We talked for 30 minutes but historian and political analyst Daniel Pipes' core message came quickly: The civilized world is at war. And American Jews are engaged on two distinct fronts: against Islamists who hate the West and against Jew-haters who despise Zionism.
Pipes helped crystallize why there's something to the belief that diplomacy doesn't end wars - victory by one side over the other does. I'm not willing to scuttle hope that compromise won't resolve America's war against Iraqi insurgents or Israel's conflict with Palestinian terrorists. But I understand that if you don't win a war, you lose it by default.
"We need to win our war and Israel needs to win its war," Pipes said in a candid conversation at a Southfield restaurant during his Oct. 4-5 visit to Metro Detroit. He gave StandWithUs/Michigan-cosponsored public talks at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.
Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, often takes the radicalization of Islam and the worldview of Islamist proponents to task. His definition of triumph is unrelenting: "By winning, I mean imposing one's will on the enemy and causing them to give up hope, causing them to see their movement and their goals as forlorn and defeated - no longer able to continue the fight."
As I listened, it hit me that the common enemy is not terrorism, which is a tactic, or Islam, which is a faith. It's radical Islam, which Pipes calls a totalitarian political ideology. His disconcerting drumbeat doesn't mean the Arab-Israeli conflict can't be resolved. "It is conceivable," he said.
Don't bet on diplomacy weaving together the threads of real peace, however.
Pipes foresees that either the Palestinians, both Hamas and Fatah led, accept Israel's right to exist and prosper, or the Israelis acquiesce to some form of Palestinian rule and suffer the consequences. The first option obviously is the best, but I think it'll take at least a generation before conditions are ripe for that. The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute reported just last week that the Hamas children's magazine Al-Fateh continues to incite to jihad, glorify terror, describe Jews as "murderers of the prophets" and laud parents who encourage their sons to kill Jews for Allah.
The second option just isn't practical. Israeli Jews either would submit to the rule of terror mongers who want them dead or would flee to accepting lands. Who really believes these Jews would abandon Israel as it nears the 60th anniversary of gaining statehood in the shadows of the Holocaust?
Pipes argues that the U.S. should stop aiding the Palestinian Authority, saying there's little difference between Fatah and Hamas; they share the ultimate goal of claiming Eretz Yisrael [Land of Israel] as theirs.
In the same vein, Pipes said, Israel should wake up to the reality of its off-again, on-again "negotiations" with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Mahmoud Abbas, puppet president of the Palestinian Authority. As Pipes put it: "The idea that Abbas is our ally, in some fashion working for our goals, and has a vision that is consonant with that of ours, is patently absurd. Everything about this individual and the organization that he heads is in the opposite direction from what we in the West look for."
Why Help Us?
Extrapolating from our discussion, the Palestinians as a people remain committed to believing they can achieve statehood without forgoing aid, arms or land. If there's no risk to allay, why should they acknowledge an avowed enemy? That, of course, ignores the benefit of having an economically strong and socially giving neighbor like Israel.
The negotiations since the ill-fated 1993 Oslo Accords have exhilarated the Palestinians, imbuing them with an air of optimism. "Unwittingly, the Israelis are enfranchising and empowering the enemy," Pipes said. "The Israelis have convinced themselves that by trying to negotiate, and America is happy to go along, they are defanging the enemy - causing them to lose interest. Rather, the Palestinians are far more enraged today than they were at the bottom of their political fortunes back in the early 1990s."
Compounding Israel's predicament is the likelihood of Hamas and Fatah reuniting. The motivation exists - their differing vision, personnel and tactics notwithstanding. Historically, they have worked together and fought each other cyclically.
"There's nothing to say that in a year or two, they won't be back working together," Pipes said. "They wish they were working together. They'd be more effective if they were."
He added, "The idea that Hamas is worse than the PLO strikes me as insane."
If there's a ray of hope, it lies in the people of Gaza reeling from the effects of the West's embargo of Hamas and thus beginning to rue voting for what is formally called the Islamic Resistance Movement. But Hamas is not yet buckling from the extreme pressure of sanctions.
Meanwhile, Jewish Detroit must better track radical Islam. Says Pipes: "Law enforcement is cautious, academia neglects the questions and the news media aren't focused on it."
Detroit Jewry should take the Chicago Jewish community's lead and designate a local researcher to follow radical Islam. There are enough local issues to send up red flags, starting with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Locally supported CAIR continues to be under public scrutiny for its ties to individuals and organizations associated with terror.
"The Jewish community is kind of in a fog," Pipes said as we exchanged farewells. "We're not really aware."
We certainly aren't.