and create one Holy Islamic Empire. Details, details.

The Holy War against the Jihad finds warriors everywhere. Ambitious demagogues, for whom this promises an easy way to inflame the masses, spring up in many countries, from France to Finland, from Holland to Italy. The hysteria of Islamophobia displaces good old anti-Semitism, using almost the same language. Tyrannical regimes present themselves as bulwarks against al-Qaeda, as they had once presented themselves as bulwarks against Communism. And, of course, our own Binyamin Netanyahu milks the situation for all it is worth, traveling from capital to capital peddling his wares of anti-Islamism.

Bin Laden had good reason to be proud, and probably was.

WHEN I saw his picture for the first time, I joked that he was not a real person, but an actor straight from Hollywood’s Central Casting. He looked too good to be true – exactly as he would appear in a Hollywood movie – a handsome man, with a long black beard, posing with a Kalashnikov. His appearances on TV were carefully staged.

Actually, he was a very incompetent terrorist, a real amateur. No genuine terrorist would have lived in a conspicuous villa, which stood out in the landscape like a sore thumb. Stern was hiding in a small roof apartment in a squalid quarter of Tel Aviv. Menachem Begin lived with his wife and son in a very modest ground floor apartment, playing the role of a reclusive rabbi.

Bin Laden’s villa was bound to attract the attention of neighbors and other people. They would have been curious about this mysterious stranger in their midst. Actually, he should have been discovered long ago. He was unarmed and did not put up a fight. The decision to kill him on the spot and dump his body into [or “in”] the sea was evidently taken long before.

So there is no grave, no holy tomb. But for millions of Muslims, and especially Arabs, he was and remains a source of pride, an Arab hero, the ”[]“lion of lions” as a preacher in Jerusalem called him. Almost no one dared to come out and say so openly, for fear of the Americans, but even those who thought his ideas impractical and his actions harmful respected him in their heart.

Does that mean that al-Qaeda has a future? I don’t think so. It belongs to the past – not because bin Laden has been killed, but because his central idea is obsolete.

The Arab Spring embodies a new set of ideals, a new enthusiasm, one that does not glorify and hanker after a distant past but looks boldly to the future. The young men and women of Tahrir Square, with their longing for freedom, have consigned bin Laden to history, months before his physical death. His philosophy has a future only if the Arab Awakening fails completely and leaves behind a profound sense of disappointment and despair.

In the Western world, few will mourn him, but God forbid that anyone should gloat.

Uri Avnery
May 7, 2011

Uri Avnery lives in Israel and is the founder of the Peace Now movement.

US government is changing the story of how bin Laden was killed

The US government is making significant changes to the first version of how al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and several of his companions were killed in their compound in the military city of Abottabad in Pakistan, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.

Was Osama bin Laden armed or unarmed when the 20 Navy Seals entered the building? The New York Times has a story, telling he was armed. Other stories have told that bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot.

US president Barack Obama will not publish photo footage from the action that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistan city of Abottabad, according to Washington Post.

Steve Coll of the New Yorker has an excellent article in the aftermath of the killing of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

According to the Washington Post and Al-Jazeera the body of Osama bin Laden has been given a sea burial.

The Guardian tells the story of how the Obama administration kept secret, the operation that killed US enemy number one.

Robert Fisk of The Independent, met Osama bin Laden and members of his family on several occasions. His name has a link to his reflections.

Washington Post has made a list of the candidates to succeed Osama bin Laden as leader of al-Qaida.

Amid Karzai declared winner in presidential election

Declaration today, by the Afghan Election commission, according to Washington Post.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon on surprise visit to Kabul today

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon is on a surprise visit to Kabul today, to meet with the two competing candidates Abdullah Abdullah, who just withdrew from the 2nd round of the president election, and Amid Karzai, according to Reuters.

The German magazine Der Spiegel, considers the situation in Afghanistan “chaotic”, after Abudllah Abdullah resigned from the 2nd round of the Afghan elections.

EU's new policy in Afghanistan

You will find the fact sheet on the new policy here.

Obama will not propose cuts in the number of US troops in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama stated today, that he does not intend to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan, in a meeting with the Congress leaders.

US-general McChrystal's assessment of the war in Afghanistan

The ISAF’s commanders initial assessment of the situation in Afghanistan is to be found here. The report was first published by Washington Post.

Tilløp til en intelligent USA-politikk

President Barack Obama presenterte i dag en helt ny USA-strategi for Afghanistan og Pakistan.

På sitt landsmøte i Bergen, vedtok SV at det norske militære engasjementet i Isaf-styrkene i Afghanistan må avvikles. Med et forbehold om at tidsperspektivet kanskje ikke er identisk, er SV og USA fra nå på linje i det spørsmålet.

I presidentvalgkampen gikk Barack Obama inn for å avslutte USAs militære engasjement i Irak, for å kunne trappe opp i Afghanistan. Men tiden har gått etter at han tok over som president, uten at han har fortalt hva det han sa i valgkampen innebærer. Det gjorde han i dag: Det blir en betydelig endring i USAs politikk, etter åtte år med katastrofale feilgrep.

Obama har erkjent at USA og deres 40 allierte, deriblant Norge, for tiden ikke vinner krigen mot Taliban og al-Qaida. Rett før han gikk av, beordret forgjengeren George Bush 17.000 nye soldater til Afghanistan, et standpunkt som trolig var klarert med Obama. I går økta han tallet med 4.000 soldater. Dermed kommer USAs styrker i landet opp i mer enn 60.000. I tillegg har USAs allierte, blant dem Norge, til sammen 32.000 soldater i landet.

Obamas viktigste kursendring er at han går inn for samtaler med lokale Taliban-ledere. Toppledelsen, med Mulla Omar i spissen, er det ikke vits i å snakke med. Store deler av Afghanistan og Pakistan er stamme- og ættesamfunn uten fungerende sentralmakt, og Taliban er ikke noen ensrettet, sentralstyrt organisasjon. Dialog er derfor opplagt fornuftig. Mange europeiske generaler og politikere har lenge gått inn for det, men møtt motstand fra USA.

Den nye USA-presidenten ser også klart behovet for en helhetlig politikk for Afghanistan og Pakistan. Enda bedre ville det være dersom USAs president skaffet seg en konsistent, helhetlig politikk for hele Midtøsten, der også de konfliktene Israel skaper i sitt eget land og i sitt nabolag, blir inkludert. Først da ville det bli et realistisk håp om varig fred i regionen.

USAs president forstår også, i motsetning til sin forgjenger, at krig ikke er nok. USA vil sende landbruksfolk, ingeniører og jurister, ikke bare soldater. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen (Ap) og Norge var lenge nesten alene om å gå inn for sivil, ikke bare militær innsats. Nå forstår endelig USA at det ikke er mulig å skape et godt samfunn i Afghanistan bare gjennom krig.

Grunnen til omleggingen, er at Barack Obama ønsker fremgang i kampen mot al-Qaida. Derfor må han rette opp det katastrofale feilgrepet hans forgjenger George Bush gjorde, da han avsporet jakten på Osama bin Laden og al-Qaida med den katastrofale omveien om Bagdad.

De 4.000 nye soldatene sender USA fordi Obama vil forsere oppbyggingen av Afghanistans hær og politistyrke. På den måten kan USA, Norge og alle andre utenlandske forlate Afghanistan tidligere. Når det blir? Det vet ingen ennå, men det blir noen år. Dagens intelligente kursendring fra USA, gjør det mulig å innfri SV-landsmøtets krav, flere år tidligere enn det som ville ha vært mulig med Bush-administrasjonens politikk.

Interessert i hva andre mener?

Adrian Hamilton i The Independent

New York Times

Washington Post


Humanistisk jødedom

Eg leitar og undrast
Er det rom for humanismen innan jødedommen? Her er litt og fleire linka om det spørsmålet. Eg undrast om, ikkje det skall kunne gå an å bygge verden, med ein forstand som er verdsleg. Det er ein person eg er i gang med å kike på. Er det ein eller annan med saklig meining, om hann og organisasjonen hann starta?

Humanistisk jødedom

The New York Times
Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, founder of a movement in Judaism that says there is no reason to believe in God but that the religion’s highest ethical traditions and the value of each person should be revered, died on Saturday in Essaouira

Na-eh ha-or ba-olam.
Na-eh ha-or ba-shalom.
Na-eh ha-or ba-shabbat.
How wonderful is the light of the world.
How radiant are the candles of peace.
How beautiful are the lights of Shabbat.
Wine composed a poem that is considered to be the central expression of the outlook of Humanistic Judaism:
Ayfo oree? Oree bee.
Ayfo tikvatee? Tikvatee bee.
Ayfo kokhee? Kokhee bee v’gam bakh.
Where is my light? My light is in me.
Where is my hope? My hope is in me.
Where is my strength? My strength is in me
– and in you.

Sherwin Wine
Sherwin Theodore Wine (January 25, 1928– July 21, 2007) was a rabbi and a founding figure in Humanistic Judaism. Originally ordained a Reform Jewish rabbi, Wine founded the Birmingham Temple, the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism in 1963, in Birmingham, Michigan, outside Detroit, Michigan (the temple later relocated to its current location in Farmington Hills, Michigan).

Memorial for Rabbi Sherwin Wine

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